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Departments & Programs


Graduation Requirements

Master of Science


The purpose of the master's program in Geological and Environmental Sciences is to continue a student's training in one of a broad range of earth science disciplines and to prepare students for either a professional career or doctoral studies.


The graduate coordinator of the department appoints an academic adviser during registration with appropriate consideration of the student's background, interests, and professional goals. In consultation with the adviser, the student plans a program of course work for the first year. The student should select a thesis adviser within the first year of residence and submit to the thesis adviser a proposal for thesis research as soon as possible. The academic adviser supervises completion of the department requirements for the M.S. program (as outlined below) until the research proposal has been accepted; responsibility then passes to the thesis adviser. The student may change either thesis or academic advisers by mutual agreement and after approval of the graduate coordinator.

Requirements-The University's requirements for M.S. degrees are outlined in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. Practical training (GES 385) may be required by some programs, with adviser approval, depending on the background of the student. Additional department requirements include the following:

  1. A minimum of 45 units of course work at the 100 level or above.
    • Half of the courses used to satisfy the 45-unit requirement must be intended as being primarily for graduate students, usually at the 200 level or above.
    • No more than 15 units of thesis research may be used to satisfy the 45-unit requirement.
    • Some students may be required to make up background deficiencies in addition to these basic requirements.
  2. By the end of Spring Quarter of their first year in residence, students must complete at least three courses taught by a minimum of two different GES faculty members.
  3. Each student must have a research adviser who is a faculty member in the department and is within the student's thesis topic area or specialized area of study.
  4. Each student must complete a thesis describing his or her research. Thesis research should begin during the first year of study at Stanford and should be completed before the end of the second year ofresidence.
  5. Early during the thesis research period, and after consultation with the student, the thesis adviser appoints a second reader for the thesis, who must be approved by the graduate coordinator; the thesis adviser is the first reader. The two readers jointly determine whether the thesis is acceptable for the M.S. degree in the department.

Engineer Degree

The Engineer degree is offered as an option for students in applied disciplines who wish to obtain a graduate education extending beyond that of an M.S., yet do not have the desire to conduct the research needed to obtain a Ph.D. A minimum of two years (six quarters) of graduate study is required. The candidate must complete 90 units of course work, no more than 10 of which may be applied to overcoming deficiencies in undergraduate training. The student must prepare a substantial thesis that meets the approval of the thesis adviser and the graduate coordinator.

Doctor of Philosophy


The Ph.D. is conferred upon candidates who have demonstrated substantial scholarship, high attainment in a particular field of knowledge, and the ability to conduct independent research. To this end, the objectives of the doctoral program are to enable students to develop the skills needed to conduct original investigations in a particular discipline or set of disciplines in the earth sciences, to interpret the results, and to present the data and conclusions in a publishable manner.


The University's requirements for the Ph.D. degree are outlined in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. Practical training (GES 385) may be required by some programs, with adviser approval, depending on the background of the student. A summary of additional department requirements is presented below:

  1. Ph.D. students must complete the required courses in their individual program or in their specialized area of study with a grade point average (GPA) of 'B' or higher, or demonstrate that they have completed the equivalents elsewhere. Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of four letter-grade courses of at least 3 units each from four different faculty members on the Academic Council in the University. By the end of Spring Quarter of their first year in residence, students must complete at least three courses taught by a minimum of two different GES faculty members.
  2. Each student must qualify for candidacy for the Ph.D. by the end of the sixth quarter in residence, excluding summers. Department procedures require selection of a faculty thesis adviser, preparation of a written research proposal, approval of this proposal by the thesis adviser, selection of a committee for the Ph.D. qualifying examination, and approval of the membership by the graduate coordinator and chair of the department. The research examination consists of three parts: oral presentation of a research proposal, examination on the research proposal, and examination on subject matter relevant to the proposed research. The exam should be scheduled for prior to May 1, so that the outcome of the exam is known at the time of the annual spring evaluation of graduate students.
  3. Upon qualifying for Ph.D. candidacy, the student and thesis adviser, who must be a department faculty member, choose a research committee that includes a minimum of two faculty members in the University in addition to the adviser. Annually, in the month of March or April, the candidate must organize a meeting of the research committee to present a brief progress report covering the past year.
  4. Under the supervision of the research advisory committee, the candidate must prepare a doctoral dissertation that is a contribution to knowledge and is the result of independent research. The format of the dissertation must meet University guidelines. The student is strongly urged to prepare dissertation chapters that, in scientific content and format, are readily publishable.
  5. The doctoral dissertation is defended in the University oral examination. The department appoints the research adviser and two other members of the research committee to be readers of the draft dissertation. The readers are charged to read the draft and to certify in writing to the department that it is adequate to serve as a basis for the University oral examination. Upon obtaining this written certification, the student is permitted to schedule the University oral examination.

Ph.D. Minor

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in other departments who wish to obtain a minor in Geological and Environmental Sciences must complete, with a GPA of 'B' or better, 20 units in the geosciences in lecture courses intended for graduate students. The selection of courses must be approved by the student's GES adviser and the department chair.