The Planetary Science Minor

Planetary science is an emerging interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the origin and evolution the solar system in which we live and the other solar systems that we have identified in our galaxy. The science questions include the most important of our times: How do planets (including the Earth) form?  How common are they in the Universe?  What is their range of properties and how do they evolve?  Is there or was there ever life on other planets?  This field has grown significantly over the last decade with major advances in our understanding of Mars and the outer solar system, and the discovery of hundreds of exoplanetary systems.  Planetary research is a primary focus of NASA’s current and future missions. 

The Planetary Science Minor will give students exposure to fundamental themes, tools and topics that are relevant to future careers in the Planetary Science, general sciences and for the educated citizen.  

The advising expert for the Planetary Science Minor in the 15-16 academic year is Prof. Gilmore, E&ES.  Students may petition the Planetary Science Advising Group to substitute courses.

The Planetary Science Minor consists of 5 graded courses plus at least 3 offerings of the 0.25 credit Planetary Science Seminar.

1. Introductory Courses (two required)

Students are expected to take Introductory Courses to both of the major areas important to our field, Astronomy and E&ES:

AST 155 Introductory Astronomy

and one of:

E&ES 101 Dynamic Earth

E&ES 115 Introduction to Planetary Geology 

or an upper level (200+) course in E&ES

2. Intermediate Courses (three required)

The minor requires three upper-level courses chosen from a list of relevant offerings in Astronomy and E&ES. At least one of the intermediate courses would need to be from each of the departments, in order to preserve the interdisciplinary nature of the minor.  These courses fluctuate from year to year but would currently be drawn from the following set: 

AST 231 Stellar Astrophysics

AST 224 Exoplanets

E&ES 213 Mineralogy with Laboratory

E&ES 220 Geomorphology with Laboratory

E&ES 229 Geobiology with Laboratory

E&ES 223 Structural Geology with Laboratory

E&ES 250 Earth Materials with Laboratory

E&ES 302 Astrobiology

E&ES 314 Petrology with Laboratory

E&ES 322 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems with Laboratory OR E&ES 344 Advanced GIS and Spatial Analyses

E&ES 326 Remote Sensing with Laboratory

E&ES 365 Modeling the Earth and Environment

E&ES 371 Planetary Evolution

E&ES 386 Meteorites and Cosmochemistry

3. Advanced Courses (3 semesters required)

To qualify for the minor a student must complete AST/E&ES 555 Planetary Science Seminar during at least three of the four semesters available in their junior and senior years. We encourage students to complete all four semesters if possible in order to obtain complete coverage of our cycle of topics.

AST/E&ES 555 Planetary Science Seminar  

4. Research (optional) 

While research in the area of planetary science is not required, we hope that most students seeking this minor will elect to do research with a member of the Planetary Science Group.  Research can be done during the semester or over the summer.