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Geosciences: Graduate Programs

Overview: 

The Department of Geosciences has a robust and selective graduate program that produces academic, industry, and policy oriented researchers and educators with quantitative, field, and analytical training necessary to discover new knowledge, serve society, and empower future generations to do the same.

The department offers a rigorous research-based PhD degree program that prepares students to compete for careers in academia, government research labs, private companies, education and other jobs requiring the skills of a professional scientist.

The department offers a rigorous research-based M.S. degree program that prepares students to compete for placement in competitive PhD programs and for careers in industry, education and field requiring the skills of a professional scientist.

The department also offers a rigorous Professional Sciences Masters in Economic Geology to prepare students for careers in industry.

All graduate tracks emphasize personalized mentoring from faculty advisors, collaborative interdisciplinary learning from peers, engagement in the broader research communities through publication and participation in conferences, field trips, and collaborations, and pursuit of scholarship and research of the highest quality and impact. We provide several expected outcomes and rubrics below.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

PhD in Geosciences

By completion of the Ph.D. program in Geosciences, a student will:

  1. Demonstrate broad quantitative knowledge in Geosciences and in-depth knowledge in their sub-field.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to design, conduct, and articulate an independent, original research project that generates cutting-edge results that can be published in the peer-review literature.
  3. Effectively communicate their research data, methods and results in oral presentations.
  4. Effectively communicate their research in well-written publications.
  5. Have generated publications that advance their sub-field of study.

 

M.S. in Geosciences

By completion of the M.S. program in Geosciences, a student will:

  1. Demonstrates an in-depth understanding of a subfield related to Geoscience. Demonstrates the ability to conduct and document a research project that generates new results that can be published in the peer-review literature.
  2. Effectively communicate their research data, methods and results in an oral presentation.
  3. Effectively communicate their research in a well-written publication.

 

Professional Science Masters in Economic Geology

By completion of the Professional Science Masters in Economic Geology, a student will:

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the minerals industry through prior work experience in the field or completion of an internship.
  2. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of a subfield related to Geoscience.
  3. Demonstrates the ability to conduct and document a relevant research project.
  4. Effectively communicate their project results in a professional presentation.
  5. Effectively communicate their project results in a well-written report.
Assessment Activities: 

PhD in Geosciences

The Geoscience Ph.D. program requires a student to hold a yearly committee meeting, complete a written and oral comprehensive exam, and write and defend their doctoral dissertation/publications. These  assessment activities are also used to gather program level assessment data. The following table shows the assessment activity where each of our outcomes will be evaluated.

Outcomes

Committee Meeting

Comprehensive Exam

Dissertation/publication Defense

Knowledge of field

 X

X

X

Conduct research

 X

X

X

Communicate orally

 X

X

X

Written skills

 X

X

X

Publications

 X

 

X

 

M.S. in Geosciences

The Geoscience MS program requires a student to hold a yearly committee meeting, write a MS thesis or pre-publication, and give a public presentation on their research results. These assessment activities are also used to gather program level assessment data. The following table shows the assessment activity where each of our outcomes will be evaluated.

 

Outcomes

 

Committee Meeting

Professional Presentation

Publication/Thesis

Knowledge of field

 X

X

X

Conduct research

 X

X

X

Communicate orally

 X

X

 

Written skills

 X

 

X

 

Professional Science Masters in Economic Geology

The Geoscience the Professional Science Masters requires a student to hold a committee meeting, conduct a research project, make a public presentation on the results as a poster or talk, and write a project report. These already-existing assessment activities are also used to gather program level assessment data. The following table shows the assessment activity where each of our outcomes will be evaluated.

Outcomes

 

Committee Meeting

Presentation

Written Report

Knowledge of field

 X

X

X

Conduct research

 X

X

X

Communicate orally

 X

X

 

Written skills

 X

 

X

 

In addition, the Department of Geosciences graduate programs rely upon a number of indirect assessment activities including:

  • Graduate student evaluations of course content and instruction.
  • Graduate student participation in the annual student-run research symposium.
  • Quantification of the rate of placement of graduates in jobs in academia, government research labs, private companies, education and other professional jobs.
  • Feedback from group meetings with the graduate students.
  • Number of graduate student publications, awards, fellowships and external scholarships.
Assessment Findings: 

PhD in Geosciences

We have five assessment outcomes for our PhD program in the Department of Geosciences. By completion of the PhD program in Geosciences, a student will:

Goal 1: The student demonstrates broad quantitative knowledge in Geosciences and in-depth knowledge in their sub-field.

Goal 2: The student demonstrates the ability to design, conduct, and articulate an independent research project that generates cutting-edge results that can be published in the peer-review literature.

Goal 3: The student effectively communicates their research data, methods and results in oral presentations.

Goal 4: The student effectively communicates their research in well-written publications.

Goal 5: The student has generated publications that advance their field of study.

Scores: 1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent

This summary of our assessment represents data collected at 19 PhD Comprehensive Exam (Written and Oral exams) and 18 PhD Dissertation Defenses from January of 2015 to June of 2017.

We find that overall the PhD graduate students are doing well.  The scores improve in all outcome goals between the Comprehensive Exam (4th semester) and the Dissertation Defense (end of their PhD).  At the time of the comprehensive Exam (4th semester in the program) our PhD students have on average 0.7 publications with most students having no publications.  It is not unusual for a student not to have a publication by the end of the second semester and it is very sub-field dependent.  At the time of the Dissertation Defense the graduate students have on average 2.0 publications a significant improvement.  However, the number of publications range from 0 to 15 with ~30% of our PhD students having 1 or less publications at the time of their defense.  We would like to improve the number of publications our PhD students have when they finish their degree.  If a student has their PhD published in a series of papers it puts them in a better position going forward with their chosen career.

PhD Graduate Program Assessment

       
 

Goal 1

Goal 2

Goal 3

Goal 4

 #Publications

PhD Comprehensive Exam

3.9

4.1

4.1

2.9

0.7

PhD Defense

4.5

4.7

4.8

4.5

2

 

Scores: 1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent

We have very little data for our yearly committee meetings. Most faculty are not doing assessment at student committee meeting and we need a more formal way to encourage/remind faculty of this important task.  Starting in 2016 we began tracking PhD students at their Qualifying Exam (first semester). However, we do not have enough data to make any meaningful findings yet. It is clear that we need to have more activities to measure assessment outcomes in the PhD program.

See attachement area below for bar charts showing the score (1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent) on the X-axis and the individual faculty responses on the Y-axis for the PhD Comprehensive exams and PhD Dissertation Defenses.

 

M.S. in Geosciences

Assessment Findings:

We have three assessment outcomes for our MS program in the Department of Geosciences. By completion of the M.S. program in Geosciences, a student will:

Goal 1: Demonstrates an in-depth understanding of a subfield related to Geoscience. Demonstrates the ability to conduct and document a research project that generates new results that can be published in the peer-review literature.

Goal 2: Effectively communicate their research data, methods and results in an oral presentation.

Goal 3: Effectively communicate their research in a well-written publication.

Scores: 1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent

MS students are required to have a yearly committee meeting where we assess each of the three outcomes.  The student arranges the committee meeting and the department does not formally keep data on the meetings.  Hence, many faculty are not doing the assessment at yearly committee meetings and returning the forms to the graduate student coordinator.  We do not have enough data to make a meaningful assessment of findings. Clearly we need a way to tack the committee meetings and ensure that assessment data is being collected.  This is the responsibility of the faculty member.

Change in Response to Findings: 

PhD in Geosciences

Although our PhD graduate students are doing well we recognize that we can make improvements in two areas.  First, we need more activities to assess the program.  Starting in Spring 2017 we began collecting data on scientific content and communication skills from presentations at the annual GeoDaze student symposium.  GeoDaze is a yearly graduate student organized symposium where students give talks and poster presentations and are judged by faculty and postdocs.  We are formally recording all the scores for both scientific content and communication skills to include in our assessment program.  We will start requiring faculty to assess the PhD program at yearly committee meetings and send the outcomes to the graduate program coordinator.  The Director of Graduate Program will remind faculty and students of the importance of assessing our PhD program.

Second, we recognize the importance for students to publish as they are completing their dissertations.  Many students are publishing but many are not getting their manuscripts submitted before their PhD defense and hence before they graduate. Although different fields in Geoscience are different the more publications a student has before leaving UA the better position they are in for going forward with a career.  Although it is difficult to determine the exact cause of why some students are slow to publish, we are concerned that some students have a difficult time writing and/or are very slow to write.  In order to improve our graduate student’s writing skills, we plan to offer 2 different workshops on scientific writing in the Fall of 2017.  These will be half day workshops run by Geoscience faculty (5 faculty have volunteered).  The first workshop will be focused on scientific writing in general and the second workshop will be focused on identifying scientific questions and writing a proposal around those questions.  

 

M.S. in Geosciences

Clearly we have not collected enough data on our MS program to make meaningful assessment findings. Hence, we will start requiring faculty to assess the MS program at yearly committee meetings and send the outcomes to the graduate program coordinator In addition, we will have faculty on each MS committee report outcomes at the time they sign off on the thesis or pre-publication.  We will also use data from the annual Geodaze student symposium where students are judged by faculty on the scientific content and communication of their presentations.  The Director of Graduate Program will remind faculty of the importance of assessing our MS program.  This should give us more data for assessing our MS program in a year.

Updated date: Thu, 07/27/2017 - 09:23