The goal of the Department of Geology is to educate students at Kansas State University about the Earth and its processes, and to apply this knowledge to problems concerning the environment, natural disasters, and natural resources. Geology majors receive a liberal arts education in addition to learning the fundamentals of how the Earth works. With their understanding of the chemistry, physics, and biology of the Earth, they are well prepared to begin careers as practicing geologists in industry, academia, or governmental agencies, or to continue their education in graduate school. The geology graduate program further develops problem-solving skills through advanced coursework and independent research. Because our society uses, and needs to protect, natural resources, such as water, soil, oil and gas, coal, and others, geology is central to the Land Grant mission of Kansas State University. The Department of Geology commits itself to 1) prepare citizens to participate knowledgeably in societal decisions relating to the Earth, 2) prepare geology majors for successful professional careers or further studies, 3) serve the citizens of Kansas by helping to solve specific problems related to the geologic environment, and 4) conduct research on selected geologic processes and systems. Teaching and research in geology emphasize geologic systems and interdisciplinary activities that examine the relationships of these systems to other natural systems and society.
Introductory-level courses in geology expose hundreds of students each year to knowledge about the Earth and its resources, and many of these students pursue careers in the state and contribute to the state's economy. To obtain a bachelor of science degree in geology, students must take a total of 39 semester hours of geology courses and 20 hours of coursework in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, in addition to the requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences. Geology is unique as a science in its "hands-on" approach and in that it integrates all other natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics). In addition, communication skills are stressed in the geology program by requirements of written and oral presentations in most mid- and upper-level courses. Many students initially are drawn to geology by their interests in rocks and fossils and the field-based activities of the department. The high rate of employment of the graduates adds to the attractiveness of the programs. All faculty teach two to three courses per semester, usually one at the introductory level, and one at the upper level for seniors and graduate students.
Undergraduate and graduate students in geology become personally involved in research as part of their educational experience at Kansas State University. All graduate students are required to conduct an original, independent research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor. They must write a masters thesis, and are encouraged to publish articles on the results of their research, usually in collaboration with their major professors. In addition, most graduate students serve as teaching assistants where they are required to teach three laboratory sections per semester. Thus, masters students obtain an excellent education in the fundamentals of geology, specific knowledge in their field of research, and experience in communicating their knowledge to other people. Many undergraduate students write senior theses based on individual research projects in collaboration with a faculty advisor. Through direct experience, undergraduate students learn the scientific method and how to apply geologic research techniques. All students are encouraged to participate in professional scientific meetings.
Faculty in geology are recognized for their research in sedimentary geology, structural geology and tectonics, paleobiology, geophysics, geochemistry, Earth-science education, surficial processes, and in other areas. Much of this research is focused in Kansas, but many research projects are based in other states or in different countries. Faculty are expected to fund their own research and to support graduate students in their thesis research. Geology faculty are expected to present their research results at professional meetings and in peer-reviewed journals or books.
Service responsibilities include work on departmental or university committees, active participation or leadership in professional societies, reviewing of grant proposals and journal manuscripts, and many other activities that benefit the department, the university, the profession of geology, the community of Manhattan, and the state of Kansas. Community service ranges from helping elementary school children identify the rocks they have collected, to helping citizens understand the geologic context of the ground water that flows to their wells. Some geology faculty are editors of professional journals or society newsletters, and all participate in reviewing the work of their peers.