The ground on which our cities and homes are built is not static, but is rather a constantly shifting and dynamic environment that can have a dramatic impact on people’s lives and structures. Geological engineers use engineering principles and analysis to identify and mitigate man-made and natural hazards to both human structures and the natural environment. They also manage and develop groundwater resources, assist in the construction of roads, bridges, dams and other major infrastructure projects by stabilizing the rock and soil on which they are built. Many geological engineers also study geologic phenomena like earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes and volcanoes to help mitigate their damaging effects.
Like other bachelor’s degrees, the Bachelor of Science in geological engineering requires students take a variety of general education classes in writing, the social sciences and humanities. The purpose of these classes is to provide the student exposure to subjects and ideas outside of their major to ensure they receive a well-rounded education. Students are allowed to select their general education from a broad list of courses in departments like history, comparative literature, psychology, sociology and anthropology.
Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Bachelor’s degrees in geological engineering require a substantial number of mathematics and natural science courses. These courses are prerequisites for the majority of the coursework in geological engineering, so they are normally taken in the first few semesters of the degree program. Students take calculus 1 and calculus 2 in their first year, and higher-level math classes like multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations and engineering statistics in their second and third years. Geological engineering programs also require students to take multiple classes in introductory chemistry and physics with laboratory components and an advanced physics course in mechanics.
Core Geological Engineering
The core curriculum in the major begins with introduction to geological engineering, which covers topics like the exploitation and management of geologic resources, mitigation of geologic hazards, and the design of surface and underground excavations. More advanced courses include introduction to aerial photographic systems, soil mechanics, rock mechanics, geologic hazards, and remote sensing visual image interpretation and GIS integration, a course that introduces students to the modern tools used for analyzing the geological characteristics of an area.
Geology or Geoscience
All geological engineering programs require students to take classes in the science of geology, and some programs also require a full second major in geoscience or geology. An example of a geology class taken in a geological engineering program is sedimentary and stratigraphy lab, which is a field-based course that involves the description and interpretation of sediments and sediment deposits. Other possible courses are structural geology, principles of mineralogy and elementary petrology.
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