Department of Earth Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences

About Us


Department Chair and Head of the N.H. Winchell School of Earth Sciences:  

Donna L. Whitney


Director of Graduate Studies:
David L. Fox


Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Joshua M. Feinberg


Department of Earth Sciences Advisory Board



The study of geology at the University of Minnesota began in 1872 by an act of the State Legislature directing the Regents to establish a Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey to investigate the geology of Minnesota and make that information available to its citizens. In the spring of that year Newton Horace Winchell came to Minnesota as the State Geologist, and in the fall he started teaching as the University's first Professor of Geology and Mineralogy.  However, the Department of Geology and Mineralogy was not officially established until 1874.  The School of Earth Sciences was established in 1962 to include the Department of Geology and Geophysics (name changed to Department of Earth Sciences in 2010), the Minnesota Geological Survey,, and the  Limnological Research Center. Then in 1990, the Institute for Rock Magnetism became its fourth component.


The numerous contributions made by N. H. Winchell to the study of geology at the University of Minnesota were commemorated in 1988 with the renaming of the School as the Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences. Since Winchell's time many illustrious names in North American geosciences have been associated with the School, either as instructors or students. By its 125th anniversary in 1999, the Department had graduated over 2000 students.


Built in 1887, Pillsbury Hall is the second oldest building on the Twin Cities Campus of the University of Minnesota and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings as part of the "old campus district".  For its entire existance, Pillsbury Hall has been the proud home to the School of Earth Sciences.  (read more about Pillsbury Hall)



The Department of Earth Sciences is involved in three basic activities: scientific research, education, and community service. Bachelor of Science degrees in Earth Sciences are offered through the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts. In all cases students are required to complete a comprehensive core curriculum in basic earth science and to obtain a strong background in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Undergraduate students are mainly from Minnesota, and many go on to graduate studies at major universities across the country. (go to Earth Sciences Undergraduate Programs)


The graduate student body is made up of students from many parts of the U.S.A., and about 15% are international students. Many of our alumni have become well established in careers in private industry, public agencies, and education. Research and teaching are closely interrelated within the Department, especially at the more advanced levels of instruction. Thus graduate students and faculty interact freely in research projects, and graduate students are encouraged to develop independent research projects. The typical graduate advising load of faculty members is three to five students. (go to Earth Sciences Graduate Programs) 


In the area of public service, the faculty advises state agencies and communities in matters of waste disposal, lake restoration, groundwater protection, conservation of natural resources, and exploration of the state's mineral resources.  In addition, the faculty and graduate students in the department cordially make time for the general public in the identification of rocks and possible meteorites.