The geology major at CMU emphasizes mastery of the basics required for success as a geoscientist. You’ll acquire a strong foundation of geologic knowledge and skills related to observation, field and laboratory projects, critical thinking, computer use, and technical writing. CMU’s comprehensive course of study in the geology major also serves as excellent preparation for graduate school.
Points of Pride
- CMU’s Biological Station on Beaver Island offers marshes, coastal wetlands and beachfront research opportunities for studying geology. CMU is the only university in Michigan and one of two in the Midwest to operate an island research station.
- You can gain professional development, resources and contacts through student organizations such as CMU Geology Club and Sigma Gamma Epsilon Earth Science Honor Society.
Put Your Degree to Work
The course listings below are a representation of what this academic program requires. For a full review of this program in detail please see our official online academic bulletin AND consult with an academic advisor. This listing does not include the General Education courses required for all majors and may not include some program specific information, such as admissions, retention, and termination standards.
(Click on the course name or number for a complete course description.)
Students are encouraged to meet with a departmental advisor to discuss alignment with their individual goals. Note additional MTH and PHY courses strongly recommended for students who plan to go to graduate school. A minor is encouraged but not required.
Total: 67-68 semester hours
Core Courses I
Introduction to the Geosciences
Select one of the following options:
Core Courses II
The Earth's history as revealed in the rock record. Geologic processes and concepts are applied to the evolution of North America and life through geologic time. Prerequisites: One of: GEL 100; or GEL 101, 102; or GEL 105, 102; or GEL 130.
Students learn to solve geoscience-specific problems through application of quantitative methods, graphs, and spreadsheets. Prerequisites: MTH 132; One of: GEL 100 or GEL 101, 102 or GEL 105, 102 or GEL 130.
Introduction to Geologic Investigation
An introduction to methods of geologic research and investigation. Topics include information gathering (library, Internet), field methods (observations, measurements, sampling, map-making), and report writing. Prerequisites: GEL 101 or GEL 105, and GEL 102; or GEL 100 or GEL 130.
Introduction to crystallography. Physical and chemical properties, and descriptions of basic groups and classifications of minerals. Field trip fee required. Prerequisites: GEL 101 or 105, and 102; or GEL 100 or 130. Pre/Co-requisites: CHM 131; GEL 280.
Stratigraphy and Sedimentology
Production, transport, and deposition of sediments. Emphasis on fundamentals of fluid flow, transport, mineral processes, physical properties, formation of sedimentary structures, and depositional environments. Field trip fee required. Pre/Co-requisites: One of: GEL 310; or GEL 320; or ENS 307.
Theoretical and applied study of structures developed by deformation of the Earth’s crust and their tectonic environment. Field trip fee required. May be offered as Writing Intensive. Prerequisites: GEL 277. Pre/Co-requisites: GEL 340.
Geology Field Camp
Actual field experience in mapping and interpreting various terrains. Student will construct a map and write a report based on observations. Field trip fee required. Prerequisite: GEL 320 or GEL 321; GEL 370, 440, and permission of department chair.
Our Changing Climate
Scientific causes of climate change and its potential impact. Past, current, and future climates with emphasis on how scientists measure and interpret climate variation. This course may be offered in an online format. Quantitative Reasoning. Satisfies University Program Group II laboratory requirement. (University Program Group II-A: Descriptive Sciences)
Required Courses I
Note: In addition, students interested in pursuing graduate school are strongly recommended to take MTH 133 - Calculus II (4 hours) and PHY 146 - University Physics II (4 hours).
General Chemistry I
Introductory course covering fundamental concepts of chemistry including atoms, properties of matter, reactions and stoichiometry, electronic structure, chemical bonding, molecular structure, thermochemistry, gas laws. Satisfies University Program Group II laboratory requirement. Recommended: High school algebra or MTH 107; high school chemistry or CHM 120. (University Program Group II-B: Quantitative and Mathematical Sciences)
General Chemistry II
Continuation of CHM 131 including solutions, kinetics, equilibrium, weak acids and bases, thermodynamics, and electrochemistry. Prerequisite: CHM 131. Recommended: a grade of C or better in CHM 131.
Geoscience Mapping and Resource Evaluation
This course explores applications that aid in the analysis of geoscience data. Integration of various geospatial data sources and analysis pertinent to geoscientists. Identical to MET 250; credit may not be earned in both of these courses. Prerequisites: GEO 203; One of: ENS 101 or MET 101 or MET 140 or MET 260 or GEL 100 or GEL 101, 102 or GEL 105, 102 or GEL 130.
Introduction to Geographic Information Science
Fundamentals of geographic information science - including spatial data gathering, measurement, classification, analysis, display and map interpretation. Current computer mapping technologies are used in laboratory. This course may be offered in an online or hybrid format. Quantitative Reasoning. (University Program Group II-B: Quantitative and Mathematical Science)
Limits, continuity, interpretations of the derivative, differentiation of elementary functions, applications of derivatives, antiderivatives, Riemann sums, definite integrals, fundamental theorem of calculus. This course may be offered in an online or hybrid format. Recommended: MTH 107, 109; or MTH 130. (University Program Group II-B: Quantitative and Mathematical Sciences)
University Physics I
Normally the first physics course for majors and minors. Mechanics of single and many-particle systems, conservation laws, statistical concepts, and gravitational interaction. Quantitative Reasoning. Pre/Co- Requisite: MTH 132.
University Physics Laboratory I
Laboratory experience for PHY 145. Introduction to experimental techniques and the treatment of experimental data. Satisfies University Program Group II laboratory requirement. Pre/Co-requisite: PHY 145. (University Program Group II-B: Quantitative and Mathematical Sciences)
Required Courses II
Genesis and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Identification, description of hand samples and thin-sections emphasizing petrogenesis. Optical mineralogy of common rock-forming minerals. Field trip fee required. Prerequisites: GEL 290, 310; Pre/Co-requisite: CHM 132.
Required Courses III
Select two of the following courses:
Introduction to Geophysics
A survey of the physical properties and structure of the earth, and the basic geophysical techniques by which they are known. Field trip fee required. Prerequisites: GEL 280 or ENS 401; PHY 145QR.
Introduction to the study of groundwater: groundwater occurrence and flow, groundwater in the hydrological cycle, groundwater quality and pollution, groundwater exploration, evaluation, and management. Field Trip Fee Required. Writing Intensive. Prerequisites: One of: GEL 100 or GEL 101, 102 or GEL 105, 102 or GEL 130 or ENS 101; MTH 132 with a C- or better. Recommended: GEL 280.
Introductory Petroleum Geology
Petroleum deposits of the earth: location, origin, and occurrence. Technical aspects of exploration and production, emphasizing petroleum and natural gas formations of Michigan. May be offered as Writing Intensive. Prerequisite: GEL 201.
Application of geostatistical methods to various scientific and engineering domains. Emphasis on analyzing and interpreting spatial data. Kriging, variography and simulation methods. Prerequisites: GEL 280, 290; GEL/MET 250. Recommended: MTH 223; STA 382.
Metallic and nonmetallic ore deposits, fossil fuels, and their tectonic settings; general principles of exploration for natural resources within the context of responsible environmental stewardship. Prerequisite: GEL 320 or 321 or graduate status in the College of Science and Technology.
Select one or more of the following courses for a total of 3 credits:
OR choose any course from Required Courses III listed above, without double counting.
Application of geologic processes and quantitative methods to analyze engineering problems involving soils, rocks, surface water and groundwater. Prerequisites: GEL 201; MTH 130; PHY 130 or 145. Recommended: MTH 132.
Water Resources and Hydrologic Processes
Study of water on Earth; includes atmosphere, surface, and subsurface. Explore interactions between the hydrosphere, biosphere, earth system, and human processes. Prerequisites: GEL 101 or 105 or 100 or 130 or MET 140 or MET 260 or ENS 101; MTH 105 or higher; Recommended: GEL 280; familiarity with spreadsheet software (i.e., Microsoft Excel or similar) is expected.
Special Problems in Geology
Various special topics in geology that are not included in existing courses. Specific topic will be listed on student’s transcript. Repeatable up to 6 credits when content previously studied is not duplicated. Prerequisite: See course search and registration.
Qualified self-directed students may explore topics of special interest with faculty guidance. Prerequisites: One GEL course at 200 level or above; and permission of instructor.
The student conducts a senior-level research project, writes a thesis, and gives an oral presentation with guidance from a thesis advisor. Typically completed within 3 hours per semester. Repeatable up to 6 hours to finalize proposed outcomes. Only 3 hours may be credited towards the writing intensive requirement. Writing Intensive.
Geologic approach to geomorphology with emphasis on quantitative analysis, dynamics of landform evolution, and use of geomorphology in solving geologic problems. Prerequisites: GEL 320 or GEL 321; ESC 210 and STA 282 recommended.
Biogeochemical processes governing the chemistry of water, with a focus on the distribution of natural and anthropogenic chemical species. Prerequisites: CHM 132; BIO 208 or CHM 211 or GEL 310; or graduate status in a CST program. Recommended: GEL 380.
Low Temperature Isotope Geochemistry
Isotope geochemistry plays an important role in geological, biological, and environmental investigations. The isotopic geochemistry of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur will be covered. Prerequisites: CHM 132; GEL 321 or GEL 380; or graduate status in a CST program.
Qualified self-directed students may explore topics of special interest with faculty guidance. More than 3 credits permitted only rarely. Prerequisites: department chairperson and instructor approval.