Geology Major, Minor, and Concentration (Bryn Mawr)

The integrated science of geology combines biology, chemistry and physics as they apply to the workings of Earth and other planets. Well-trained geoscientists are increasingly in demand to address the environmental challenges and natural resource limitations of the modern world.

Curriculum & Courses

A central tenet for understanding and predicting Earth processes and environmental change is the ability to decipher past Earth history from geologic records. Thus, the major in Geology includes study of the physics and chemistry of Earth materials and processes; the history of the Earth and its organisms; and the range of techniques used to investigate the past and present workings of the Earth system.

Field and lab experiences are essential parts of geology training, and field trips and lab work are part of all introductory courses, most other classes, and most independent research projects.

  • Major Requirements

    Thirteen courses are required for the major: GEOL B101 (How the Earth Works), GEOL B202 (Mineralogy), GEOL B203 (Biosphere through Time),GEOL B204 (Structural Geology), GEOL B205 (Sedimentary Materials and Environments), GEOL B208 (Super Lab), at least two semesters of quantitative or computational coursework (e.g., MATH B101 and MATH B102 or alternates approved by your adviser), a two-semester sequence of CHEM (CHEM B103-CHEM B104) or PHYS (PHYS B101-PHYS B102 or PHYS B121-PHYS B122), GEOL B399, and either two advanced geology courses or one advanced geology course and an additional upper-level course in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, or computer science.

    The writing requirement for the major in Geology is fulfilled in GEOL B203 (Biosphere through Time). This course includes a semester-long research project culminating in a scientific manuscript based on material collected in the field by enrolled students.

    Additional courses in the allied sciences are strongly recommended and are required by most graduate schools. A student who wishes to follow a career in geology are encouraged to attend a summer field course, usually following the completion of the 200-level courses.

    All Geology majors participate in a senior capstone experience (GEOL B399), which is structured into a two-semester seminar that meets weekly for 1.5 hours for a total of 1.0 credit (0.5 credits per semester). The focus of the capstone seminar is to reinforce students' ability to address geoscience questions and to communicate their findings orally and in writing. The team-taught senior seminar integrates the student's major curriculum with weekly speakers or peer-led discussions on cutting-edge research, and on the impact and relevance of geology to modern society.


    At the discretion of the department faculty, rising seniors may undertake an independent thesis project (GEOL B398) in addition to mandatory full participation in the senior capstone seminar (GEOL B399). Student thesis projects must be supervised by a faculty advisor. The senior thesis is modeled after a Master's thesis project but is scaled down for the different time frame (one year versus two years) and educational level of a senior undergraduate student. The thesis project plan is initially developed and agreed upon through consultation between the supervising faculty member(s) and the student. This is usually done during the second semester of a students’ junior year. Most of the research is conducted independently by the student. The advisor serves as a source of ideas concerning scientific literature, methodologies, and project support. The advisor may visit and inspect the research sites, laboratory or model, and offer advice on how the research should be conducted or modified.

    If approved to undertake a senior thesis, a student will enroll in GEOL B398 each of their final two semesters for a total of 1.0 credit (0.5 credits per semester). The thesis option adds the equivalent of one course to the standard Geology major requirements. The first semester will focus on thesis topic formulation, background research, and initiation of appropriate data acquisition. At the end of the first semester, the student must submit a formal written project proposal to department faculty members. This research proposal must demonstrate the student's ability to successfully complete a thesis during the following semester. Following review of submitted proposals, students or faculty members may choose or recommend, respectively, not to continue the independent thesis, in which case the student would not enroll for the second semester of GEOL B398.

    Requirements for Honors

    Honors are awarded to students who have outstanding academic records in Geology and allied fields, have completed an independent senior thesis project, and whose research is judged by the department faculty to be of the highest quality.

  • Minor Requirements

    A minor in Geology consists of two 100-level Geology courses, and any four of the 200- or 300-level courses offered by the department. Two 0.5 credit courses may be combined to count toward one of the 100-level courses. Alternatively, an additional 200- or 300-level course may be substituted for one of the 100-level courses to meet the minor requirements.

  • Concentration Requirements

    Concentration in Geoarchaeology

    The geoarchaeology concentration allows students majoring in Anthropology, Archaeology, or Geology to explore the connections among these fields with respect to how our human ancestors interacted with past environments, and how traces of human behavior are preserved in the physical environment. In Geology, the geoarchaeology concentration consists of 13 courses: GEOL B101,GEOL B202, GEOL B203, GEOL B204, GEOL B205, GEOL B208, GEOL B270, and GEOL B399; two semesters of chemistry; two semesters of math, statistics, or computational methods; either ARCH B101 or ANTH B101; and one 200- or 300-level elective from among current offerings in Anthropology or Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. For course planning advice, consult with Don Barber (Geology), Casey Barrier (Anthropology) or Peter Magee (Archaeology).

    Concentration in Geochemistry

    The geochemistry concentration encourages students majoring either in Geology or in Chemistry to design a course of study that emphasizes Earth chemistry. Paperwork for the concentration should be filed at the same time as the major work plan. For a Geology major with a concentration in geochemistry, the following are required: GEOL B101, GEOL B202GEOL B203, GEOL B204, GEOL B205, GEOL B208, and GEOL B399; CHEM B103 (General Chemistry) and CHEM B104 (General Chemistry II); CHEM B211(Organic Chemistry) or CHEM B231 (Inorganic Chemistry); GEOL B302 (Low Temperature Geochemistry) or GEOL B305 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology) or GEOL B350 (requires major advisor approval); one additional 300-level geochemistry-themed GEOL course or one additional advanced CHEM course. For a Chemistry major with a concentration in geochemistry, the following are required in addition to Chemistry major requirements (see Chemistry major advisor): GEOL B101 (How the Earth Works), GEOL B202 (Mineralogy/Crystal Chemistry), two additional 300-level geochemistry-themed GEOL courses including GEOL B302 (Low Temperature Geochemistry) or GEOL B305 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology) or GEOL B350 (requires Geology major advisor approval). For course planning advice, contact Pedro Marenco (Geology) or Sharon Burgmayer (Chemistry).

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