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MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

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Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences offers the bachelor's degree in earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, and master's and doctoral degrees in earth and planetary sciences, atmospheric sciences, oceanography, and climate physics and chemistry.

Departmental programs apply physics, chemistry, and mathematics to the study of the Earth and planets in order to understand the processes that are active in the Earth's interior, oceans, and atmosphere, as well as the interiors and atmospheres of other planets. The department also uses the basic sciences to understand the past history of the Earth and planets. By combining the past history with models of present physical and chemical processes, faculty and students work to develop an understanding of the dynamics of systems as diverse as the global climate system, regional tectonics and deformation, petroleum and geothermal reservoirs, and the solar system.

Department faculty members teach and carry out research through programs in atmospheres, oceans and climate, geochemistry, geology, geobiology, geophysics, and planetary science. Specific research activities include environmental earth science, global climate change science, planetary missions, and earthquake and exploration geophysics.

Modern problems in these fields are approached by field measurements, laboratory studies, and theory. Experimental facilities for training and research are available not only in departmental laboratories such as the Earth Resources Laboratory, but also in MIT's interdepartmental laboratories such as the Center for Global Change Science, Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Lincoln Laboratory, Haystack Radio Observatory and Millstone Radar facility, and the Wallace Astrophysical and Geophysical Observatories (described in the section on Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3), and in cooperating institutions such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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Undergraduate Study

Bachelor of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences/Course 12
[see degree chart]

The Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department offers undergraduate preparation for professional careers in a wide range of fields in geoscience (which includes geology, geophysics, and geochemistry), physics of atmospheres and oceans, environmental science, and planetary science and planetary astronomy. Students concentrate in one of these four areas.

The curriculum for the Bachelor of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences ensures a fundamental background through departmental core subjects and advanced study in an area of concentration that includes required subjects and restricted electives. Students are also required to take field and/or laboratory subjects, and to complete an independent research project as part of the degree requirements.

Double Major

Studies in physics, chemistry, biology, applied mathematics, and electrical or civil engineering are directly relevant preparation for work in earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences. Students from these departments can arrange a program of study in Course 12 leading to a second major in one of the department's areas of concentration.

Five-Year Program

Students with strong academic records from the departments of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, or Chemical Engineering, should be able to complete a Master of Science in Earth and Planetary Sciences, in Atmospheric Sciences, or in Ocean Sciences in one year of additional study, particularly if programs are arranged for this purpose from the beginning of the fourth year.

Applications for graduate enrollment in the department are considered any time after the beginning of the fourth year. Students may receive the Bachelor of Science as soon as the requirements are completed, or may elect to defer the award for simultaneous presentation with the Master of Science.


The Minor in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences provides an opportunity to complement or expand upon one's major by exploring in depth the natural processes that govern the structure and evolution of the Earth and planets. Areas of study include planetary surfaces, interiors, atmospheres, oceans, and biospheres. The EAPS Minor requires a solid foundation in two core subjects plus electives that create expertise in a particular area. Opportunities for field work, laboratory work, and independent study are an essential component of the minor.

Core Subjects
Two subjects from:
12.001   Introduction to Geology
12.002   Introduction to Geophysics and Planetary Science
12.003   Introduction to Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics
12.009   Theoretical Environmental Analysis
One subject from:
18.03/18.034   Differential Equations
5.60   Thermodynamics and Kinetics

Restricted Electives
At least 24 additional units in Course 12 subjects, approved by the minor advisor, to provide a depth of understanding and expertise in an EAPS discipline, and 12 units from the following:
Lab: 12.115, 12.119, 12.221/12.222, 12.307, 12.335, 12.410J
Independent Study: 12.IND, 12.UR

The Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department jointly offers a Minor in Astronomy with the Department of Physics (Course 8). A detailed description and list of requirements for this minor is available in the Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs and Minors section in Part 3. The department also offers an interdisciplinary Minor in Atmospheric Chemistry with the Departments of Chemistry and Civil and Environmental Engineering. For a description of the minor, see Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs and Minors in Part 3.


Additional information may be obtained from the department's Education Office, Room 54-912, 617-253-3381.

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Graduate Study

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences offers opportunities for graduate study and research in a wide range of fields, as indicated by the detailed subject descriptions in the online MIT Subject Listing & Schedule, This coursework is the usual prelude to a thesis demonstrating that the student is capable of independent and creative research. A successful thesis leads to a graduate degree: a Master of Science, a Doctor of Philosophy, or a Doctor of Science in the field of specialization.

A graduate thesis may have either a theoretical, experimental, or observational focus. Modern laboratory facilities, computers, instrumentation, and extensive collections of specimens and data are available to students. Field study is an essential part of the graduate curriculum in geology, geophysics, and geochemistry, and special arrangements may be made for summer employment and field research on departmental projects and with industrial organizations and government agencies. In oceanography, sea-going observational research is an important part of the educational experience. In atmospheric science, climate studies, and oceanography, graduate study includes a mixture of theoretical and experimental studies sharing a common appreciation of the dynamics of the underlying processes.

Entrance Requirements for Graduate Study

In addition to the general institute requirements for admission listed in the section on Graduate Education in Part 1, the department requires preparation equivalent to the curriculum for the Bachelor of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT for graduate studies in that field. For atmospheric sciences, climate studies, meteorology, and oceanography, the most essential element is a sound preparation in mathematics and physics, supplemented if possible by some chemistry. Students taking their undergraduate work at other institutions are advised to include in their programs the equivalent of the mathematics and physics contained in the MIT undergraduate curricula. If students are not fully prepared in certain of the fields or required subjects, they usually are asked to extend their studies in these areas while pursuing advanced work. The doctoral program can be entered without a Master of Science as a prerequisite.

Joint Program with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

MIT and WHOI have established a program in oceanography that leads to a jointly awarded degree of Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, or Doctor of Science. For more information, see the program description at the end of Part 3.

Master of Science in Earth and Planetary Sciences, in Atmospheric Science, or in Climate Physics and Chemistry

The General Degree Requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Earth and Planetary Science, in Atmospheric Science, or in Climate Physics and Chemistry are described under Graduate Education in Part 1. An individual program of study and research is arranged to suit the special background, needs, and goals of each student. The program is worked out in detail by the student with his or her personal faculty advisor and a departmental committee. There are no foreign language requirements for the degree. Master's students in climate and atmospheric science have access to the facilities of the joint MIT-WHOI program.

Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science

General Degree Requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science are given in the section on Graduate Education in Part 1. The department does not require candidates for the doctorate to present evidence of competence in a foreign language, but it strongly urges that candidates for the doctorate acquire intermediate competence in one or more languages. A specialized program of study and research is tailored to each student's background, needs, and goals by the student in consultation with a faculty advisor and a departmental committee. A doctoral candidate's program should be broad and include formal study in other departments in addition to the specialized subjects that prepare the candidate for thesis research. Thesis research normally begins immediately after successful completion of the general examination by the end of the second year. The general examination is intended to test the candidate's aptitude and preparation for independent research.

Thesis research is closely supervised by one or more faculty members interested in and knowledgeable about the research topic, who are chosen by the student and may be members of other departments. The thesis is expected to meet high professional standards, and to be a significant original contribution to the scientific field.

Teaching and Research Assistantships

The department offers a considerable number of research and teaching assistantships each year. Research assistants work on one of the many research projects in the department, often related to the student's thesis research. Teaching assistants assist in laboratory instruction or in the preparation of teaching materials and the grading of papers.

The department also offers several fellowships beyond normal teaching and research assistantships. Selection of individuals is based on the excellence of the applicant's record.


Additional information regarding academic and current research programs in the department, admission requirements, assistantship appointments, and financial aid may be obtained by writing to the department's Education Office, Room 54-912, 617-253-3381.

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Research Laboratories and Programs

Earth Resources Laboratory

The Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) is one of the premier research laboratories in the world in the areas of applied geophysics and quantitative geology. The lab studies the spatial heterogeneity of the earth's upper crust through geophysical imaging, geological process modeling, and the interactions between rock pore systems and migrating fluids. Laboratory activities are centered around theoretical, experimental, and observational research programs in basic science that have both industrial and academic applications. Research at the lab is supported by industry and government agencies.

ERL's major research activities include: elastic wave propagation in complex media; characterization of reservoir properties such as fracture density, in-situ stress, and fluid mobility from seismic and well log data; turbidite depositional dynamics; field mapping of reservoir scale geologic analogs in Western Africa; electroseismic phenomena; imaging and simulation of pore-scale fluid flow; borehole acoustics; reservoir imaging from surface and borehole seismic data; GPS measurements of crustal deformation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the North Anatolian fault system in Turkey; and geophysical monitoring of groundwater contaminant movement.

ERL's computation environment consists of a large network of workstations and personal computers, as well as the Reservoir Science Visualization Laboratory, which includes a number of high performance workstations running data analysis and visualization software. This facility is used to enhance and expand ERL's research activities in petroleum reservoir imaging and monitoring, environmental geophysics, and geologic mapping and remote sensing. ERL also has a wide range of experimental facilities and equipment, including a large-scale (5m by 5m) sediment dynamics tank, and Ultrasonic Laboratory for seismic imaging and borehole experiments, and field equipment for seismic, electrical, and GPR surveys.

Further information can be obtained through ERL headquarters, Room 54-212 or Professor Brad Hager, 617-253-0126.

Center for Global Change Science

The Center for Global Change Science (CGCS) seeks to address long-standing scientific problems that impede our ability to accurately predict changes in the global environment. Established in 1990, CGCS is an interdepartmental organization that conducts research on global climate processes, climate observations, and past climate variations. Participants include faculty, staff, and students from a variety of natural science and engineering disciplines. The center's activities also involve substantial multidisciplinary cooperative efforts focused on climate modeling, through the Climate Modeling Initiative (, and climate-policy research, through the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change (

For further information, see the center description in the section Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3.

Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

The Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change conducts independent analyses of climate-policy issues and research on climate science. It is a cooperative effort of the Center for Global Change Science and the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research that brings together natural and social scientists to address global environmental change and human-climate interaction. The program is a highly visible and well-funded effort, providing rigorous integrated assessment of the climate change issue to governments, industry, and the public. The cornerstone of the program's research is an interacting set of models of the world economy (human activities) and the earth system (coupled ocean, atmosphere, land, and ecosystems). The program cooperates closely with the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA; the MIT Climate Modeling Initiative; and other MIT environmental programs.

For further information, see the program description in the section Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3.

George R. Wallace, Jr. Astrophysical Observatory

The George R. Wallace, Jr., Astrophysical Observatory is a versatile facility for research and teaching optical astronomy. The observatory located in Westford, MA, has two optical telescopes with 16-inch and 24-inch diameters and unique electronic instrumentation. The telescopes are used in formal instruction for student research projects, and as testbeds for instrumentation to be used with larger telescopes. Further information on the Wallace Observatory may be obtained by contacting Dr. Michael Person, 54-418, 617-452-2304,, or visit

Wallace Geophysical Observatory

The George R. Wallace, Jr., Geophysical Observatory is a unique research facility designed to monitor ground motions and to aid in the development and testing of new seismic and other geophysical instrumentation. It is also a key component of MIT's five-station seismic network in New England.

Located 35 miles north of Boston in Westford, MA, the observatory has a large, multi-room underground vault and a surface control room. The vault has a controlled temperature environment and instrument piers resting directly on the basement granite. The observatory contains sensitive seismometers and instruments for monitoring ground tilts and the earth's tidal motions. The surface building houses a work area and control and recording instruments. Data from the observatory are telemetered directly to the Earth Resources Laboratory of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. The data from the observatory and the New England Seismic Network are recorded, displayed, and analyzed by three dedicated COMPAQ computers, which are also connected to workstations to facilitate data sharing and transfers. Data from the observatory along with the numerous resources of the department provide a unique facility for undergraduates, graduate students, and staff to pursue research concerning the interior of the earth.

Further information may be obtained by contacting EAPS Headquarters, 54-918, 617-253-2127.

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Faculty and Staff

Faculty and Teaching Staff

Robert van der Hilst, PhD
Schlumberger Professor of Geophysics
Department Head


Richard P. Binzel, PhD
Professor of Planetary Sciences and Aeronautics and Astronautics

Samuel A. Bowring, PhD
Robert R. Shrock Professor of Geology
MacVicar Faculty Fellow

Edward Allen Boyle, PhD
Professor of Ocean Geochemistry
Director, MIT-WHOI Joint Program

Burrell Clark Burchfiel, PhD
Schlumberger Professor of Geology

Kerry Andrew Emanuel, PhD
Cecil & Ida Green Professor

Dara Entekhabi, PhD
Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundation Professor
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

J. Brian Evans, PhD
Professor of Geophysics

Raffaele Ferrari, PhD
Breene M. Kerr Professor of Dynamical Oceanography
Director, Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate

Glenn Richard Flierl, PhD
Professor of Oceanography

Timothy L. Grove, PhD
Professor of Geology
Associate Department Head

Bradford H. Hager, PhD
Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Earth Sciences
Director, Earth Resources Laboratory

Thomas A. Herring, PhD
Professor of Geophysics

John C. Marshall, PhD
Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

F. Dale Morgan, PhD
Professor of Geophysics
Associate Director, Earth Resources Laboratory

Raymond Alan Plumb, PhD
Professor of Meteorology

Ronald George Prinn, ScD
TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry
Director, Center for Global Change Science

Paola Malanotte Rizzoli, PhD
Professor of Physical Oceanography

Daniel H. Rothman, PhD
Professor of Geophysics

Leigh H. Royden, PhD
Professor of Geology and Geophysics

Sara Seager, PhD
Class of 1941 Professor
Professor of Physics

Susan Solomon, PhD
Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science

Roger E. Summons, PhD
Professor of Geobiology

Benjamin P. Weiss, PhD
Professor of Planetary Sciences

Jack Wisdom, PhD
Professor of Planetary Sciences

Maria Zuber, PhD
Earle Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Science
Vice President for Research

Associate Professors

Tanja Bosak, PhD
Hayes Career Development Associate Professor of Geobiology

Daniel Cziczo, PhD
Associate Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry

Michael Follows, PhD
Associate Professor of Oceanography

Oliver Jagoutz, PhD
Associate Professor of Geology

Paul O'Gorman, PhD
Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science

J. Taylor Perron, PhD
Associate Professor of Geology

Assistant Professors

Gregory P. Fournier, PhD
Assistant Professor of Geobiology

David McGee, PhD
Assistant Professor of Paleoclimate

Shuhei Ono, PhD
Kerr-McGee Career Development Assistant Professor of Geochemistry

German Prieto, PhD
Assistant Professor of Geophysics

Hilke Schlichting, PhD
Assistant Professor of Planetary Sciences

Noelle Eckley Selin, PhD
Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Assistant Professor of Engineering Systems and Atmospheric Chemistry

Visiting Associate Professor

Yuri Shprits, PhD

Senior Lecturer

Lodovica Illari, PhD


Amanda Bosh, PhD

Research Staff

Senior Research Scientists

William Durham, PhD
Michael Fehler, PhD
Patrick Heimbach, PhD

Principal Research Scientists

Nilanjan Chatterjee, PhD
Robert W. King, Jr., PhD
Srinivas Ravela, PhD
Robert Reilinger, PhD
William Rodi, PhD

Principal Research Engineer

Christopher Hill, BS

Research Engineer

Zhenya Zhu, PhD

Research Scientists

Eduardo Andrade Lima, PhD
William Bains, PhD
Noah Bechor Ben Dov, PhD
Yves Bernabé, PhD
Stephen Brown, PhD
Daniel Burns, PhD
Jean-Michel Campin, PhD
Christopher Carr, PhD
Ming Fang, PhD
Hans Ulrich Faul,PhD
David Ferreira, PhD
Michael Floyd, PhD
Gael Forget, PhD
Helen Hill, PhD
Oliver Jahn, PhD
Sadi Kuleli, PhD
Erwan Mazarico, PhD
Ulrich Mok, PhD
An Nguyen, PhD
Anne Willem Omta, PhD
Michael Person, PhD
Oleg Poliannikov
Jahandar Ramezani, PhD
Julio Sepúlveda, PhD

Anna Shaughnessy, PhD
Executive Director, Earth Resources Laboratory

Clement Romain Suaver, PhD
David E. Smith, PhD
Jason Soderblom, PhD
Haijian Zhang, PhD

Research Specialists

Carolyn Colonero, BS
Richard Kayser, MS
Charmaine King, BS
Linda Meinke, BS
William Olszewski, PhD
Diana Spiegel, MS

Professors Emeriti

Charles Claude Counselman III, PhD
Professor of Planetary Sciences, Emeritus

Frederick August Frey, PhD
Professor of Geochemistry, Emeritus

Richard Siegmund Lindzen, PhD
Professor of Meteorology, Emeritus

Gordon Hemenway Pettengill, PhD
Professor of Planetary Physics, Emeritus

M. Gene Simmons, PhD
Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus

John Brelsford Southard, PhD
Professor of Geology, Emeritus

Peter Hunter Stone, PhD
Professor of Climate Dynamics, Emeritus

M. Nafi Toksöz, PhD
Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus

Carl Isaac Wunsch, PhD
Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography, Emeritus


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