Graduate Student Guide to Studies

Welcome Prospective Grads                                     Graduate Student Handbook

General Catalog                                                         TA Handbook

Schedule of Classes                                                  Graduate Forms & Petitions

Graduate Student Guide to Studies

The Department of Earth Science offers programs leading to the Masters of Science in Earth Science, and Ph.D. degrees in a variety of areas of specialization. The Earth Science program offers study in geochemistry, geophysics, geomorphology and Quaternary geology, petrology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, tectonics, structural geology and crustal evolution, and paleobiology.

Students determine their individual program of study in consultation with their primary advisor and thesis committee, in accordance with their special interests and needs. The Faculty Graduate Advisor is available to all students for consultation on all other matters. The Graduate Program Assistant (telephone 805-893-3329) can help with all questions regarding degree requirements and general administrative matters.

Students are responsible for consulting the campus General Catalog and quarterly Schedule of Classes for University requirements, registration procedures and fee deadlines. If you enter with a BA/BS degree, and are aiming for a Ph.D., you will concentrate on coursework in your first few quarters. During this time you should also select and begin to organize a dissertation research program. The Ph.D. Oral Qualifying Exam (advancement to candidacy) must be taken within one academic year of completing the comprehensive exam (by December 1 of your third year). We expect you to finish the Ph.D. within 3 to 5.5 years of full-time study. Students entering with a completed MA/MS degree are expected to complete their degrees in less time.

MS students should arrange their studies to finish in not more than two years.

Each spring the Earth Science faculty meet to review graduate student progress. Students should consult with the chair of their Guidance Committee after the session to learn the faculty's recommendations.

Required Courses

Geology 201A (Graduate Research and Field Seminar) and Geology 201B (Graduate Research Seminar): These courses are offered in the Fall and Winter quarters and are required for all incoming graduate students. Geology 201A consists of faculty research projects that are presented in a series of evening seminars, a term paper on a topic of broad geological interest, and weekend field trips that sample field research areas in California. Students are encouraged to initiate research projects that lead to dissertation research. The primary role of this course is to introduce students to on-going faculty research within the department and to the geology of California, and to begin preparation for the Comprehensive Exam. Geology 201B introduces students to how research is conducted in the geological sciences. Topics covered include: identification of significant problems, design of the research project, how to obtain funding and how to write and evaluate a research proposal, including a budget. Emphasis is placed on the development of a clean, crisp, scientific writing style via the preparation of several short papers of review or research nature and/or field trip reports. Students with severe problems in English composition, writing style, or paper content are identified to their Guidance Committee. The Geology 201B instructor will prepare a short written evaluation of each student's performance in Geology 201B.

Geology 260 (Seminar in Geology or "Speakers Club"): All students must register and attend every quarter they are in residence, except for the quarter in which you are enrolled in 268. If you have a time conflict with a required class or a class you are TAing, you will be excused from this requirement.

Geology 268 (Presentation of a Seminar in Geology or "Speakers Club"): MS and PhD students are required to complete one unit. The scheduling is done by the Speakers Club Committee.

Fall Quarter: Placement Committee Meeting

Each incoming student must form and meet with their Placement Committee. The members of this committee consist of two faculty members and a senior graduate student. During this meeting the committee will review the undergraduate record with the student. This entails more than simply looking at a transcript; it involves asking the student to describe course contents. Based on the background and interests of a student, the committee will plan a tentative first year schedule of classes. Any remedial course work assigned (reflecting deficiencies in undergraduate preparation rather than for "broadening" of the background) must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a B or better. Specific courses for the Fall quarter will be decided at this first meeting.

A record of the Placement Committee meeting will become a permanent part of the student's file.

During the first year, the student must develop a faculty Guidance Committee to replace the initial Placement Committee. The Guidance Committee will monitor the student's progress until the establishment of the Thesis or Doctoral Committee.

Winter Quarter: Guidance Committee

The student will develop a Guidance Committee and meet with this Committee before March 15th. The Guidance Committee replaces the "Placement Committee" that met with first-year graduate students in the fall quarter. The guidance committee should include those faculty members who will be supervising the student's Masters or Doctoral research, plus possibly others from different areas of geology. The chair of the guidance committee should be the student's primary faculty advisor. The committee is to have at least 3 members.

It is the student's responsibility to schedule this meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to review progress from Fall and Winter quarter work and to discuss comprehensive exam topics and preparation. If the remedial course work mutually agreed upon in the fall quarter has not been finished, the committee may recommend dismissal from the graduate program.

Spring Quarter: Preparation for Comprehensive Exam

The student must meet with his/her Guidance Committee chair early in the quarter to review the Winter-quarter's work and to discuss preparation and progress for the Comprehensive Exam.

Each student must submit a Comprehensive Exam Research Proposal to the Comprehensive Exam Committee no later than the end of April (date will be announced by the Comprehensive Exam Chair). See: "Comprehensive Exam" under Ph.D. Program Requirements for details and datelines. All first-year graduate students will submit their final version of the Comprehensive Exam Research Paper to the Comprehensive Exam Committee in early October of the Fall quarter of their second year (the date will be communicated by the Comprehensive Exam Chair). The Comprehensive Exam must be completed by December 1 of the Fall quarter of the second year.

Registration Procedure:

It is the student's responsibility to register in a timely fashion each quarter . If quarterly fees are not paid or course registration is not completed by the published deadline, the student's status will lapse. Registration and fee payment deadlines are printed in each quarter's Schedule of Classes.

Full Program of Study

All students should consult their faculty advisors and/or the Graduate Assistant regarding the scope of their course load. The quarter course load depends on a variety of factors, including the extent to which one must work for financial support, fluency in English, the quality of preparation, and the relative difficulty of the courses selected. A full-time student who is adequately prepared and fluent in English is required to enroll in a program of courses totaling 12 or more units per quarter . Research and teaching assistants are advised to enroll in 2 or 3 courses per quarter; use of Geology 596 (Directed Reading and Research) can bring a student's study load to 12 units.

English As a Second Language (ESL) Requirement

Foreign students for whom English is not the native language are required to take an English Language Placement Examination at the start of their first quarter. Results of the examination are used to place them in the proper class or to exempt them from the classes. Although requirements will be satisfied in 3 quarters, some students are required to continue in the program for additional quarters. It is a University requirement, enforced by the Graduate Division, that students continue to enroll in the indicated course each quarter until proficiency in English is accomplished.

Students rated at Levels 1 and 2 (the lowest levels of English proficiency) should limit their non-ESL units to eight per quarter. Students rated at Level 3 may take up to 12 non-ESL units.

For students not following through with the requirement either by not taking the initial exam or by failing to enroll in the required course or courses, the Graduate Division will enforce one or more of the following punitive measures: blocking registration of all classes; withholding of research assistant positions; withholding of degrees or advancement to candidacy. Ordinarily, employment for students as teaching assistants will not be considered by the Department when students have not satisfied the ESL requirement.

Attendance at Department Seminars

The department sponsors Geology 260, a weekly "Speakers Club" colloquia. The speakers at these seminars are usually distinguished guests from other academic institutions or industrial research organizations, faculty, or advanced graduate students. Scheduling of these talks are organized by a graduate student committee. The Department recognizes the great value of such presentations to a professional geology education and expects the attendance of its graduate students.

Undergraduate Geology Courses and Graduate Credit
Lower division courses cannot be used for credit toward unit requirements for a degree and, if taken, are not counted in the student's GPA.

Approval for Courses outside the Department of Earth Science

A student who wishes to take courses outside Geology for graduate credit should check with the Graduate Assistant and his/her Guidance Committee to ensure that the course(s) selected will be acceptable to the Department and to the Graduate Division. This should be done before registration. Many upper-division and/or graduate courses in the Departments of Mathematics, Physics, and some branches of Engineering and selected courses in other departments are acceptable when they are shown to have relevance to a student's program.

With approval from the Graduate Assistant and the Graduate Division, up to eight quarter units of credit for courses completed with a grade of B or better may be transferred toward the MS/Ph.D. degree at UCSB if the courses were taken while a graduate student in an accredited college other than a branch of the University of California. The maximum number of graduate (i.e., completed in graduate standing) units transferable from another UC campus is 12 quarter units. If the student's transcript does not show his/her graduate status, s/he must have a letter sent from the Registrar of the other school to the Graduate Division at UCSB which gives his/her status at the time of taking the courses for which credits are to be transferred. These courses will be transferred at their equivalent value and will be treated as Pass/Not Pass, upper division units. They will not be computed into the UCSB grade point average.

No credit will be allowed for any course taken as an undergraduate or while in non degree status.

Units counted for a degree awarded by another institution are not transferable . No courses taken in Summer Session will apply toward a graduate degree unless the student has been admitted to graduate standing by the Graduate Division prior to enrollment in the Summer Session. A student who has been in graduate standing at UCSB for at least one quarter and has maintained a 3.0 GPA may petition to transfer credit under the limitations described above. A petition for this purpose must be submitted and approved by the Graduate Assistant. A copy of the transcript must accompany the petition.

An "I" grade may be placed on a student's record only if a completed "Request for an I Grade" form, with the required fee paid, is on file in the Registrar's Office, signed by the instructor. The form must indicate the reason for assigning the I grade, the student's grade at that point, the nature of the course work to be completed, the percentage of the final grade to be based on that work, and the deadline for submitting the work. (In the absence of the form, an F or U grade will be recorded.) The work for the course must be completed, and the incomplete (I) grade removed by the end of the next full quarter, (or by earlier date if specified on the form), whether or not the student is registered or the course is offered. The chair of the Department in which the course was offered has authority to extend the deadline for completion of I grades in the event of unusual circumstances. If the work is not completed by the deadline or its authorized extension, the Incomplete will be changed automatically to an F or U, as appropriate.

A student may not repeat a course in which an Incomplete was assigned and therefore may not register for the course a second time in order to remove a grade of I. Incomplete grades will not be included in the computation of the student's grade point average at the end of the quarter.

A graduate student is subject to probation/dismissal any time his/her cumulative grade point average falls below 3.0. Decisions regarding probation/dismissal are made by the Dean of the Graduate Division following a departmental recommendation. Department of Earth Science recommendations are based on an appraisal of the student's prospects for recovering to the 3.0 cumulative GPA level. Of key significance in making this appraisal are the number of required units remaining in the student's program of study. Ordinarily, recommendations for students are as follows: 1) probation is recommended for a student falling below the 3.0 GPA level for the first time; 2) continued probation is recommended for a student who remains below 3.0 after one quarter on probation if reasonable progress toward academic recovery has been demonstrated; and 3) dismissal is recommended for a student who fails to reach the 3.0 level after two consecutive quarters on probation. The department policy is less tolerant in the case of a student who, having been on probation and having recovered to a cumulative GPA level of 3.0, subsequently falls below that level.

All students are required to register continuously. Leaves of absence will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances.

International students

Continuing foreign students face requirements different from their domestic counterparts with regard to leaves of absence. As stated on the back of the leave petition for foreign students, they cannot apply for leave until they have completed coursework and residency requirements; that is, 3 quarters for master's students and six quarters for doctoral students. It is expected that foreign doctoral students will have advanced to candidacy before applying for leave.
For visa purposes, foreign students can take leave only for academic or documented medical reasons. Academic reasons are limited to preparation for comprehensive examinations and thesis or dissertation preparation. Financial problems or outside employment are unacceptable reasons for leave in the eyes of the immigration authorities. Foreign students who do not register jeopardize their visas if they fail to get approved leave of absence.
Graduate Division continues to require proof of adequate health insurance coverage and verification by the Office of International Students and Scholars (0155) if foreign students will remain in the U.S. during a leave of absence. Foreign students are expected to take care of insurance coverage and 0155 verification prior to attempting to obtain departmental approval.

Returning from leave

To return from a leave of absence, the student notifies the Graduate Division in writing of his/her intent to return approximately 4 weeks before the beginning of the quarter in which s/he wishes to register. This action triggers the preparation of registration and billing materials. To register, students returning from leave follow instructions for "new and returning" students in the Schedule of Classes.

Reinstatement from Lapsed Status

Students who fail to pay fees and/or to register by the third week of the quarter lose student status. They may petition for reinstatement if their lapse was for 3 quarters or less. For lapses of longer than 3 quarters, students must reapply for admission. Reapplication is not a guarantee of re-admission. Petitions for reinstatement are available in the Graduate Division.


Leaving the university after the quarter begins constitutes "withdrawal." Students must file a withdrawal petition with the Registrar, otherwise all the classes in which they registered will be recorded as "F" grades. In emergencies, when students cannot process petitions for themselves, the Dean of Students office will handle withdrawals (extension 3176). If students intend to return to UCSB in subsequent quarters, they may need to file a leave of absence petition to make returning easier. Contact the academic affairs section, extension 2559, in the Graduate Division to discuss timing and strategies.