Geophysical Engineering Undergraduate Program
Our mission is to educate undergraduates in the application of geophysics to help meet global needs for energy, water, food, minerals, and to mitigate natural hazards and their impact, by exploring and illuminating the dynamic processes of the earth, oceans, atmosphere and solar system.
What do Geophysical Engineers Study?
Geophysics is the study and exploration of the earth’s interior through physical measurements collected at the earth’s surface, in boreholes, and from aircraft and satellites. Using a combination of mathematics, physics, geology, chemistry, hydrology, and computer science, a geophysical engineer analyzes these measurements to infer properties and processes within the earth’s complex interior. Think of geophysics as analogous to medical imaging on the earth.
B.S. in Geophysical Engineering
To earn a BS in Geophysical Engineering, students must complete 133.5 credit hours that give every student core competencies in basic and applied geophysics and opportunities to explore individual topics in more detail through geology and geophysics electives. Within the program, the students also complete a 4-week field session, normally between their junior and senior years. In this field program, students get to design and implement surveys, collect and process data, and provide a technical report of their findings. Every graduate remarks on this being one of their favorite parts of the program.
See more details about the requirements of the undergraduate curriculum.
Geophysical Engineering Minor
Geophysics plays in important role in many aspects of civil engineering, petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering, and mining engineering, as well as mathematics, physics, geology, chemistry, hydrology, and computer science. Therefore, students in other majors may consider a minor in geophysical engineering. The core courses required for a minor are:
- GPGN229, Mathematical Geophysics (3.0 credits)
- GPGN328, Physics of the Earth I (3.0 credits)
- GPGN329, Physics of the Earth II (3.0 credits)
- GPGN314, Applied Geophysics (4.0 credits)
Students may satisfy the remaining 5 hours with a combination of other geophysics courses, as well as courses in geology, mathematics, or computer science, depending on the student’s major. Students must consult with the Department of Geophysics to establish an approved sequence of courses for the minor. Previous or concurrent experience in programming is recommended, but not required.
Geophysics Combined Degree Program
The Department of Geophysics combined program allows undergraduates in any Mines option to work on a Master of Science degree in Geophysics or Geophysical Engineering while completing the requirements for the Bachelor of Science program. The combined program can take as little as one year beyond the Bachelor of Science degree.
Students are encouraged to apply for admission as early as the Spring semester of their Junior year. Upon admission to the graduate program, they are assigned graduate advisors to help select graduate courses and plan for internships, both of which then are reviewed and approved by the Master’s committees. Graduate courses can be taken during the senior year and beyond.
In addition to course work, combined-program students may carry out Master’s-level thesis research in fields related to their career goals. Students are strongly encouraged to plan projects during their Senior Design experience that can be expanded to a Master of Science thesis.
Details about the Graduate Degree requirements and options can be found here.
The program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Geophysical Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.
The enrollment and graduation data for the Geophysical Engineering program and other Mines programs can be found on the homepage of the Mines Office of Institutional Research.
ABET Program Educational Objectives
The Geophysical Engineering Program has three (3) program educational objectives that are intended to characterize our graduates when they are 3-5 years post graduation:
Program Educational Objective 1: Graduates will be competent professionals who are capable of independent and innovative problem solving, are skilled in scientific computing and are working to address important Earth, energy, and /or environmental problems.
Program Educational Objective 2: Graduates will be effective oral and written communicators with exceptional team skills which will allow them to grow in their careers and in professional societies.
Program Educational Objective 3: Graduates will recognize the economic and social impacts of their work and will have the ability to communicate this to a range of stakeholders (e.g., management, public, peers)
ABET Student Outcomes
ABET student outcomes are attributes of Geophysical Engineering students that are developed and measured in the Geophysical Engineering curriculum. Achieving these outcomes places a student on a successful trajectory toward exhibiting the characteristics represented by the program objectives.
From ABET Criterion 3:
- an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics;
- an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions;
- an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors;
- an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives;
- an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts;
- an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences;
- an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
Our students have strong skills providing the ability to work in diverse environments. Thus our graduates have access to exciting jobs and adaptability as new fields develop. Geophysics graduates have recently continued from Mines to jobs with the oil and gas industry, mining industry, government labs and agencies, consulting companies, the space technology industry, and graduate programs at top-tier schools.
Who Hires Geophysical Engineers?
Energy companies and mining firms employ geophysical engineers to explore for hidden resources around the world. Engineering firms hire geophysical engineers to assess building sites for large construction projects and waste-management operations. Environmental organizations use geophysics to conduct groundwater surveys and track the flow of contaminants. Globally, geophysicists employed by universities and government agencies (such as the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) try to understand such earth and planetary processes as heat flow and gravitational, magnetic, electric, thermal, and stress fields within the earth’s interior.
What Geophysical Engineers Do
Geophysics and geophysical engineering have important roles to play in solving challenging problems facing Earth’s inhabitants, such as providing fresh water, food, and energy for the growing population, evaluating sites for underground construction and containment of hazardous waste, monitoring aging infrastructure, mitigating the threat of geohazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, avalanches) to populated areas, contributing to homeland security by detecting and removing unexploded ordnance, evaluating changes in climate and managing society’s response to them, and exploring other planets.