Program Objectives and Description: The graduate program in the geological sciences is designed to prepare students for professional employment in geoscience careers in industry, consulting firms, local, state, or federal government, teaching at the community college or secondary level, and serves as a foundation for graduate studies beyond the MS level. It is also suitable training for careers in environmental law and natural resource and hazard planning. The department encourages an integrative, multi-disciplinary approach.
Admission Requirements: Incoming students are expected to meet the requirements of the graduate school, have a solid background in science and mathematics, and show evidence of superior scholarship. All students entering the MS program are expected to have a background equivalent to that required for the bachelor of science degree in geology at CWU and to have completed a geological field camp for college credit. Applicants must provide Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the general test. Graduates in chemistry, physics, engineering, biology, or other technical disciplines are also encouraged to apply. Deficiencies in the student’s undergraduate training as determined by the Department of Geological Sciences at the time of matriculation must be removed without graduate credit during the first year of graduate study. If English is a secondary language, students must score 550 or above on the TOEFL examination.
Application Deadlines and Supporting Materials: Applications and all supporting materials are due by February 1 for fall quarter entrance. Applications will include a statement of your background and purpose, official transcripts, general GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation.
Program Requirements: The department offers an MS degree that requires a minimum of 60 credits of graduate study. Fifty-four credits are earned from coursework and research (35 credits at the 500 level or above) and six credits are allowed for thesis (GEOL 700). All graduate students must register for GEOL 501, Current Topics in Geology, and GEOL 502, Regional Geology of the Pacific Northwest, (both during the fall quarter of their first year), and GEOL 503, Introductory Graduate Research Methods (during the winter quarter of their first year). GEOL 504, Graduate Seminar Series, is required during the first six quarters of a student’s graduate program. Candidates must pass a final oral examination on their thesis project and supporting coursework, given by a thesis committee consisting of the thesis advisor and two other faculty. Normal completion of the master of science requires two academic years and an intervening summer of field study. Students may be encouraged to begin field work prior to matriculation.
Areas and Electives in Specialization: Course requirements are tailored to the individual student’s academic background, professional goals, and research interests through advising from the graduate faculty and thesis committee chair. The greatest departmental strengths are in active and regional tectonics, seismology, geodesy, geomorphology and quaternary geology, paleohydrology, environmental geo-chemistry, mineralogy, petrology, and volcanology. The department is a participating member of the Southern California Earthquake Center, a National Science Foundation sponsored (NSF) science and technology center. The department houses the data analysis center for the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA), a network of continuously operating GPS receivers distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest, the U.S., and Canada. In addition, the department has strong ties with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), administered by Caltech for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the opportunity to participate in JPL programs is a unique feature of the Geology Program at Central. The department is a participating member of the Western North America Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar Consortium (WinSAR) and Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).
Central Washington University lies on the Columbia River basalt plateau, adjacent to the crystalline core and majestic volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains. Seismicity and active volcanism of the Cascadia subduction zone, highly deformed rocks of northern Washington and British Columbia, and a water- and natural-resource-based economy in central Washington provide ideal opportunities to study a wide variety of geologic problems.
Equipment and Computer Facilities: The geological sciences department has excellent research computer facilities including Linux computation workstations and file storage and department mail, web and ftp servers. A mix of Macs and PCs are used for image processing, basic data analysis, and generating papers and presentations. Software packages available for data processing on these platforms include GIPSY, SAC, MatLab, ArcGIS, GAMIT, LAPACK, GSL, compilers, and other development tools.
The Geodesy Laboratory houses the data processing center for the Plate Boundary Observatory and PANGA. The laboratory analyzes continuous data from the permanent GPS array in the western United States. Processing is done on a dedicated 60-node Linux cluster. Additional geodesy equipment includes a number of Trimble SSi and 4700 receivers and digital surveying equipment (Leica Total Stations and Trimple kinematic GPS).
The department has Nikon and Leica petrographic microscopes, research polarizing reflected and transmitting light microscopes, with CCD-video camera displays.
With support from CWU, the national Science Foundation, and the M. I. Murdock Charitable Trust, the department has acquired sample preparation facilities, a geochemistry laboratory with an ICP-MS and stable-isotope mass spectrometer, and an automated Philips PW 3400 Powder X-Ray Diffractometer. Laboratories include a stable isotope laboratory, equipped with a general purpose extraction line for analysis of waters, carbonates, and soils, and a modern geochemistry laboratory, equipped for isotopic, major-element, and trace-element analysis of Earth materials.
Graduate Committee: The student must have a three-member graduate committee, selected in consultation with the advisor; two members must be from the geological sciences department.
Examination: Candidates must pass a final examination on their thesis and coursework.
Program Learner Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:
- Critically interpret published scientific literature; differentiate data from interpretation
- Design and implement an original research project that develops multiple hypotheses, predictions from hypotheses, data- gathering strategy, data analysis, evaluation of uncertainties, interpretation, and literature review
- Present and interpret results of original research, both orally and in writing, using standard geoscience reference tools, formats and conventions (including statistics, georeferencing, plotting, etc.)
- Establish competency in solving quantitative problems, using correct units and significant figures, and representing geologic data on cross-sections and maps.