Department of Geosciences


Professors: Carlos L. V. Aiken, David E. Dunn (emeritus), Anton L. Hales (emeritus), William I. Manton, George A. McMechan, Richard M. Mitterer, Dean C. Presnall (emeritus), Robert H. Rutford, Robert J. Stern
Associate Professors:, Thomas H. Brikowski, James L. Carter, John F. Ferguson
Assistant Professors: Mohamed G. Abdelsalam, Matthew I. Leybourne


The basic objective of the Department of Geosciences Graduate Program is to provide students with a broad fundamental background in geosciences as well as an in-depth emphasis in a particular specialty.

The Master of Science degree (thesis option) is designed for students desiring research experience in a specific area of the geosciences. This degree will prepare the student for professional employment in the energy, mining, or environmental industries or government, as well as those seeking a doctoral degree. The Master of Science degrees (non-thesis options) are designed for students who seek employment in the environmental industry, and the industrial application of Geospatial Information Sciences (GIS).

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geosciences emphasizes basic research in one of the specialties in geosciences and is designed to prepare students for advanced positions in the energy, environmental or mining professions in industry or government, or for positions in academia.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geospatial Information Sciences (GIS) is supported by the Department of Geosciences, the School of Social Sciences, and the School of Engineering and Computer Science.  The degree reflects geospatial information science origins at the confluence of work in multiple disciplines.  The degree focuses on advancement of the technology, its associated theory, and the enhancement of its applications.  Graduates of this program will be well suited to advanced positions in the geospatial technology industry and academic positions.


Research facilities include: JEOL JSM-T300 scanning electron microscope, Nuclide ELM-2B luminoscope with a Nikon Optiphot equipped with an automated photographic system, two research quality Zeiss epi-fluorescence reflected light microscopes with a fluid inclusion stage and video monitor, photometer-indicator and an automated photographic system, petrographic microscopes, rock preparation facilities, and machine shop. Network access to a variety of LINUX workstations, Macintosh and PC computers is available. Parallel processing is done on two state of the art LINUX clusters with 10 64-bit processors, 42 32-bit processors, and 3 terabytes of disk.

Subsurface Sedimentology and Stratigraphy Laboratory

Core viewing and subsurface data analysis lab.  A large-scale scanner for digitizing well log data is also available.

Hydrology Laboratory

Field equipment for measuring ground and surface water flow and chemistry, including borehole bailers, electric water level meter, FlowProbe hand-held flow meter, Hach DREL 2010 Basic Water Quality Lab (field spectrophotometer, pH and salinity meters), and YSI-85 DO/salinity/conductivity meter. Software for modeling water flow and transport, including general interfaces GMS and ArgusOne, Hydrus-2D (unsaturated flow and transport), TOUGH2 and Tetrad (2-3D multiphase flow and transport), and many public-domain models. Hardware and software for visualizing model results, including SGI O2 and Linux workstations, GoCAD and IBM DataExplorer software.

Geochemical Laboratories

The Geochemical labs house sample preparation and analytical facilities. The sample prep lab uses multi-acid digestion and metaborate-tetraborate fusion techniques to take rock samples into solution for analysis. The analytical lab hosts the following instruments: 1) A Perkin-Elmer Optima 3300 DV inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES) instrument, with both radial and axial determination modes, which permits rapid determination of major and trace elements in rocks and water samples; 2) A Perkin-Elmer Sciex Elan 6100 DRC inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), used for trace and rare earth element determinations to low parts per trillion levels. The DRC (dynamic reaction cell) removes interfering Ar species in the plasma and allows trace determinations of several critical elements such as Fe, As, and Se. This machine is also used for Se isotope determinations; 3) A Dionex DX-600 ion chromatograph, used to determine anions and cations in waters, Cl, F, and Br in rocks, in addition to As and Se speciation; and, 4) Titration station, for alkalinity determinations.

Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry Laboratories

The principal mass spectrometer is a Finnigan MAT 261 equipped with 9 collectors and a secondary electron multiplier. Also available are an updated NBS 12 inch instrument that is used principally for Rb isotope dilution measurements, and a fixed multicollector, donated by Mobil Oil Corp., that is used for studies of Sr in carbonates. The mass spectrometers are supported by Class 100 clean room facilities with sub-boiling acid distillation apparatus, micro- and semi-microbalances, and vessels for pressure decomposition of refractory silicates. Studies focus on using the evolution of Sr, Nd and Pb as indexes of petrogenetic processes, geochronology, environmental Pb, use of Pb as an index of bone mineral resorption, and evolution of marine Sr. A large inventory of spikes allows precise isotopic dilution analyses of elements of geological (U, Th, REE), environmental (Ag, Cd), or metabolic interest (Ca, Cu, Fe, Mg, Zn).

Remote Sensing Laboratory

Remote sensing research is carried out using 12 PCs and 3 Sun Ultra workstations, color and black-and-white printers, and an HP 2500CP Plotter. A wide range of remote sensing data sets are processed and interpreted, including orbital radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) and optical (Landsat TM and ETM+, SPOT, and ASTER) imagery. We have extensive GIS (Geographic Information Systems) facilities including an ESRI site license with ARC/INFO, ARC/VIEW, ARC/GIS and MAPINFO. We have a GeoWall stereo projection system and 3D visualization and analysis packages such as GoCad, AutoCad, and 3D Studio Max.

Geophysics Facilities

Geophysical research is supported by two Scintrex CG-3M Gravimeters; a variety of surveying instruments including Nikon theodolite and data collector, a TOPCON GPT 2008 Total Station electronic distance meter and theodolite, two Laser Atlanta Advantage CI reflectorless laser rangefinders, two 16 channel 4000 SSE Trimble dual frequency geodetic GPS receivers, two dual frequency 18 channel Leica 530 RTK GPS systems, a Trimble GeoExplorer GPS system with GIS dictionary and post-processing capabilities, a Landstar RACAL DGPS real time sub-meter GPS system, and GPS post-processing software including Leica SKI, Spectra Precision GeoGenius, Trimble GPSurvey and Trimble Pathfinder Office. We also have two Scintrex GRS Differential Scintillometers.  Seismic and radar equipment include a Bison 9048 48-channel floating point seismic acquisition system with Betsy, hammer, and explosive sources for shallow to deep exploration;and pulse EKKO IV and 1000 ground penetrating radars.


Admission Requirements

The University’s general admission requirements are discussed here.

Applicants are expected to take the GRE General Test (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing). A combined score of no less than 1000 on the Verbal and Quantitative portions of the exam is advisable based on our experience with student success in the program. In addition, students should complete and submit a Supplemental Geosciences Application Form which can be obtained from the Geosciences Department Office by mail (FO21, University of Texas at Dallas, Box 830688, Richardson, TX, 75083-0688, USA), telephone (972-883-2401), or e-mail ([email protected]).

Entering students are expected to have completed the equivalent of the University’s B.S. degree in Geosciences, as well as a 3-hour scientific programming course. Students whose undergraduate training is in a science other than geology or geophysics are admitted to the program when their previous course work complements or supports their intended research interests. All entering students with non-geoscience degrees such as physics, math, chemistry or biology should have completed the following undergraduate courses: physical geology, rocks and minerals, structural geology, and sedimentology. All students are expected to have completed a faculty approved field course. Students may be admitted with some deficiencies but these must be completed during the first 18 graduate hours. It is understood that the minimum course requirements for the intended degree, as specified below, apply to well-prepared students.

Degree Requirements

The University’s general degree requirements are discussed here. Additional requirements are specified below for each degree.

Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing

The Remote Sensing Certificate is supported by both the Department of Geosciences and the School of Social Sciences. Faculty involved are Certificate Coordinator Mohamed G. Abdelsalam, Ronald Briggs, Fang Qiu, and Robert Stern.

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (1997) defined remote sensing as the art, science, and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment, through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting imagery and digital representation of energy patterns derived from non-contact sensor systems.

Remote sensing is a powerful set of software and hardware, computer-based techniques for extraction and presentation of information represented by raster and vector spatial data acquired via non-contact sensors. It provides reliable and cost-effective means of studying the environment for protection, natural resources management and urban planning. Government and non-government organizations continuously seek qualified professionals to use remote sensing for a wide range of applications.

Pre-requisites and Admission

  • B.S. or B.A. Degree. Competence in personal computers, especially Windows-based, is expected.
  • Application for admission to UTD Graduate School as “non-degree or degree seeking”
  • Only B.S. or B.A. transcripts are needed. No GRE score, or reference letters are needed for non-degree seeking students.
  • On-line registration is at:

Course Requirements

The Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing is obtained by completing 15 hours of courses. Students must complete the following courses: GEOS 5325 Introduction to Remote Sensing, GISC 6381 Introduction to GIS, GEOS 5326 or GISC 7365 Remote Sensing Digital Image Processing, and GEOS 7327 or GISC 7367 Remote Sensing Workshop. In addition, students can choose one of the following courses: GISC 7366 Applied Remote Sensing or GEOS 5328 Radar Remote Sensing.

Master of Science in Geosciences

Thesis Option

All students seeking the Master of Science degree (thesis option) must satisfactorily complete the following requirements (minimum of 35 graduate semester hours):

  • GEOS 5304 (or acceptable equivalent) and GEOS 6205.
  • A minimum of four courses (minimum of 12 semester hours) in a chosen specialization related to the student’s major area of study. Specialty areas are: geochemistry, geophysics, hydrogeology-environmental geosciences, mineral resources-petrology, sedimentology, seismology, remote sensing-geospatial science, and structural geology-tectonics.
  • A minimum of three courses (minimum nine semester hours) in at least two specialties other than the chosen specialization.
  • A minimum of nine semester hours of thesis research including GEOS 8398 and submit an acceptable thesis.

In addition to the above requirements, students seeking the M.S. degree must submit, no later than the second semester of enrollment, an acceptable research proposal to the supervising committee. Upon completion of the thesis research, the M.S. degree candidate will publicly defend the thesis.

Non-Thesis Option

All students seeking the Master of Science degree (non-thesis option) must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 36 graduate semester hours of a specified curriculum in the general area of environmental geosciences.

  • Core: Complete 24 semester hours including GEOS 5310, GEOS 5325, GEOS 5407.
  • GEOS 5357, GEOS 5358, GEOS 5483, GEOS 5484.
  • Electives: 9 hours of elective courses selected in consultation with the graduate advisor.
  • Research: An 8000 level, 3-hour research course.

Master of Science in Geographic Information Sciences

The Master of Science in Geographic Information Sciences is a professional program that is offered jointly by the School of Social Sciences and the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The program focuses on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and associated technologies such as remote sensing and global positioning systems for managing spatially referenced information. Students are provided with the concepts underlying GIS, the skills for implementing GIS projects in public and private sector organizations, and the ability to use GIS in pure or applied research in substantive areas. Prospective students should apply using established procedures to either Geosciences or Social Sciences depending on their background.

For the Master’s degree in Geographic Information Sciences, beginning students are expected to have completed college Mathematics through Calculus and at least one programming or computer applications course or possess equivalent knowledge. Students must have the equivalent of GISC 6381 Geographic Information Systems Fundamentals and GISC 6382 Applied GIS, or they must take these courses at UTD in addition to the 30 credit hours required for the MGIS.  Additional details of the curriculum can be found under “Master of Science in Geographic Information Sciences,” in the School of Social Sciences section of the catalog.

Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences

All students seeking a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geosciences must satisfactorily complete the following requirements (90 graduate hours minimum).

  • GEOS 5304 (or acceptable equivalent) and GEOS 6205.
  • A minimum of five courses (minimum 15 semester hours) in a chosen specialization, related to the student’s major area of study, selected from the specialties listed under the Master of Science requirements.
  • A minimum of five courses (minimum 15 semester hours) in at least three specialties other than the chosen specialization.

In addition to the above course requirements, students seeking the Ph.D. degree must submit an acceptable research proposal describing the intended project to be completed for the dissertation. Students entering with a Master’s should complete this proposal in the third semester; students entering without a Master’s have until the fourth semester. An oral qualifying examination covering the broad background and detailed knowledge relating to the student’s specialization and research proposal will be held in the same semester that the proposal is submitted. After satisfactory performance on the Qualifying Examination, the student will complete and publicly defend the dissertation.

Also, see the University’s general degree requirements. Please note that more detailed instructions for Geosciences Graduate students are given in the “Guideline for Graduate Students - Geosciences” that is available in the office of the Department Head.

Doctor of Philosophy in Geospatial Information Sciences


The Doctor of Philosophy in Geospatial Information Sciences is an advanced degree offered jointly by the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the School of Social Sciences and the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. Geospatial information is a unifying theme across a wide range of disciplines and the unique organization of this program permits a diverse range of expertise to the prospective student. The Ph. D. in GIS is intended to go beyond the M.S. in GIS degree in terms of analysis, the creation of new technology and the novel application of geospatial information technology. This program will prepare students for leadership positions in academy, industry or government.


Individual students can concentrate in particular discipline areas. The Geosciences component focuses on remote sensing and mapping technologies, including global positioning satellite and three-dimensional laser ranging based data capture as well as other imaging technologies. In particular, these methodologies are applied to geological, hydrological and environmental problems associated with the physical Earth.


It is expected that students will enter this program with diverse educational backgrounds. Applicants may have Bachelors, Masters or other advanced degrees in any relevant field including computer science, economics, engineering, geography, geology, information system management, resource management, geographical information science and possibly others. At least a Bachelors degree from an accredited (or equivalent) institution with an undergraduate/graduate grade point average of 3.25 or better is required. A GRE score of 1150 or higher is desirable. Fluency in written and spoken English is required.  (Please see detailed degree requirements under “Doctor of Philosophy in Geospatial Information Sciences,” listed in the School of Social Sciences section of the catalog.)