Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Undergraduate Studies Program

EARTH SCIENCE - not just a pretty rock collection

Degrees offered in Earth Science

Minor Programs

Honors Programs

Senior Thesis

      Seniors majoring in either Earth Sciences or Environmental Geosciences are encouraged to complete an undergraduate thesis project. Writing a thesis is a deep dive into the full arc of the research process, and includes the formulation of a testable hypothesis, experimental design, collection and synthesis of data, and communication of the results to a broad audience. Additionally, a senior thesis project is a chance to apply your Earth sciences skills to cutting-edge science and real-world problems, and is highly regarded during evaluation of job and graduate school applications.

      The first step in organizing a senior thesis project is for a student to select a faculty or staff mentor, who may then agree to help advise the student through the thesis process. This may be someone with whom the student has worked before, and students are encouraged to expand their earlier undergraduate research into a thesis. The student and mentor should create a thesis plan that is agreeable to both of them and send a copy of this plan to the Undergraduate Studies Committee (USC) prior to the beginning of the semester in which the thesis project begins. Students may earn credit for the time and effort spent completing a thesis by enrolling in ESCI 4094 (“Senior Thesis” 2 cr), which may be taken at any time of year (F, Sp, Smr) and repeated twice for a total of 4 cr. Students completing a senior thesis must submit a thesis document for review by their faculty mentor, a member of the USC, and a third faculty member prior to the end of instruction Spring term of their senior year. Additionally, the student should give an oral presentation of their thesis project inside or outside of the University as a talk or poster presentation. An example of particularly strong senior thesis can be downloaded here.

Research Opportunities

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work with individual faculty members and their research groups. Funding can come from a faculty member's research grant or students can apply for funding from the University.

Alternatively, students may choose to earn university credit for research conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may choose to enroll in "Directed Studies in Earth and Environmental Sciences."  ESCI 3093 and ESCI 4093 are meant for 3rd and 4th year students, respectively, and can be taken for 1 to 4 credits per semester (where 1 credit equals 42 hours of work per semester). Students seeking to enroll in these courses need to work with a faculty member to create a course contract. A simple list of details that should be discussed between students and faculty advisors can be found here. More information for students about the contract process can be found here. Instructions for Faculty and Staff can be found here.  When students are ready to begin preparing their course contracts, they should go to:

To see what areas of research might interest you and read about the U's funding:

Scholarship Opportunities

There are some funding opportunities for geology and geophysics majors to help defray the cost of educational expenses. This list is not exhaustive, please feel free to search for other sources of funding.

Advising/Contact Information

  • Joshua M. Feinberg, Director of Undergraduate Studies; 651-500-5839; Drop-In Office Hours on Thursdays 10 am to noon in room 239 of Tate Hall. Go here to schedule an appointment.
  • Other members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee available for advising include:
    • Peter Kang, Tate Hall, Room 385-24, Advising Drop-In Hours TBD
    • Bruce Moskowitz, Tate Hall, Room 241, Advising Drop-In Hours Fridays, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. 
    • Vera Pospelova, Tate Hall, Room 370, Advising Drop-In Hours TBD
    • Andrew Wickert, Tate Hall, Room 375-10, Advising Drop-In Hours Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. You can schedule an appointment here. 
  • Other important members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee include Derek Cole (Undergraduate Representative), Kent Kirkby, Lindsey Kenyon (Graduate Student Representative), and Jen Petrie (Student Personnel Coordinator). 

ESCI Undergraduate Suggestion Box!

Students are encouraged to submit anonymous feedback about the ESCI Undergraduate Program using this form. Submissions are reviewed by the Undergraduate Studies Committee every two weeks.

University of Minnesota Geological Society (a.k.a. GeoClub)

GeoClub is the official student organization for geo students. Other than social activities, this group raises money for the yearly spring field trip. See the GeoClub website and join the group's Facebook page. If you are even considering a major in Earth Sciences or Environmental Geosciences, please ask Jen Petrie to add your email address to the GeoClub listserv. This is the primary way that the department communicates information about research, internship, scholarship, and job opportunities to our undergraduates! 

Listing of Earth Sciences Courses

Need Tutoring, or writing, research, or media project support?

Check out the Student Success Website, which provides tutoring for over 250 UMN courses, as well as a variety of support resources for students. 

Internship Opportunities

Outside the University, there are opportunities for undergraduates to gain research experience through summer internship programs. Listed here are just a few, please feel free to search for other internship opportunities.

Careers in the Geosciences