Graduate Bulletin

Fall 2021

Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree in Geosciences

Advancement to Ph.D. candidacy is gained after the successful completion of the Ph.D. preliminary examination. The examination is the culmination of an evaluative process that begins when the student arrives at Stony Brook. In particular, the faculty seek evidence of scientific creativity, originality, vigor, and flexibility, along with the basic background knowledge, skills, and critical faculties needed to carry out advanced independent research in the student’s chosen field. The minimum residence requirement is two consecutive semesters of graduate study. There is no language requirement.

A. Course Requirements
Course requirements are flexible and are determined in consultation with the student’s academic advisory committee at the beginning of studies. Academic advisory committees are assigned to students at the time of their arrival at Stony Brook, and the composition of the committee may be changed at the student’s request, with the approval of the graduate program director. During their first two years in the program, students generally take one to three courses per semester. In addition, they participate in appropriate formal and informal seminars. During their first Fall semester, all students must take GEO 500, Geosciences Research Seminar. In addition, all students must register for GEO 696, Geoscience Colloquium, and GEO 697, Geoscience Seminar, each semester, and GEO 600, Practicum in Teaching, at least once. Among the courses offered are:

GEO 500 Geosciences Research Seminar

GEO 502 GIS for Geologists

GEO 503 Mineral Equilibria

GEO 504 Geology of the Turkana Basin

GEO 507 Petrogenesis

GEO 510 Dimensions of Global Change

GEO 511 Computer Programming for the Geosciences

GEO 512 Structure and Properties of Materials

GEO 513 GIS Fundamentals I

GEO 514 Introduction to Physical Hydrogeology

GEO 515 Geohydrology

GEO 517 Crystal Chemistry

GEO 518 Carbonate Sediments

GEO 519 Geochemistry of Natural Waters

GEO 520 Glacial Geology

GEO 521 Isotope and Trace Element Geology

GEO 523 Geodatabase and Design

GEO 524/MAR 524 Organic Contaminant Hydrology

GEO 525 GIS Fundamentals II

GEO 526 Low Temperature Geochemistry

GEO 530 The Geology of Mars

GEO 533 Geochemistry of the Terrestrial Planets

GEO 540 Solid Earth Geophysics

GEO 543 Stratigraphy

GEO 546 Mineralogy and Petrology

GEO 547 Remote Sensing in Geosciences

GEO 549 Structural Geology

GEO 550 Global Tectonics

GEO 551 Physics of the Earth I

GEO 552 Physics of the Earth II

GEO 556 Solid State Geophysics

GEO 564/AMS 562 Numerical Hydrology

GEO 573 Physics of Rocks

GEO 581 Coastal Engineering Geology

GEO 585 Directed Studies

GEO 588 Geological Field Methods for Earth Science Teachers

GEO 589 Research for Earth Science Teachers

GEO 590 Research Project

GEO 599 Research

GEO 600 Practicum in Teaching

GEO 696 Geoscience Colloquium

GEO 697 Geoscience Seminar

GEO 698 Geoscience Special Seminar

GEO 699 Dissertation Research on Campus

GEO 700 Dissertation Research off Campus Domestic

GEO 701 Dissertation Research off Campus – International


A number of courses are offered periodically according to student demand, either in a formal classroom setting or as Directed Studies (GEO 585). These include the following courses

GEO 505 Experimental Petrology Laboratory

GEO 506 Theoretical Petrology

GEO 508 The Rock Forming Minerals

GEO 522 Planetary Sciences

GEO 528 Carbonate Geochemistry

GEO 531 Crystalline Solids

GEO 532 Solid State Geochemistry

GEO 535 Regional Structure and Tectonics

GEO 542 Inverse Theory

GEO 562/MAR 562 Early Diagenesis of Marine Sediments

GEO 567 Sedimentary Rocks and Crustal Evolution

GEO 570 Earthquake Mechanics

GEO 571 Mechanics of Geologic Materials

GEO 572 Advanced Seismology


Specialized, advanced seminars are offered periodically by various faculty members. These include the following courses

GEO 603 Topics in Petrology

GEO 604 Topics in Planetary Science

GEO 605 Topics in Sedimentary Geology Paleontology

GEO 607 Topics in Geophysics

GEO 609 Topics in Mineralogy and Crystallography


B. Research Projects
Each student carries out individual research projects, commonly with two or more faculty members, as part of the requirements leading up to the Ph.D. qualifying exam. The requirements for each of these projects are determined by the individual professors with whom the research is carried out. When working on such a project, students register for either GEO 590 or GEO 599 Research, after consultation with the appropriate professor. A student who has completed an M.S. thesis before arriving at Stony Brook will generally complete only one research project before the preliminary exam.

C. Ph.D. Preliminary Examination
The preliminary examination consists of the preparation and oral defense of a thesis proposal. There are three separate steps in this procedure: (1) submission of a proposal abstract to the graduate committee, who then selects an examining committee, (2) submission of the thesis proposal to the examining committee, and (3) oral defense of the proposal.

D. Thesis Proposal Abstract
A one-page document stating the most essential aspects of the student’s proposed thesis, the thesis proposal abstract must be signed by three faculty members before being given to the graduate committee. One of the three faculty members must be identified as a potential sponsor, meaning that he or she is tentatively willing to be the student’s thesis advisor. This implies no commitment, either on the part of the professor or the student.

Upon receipt of the abstract, the graduate committee selects the members of the student’s Ph.D. preliminary examination committee and sets a deadline (usually six weeks) for the submission of the thesis proposal to the examination committee. This committee is to consist of five scientists holding Ph.D. degrees who are experts in fields related to the proposal, at least four of whom must be members of the program.

E. Thesis Proposal
The Ph.D. thesis proposal specifies the scientific rationale for the proposed thesis work, the relevant work done thus far, and the techniques and effort required to reach the research objective. When the thesis proposal is completed, copies are given to each member of the examination committee. Within a week of receiving the proposal, the examination committee will meet to determine whether or not the thesis proposal is defensible. If it is not deemed defensible, the student is informed as to whether a resubmittal will be permitted. If the thesis proposal is deemed acceptable, the examination committee sets a date for the Ph.D. preliminary examination.

F. Oral Preliminary Examination
The student gives a short public presentation of the thesis proposal, after which there is a closed oral examination. Although much of the questioning inevitably focuses on the proposed thesis work, any topic in the geosciences and related fields may be covered in the questioning. At the end of the examination, the student and any others present who are not part of the preliminary examination committee are excused. The committee will then judge whether the student has demonstrated the ability to conceive, plan, and carry out original research.

The examination committee has a range of options open to it. It may vote to deny Ph.D. candidacy, either with or without a second opportunity to pass the Ph.D. preliminary examination. It may vote to accept the proposal, but fail the student on other grounds. In doing so, the examination committee may either bar a second opportunity to take the exam, require specific remedial actions, or schedule a second opportunity to take the examination. The committee has the option to vote to reconvene in order to re-evaluate its decision, based upon actions the student has taken in response to the examination committee’s recommendations.

The examination committee may also vote to pass the student contingent upon changes in or rewriting of the proposal. It is free to establish any mechanism it deems necessary to affirm whether or not its requirements have been met. All decisions must be agreed to by a majority vote and must be conveyed in writing to the graduate program director and to the student.

When the graduate program director has been informed by the chairperson of the examination committee that the student has passed the Ph.D. preliminary examination, the department recommends to the Graduate School that the student be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.

G. Teaching Requirement
All graduate students must register for GEO 600, Practicum in Teaching, at least once, as outlined in Course Requirements on the preceding page.

H. Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is the document summarizing the original scientific research in recognition of which the Ph.D. candidate seeks the doctoral degree. The University has very specific rules about the format of the thesis, but the nature of its scientific content is at the discretion of the student, his or her advisor(s), and the Ph.D. thesis defense committee. In many cases, the thesis consists of a linked set of published or soon-to-be published scientific papers.

When informed by the student’s advisor that the thesis is ready to be defended, the graduate committee selects a Ph.D. thesis defense committee. The defense committee consists of five or six members, a majority of whom must be members of the department. One defense committee member, other than the thesis advisor, is appointed as committee chairperson by the graduate committee. Within two weeks of receiving the thesis, the defense committee chairperson polls the committee members to ascertain that the thesis is actually defensible. If it is, the defense committee chairperson formally schedules the oral defense.

I. Ph.D. Thesis Oral Defense
The student makes a public presentation of the major results of the thesis. There is then a closed session, during which the student is examined primarily, but not exclusively, on the dissertation topic. The committee has the option of voting to accept the thesis, reject it, or accept it with revisions. If the thesis is accepted with required revisions, the committee will decide the mechanism for determining compliance with its requirements. Voting is by majority.


Requirements for the M.S. Degree with Thesis in Geosciences

The M.S. in Geosciences with thesis is typically a nonterminal degree completed by some students before seeking Ph.D. candidacy. All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within a period of three years after entry. There are no residence or language requirements.

A. Course Requirements
Students must successfully complete a program of 30 graduate credits, including a minimum of 18 credits in approved academic courses. A student must achieve a 3.0 overall grade point average in all graduate courses taken at Stony Brook to receive a degree.

B. M.S. Thesis
An M.S. thesis proposal of no more than two pages must be submitted to the graduate committee at the end of the first year. The proposal must be signed by two faculty members, one of whom must be designated as a potential sponsor of the research and research advisor. After the proposal has been accepted, the student may proceed with the preparation of the M.S. thesis.

When the M.S. thesis is nearing completion, the student’s advisor asks the graduate committee to appoint a defense committee. This committee consists of three experts in the field who hold a PhD degree, at least two of whom must be members of the program faculty. Within two weeks of receiving the thesis, the defense committee decides whether the thesis is defensible. If it is, then an oral thesis defense is scheduled.

The M.S. thesis defense consists of a short public presentation of the major results of the thesis. This is followed by a closed examination that may cover any topic within the student’s general field of study, but generally concentrates upon the thesis topic. The thesis defense committee may vote to accept the thesis, return it to the student for revisions, or reject it outright.


Requirements for the M.S. Degree with Concentration in Hydrogeology

The non-thesis M.S. with a concentration in Hydrogeology requires a total of 30 credits. Of these 30 credits, at least 21 credits must be in the required and approved courses and at least six credits must be in approved research. A minimum overall grade point average of B is required. Students are required to complete the four core courses in category A; one course from category B (if a student is deficient in either writing or communication skills, computer programming, or statistics); and one, two, or three courses from category C. There are no residence or language requirements.

Category A

  • GEO 515 Geohydrology
  • GEO 564/AMS 562 Numerical Hydrology
  • GEO 526 Low-Temperature Geochemistry
  • GEO 519 Geochemistry of Natural Waters

Category B

  • AMS 576 Statistical Methods for Social Scientists
  • EST 588 Technical Communication for Management and Engineering

Category C

  • GEO 573 Hydromechanical Behavior of Geomaterials
  • GEO 521 Isotope and Trace Element Geology
  • GEO 524/MAR 524 Organic Contaminant Hydrology
  • EST 593 Risk Assessment
  • EST 595 Principles of Environmental Systems Analysis
  • EST 596 Simulation Models for Environmental Waste Management
  • EST 597 Waste Management: Systems and Principles
  • CEY 503 Environmental Law
  • CEY 509 Man, Environment, and Health

In addition to formal coursework, the curriculum for the M.S. with concentration in Hydrogeology includes a minimum of six credits of research, either GEO 590 or GEO 599, after consultation with the appropriate professor. This research is to be carried out over a period of two or more semesters, and will be designed through a mutual consultation between the student and one or more members of the participating faculty. The purpose of the research is to give the student experience at solving hydrogeological problems. It may utilize field, laboratory, or theoretical approaches. The program of research will culminate in a written report to be approved by three designated faculty.


Requirements for the M.S. Degree with Concentration in Earth and Space Science

The non thesis M.S. with a concentration in Earth and Space Science requires a total of 31 credits. Of these 31 credits, 30 credits must be from courses with the ESS designator or other approved graduate courses in the fields of astronomy, atmospheric sciences or geosciences. Individual course programs will be developed for each student in consultation with the Earth Science education advisor based on the student’s academic background and intended goals.

All students are required to complete

  • ESS 501 Foundations of Earth Science
  • ESS 610 Capstone Project in Earth and Space Sciences


Requirements for the M.A.T. Degree in Earth Science

The Master of Arts in Teaching Earth Science leads to provisional certification for teaching earth science in secondary schools in New York State. It also prepares the student for the examination for permanent certification. There is no residence requirement. Students must complete at least one year of college-level study of a foreign language.

Students in the M.A.T. program must register through the School of Professional Development.

A. Formal Coursework
Students are required to complete with an average grade of B or higher 15 credits in earth science courses and 27 credits in pedagogical courses and teaching experience. The departmental M.A.T. advisor in consultation with the student will determine a set of earth science courses for the M.A.T. degree in Earth Science.

B. Recommendation of the Department for the M.A.T.
When all program requirements are completed, the departmental M.A.T. advisor will consult with the director of the Science Education Program to determine whether all state-mandated education courses have been completed. If they conclude that all requirements have been met, they will inform the associate dean of the School of Professional Development that the requirements for provisional certification have been fulfilled and recommend to the dean of the Graduate School that the M.A.T. degree should be granted.

C. Time Limit
Although full-time students can complete all requirements for the M.A.T. degree within three semesters, part-time students will require additional time to complete the degree requirements.