University of Southern California

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Earth Sciences

Zumberge Hall of Science 117
(213) 740-6106
FAX: (213) 740-8801

Chair: William M. Berelson, Ph.D.


University Professor and W.M. Keck Foundation Chair in Geological Sciences: Thomas H. Jordan, Ph.D.

Wrigley Chair in Environmental Studies: Kenneth H. Nealson, Ph.D.

Wilford and Daris Zinsmeyer Early Career Chair in Marine Studies: A. Joshua West, Ph.D.

Professors: Jan Amend, Ph.D; Thorsten Becker, Ph.D.; Yehuda Ben-Zion, Ph.D.; William M. Berelson, Ph.D.; David J. Bottjer, Ph.D.; Gregory A. Davis, Ph.D.*; James F. Dolan, Ph.D.*; Katrina Edwards, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences); Douglas E. Hammond, Ph.D.*; Terence G. Langdon, Ph.D., D.Sc. (Materials Science); Steven P. Lund, Ph.D.*; James Moffett, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences); Scott R. Paterson, Ph.D.; John P. Platt, Ph.D.*; Charles G. Sammis, Ph.D.*; Sergio Sanudo-Wilhemy, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences); Lowell D. Stott, Ph.D.

Associate Professor: Frank A. Corsetti, Ph.D.

Assistant Professors: Julien Emile-Geay, Ph.D.; Sarah J. Feakins, Ph.D.; Naomi Levine, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences); Meghan Miller, Ph.D.

Professor (Research): Donald Paul, Ph.D. (Engineering)

Associate Professors (Research): Yong-Gang Li, Ph.D.; David A. Okaya, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor (Research): Jeremy Zechar, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professors: Luis Chiappe, Ph.D.; John Long, Ph.D.; Xiaoming Wang, Ph.D.

Adjunct Associate Professor (Research): Ellen Platzman, Ph.D.

Adjunct Assistant Professors (Research): Andrea Donnellan, Ph.D.; Boris Kaus, Ph.D.; Valbone Memeti, Ph.D.; Maria Prokopenko, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professors: Robert G. Douglas, Ph.D.; Alfred G. Fischer, Ph.D.; Donn S. Gorsline, Ph.D.; Thomas L. Henyey, Ph.D.; Teh-Lung Ku, Ph.D.; Bernard W. Pipkin, Ph.D.*; Ta-liang Teng, Ph.D.

*Recipient of university-wide or college teaching award.

The Department of Earth Sciences includes a spectrum of disciplines focused on understanding the processes that influence the tectonics and environment of the planet, on using this understanding to read the record of earth history written in rocks and sediments, and on developing models that can be used to predict future changes due to natural phenomena and recent perturbations caused by humans. Issues of societal concern related to seismic risk, climate change, environmental contamination and other geologic hazards play an important role. Subdisciplines housed in the department include geophysics, geochemistry, geobiology, structural geology, petrology, marine geology, sedimentology, physical and chemical oceanography, climate science, paleoceanography and paleontology.

The department is committed to emphasizing both educational and research programs and views these efforts as complementary. Instruction is offered on several levels. These include introductory classes for non-science majors, undergraduate courses that are appropriate for undergraduates majoring in earth sciences or other science and engineering disciplines, and graduate classes appropriate for advanced degrees. A close working relationship exists between students and faculty members. Classes beyond the introductory level are usually small, permitting personalized instruction. Field trips are an important part of the instructional program. Two research centers are affiliated with the department: the Southern California Earthquake Center and the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies. The graduate program is closely linked with these research efforts, and both graduate and undergraduate students participate in research projects. Collaboration in both research and teaching has led to ties with other programs, including the Department of Biological Sciences, the graduate program in Ocean Sciences and several departments in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

For students interested in pursuing careers in the earth and environmental sciences, the department offers B.A., B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. In addition, students may follow the concentration in climate, earth and environment offered by the Environmental Studies Program. Many graduates now hold positions in industry as environmental consultants or petroleum geologists, in government as managers or researchers, and in academia as faculty and researchers. The B.A. degree is recommended for students interested in the earth sciences but who intend to pursue careers in other fields, such as business, law or education.

Two minors are available. The geohazards minor is recommended for those who wish to broaden their background in natural hazards, global change or environmental problems. It is accessible to both non-science and science majors. The geobiology minor is recommended for those interested in interdisciplinary work in earth and biological sciences.

The Los Angeles and Southern California areas have a diverse geology, enabling students to gain broad, first-hand knowledge of geological processes. The department conducts field trips to study Southern California geology, and has access to oceanographic vessels for marine research. Many state-of-the-art laboratory instruments are available for use in research and instruction.

Proof of health insurance is mandatory when participation in field trips is required for credit in any earth sciences class.

Honor Society

The Department of Earth Sciences has one honor society: the Omega Chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the national honorary earth sciences fraternity. “Sig Gam” is an undergraduate organization which sponsors undergraduate activities within the department.