University General Course Catalog 2015-2016 
    Nov 29, 2020  

Geological Engineering, M.S.

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I. Contact Information

Scott Tyler, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director 
(775) 784-6050

Mailing Address:

University of Nevada, Reno
Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, Mail Stop 0172
1664 North Virginia Street
Reno, NV 89557

II. Brief Introduction

The program is designed to enhance students’ professional abilities in engineering and the geological sciences. Although often equated with geotechnical engineering, a discipline closely aligned with civil engineering, geological engineering is more correctly characterized as a program focused on geologic hazards mitigation and natural resources characterization. 

In one sense, geological engineering is a form of environmental engineering. The MS program emphasizes the professional nature of the geological engineering discipline. Consequently, students are required to be excellent in both geology and engineering core subjects. If they are deficient in the core courses they must be taken. Geological engineering plays a vital role in engineering with natural materials (rock, soil, water and even snow). Geological engineers are unlike other engineers who use manmade materials like steel, concrete, asphalt and composites to design and construct. Geological engineers are intimately involved with our environment in assessing and designing ways to alleviate the effects of geologic hazards like landslides, earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions or by mitigating or mediating potential man-made hazards including contaminated ground water and poorly sited landfills. They design foundations for structures, tunnels and open pits for large excavations. Geological engineers design facilities for mitigating the flow of groundwater pollution, for the location of sanitary municipal landfills and for the storage of hazardous waste.

Today, there is a critical national need for geological engineers in the heavy construction industry, the minerals industry, the energy industry, and for fundamental research at national laboratories. On graduating, a GE is capable of being professionally registered as an engineer on passing the relevant State Examinations.

III. Program Objectives/Student Learning Outcomes

  • For MSGE students entering the program with non-engineering undergraduate degrees, students will learn the fundamental core engineering curriculum to enable the taking and passing of the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
  • MSGE students will learn better written and oral communication skills through teaching and/or professional presentations.
  •  MSGE students will learn written communication skills commensurate with successful publication in scientific journals, writing a thesis or professional paper, and/or presenting a conference paper orally or in poster session.
  • MSGE students will learn to be self-starters in their studies and research.
  • MSGE students will learn diligence through timely degree completion.

IV. Admission Requirements

Students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university to be accepted as a graduate student. For full graduate standing, at least 30 units of undergraduate work in geology and/or related fields must have been completed.

To be considered for admission, students must meet the following minimum university requirements:

  • Grade-point average (GPA): Four-year undergraduate GPA of 2.75 for applicants to a M.S. degree program, or 3.0 GPA for a Ph.D. degree program.
  • Minimum TOEFL score (if applicable): 550, with scores sent directly to the university. Note that 600 is recommended because students below a 600 must then pass a bridge test upon entering the university.

For admission to the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, prospective students must also submit the following:

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Score of 50% or higher in the verbal and quantitative sections - sent directly to the UNR Graduate School;
  • Three letters of recommendation certifying ability to perform graduate-level work at the desired level (M.S. or Ph.D.);
  • A two-page personal statement of interest stating why UNR is their school of choice, why they wish to pursue the desired degree (M.S. or Ph.D.), and what specialties and/or faculty the applicant is interested in; and
  • Copies of transcripts and TOEFL scores (if applicable).

The Admissions Committee gives comparable weight to each item submitted as part of the application package so an applicant will not be denied admission based solely on his/her GPA or GRE scores. It is advisable for applicants to contact prospective faculty advisors to discuss their interests prior to applying. A physical visit to UNR to see the Department and meet with the prospective faculty advisor can also be critical to a successful application for graduate study.

Application Deadlines and Addresses

For Fall semester admission, complete applications (i.e., the items listed above) must be submitted on line with any supporting documents received by the Graduate School by January 1 for Fall and September 15 for Spring admissions. GRE scores and official transcripts are sent directly to the UNR Graduate School to arrive there well before these stated deadlines; the applicant’s personal statement and letters of recommendation, if not uploaded via the on-line application, should be sent to:

University of Nevada, Reno
Graduate School, Mail Stop 0326
Reno, NV 89557-0326

V. Program Requirements

Students may enter this program with undergraduate degrees in geology, engineering or related fields. Specialized classes can be taken in geological sciences, geological engineering, hydrogeology, geophysics, and civil and mining engineering. A cooperative geotechnical program exists with the civil engineering department. Most students complete thesis work in rock slope instability processes, rock mass characterization and design, geostatistics, remote sensing, computer modeling of rock deformation, rock fracture mechanics, geomechanics, planetary geomechanics, and waste containment. A non-thesis option is available in particular cases for professionals to strengthen their background in geological engineering

  • Graduate students take the Engineer-in-Training examination before completion of their programs.
  • The Master of Science requires 31 units including 1 unit of comprehensive examination. The 1 unit of comprehensive examination cannot be used to fulfill the 18 units of required 700-level course work.

VI. Total Units (31 units)

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