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Graduate Course Catalog

Check the 2017-2018 Course Offerings

The curriculum for the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department is currently in transition. As part of that transition, some course numbers have changed. Please see the conversion table below for reference.

Old Number Course Title New Number
317 Biogeochemistry 371
320 Global Tectonics 352
322 Scientific Computing in the Physical Sciences 361
326 Data Analysis for Earth and Planetary Sciences 362
328 Tectonics and Structural Geology 335
329 Mathematical Inverse Methods in Earth and Environmental Sciences 353
351 Forming a Habitable Planet 380

300-0 – Earth and Planetary Materials

The Earth and planets are composed of minerals, rocks, melts, and fluids. The study of Earth materials is fundamental to Earth and environmental sciences and deals with formation, stability, environments, and properties of materials that control large-scale processes from weathering to earthquakes. The physical properties of Earth materials are largely controlled by bonding and crystal structure. This course begins with an atomistic approach to understanding mineral properties, but also extends physical properties and mineral stability to the larger geological and planetary scales. The properties of minerals also dictate how we use them for societal applications, ranging from raw materials to chemical filters and energy sources and storage materials. Mineralogy is the application of physics, chemistry, and biology to natural materials, and this course emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of mineralogy. Students will gain skills in learning to identify the major rock-forming minerals in hand-specimen and in the optical microscope. Students will apply analytical techniques including X-ray diffraction and optical spectroscopy to quantitative analysis of minerals. Recommended Background: EARTH 201, CHEM103, MATH 220, and PHYSICS 135-1, or equivalent, or with consent of instructor.

301-0 – Petrology: Evolution of Crustal and Mantle Rocks

Origin, composition, and classification of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Application of laboratory characterization and basic thermodynamics to interpreting observed rock textures and mineral assemblages in terms of geological processes. Prerequisite: EARTH 300 or consent of instructor.

302-0 – Geological Thermodynamics

Finite strain theory, solid solution thermodynamics, phase transitions, subduction zone processes, seismic velocity structures.

310-0 – Aqueous Geochemistry

The geochemistry of rivers, groundwater, lakes, and seawater. Topics include thermodynamics, kinetics, acids and bases, pH and alkalinity, carbonate equilibria, redox chemistry, chemical weathering, and numerical modeling. Prerequisites: EARTH 201 and CHEM 132 (formerly CHEM 103); or consent of instructor.

312-0 – Stable Isotope Geochemistry

A survey of the chemical, physical and biological mechanisms and fundamental concepts of stable isotope fractionation. The course will focus on applications of H, O, C, S, N and trace metal (i.e., Fe and Mo) isotopes to geologic problems with an emphasis on climate change and ancient ocean chemistries. Recommended Background: Earth 201 and 203, or equivalent

313-0 – Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry

Application of radiogenic isotopes to problems in geochemistry, petrology, hydrology, oceanography, ecology, and environmental science. Includes radioactive decay, nucleosynthesis, cosmochemistry, geochronology, mixing processes, and numerical modeling. Prerequisites: CHEM 132 (formerly CHEM 103) or consent of instructor.

314-0 – Organic Geochemistry

The origin, modification and preservation of organic matter in the sedimentary record; how it relates to global carbon cycle and climate in the geologic past; implications for future greenhouse warming.  Prerequisite: one quarter of earth or environmental sciences and one quarter of chemistry; or consent of instructor.

317-0 – Biogeochemistry

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 371.

320-0 – Global Tectonics

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 352.

322-0 – Scientific Computing in the Physical Sciences

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 361.

323-0 – Seismology and Earth Structure

In this course you will study and explore elastic theory, wave equation, seismic waves, seismic wave propagation, seismic ray paths, seismic reflections & refractions, seismic reflection coefficients, seismometers, seismic travel times, seismograms, and what seismic waves tell us about the internal structure of the Earth. Recommended Background: Calculus (functions, differentiation, integration, Taylor expansion, etc.), ordinary differential equations, and some exposure to complex numbers. Courses at NU that would fulfill this recommended background are: (MATH 220/224/230/250 and PHYS 135-1/-2/-3). No prior earth science experience required.

324-0 – Earthquakes and Tectonics

Earthquakes: location, characteristics, origin, mechanism, and relation to plate motions; seismic hazard. Prerequisites: EARTH 202, MATH 250, and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of instructor.

326-0 – Data Analysis for Earth and Planetary Sciences

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 362.

327-0 – Geophysical Time Series Analysis and Inverse Problems

Introduction to analysis techniques applied to seismic and other geophysical data. Sampling, windowing, discrete and fast Fourier transforms, deconvolution, filtering, and inverse methods. Prerequisites: EARTH 202 and MATH 250; or consent of instructor.

328-0 – Tectonics and Structural Geology

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 335.

329-0 – Mathematical Inverse Methods in Earth and Environmental Sciences

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 353.

330-0 – Sedimentary Geology

Review of description and classification of sedimentary rocks; principles of stratigraphy and sedimentology; methods of local, regional and global correlation; interpretation of ancient depositional systems (facies analysis); cyclostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy in the context of tectonic, eustatic, and climatic controls on deposition; tectonics and basin analysis. Recommended Background: EARTH 201 or equivalent, or permission of instructor.

331-0 – Field Problems in Sedimentary Geology

Field methods in stratigraphy and sedimentology; interpretation of depositional systems and paleoenvironments; methods of observations, data recording and analysis, and presentation of geological information (maps, cross sections). Course involves 2.5-week field trip to Colorado/Utah in late August - mid September (returning to Evanston in time for regular classes) and meets through the Fall quarter. Prerequisite: EARTH 330.

335-0 – Tectonics and Structural Geology

Like to hike in the mountains? Ever wonder how all those rocks got the way they are, folded, faulted, and so high up? If so, this is the class for you. Learn to interpret the structures of deformed mountain belts: We will cover a broad introduction to the theory and methods of structural geology and tectonics. Topics include force and stress and strain tensors, rheology, microstructures, and results from experimental deformation studies, brittle deformation processes and structures, ductile deformation processes and structures, and regional tectonics in the global context. Weekly labs required.Prerequisites: EARTH 201 and PHYSICS 135-1, or equivalent; or consent of instructor. [Previously listed as EARTH 328]

340-0 – Physics of Weather and Climate

An investigation of atmospheric processes and the physical laws that govern them. Topics covered include atmospheric composition and structure, radiative transfer, thermodynamics, convection, precipitation, and the general circulation of the three-dimensional atmosphere. When possible course content will engage with contemporaneous atmospheric conditions and provide students with a better understanding of their meteorological and climatic environments. Completion of introductory calculus and physics are required prior to enrollment. Prerequisites: EARTH-, ENVR_SCI-, or CIV_ENV-201, PHYSICS_135 or 136, and MATH_220 and 224 or equivalent.

341-0 – Quaternary Climate Change: From the Ice Age to the Age of Oil

Methods for reconstructing and dating past environmental changes, causes of natural climate change, and major climate events of the Quaternary through the present. Their relevance for understanding current climate change. Prerequisite: EARTH 201 or consent of instructor.

342-0 – Topics in Contemporary Energy and Climate Change

The increasing worldwide demand for energy presents a number of complex interdisciplinary challenges, from oil depletion to climate change. This class will challenge students to answer the question, how shall we power the world in the 21st century? We will examine the history and geography of energy use; links between energy and climate change; and technological, economic, and environmental benefits and drawbacks of various energy sources. Prerequisite: Graduate standing in any field, senior standing in the physical sciences or engineering, pr permission of instructor. Cross-listed with ISEN-410.

343-0 – Earth System Modeling

Earth System Modeling is an introduction to the art and science of reducing Earth's complex systems into simple numerical models. This course will survey core Earth system science topics, introduce numerical modeling concepts, and facilitate the construction of dynamical models in a hands-on computational laboratory environment. Core topics reviewed and modeled include the rock cycle, hydrological cycle, Earth's climate, and the global carbon cycle. The lecture portion of the course will highlight/review Earth science concepts, while the modeling component of the course will focus on the design, construction, and use of models to test hypotheses, and increase understanding of the forces and processes that shape the global environment. The modeling software to be used will be appropriate to undergraduates and beginning graduate students who do not have previous experience with solving differential equations or with computer programming, though students with these skill sets will appreciate the manifestation of numerical rules in the software package. Ultimately, this course is designed to empower students with introductory modeling skills that can be used to build a better understanding of how Earth's various components interact and evolve. Prerequisites: At least one quarter of EARTH or ENVR SCI coursework at the 200 level or above; plus one quarter of calculus and one quarter of physics.

350-0 – Physics of the Earth for ISP

Introduction to geophysics for students with strong mathematics and physics backgrounds. Basic ideas in seismic wave propagation, plate tectonics, geomagnetism, geothermics, and gravity. Study of the earth's surface and the deep interior.  Prerequisites: Second-year standing in ISP, or equivalent background in physics and mathematics with permission of both instructor and ISP director.

351-0 – Forming a Habitable Planet

This course has been renumbered, please see EARTH 380.

352-0 – Global Tectonics

Kinematics of plate tectonics. Geometry, determination, and description of plate motions. Paleomagnetism, marine magnetism, and hot spots. History of ocean basins and mountain-building processes. Prerequisites: EARTH 202 and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of instructor. [Previously listed as EARTH 320]

353-0 – Mathematical Inverse Methods in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Data-driven modeling via solving inverse problems and estimating model parameters. Application of linear algebra to the modeling of physical data. Students learn to model large amounts of imperfect data using linear algebra, optimization and regularization techniques, and common physical sense. Via lab exercises and homework, the course emphasizes application over theory. Exercises include but are not restricted to 1) locating events or objects from line-of-sight signal travel times, 2) de-blurring an image, 3) characterizing the subsurface from surface measurements of wave dispersion, 4) locating engineering structures from anomalous gravity data, and 5) tomography: non-destructive characterization of internal structure of materials, human bodies, or the Earth. We will emphasize linear, discrete, ill-posed inverse problems, but will also review time series analysis, including Fourier Transforms and matched filtering, and touch on the principles of solving non-linear inverse problems via directed and random searches in model space. Prerequisites: MATH 230, STAT 232, or equivalent; MATH 240 or STAT 320-1, 2 recommended. [Previously listed as EARTH 329]

360-0 – Instrumentation and Field Methods

Theory and practicum on electronic instrumentation for monitoring and measurement in earth sciences, including data loggers, hands-on design and construction of electronic sensors, signal processing, data management, and network design. Prerequisite: Majors/minors in EARTH or ENVR SCI, or completion of three 300-level EARTH or any other 300 level science courses, or consent of the instructor

361-0 – Introduction to Scientific Computing in the Physical Sciences

Introduction to coding, scientific computing, and visualization for analyzing and modeling geophysical and other data via Python, unix, shell scripting, Generic Mapping Tools, parallel processing, and an individual or paired final project. [Previously listed as EARTH 322]

362-0 – Data Analysis for Earth and Planetary Sciences

Types and characteristics of earth science data, development and applications of model types, observational and systematic sources of uncertainties and their characterization, spatial and temporal predictions. [Previously listed as EARTH 326]

370-0 – Geobiology

This class will center on evaluating the interplay between biological and physical processes in shaping the environment. Major topics include: the role of microbes in major element cycling (C, N, S, P), historical geobiology (how have microbes changed the planet over time?), methodologies applied in geobiology, humans as agents of geobiology, and the related fields of astro/exobiology. Prerequisite: EARTH 201 and either CHEM 132 (formerly CHEM 103), CHEM 172 or CHEM 210-1, or permission from instructor. 

371-0 – Biogeochemistry

The cycling of biogenic elements (C, N, S, Fe, Mn) in surficial environments is the focus of this course. Emphasis will be placed on microbial processes and isotopic signatures. Prerequisites: one quarter of chemistry plus one quarter of geoscience, environmental science, or biology. Taught with CIV ENV 317; students may not earn credit for both courses. Prerequisites: one quarter of chemistry plus one quarter of geoscience, environmental science, or biology. [Previously listed as EARTH 317]

373-0 – Microbial Ecology

This course will provide a framework for understanding the role of microbes in natural environments in terms of cell numbers, metabolisms, and interactions with geochemical cycles. We will delve deeply into the interactions between microbial populations, higher organisms, and even our own bodies. The course will finish on a survey of microbial composition and dynamics in key settings across the planet. Laboratory exercises will be incorporated into the classroom framework. Recommended Background: Basic understand of chemistry, biology, and earth science.

380-0 – Forming a Habitable Planet

Formation and evolution of planets permitting life; global geophysical and geochemical processes critical in our planet's development; prospects for life within our solar system and beyond; exoplanet discovery and characteristics. Prerequisites: Students must have completed one of the following: CHEM 110 (formerly CHEM 101) or 171; PHYSICS 125-1, 130-1, or 135-1; or consent of instructor. [Previously listed as EARTH 351]

381-0 – Planet Formation and Evolution

Survey of planet formation processes including growth from the first solids to the giant planets as well as the internal evolution of planetary bodies. Recommended Background: Completion of introductory Earth science, physics, and calculus courses.

382-0 – Cosmochemistry

Examine the chemical composition of the universe, the Sun, the planets, and their building blocks. Learn the origin of the elements and their evolution through Solar System history. Use isotopic data to trace cosmic genetic relationships and date important events like the birth of the first solids in the Solar System. Understand the chemical processes that segregate elements into different astrophysical and planetary reservoirs. Observe primitive and evolved meteoritic and planetary materials in the laboratory. Completion of introductory Earth science, chemistry, and calculus courses are required prior to enrollment. The class will visit the Field Museum on April 23 leaving Northwestern at 2 pm and returning by 6:30 pm. Recommended Background: EARTH 201-0, CHEM 131-0 and 132-0, and MATH 220-0 and 224-0, or equivalents.

383-0 – Planetary Physics

Quantitative survey of planetary science including dynamics, atmospheres, surfaces, interiors, magnetospheres, rings, and small bodies. Apply back-of- the-envelope and dimensional analysis techniques to shift from qualitative to quantitative understanding of planet-scale processes. Recommended Background: Completion of introductory Earth science, physics, and calculus courses are required prior to enrollment.

390-0 – Special Topics

Special Topics courses may be repeated for credit with a change of topic.

399-0 – Independent Study

Special problems under direct supervision of one or more faculty members. Comprehensive report and examination required. Open with consent of department to juniors and seniors who have completed field of concentration in the department.

438-0 – Advanced Topics in Geophysics

Topics include tectonophysics and the bodily structure of the earth, dislocation theory in earth motions, glaciology, geochronology, and emerging and new areas of geophysics.

440-0 – Advanced Topics in Geochemistry

Topics include organic and environmental geochemistry, global cycling of elements, stable isotope geochemistry, mineral surface reactions.

450-0 – Advanced Topics

Topics at the frontiers of research taught by visiting or departmental faculty.  

450-0 – Advanced Topics: Outer Solar System Satellites

This seminar examines the diverse satellites of Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. These worlds of fire and ice, young and old, split personalities, and relationships with planetary rings, have dramatically changed many of our ideas. We will cover their discovery and role in the history of sciences, physical characteristics, recent probes and findings, as well as theories for their evolution and tectonic activity. Also included, planning for future missions to outer solar system satellites to understand the formation of our solar system and additionally the search for life beyond the terrestrial planets. Recent results from Pluto will be highlighted in the seminar. Recommended Background: This course is intended for Graduate students.

451-0 – Advanced Topics in Paleoclimate

Methodology in paleoclimate: stable isotopes, paleoecological and other methods for reconstructing the past climate. Fundamental principles of climate change on the time scale of thousands to millions of years. Climate reconstructions from the Cretaceous to the present.

461-0 – Advanced Topics in Plate Tectonics

Geophysical study of plate boundary and intraplate processes; intraplate earthquakes and intraplate deformation; the subduction process; physical processes at mid-ocean ridges; history of the ocean basins; evolution of the earth's mantle/crust.

462-0 – Advanced Topics in Seismology

Earthquake source models, normal modes of the earth, and body wave synthesis methods.

519-0 – Responsible Conduct of Research Training

All Earth and Planetary Sciences Graduate Students and Post Doctoral Fellows must complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training in their first year of the program. This course includes 6 online "CITI" modules as well as discussion sections. New students and fellows should contact the Assistant Chair with any questions. Recommended Background: Earth and Planetary Sciences Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows Only 

IDS 401 – IDEAS- Data Driven Science

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