Although Pitt is a large research university, we are a small, friendly department where the faculty know our majors by name and where students become a community of scholars while spending time together on field trips, in labs, and in group projects. Faculty members get to know each student, which allows us to connect them to the opportunities that are most likely to capture their interest. Many of our faculty fully integrate undergraduates into their research groups. Students begin by learning how to work in the field and/or lab, and they often end up producing a meaningful research thesis before they graduate.
We also strongly encourage our students to seek out research opportunities and internships outside of our department. We have an excellent record of placing students at government, non-profit, and academic institutions in the U.S. and around the world. By closely working with our students, we can best achieve our goal of helping each student discover what they most love to do.
“My advisor, Josef Werne from the Department of Geology and Environmental Science, suggested I get involved with a project of his. We are analyzing organic compounds in sediment samples from Peru as part of a project that utilizes a wide range of skills sets and involves researchers from Pitt’s Departments of Archaeology Chemistry as well. I have learned more through this experience than I would have in class or a lab because there is so much more trial and error in research. And I get hands-on experience with people who are doing research. Working in a lab with a faculty mentor—getting hands-on experience with people doing real research— has given me a sense of what it will be like when I go to grad school. Getting grad school experience without being in grad school has been valuable to me.” Steven McGrath (Geology and Chemistry majors)
The interdisciplinary nature of the three majors within the Department of Geology and Environmental Science has long attracted exceptionally bright and enthusiastic students. Our students have won nationally competitive Udall and Truman scholarships as well as a number of Fulbright scholarships to conduct undergraduate and graduate research at European universities.
Our three majors encompass a spectrum of interests:
- The geology major focuses on how the Earth works and includes everything from the formation of the planet to climate change over the past few centuries to the environmental and water resource issues of today.
- The environmental science major has a tighter focus on the processes that maintain a healthy environment for life and the ways that people have affected and can improve the environment.
- The environmental studies major provides a solid foundation in environmental science, but also includes a major focus on environmental policy, environmental law, and the practical ways that people can bring about better environmental practices.