Department of Earth and Planetary Science
The field of Earth and Planetary Science offers a rich variety of research targets and educational opportunities for students. The research carried out in the department, and the courses offered, treat topics encompassing the structure and composition of the earth's solid and fluid cores, the constitution of the earth's crust, the mechanisms of the earth's oceans and atmosphere, as well as the evolution of the earth and other planets over billions of years. Researchers and students in this field are driven by fundamental curiosity about the past and present states of the earth and planets, including the origin of earthquakes and mineral resources, volcanic activity, changes in the earth's climate and environment, and the impacts of global changes on society. The tools of Earth and Planetary Science are basic concepts of physics, chemistry, biology, applied mathematics and statistics, and advanced instruments that can be used to characterize geologic processes and materials.
Berkeley's Department of Earth and Planetary Science was the first major center of academic geology in the western United States. Berkeley geologists made the first detailed study of a major earthquake, developed potassium-argon dating, brought the rigor of thermodynamics into geology, and discovered the evidence that a comet impact killed the dinosaurs.
With growing concerns over environmental deterioration and depletion of resources, our focus has broadened to include issues of urgent social relevance. Many departments at Berkeley are involved in environmental questions, ranging from policy, management, economics, engineering to social concerns, but all have to base their conclusions upon a sound scientific understanding of Planet Earth. It is up to geologists, geochemists, and geophysicists to provide that background.
The interests of the faculty cover a broad range of earth sciences. The traditional fields of petrology, mineralogy, mineral resources and structural geology are represented. A rapidly growing field is micro-biogeochemistry. Solid earth geophysics includes a unique combination of expertise in seismology, mineral physics and geodynamics. Our earthquake and tectonics programs benefit from the resources made available through the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory (BSL). A vigorous program in geomorphology and surface processes attracts many students. Recently we have added expertise in marine, atmospheric and planetary sciences, with links to related programs in the Departments of Chemistry, Astronomy, Geography and Environmental Science and Policy Management. Additional resources for research are available through the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center (BASC) and the Center for Integrated Planetary Science (CIPS). Resources for Geochemists include the Center for Isotope Geochemistry and the Berkeley Geochronology Center. Some of our faculty have strong collaborations with the Earth Science Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (ESD-LBNL) and make extensive use of the Advanced Light Source (ALS).
The Department of Earth and Planetary Science offers an undergraduate major leading to a BA degree in Earth and Planetary Science with six tracks: geology, geophysics, environmental earth science, atmospheric science, marine science and planetary science. Undergraduates have the option of pursuing a minor in any of these categories. The BA degree provides coherent programs for quantitative studies of the Earth and preparation for Graduate School as well as for employment in disciplines that require an understanding of natural sciences. The Geology track satisfies the minimum requirements for registration as a geologist in the State of California. The curriculum has a rigorous core of quantitative sciences with mathematics, physics and chemistry, followed by an upper division sequence of courses specific to each track.
The Department offers a Ph.D. program, as well as a Master of Arts and a Master of Science option, with the possibility of specializing in any of the areas of expertise of our faculty. The central objective of the graduate program is to encourage creative thinking and to develop the capacity for independent and original research.
Department Chair and Professor, Roland Burgmann.