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Geological Sciences

Graduate Programs


Geology (MS)

Pursuit of the MS degree not only helps prepare students for exciting career opportunities in areas of distinct benefit to mankind, but it also allows them to experience the challenges and rewards of modern scientific research. It is expected that the thesis work will culminate in new understanding of a problem of scientific significance and that results will be published in a reputable scientific journal.

Application Deadlines Fall: Feb 1
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Geology is the science that reveals how the Earth works. The graduate program in geology at Brigham Young University prepares scientists to solve many of society's environmental and resource problems.

The department offers one degree: Geology–MS. Areas of specialization include: Earth Science Education and Geology.

The expected duration of the MS program is two years for full-time students who enter without deficiencies. The MS degree is designed to give the student a solid foundation in the theoretical and applied aspects of geology and a strong research experience. The thesis component allows each student to develop skills in defining a significant problem, developing a research strategy, acquiring and analyzing data, and technical writing. A MS degree in geology prepares a student for a wide variety of employment opportunities in industry, education, and government, or to pursue a doctoral degree.

The department typically has 30 MS students.


Chair:  Brooks Britt
Graduate Coordinator:  John H. McBride

Resources & Opportunity:

The Department of Geological Sciences is in the Eyring Science Center which contains state-of-the-art computer resources, office space for graduate assistants, and modern laboratories. Our lab facilities house extensive and specialized instrumentation and mineral, rock, and fossil collections. The location of the university campus on the Wasatch Front near the juncture of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin provides an incomparable natural laboratory for geology studies. The Department of Geological Sciences utilizes this natural setting, and the many geologic problems that remain in it to be studied, as one of our main assets.

The department is well equipped for graduate research in geology. A partial list of research equipment available includes: a wavelength dispersive electron microprobe (Cameca SX-50), two stable isotope ratio mass spectrometers, X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a powder X-ray diffractometer, an atomic force microscope, inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer, a fluid inclusion heating and freezing stage, 3D subsurface mapping software and dedicated visualization lab, high-resolution GPS, proton precession magnetometers, a ground-penetrating radar system, a 120-channel seismic recording system and portable energy sources, and a core lab porosity/permability analyzer. A new 12-foot stream table is used to enhance teaching and research. Additional research facilities include the following:

The Museum of Paleontology includes exhibits, preparation laboratories, and fossil collections. Exhibits ranging from minerals to invertebrate and vertebrate fossils are open to the public and are an integral part of many courses. Collections are primarily from the intermountain region and include extensive assemblages of Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous dinosaurs, Cenozoic vertebrates, and the Tidwell paleobotany collection, all of which provide research opportunities for faculty and students. Unrivaled field equipment and preparation laboratories support ongoing research projects.

The Hydrogeochemistry Laboratory supports research programs in hydrology, and environmental geology. In addition, the lab is used in teaching modern analytical techniques in upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses. Groundwater composition, migration, and pollution have been major emphases of research.

The Isotope Laboratory supports faculty, graduate, and undergraduate research by providing for analysis of stable isotopes of H, C, N, and O, as well as 14C and 3H. Analysis of H and O isotopes in water is fully automated. Hydrology, paleohydrology, and paleoclimatology are currently major areas of research and teaching supported by this laboratory.

The Mineral Surface Chemistry Laboratory supports research on low-temperature chemical reactions that occur at the interface between mineral surfaces and aqueous solutions. The lab includes an atomic force microscope, a surface-area analyzer, and wet chemical facilities. Computer equipment and software are also available for molecular modeling.

The Sedimentology/Stratigraphy Laboratories support studies in stratigraphy, clastic and carbonate rocks, and micropaleontology. Analytical equipment to map and characterize both surface and subsurface reservoir-quality rocks, to resolve complex stratigraphic problems, and to understand diagenesis in sedimentary rocks is available to students and faculty. Studies conducted in the labs have emphasized fluid flow and migration of both hydrocarbons and water, as well as detailed sequence stratigraphic modeling.

The Structure and Tectonics Laboratory supports research of orogenic processes and associated Natural Hazards. Projects of orogenic processes include investigations of channel flow in the Himalaya and active arc-continent collisions, geodetic studies of plate boundary reorganization in the Indonesian region and the northern Rockies seismic belt, ophiolite genesis and emplacement, collisional melange genesis, rock versus surface uplift rates, finite difference modeling of paleo-tsunami in Indonesia, structural studies of Sevier and Basin and Range deformational features, climate versus tectonics in SE Asia, and studies of paleo-seismic records in lake sediments.

The Ina Solar System Image Laboratory provides resources for studies of planetary surfaces from spacecraft imaging. Current studies include dunes, mountains, rivers, lakes, and cryovolcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan, volcanism and tectonism on Jupiter's moon lo, and lunar volatile processes. Facilities include two MacPro machines and a PC with image processing software, including the USGS program ISIS, ArcGIS Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and similar programs. A central server provides storage, integration and security, and 42" printer can produce posters for conferences and prints for research and outreach.

The Petrology and Economic Geology Laboratory is focused on the nature and origin of igneous and metamorphic rocks and the ore deposits associated with them. Recent studies involve the rapakivi feldspar textures, development of the Louisville seamount chain and the basalts of the Snake River Plain, the origin of A-type granites including those rich in Be and F, and rhyolites, the geochemistry of titanite, development of porphyry copper deposits at Bingham, Utah and at Lone Star, Arizona. We have also examined the unroofing of the Little Cottonwood stock.

Faculty research interests currently include the following: the geodynamic evolution of active arc-continent collision (structural features, uplifted synorogenic deposits and coral terraces, the GPS velocity field, and climate feedbacks); investigations of subsurface geology using seismic, gravity, and magnetic methods; composition of thermal waters; paleohydrology, paleoclimatology, and hydrogeology of arid and semiarid regions; petrogenesis of alkaline, mafic magmas; the origin of granitic magmas; mineral surface structure and chemistry; chemistry of silicate minerals; studies of Cenozoic magmatism and tectonism in the western United States; correlation of volcanic ash beds in western North America; origins of gold, platinum, copper, beryllium, and molybdenum deposits; tungsten skarns; reservoir characterization and sequence stratigraphy; Carboniferous-Permian conodont biostratigraphy: Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs and paleoenvironments, Morrison and Cedar Mountain formations, vertebrate dinosaur taphonomy, aeolian processes and planetary geology.

Financial Assistance:

New graduate students are eligible for departmental scholarships, tuition scholarships, and teaching or research assistantships on a competitive basis.

Most regular degree-seeking students receive some form of financial aid. However, none may expect financial assistance from the department for more than four semesters.

Graduate students are also encouraged to seek additional support from industries and agencies outside the Department of Geological Sciences. Note: Such requests must be submitted to the department chair, who will forward them with a supporting letter.