Degree: Bachelor of Science
Small classes and labs, inspired teaching by active research scientists and cutting-edge research opportunities distinguish the geosciences major at Union.
Nestled in the Mohawk Valley between the Adirondacks and the Catskills, Union offers the opportunity to study ancient mountain building events, glaciation and flooding in our backyard. Many of our upper level classes are built around the local geology and field locations that can be visited during an afternoon lab.
We are a research-active department that believes strongly in getting students immersed in the field and the lab through classes and research experiences. Each faculty member cares deeply about their teaching, research and involvement with students. Faculty specialties include paleoclimate, hydrology, volcanology, limnology, stable isotope geochemistry, zircon geochronology, sclerochronology, igneous and metamorphic petrology and dendrochronology.
Students have access to world-class instrumentation in their courses and in independent, faculty-supervised research projects. Our equipment includes an isotope-ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS), laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometer (LA ICP-MS), scanning electron microscope (SEM), x-ray diffractometer (XRD), ion chromatographs and Raman spectrometer. The College’s extensive collections of minerals, rocks and fossils, and topographic and geologic maps also represent a significant teaching and research resource.
Geosciences majors can and frequently do minor or double major in related disciplines such as environmental science, economics, chemistry, biology or physics, as well as in many other fields, including classics and languages.
With geosciences as your major, the entire planet is your arena to explore. Our students have traveled near and far for fieldwork and sample collection in spectacular geological settings. As part of their coursework, students study the petrology and structure of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains and the biogeochemistry of Panama. During the summer months, our research horizons broaden to cover the globe. Department field trips have included excursions to Dominica, Barbados, Costa Rica and Montserrat. We also have had long-running research projects in Alaska, the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes, and the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. A winter break mini-term in New Zealand focuses on electric power development and environmental management, with students working in multi-disciplinary teams and meeting with everyone from public officials and power plant operators to farmers, foresters and representatives of the indigenous Maori.
All faculty members have active research programs that have been funded through various granting agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, U.S. Geological Survey, Cottrell Research Corporation, and NYS Department of Conservation, among others. Students are actively engaged with faculty on their research projects and many students are co-authors on papers that are published in scientific journals. Our students annually present their research at regional, national and international professional conferences, including the Geological Society of America and American Geophysical Meetings, as well as the college Steinmetz Symposium. In addition to the research experiences at Union, students have summer research opportunities through the Keck Geology Consortium, a multi-college collaboration that has supported students research around the world. For more than a decade, Union has co-hosted the Mohawk Watershed Symposium, which features scientists, policymakers, local citizens and students.
In the community
The student-led Geology Club brings together geosciences majors and minors for collaboration and informal discussions. Club members also work with local schools and MiSci (the Museum of Innovation & Science) in Schenectady to teach and inspire the next generation of geoscientists.
Union geosciences graduates are uniquely qualified for a range of careers and advanced study, thanks to their field and analytical experiences and the department's emphasis on research activities, technical writing and public speaking. About half go on to graduate school and half enter jobs in a variety of geoscience, environmental and other sectors.
What some of our graduates are doing:
- Environmental scientist, TERRA Environmental LLC
- Exploration geologist, Hess Corporation
- Forest ranger, New York state
- Field geologist, McPhail Associates, LLC
- Geologist, Arcadis design and consultancy
- Geologist, Clough, Harbour & Associates LLP
- M.S. candidate in geosciences, University of Michigan
- M.S. candidate in earth and environmental sciences, Syracuse University
- M.S. candidate in environmental change and global sustainability, University of Helsinki
- Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering, Northeastern University
- Ph.D. candidate in igneous petrology, Stanford University
- Ph.D. candidate in tectonics and thermochronology, University of Arizona
- Physical scientist, Naval Oceanographic Office, Stennis Space Center
- Project scientist, TerranearPMC LLC
- Seismologist, National Earthquake Alert Center, Australia
- Sustainability consultant, Steven Winter Associates
- Tsunami geologist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
- Visiting professor, St. Lawrence University