Master of Science in Geosciences
The Master of Science in Geosciences at Western Michigan University is designated to prepare the student for professional work in geology and for further graduate study. Departmental areas of specialization include: hydrogeology; geochemistry and petrology; geophysics and tectonics; stratigraphy and sedimentary geology.
Please note: Under exceptional circumstances, a student may request that their advisor petition the faculty for approval of modifications to the timelines stated below.
- Undergraduate major in geology or a related field
Students must have completed, or will be required to complete as soon as possible upon enrollment in the program, GEOS 1300, 1310, 3010 or 3350 and a field experience such as 4390 or equivalent. Any remedial coursework completed upon enrollment in the graduate program must be completed with a grade of "B" or better to satisfy this requirement. For students who enter the program with coursework deficiencies, program requirement timelines (see below) will begin once remedial work has been satisfactorily completed, rather than upon matriculation in the program.
- A Grade-point average of at least 3.0 (of 4.0) for the previous two years of undergraduate work is strongly recommended and is required for full consideration for financial support via teaching assistantships.
- Three letters of recommendation are required of all applicants from persons well situated to evaluate his/her qualifications for graduate study. Applicants should have the original recommendations sent to Western Michigan University directly by the recommender, and if they are coming from a faculty member at a college or university, the letter should be on that school's letterhead. Letters sent directly (i.e. not in a sealed/signed envelope) by the applicant or not issued on appropriate letterhead are not considered official and will not be accepted.
- Applicants must submit the results of the Verbal, Analytical and Quantitative portions of the Graduate Record Examination.
- Choose a graduate advisor by the end of the first semester after matriculation. The student should complete 3 hours of research (GEOS 6340) with this advisor, choose an M.S. committee composed of the primary advisor and at least two other geosciences department faculty, and file the appropriate paperwork identifying the M.S. committee, by the end of the second academic semester.
- Qualifying Requirement
This requirement must be completed no later than the end of the second full year in residence. Students must achieve a grade of "BA" in two of four core graduate courses. One graduate course in each of the four areas (hydrogeology; geochemistry and petrology; geophysics and tectonics; stratigraphy and sedimentary geology) will be designated as a core course (see graduate advisor for details). In some cases, students may enter the program with a strong background in one or more of the core areas. Such students may be excused from enrolling in one or more core courses by achieving a grade of "BA" on the final examination for the course(s). Students who do not achieve a "BA" in a core area on their first attempt will be given one additional opportunity to pass either the course or the final examination with a grade of "BA".
- Proposal Examination
By the end of the third academic semester in residence, students must develop a written proposal describing their planned research. This proposal will be presented in a public 15-20 minute talk and will be followed by a closed-door oral examination covering both the proposal and related aspects of geosciences, to be conducted by the student's chosen committee. Students who do not pass the proposal exam may be given one additional opportunity to repeat the examination. A second attempt must be made within a timeframe to be determined by the student's M.S. committee, and must occur no later than the end of the next academic semester.
- Complete at least 30 total graduate credit hours in geosciences and related areas (mathematics, physical sciences); at least 15 credit hours must be at the 6000-level or above, and at least 21 of the total credits must be completed in geosciences.
- Attend weekly departmental seminars
In the second and each subsequent year in residence, the student must give a 12-minute seminar presentation. The thesis defense presentation, if completed during the academic year, will fulfill this requirement in the final year of study. Formal enrollment in GEOS 6600 during one semester is recommended.
- Satisfactory completion of GEOS 7000 Master's Thesis (6 hours).
- At least one first-authored paper must be submitted for publication in an approved refereed journal prior to graduation, or at least one scientific presentation must be given in an approved external venue prior to graduation. Journals and venues must be approved by the student's M.S. committee. See the graduate advisor for examples of approved journals and presentation venues.
- Successfully defend thesis
The student will give a 30-45 minute public presentation describing the results of their research. This will be followed by a closed-door defense to be conducted by the members of the student's M.S. committee. See the graduate catalog for policies and procedures in the event of an unsuccessful defense. The final written thesis must conform to the requirements explained in the University's Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses, Projects and Dissertations and may be written according to one of the following two options:
- Option 1: The student will present a traditional comprehensive thesis based on the masters research. The thesis must include an introduction, review of relevant literature, description of methodology used in the thesis research, presentation of the results (including appendices of data where appropriate), and discussion of the significance of the research.
- Option 2: The student will present at least one first-authored journal paper based on the thesis research that has been submitted for publication and is deemed to be publishable by the student's MS committee. A separately written introduction including a brief literature review, summary of the significance of the work and appendices of data (where appropriate) must also be submitted.