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Geophysical Sciences

The Department of the Geophysical Sciences offers unique programs of study in the earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences. Topics include the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of the atmosphere, oceans, and ice sheets; past and present climate change; the origin and history of the earth, moon, and meteorites; properties of the deep interior of the earth and the dynamics of crustal movements; and the evolution and geography of life and the earth’s surface environments through geologic time. These multidisciplinary topics require an integrated approach founded on mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.

Research opportunities available to students are broadened by ties with the Enrico Fermi Institute; Field Museum of Natural History; National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado; and various laboratories throughout the country. Facilities are available for sediment transport; satellite data analysis; atmospheric chemistry; remote atmospheric probing; synoptic meteorology; high temperature and high pressure experiments in mineralogy, petrology, and geophysics; fossil preparation and fossil image analysis; low temperature geochemistry and sedimentology; trace-element analyses by neutron activation; and for studies employing the following equipment: an electron microprobe and ion microprobe, a scanning electron microscope, stable isotope mass spectrometers, x-ray diffractometers, and single crystal diffractometers.

The department has numerous links to computing facilities on campus as well as to computers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Science Foundation computing centers, and Argonne National Laboratory. Various projects in the department operate their own workstations for advanced graphics and image processing applications. The resources of the Regenstein and Crerar Libraries, which contain over four million volumes, are located within one block of the department.

Both the B.A. and B.S. programs prepare students for careers that draw upon the earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences. However, the B.S. degree provides a more focused and intensive program of study for students who intend to pursue graduate work in these disciplines. The B.A. degree also offers thorough study in the geophysical sciences, but it provides a wide opportunity for elective freedom to pursue such interdisciplinary interests as environmental policy, law, medicine, business, and pre-college education.