Independent research for Geoscience majors

The ability to conduct independent research and communicate scientific ideas is essential for all students seeking professional-level careers in the geological and environmental sciences. The Geoscience faculty, therefore, strongly encourages all undergraduate majors to consider working on a research project that would lead to an honors or senior thesis. Honors theses are required to graduate “with Honors”.

A junior or senior who is ready to pursue independent research for credit in geoscience may assist a faculty member or graduate student with a current research project (EES:2190 - Directed Study) or may initiate a small-scale project involving a combination of field, laboratory, and library investigation (EES:3190 - Directed Study). Independent study is encouraged and may result in an honors thesis (EES:4999 - Honors Thesis in Geoscience) or a senior thesis (EES:4990 - Senior Thesis in Geoscience) that may be published subsequently.

Many students who have recently completed honors or senior theses have submitted abstracts or scientific articles for publication. The results of their project either have been presented, or will be presented at either national or regional professional meetings, such as the meetings of the Geological Society of America.

Field trips

Field trips are integral parts of several courses in geoscience, with frequent weekend general-interest events. The geology of the Iowa City region is characterized by Quaternary glacial sediments on a largely Paleozoic sedimentary section a few hundred meters thick, overlying a Precambrian crystalline basement. Marine and terrestrial fossil assemblages, extensive reefs, and unique geode sites are located within a few hours’ drive. Numerous Pleistocene glaciations are represented in Iowa, and field studies of landforms, exposures, and cores continue to yield information on sedimentology, stratigraphy, soil formation, paleopedology, and fossil biotas from both glacial and interglacial deposits. Spring break provides time for longer trips, which are open to all geoscience students. In recent years, students have traveled to the southern Appalachians, Arizona, Death Valley, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, New Mexico, the Ozarks, Puerto Rico, and Texas. Advanced classes have visited California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.

University resources

Undergraduate research

Gain hands-on experience by participating in the research and creative discovery of faculty and staff.


Build on-the-job experience while connecting and networking with professionals in your field.

Study abroad

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Community-engaged courses

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