The University of Montana enjoys an interesting and varied geologic and environmental setting that provides a wide range of opportunities for study and research. The Department of Geosciences confers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Grad students undertake fundamental research over the wide range of disciplines within the geosciences represented by our faculty. We’re organized roughly into three themes (with lots of interaction among them):
Surface Processes, Water, and Climate
We are interested in the part of the Earth where we all live—the surface. At this interface, water, air, rock, soil, and living things all interact in complicated cycles. These determine the distribution and quality of resources upon which all life depends, and better understanding of the cycles means better stewardship of them. Some examples of ongoing research include studies of how large rivers respond to dam removal, how the Greenland icecap is responding to climate change, how contaminants are transported in groundwater, and how ground and surface water resources can be efficiently used.
Deep Time and Earth History
We are interested in the large-scale evolution of the earth, including the chemical and physical changes of earth materials over time. Some examples of ongoing research include studies of how ancient continental cratons evolve chemically, how metamorphic core complexes evolve, how western North America was assembled, how the biosphere and the tectosphere interact, and how economic resources are distributed in space and time.
We are interested in the dynamics of the Earth’s outermost solid layer, the lithosphere. This layer is not static, but hosts earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, ocean basins, and a host of other features related to change. Understanding the underlying physics of these phenomena helps us to both mitigate risk and understand the fundamental arrangement of the landscape. Some examples of ongoing research include studies of how active faulting is distributed in Central Asia and Tibet, how Western North America was assembled, how earthquakes are distributed in the Northern Rockies, and why the Rockies are in our own backyard in the first place.
More information about our research and courses is available on our department web site.
The Master’s degree requires 30 credits. Only courses designated for graduate credit in the university catalog may apply. The committee may require additional coursework beyond the minimum of 30 credits. A minimum of 24 credits in formal coursework is required of which 18 must be Geosciences courses. No more than 6 of these may be thesis credits; at least 12 must be at the 500 or 600 level. An additional 3 credits of Advanced Problems (GEO 597) may be applied toward the degree. Seminars (GEO 58X) may be taken more than once with the consent of the instructor. A minimum of 21 credits applied toward the degree must be taken on the University of Montana - Missoula campus. A maximum of 8 credits of coursework may be repeated upon approval of the Department.
Cognate science courses taken outside the Geosciences Department may be required, depending on the field of study, advisor, or research area. Cognate science courses are generally taken in Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Computer Science. The nature of the cognate coursework will be decided in consultation with the research committee.
The M.S. degree also requires original research in the geosciences. This research may be presented in a traditional thesis, but we strongly encourage students to instead produce two or more professional papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals. These research products are defended to the faculty and department community as part of the degree requirements.
Applicants for the M.S. degree must choose a field of specialization and find an appropriate advisor as part of the admissions process. For additional information, see the Geosciences Graduate information at http://www.cas.umt.edu/geosciences//graduate/ms_phd.php.
A minimum of 60 graduate credits beyond the Bachelor's degree is required for the Ph.D. degree at the University of Montana. The committee may require additional coursework beyond the minimum of 60 credits. Up to 30 credits may be transferred from a completed Master’s degree. Candidates entering the Ph.D. program without a Master’s degree may transfer 9 graduate credits from another institution. This limit includes courses taken for the Master’s degree. A maximum of 12 credits of GEO 699, dissertation research, and 6 credits of Advanced Problems (GEO 597) may be applied toward the degree. A minimum of 6 graduate credits of coursework must be taken outside of the Geosciences Department. This coursework must comprise a coherent program relevant to the dissertation research and/or professional goals. Courses taken for the Master's degree may be applied toward the 6 credit cognate requirement with the approval of the advisor. Cognate courses are generally in Biology, Math, Physics, Chemistry, or Computer Science. Some courses in Geography or Forestry may be suitable for some fields of study.
The Ph.D. degree requires demonstration of competence in the field of specialization through a comprehensive examination, usually completed in the second year of study.
Finally, the Ph.D. degree requires original research in the geosciences. This research may be presented in a traditional dissertation, but we strongly encourage students to instead produce three or more professional papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals. These research products are defended to the faculty and department community as part of the degree requirements.
Applications for the Ph.D. degree must choose a field of specialization and find an appropriate advisor as part of the admissions process. For additional information, see the Geosciences Graduate information at http://www.umt.edu/geosciences/graduate/apply.php.
1. Application Materials and Deadline
Application deadline: Applications for Fall semester must be postmarked by January 17. In rare and special circumstances, applications may be considered year-round. All teaching assistantships are awarded during the January admissions process.
Instructions for applying to the Graduate School are in the Applying for Admission section on this web site.
In addition to the application materials required by the Graduate School, for admission the Department of Geosciences also requires:
- A statement of purpose (300 words) describing your background and future goals.
- Form A (available from the Geosciences Department) or at this web address: http://www.cas.umt.edu/geosciences//graduate/apply.php
- Three letters of recommendation (We prefer electronic submission through the Admission Application. If the electronic method is used there is no need to send paper copies of the letters to the department.)
2. Program Requirements for Admission
- Incoming graduate students with geosciences degrees are required to have a background in math and science which includes a year each of calculus, physics and chemistry at the college level. Students with undergraduate degrees in other sciences can construct a remedial course schedule in geosciences pertinent to their research interests.
- The department expects all graduate applicants to have made prior contact with a prospective advisor or to indicate with whom they want to work.
- The Department of Geosciences accepts GRE scores with a test date that is within the past five years OR verifiable GRE scores if the test date is over five years old.
3. Assistantship Application and Deadline
The application deadline for teaching assistantships for Fall semester is January 17. Research assistantships ocdasionally become available at other times of year.
4. International Students
For additional information about financial assistance, see the Financial Information section on this web site.
Teaching assistantships are available to a limited number of students who have been admitted to a graduate program. Teaching assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis. All applicants are generally considered for teaching assistantships. Separate forms are not required. Teaching assistants are required to register for at least 9 credits each semester.
Research assistantships may be available, contingent on faculty research funds, and are arranged with individual advisors. Applicants for assistantships are considered on the basis of scholarship and potential to undertake advanced study and research. Research assistants are required to register for at least 9 credits each semester.
Charles H. Clapp Building, Room 311
Federal Express Delivery - Street Address
32 Campus Drive #1296
Missoula, MT 59812-1296
Fax: (406) 243-4028
Department of Geosciences
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812