E&PS Major and Minor

Major in Earth and Planetary Sciences

The E&PS major is for undergraduates interested in the study of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape the Earth and the other planets, drawing on the disciplines of geology, geochemistry, hydrology, ecology, geobiology, oceanography, and atmospheric science.

Students can design a specific plan of appropriate courses in consultation with the coordinator for undergraduate programs in the department. Depending on the student’s background, it may be appropriate initially to take a freshman seminar or 100-level course designed for the non-major. Those who wish to be majors may proceed directly to courses at the 200 and, in many cases, the 300 level. Our courses provide a broad educational base in the Earth and planetary, and the environmental earth sciences, and enable exploration of a set of electives at the 300 level, depending on the area of interest.

Learning Goals

Students graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in earth and planetary sciences will be able to:

  • Understand the scientific method and how it applies to earth and planetary sciences. Specifically:
    • Appreciate the design of programs to acquire empirical information in geoscience
    • Demonstrate expertise in observing natural processes either in the field or in the laboratory relevant to earth and planetary sciences
    • Exhibit skill in interpreting geoscience observations
    • Understand the role of conceptual, mathematical, and numerical models in geoscience
    • Demonstrate skill in communicating geoscience information in oral and written forms
    • Understand the characteristics, origin, and evolution of the main component reservoirs of the Earth and planets. For example, the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, mantle, and core
    • Understand and quantify the processes cycling key conserved quantities in the Earth, such as: energy, water, abundant elements, rare elements
    • Exhibit quantitative understanding of a core sub-discipline of earth and planetary sciences, such as: geology, geophysics, geochemistry, geobiology, oceanography, atmospheric science, or planetary science
    • Demonstrate disciplinary knowledge and skills in basic science, germane to earth and planetary sciences, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.

To graduate with honors in your major, you must complete an honors clearance form by April 1 in the year you expect to graduate in May. Most commonly, this means by April 1 of your senior year. Failure to submit this checklist by this date will mean that you will not receive honors in your major. You cannot complete the checklist before February 1 of the same year. Please note that these requirements are not related to General University Honors. General University Honors are automatically assigned to all students who graduate with a 3.5 or higher.

To receive honors in earth and planetary sciences, you must have met the following criteria:

  • Have taken a challenging set of courses during the four years of study.
  • Have a GPA in your major requirements of a 3.5 or higher. See the KSAS advising webpage on Departmental Honors for more information.
  • Complete a senior thesis at a level judged to be sufficiently high by the faculty of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
  • Present the results of the thesis orally in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

To notify us that you are eligible for honors you must:

  • Obtain an honors form by either downloading it from advising.jhu.edu or by picking one up in the Office of Academic Advising.
  • Complete the checklist after February 1 of your senior year and have it signed by the EPS Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  • Return the signed checklist to the Office of Academic Advising by April 1. You do not need to make an appointment to return the checklist, but it must be signed by the correct representative from your department or it will not be processed.
Senior Thesis in EPS

The senior thesis in E&PS is an opportunity for an E&PS senior to conduct independent research under the guidance of an E&PS faculty member.

Students interested in conducting a senior thesis should contact the faculty member who would supervise the research in the beginning of the semester prior to graduation or earlier. The nature of senior theses vary by subject, but they all involve quantitative analysis and culminate in a written senior thesis and a 15-minute oral presentation to the entire E&PS department. Students will work with their faculty adviser in all parts of the thesis process (analysis, writing, presentation). Students should submit an electronic copy of the final version of their thesis, approved by their faculty adviser, to the E&PS director of undergraduate studies in order to receive credit for their thesis work.

A list of prior senior theses titles can be found here.

Students conducting a senior thesis must register for senior thesis credits during the semester in which they intend to graduate. They can also sign up for credits during prior semester. Students should consult with their faculty adviser about the appropriate way to enroll for senior thesis credits.

Students interested in conducting research during any year of study, independent of a senior thesis, should contact the E&PS faculty member with whom they are interested in working. Students may sign up for Independent Study credits in ISIS for the semester(s) in which they conduct their research.

Any student doing research is encouraged to participate in the Undergraduate Research Day held in April and to apply for undergraduate research funding, such as the PURA and DURA awards; see here for funding sources in the Krieger School.

Minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences

The E&PS minor is for science undergraduates interested in applying their major discipline to Earth’s environment through geology, geochemistry, ecology, geobiology, oceanography, and atmospheric science. Students are expected to have at least 16 credits in (N), (Q), or (E) courses. Students will take 12 credits in the department, at least six of which are at the 300 level.