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College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

CSULB students study

Geological Sciences - Graduate Programs

Master of Science in Geology (code GEOLMS01)

The Department of Geological Sciences offers a comprehensive program of courses coupled with appropriate thesis projects leading to the Master of Science in Geology. Within geology, students specialize in any of a number of sub-disciplines including engineering geology, environmental geochemistry, geology, hydrogeology, marine geology, mineralogy and petrology, paleontology, petroleum geology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, structural and field geology, and volcanology. In addition, a formal emphasis in geophysics is available. Students may include in their studies courses offered by other departments at CSULB, or courses at California State University Northridge and California State University Los Angeles; CSULB participates with both universities in a joint Master’s program.

The objectives of the Master of Science in Geology are (1) to train individuals with the competence required by the geological profession for employment in industry and government agencies, (2) to enable promising students to attain a level of knowledge and research ability required for admission to Ph.D. programs at other universities, and (3) to provide course work and research experience necessary for students planning to teach geology at the community college level.

Emphasis in Geophysics

The emphasis in geophysics is available for students wishing to specialize in the application of geophysical principles to the solution of problems in engineering geology, geohydrology, structural geology, tectonics, petroleum geology, and mineral exploration. Students following this Emphasis are expected to have completed the equivalent of course work required for the B.S. in Earth Science, Geophysics emphasis, and additionally to complete M.S. requirements with a program of geophysical course work approved in advance by both the graduate advisor and a geophysics advisor. Appropriate B.S. programs which provide training suitable for completion of the M.S. in Geology, Geophysics Emphasis, include Civil and Electrical Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, and Geology in addition to Geophysics, although some deficiencies will exist in these alternate programs. Students should confer with the graduate advisor about this program.

Departmental Resources

The CSULB Department of Geological Sciences is very well equipped for a wide variety of field, laboratory, and analytical research. Equipment and facilities include: an 1100 sf geochemistry clean lab with chromatography columns for trace element and isotopic studies, two HP gas chromatographs, a UV spectrophotometer, Cary Vis/UV spectrophotometer, a CHN elemental analyzer, IR Mass Spectrometer, Analytical Environmental Scanning Electron microscope, vacuum extraction lines for oxygen and carbon isotope studies of carbonate and silicate minerals, three X-ray diffractometers, petrographic thin section-making equipment and microdrill system, a fluid inclusion heating/freezing stage, a PIMA portable infrared spectrometer, a marine multi-channel seismic reflection system that includes a digital 24-channel hydrophone streamer and uniboom and sparker energy sources, a total station laser surveying system, a precision GPS receiver and processing software, a high-precision LaCoste-Romberg gravimeter, a land-based seismic reflection/refraction system with weight-drop energy source and 24-channel land seismic data acquisition system, two 8-passenger 4WD field vehicles, Linux workstations and SIOSEIS seismic data processing software, 3D subsurface visualization and mapping software for seismic and well logs (Kingdom Suite; 12-station network license), a 24-station computer lab (PC and Macintosh) with high-speed internet connection, laser printers, a digitizer tablet, a 42” HP color inkjet printer/plotter, GIS software (MapInfo and Arcview), desktop publishing and statistical software. The Department operates the Los Angeles Basin Subsurface Data Center, a well log and subsurface data repository with logs on 14,000 wells in southern California, and offshore seismic data. The Department also has access to three ocean-going research vessels, support staff, and dockside facilities of the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI), a consortium of several California State University campuses, University of Southern California, and Occidental College.

Admission to the Program

The basic requirement for admission to the graduate program is possession of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in geology or earth sciences comparable to degrees offered at CSULB. The student normally will be expected to have completed as an undergraduate acceptable work in certain basic lower division and upper division subjects. Lower division subjects include calculus, calculus-based physics, chemistry, biology, computer programming and statistics. Upper division subjects depend on the degree emphasis and sub-discipline to be followed by the student, and generally include (but may not be limited to) courses required by the corresponding undergraduate emphases. Students who are missing some of this course work may be admitted to the program but will be expected to remove deficiencies or present acceptable alternatives.

In addition to the above course work requirements, students are required to take the General test of the Graduate Record Examination and to submit three letters of recommendation prior to entry.

Prospective graduate students in the geological sciences, including CSULB graduates, must formally apply for admission to CSULB as described previously in this Catalog and must also apply directly to the Department of Geological Sciences. All applicants must submit the following documents directly to the Department no later than July 1 for the fall semester or December 1 for the spring semester to receive consideration for admission:

  1. Department Application Form, available from the Department Office;
  2. Official transcripts of all college level academic work including that done at CSULB, in addition to those transcripts required for general graduate admission to CSULB;
  3. Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic performance and research potential;
  4. Official reports of scores on the General test of the Graduate Record Examination.

A limited number of assistant/associateships are available to fund graduate studies in the Department of Geological Sciences. Applicants wishing to be considered for one of these positions must submit all application materials to the Department Office no later than July 1 for the Fall semester or December 1 for the Spring semester.

Students not meeting the Department’s admissions standards or application requirements may be admitted on probationary status on a case-by-case basis. Those students will be expected to maintain the same high academic standards as fully admitted students. After two semesters, students admitted on probationary status will be re-evaluated for full admission to the Department.

Initiation of Graduate Study

Students are responsible for all University and Department regulations governing master’s degrees as outlined in this Catalog. The regulations governing the degree are those in effect at the time of advancement to candidacy. Until that time, students are governed by the most current Catalog. The advising of incoming graduate students is carried out by the graduate advisor, who explains the requirements of the program and carries out initial academic advising. It is required that the student arrange for this initial advising before or during his/her first semester.

All entering students must take GEOL 500 (Introductory Graduate Seminar) during their first Fall semester. This course consists of faculty-given seminars that introduce new students to the Department and to the faculty and their research. One purpose of this is to encourage the student to find a thesis topic and thesis advisor by the end of the second semester. This is done with the help of the graduate advisor once the student has chosen a sub-discipline or option in which to specialize.

Students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher at all times. If at any time a student’s GPA drops below 3.0, that student will immediately be placed on probation for a maximum of two semesters. If the student does not bring the GPA back up to 3.0 during the probationary period, he/she will not be allowed to continue as a graduate student in this Department. In order for a student to regain status in the Department after failing to maintain this academic standard, he/she must formally reapply for Department admission.

Advancement to Candidacy

A student must have been advanced to candidacy before initiating formal thesis research necessary to complete the M.S. degree. Students are expected to be advanced by the end of their fourth semester. Students may petition the Department for an extension of the four semester time limit on a semester by semester basis. Students should be aware, however, that they are at risk of not receiving credit toward their graduate programs for research started or courses taken prior to advancement. Students must have fulfilled the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) and have advanced to candidacy before they apply for graduation. Requests to graduate must be received during the preceding May for Spring/Summer graduation or preceding December for Fall graduation. Filings after the deadlines are not accepted.

Before advancement can proceed, a thesis topic, committee, and graduate program consisting of at least 30 units (see below) must be established by the student and the prospective thesis committee chair. In addition, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Prior completion of all deficiencies or incompletes. This includes courses required in the undergraduate major for the emphasis in which the student is pursuing graduate research, as well as additional courses specified by the thesis advisor.
  2. Completion of six units of graduate level courses with a 3.0 or higher grade point average and attainment of a 3.0 or higher grade point average in all upper division and graduate work attempted, as well as in courses to be listed in the student’s graduate academic program (see below).
  3. A passing grade in GEOL 500.
  4. Satisfying the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR).
  5. Successful completion of an oral qualifying examination given by the student’s thesis committee, and acceptance of a written proposal for the thesis research. The student’s thesis topic will be the subject of the examination.

Once the above requirements are met, advancement to candidacy proceeds with approval of the committee, graduate advisor, Department Chair and Associate Dean for Graduate Accountability in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. After the student has been advanced, no course work in addition to that specified in the graduate program may be required of the student. In order for a student to change thesis director, topic, committee members, or courses in the graduate program, approvals must be obtained. Under some circumstances this may mean that additional courses are required.

Requirements of Graduate Academic Program

The graduate academic program consists of at least 30 units of courses and is finalized when the student advances to candidacy. Although courses that will eventually become part of the student’s academic program may be taken before advancement, it is strongly recommended that students make up any undergraduate deficiencies first, and then advance as early as possible. The program proposed by the thesis committee chair and the student must be approved by the thesis committee, Graduate Advisor, Department Chair, and Associate Dean for Graduate Accountability. Six units of GEOL 698 (Thesis) must be taken as part of the program. Directed Research, GEOL 697, may account for up to three units, but normally cannot be taken before the student completes 12 units of the graduate program with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

A minimum of 18 units of 500 or 600 level courses, including Thesis, must be completed; the remaining units (12 or less) may be 300, 400, 500, or 600 level courses, although courses at 300 level in the Department may not be used in the program. Units may be taken at other universities if suitable courses are not offered at CSULB. Appropriate courses from related areas in science, mathematics, or engineering may be substituted within limits with consent of the Department.

Thesis Defense

All M.S. students are required to submit a thesis that conforms to the University and Department guidelines. The thesis should document the systematic study of a significant geological problem; evidence originality and critical, independent thinking; and conform to appropriate and accepted organization, format, and writing style. Each student should discuss thesis format with his/her thesis committee chair.

All M.S. students are also required to present the results of their research orally. With prior approval, this presentation can take one of many possible formats, including a departmental seminar, a presentation at a regional or national meeting, or a formal thesis defense. The student must schedule his/her presentation at least two weeks in advance, and with the approval of the thesis committee chair (and thesis director). The date of the presentation must precede the filing deadline for the semester in which the student plans to graduate.