Do you enjoy science and its applications to the world around you?

Have you an interest in environmental problems and a desire to help solve them?

Would you enjoy working outdoors as well as in a laboratory environment?

Do you want a different Pre-Med/Pre-Dent Major?

Would you like the challenge and prestige of being part of one of the top-ranked geoscience departments in the country?

UCLA students with a general interest in science are encouraged to enroll in an undergraduate program in the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences. Our students are trained in the physical, chemical, and biological sciences, and their application to understanding the earth, the solar system, space, and the evolution and origin of life. Because of the wide diversity of subject areas in the Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, we offer the bachelor of science degree with five different specializations: Geology, Engineering Geology, Paleobiology, Applied Geophysics, and Geophysics and Space Physics. We also offer a bachelor of arts degree in Earth Sciences.

The majority of our students expect to make their careers in the earth or space sciences; however, some are considering careers in business, law, teaching or the health sciences. Medical and dental schools do accept applicants with degrees in the earth sciences, and some schools favor those applicants with a broad background in the physical sciences. If you are interested in pursuing one of these challenging goals, a major in Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences is an interesting alternative to the more conventional majors for pre-professional students.

If you have questions or want to learn more about our Undergraduate programs, please email Lauri Holbrook (holbrook@epss.ucla.edu).

Additional Information

More About the Major...

What is Geology?

Geology is the science of a changing Earth. Geologists try to understand the Earth's origin and evolution by investigating the arrangement, properties, and behavior of rocks exposed at the surface or in mines and drill holes.

Geologists can be classified by their specialties:

  • Economic and petroleum geologists study the geological processes which produce deposits of mineral and energy resources
  • Engineering geologists examine potential sites for dams, bridges, pipelines, and buildings to evaluate possible geologic hazards and provide information needed for proper design and construction
  • Geochemists study the Earth's chemical makeup and evolution, and use the relative abundances of chemical elements and their isotopes to date rocks and determine the pressure and temperatures at which they were formed
  • Geomorphologists look at the shaping of the land by glaciers, wind, and flowing water.
  • Glaciologists study the flow of glaciers and ice sheets, the landforms and deposits they produce, and their relation to climatic changes.
  • Groundwater geologists investigate the flow of subsurface water and related environmental problems such as groundwater contamination by chemical and nuclear wastes.
  • Mineralogists study the chemical compositions, crystallographic structures, properties, and origins of minerals.
  • Paleontologists investigate the origin and evolution of life, using information contained in fossils.
  • Petrologists examine the chemical reactions and physical processes by which rocks are formed.
  • Sedimentologists/Stratigraphers study the transportation and deposition of sediments derived from weathered rocks, and the relationships among sedimentary strata
  • Structural geologists deal with the folding and faulting of rocks in the Earth's crust, the formation of mountain belts, and the relation of these processes to the relative movement of crustal plates

Geologists knowledgeable in more than one of the specialties listed above can use various disciplines to solve complex geological problems.

What is Geophysics?

Geophysicists apply principles and techniques of physics to the quantitative description of Earth, the other planets, and the interplanetary medium. A geophysicist must acquire skills in physics and mathematics as well as learn the geological processes on Earth and its environment in space. This knowledge is combined to reduce complex phenomena in the real world to mathematical or physical models that further our understanding of Earth's physical characteristics and behavior.

Studies of Earth fall into four main categories: its origin, evolution, composition, and structure. Basic to these is the origin and evolution of the Solar System, including the astronomical environment, the materials of the planets, and their behavior since formation. Models of Earth's interior use fluid dynamics, knowledge of the material properties, and high-pressure physics to explore the planet's evolution. Seismology provides direct information on Earth structure, which is used in conjunction with gravity, heat flow, electricity, and magnetism. Of great practical importance is the outer 10 km of the Earth, where natural resources can be tapped; given the expense of drilling and mining, geophysical surveys are essential before digging for resources

Subdivisions of geophysics are:

  • Geodesy (gravity and the shape and movements of the Earth)
  • Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism
  • Hydrology (water in and on the Earth)
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Planetology
  • Seismology
  • Solar-Planetary Relationships (the interplanetary medium)
  • Tectonophysics
  • Volcanology
  • Applied Geophysics

Undergraduate Department Information

We are a relatively small, closely knit department with many opportuinities for personal interactions with faculty and other students. While students can become lost or remain unnoticed in other departments, Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences students gain a sense of belonging and personal recognition. There are many activities that have social aspects:

  • Lots of labs with always the same small group of students, leading to continuing friendships;
  • Class field trips with overnight camping or group accommodation;
  • Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences Organization (EPSSSO) activities such as:
    • Department picnics in the spring and fall
    • Department t-shirts
    • Organized sports participation, including IM volleyball, football, softball
    • Friday afternoon "get-togethers" including lots of drinks and chips, and sometimes movies, nachos, and real food like lasagna, pizza, tacos, etc.
    • Department field trips to scenic places like the Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, San Gabriel Mountains, Baja California, and even Hawaii! Everyone is invited, and the costs are partly subsidized by EPSSSO funds.