Getting Started in Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

[2017 Approaching Stanford information will be updated by mid-May when the Approaching Stanford process begins for the Class of 2021 and new transfers. Below is information from 2016 - note that it has not been updated and should not be used to make plans for 2017.]

Students at Hobbit Hole

Are you interested in learning more about the natural processes that govern and sustain our planet? Do you wonder about how our society will address challenges such as the availability of energy, freshwater, and food; the causes and impacts of climate change and natural hazards; and the distribution of natural resources? Are you intrigued by the four-and-a-half-billion-year history of the Earth?

Or maybe you’d like to know just how plausible San Andreas really is.

If you’re at all curious about any of the above, you’ll want to get to know the people, classes, and programs in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. With four separate departments and four undergraduate majors, including one interdisciplinary program, we offer a tremendous diversity of topics and methods of study, numerous research opportunities, abundant opportunities for fieldwork and travel (for example, our quarter-long program in Hawaii!), and a working educational farm. Check out the Undergraduate Programs website.

To get started, take a look at our many introductory course offerings, which include one-unit seminars, field courses, Introductory Seminars, and a Thinking Matters course. Whether you’re interested in geology, environmental science, policy, economics, physics, biology, chemistry, or just want to get outside, you’ll find something to spark your interest. You can start your exploration by browsing through our list of introductory course offerings, most of which have no prerequisites and fulfill Ways requirements, or keep reading for a summary of some of the exciting classes and programs at Stanford Earth.    

Opportunities for broad introductory exploration. We offer several courses that afford opportunities for broad introductory exploration of the disciplines in our four majors: Earth Systems, Energy Resources Engineering, Geological Sciences, and Geophysics. In the Autumn Quarter, we offer our most popular course, EARTHSYS 10: Introduction to Earth Systems as well as  THINK 40: Meeting the Global Sustainability Challenge. In Winter Quarter, you can take ENERGY 101: Energy and the Environment, ENERGY 102: Fundamentals of Renewable Power, GEOPHYS120: Ice, Water and Fire, and ESF10: Unintended Consequences will also be offered in Winter, along with EARTH 2: Climate and Society.

Opportunities for focused exploration. If you’re ready to dive right in, you might consider some of our introductory courses that enable focused exploration of specific topics in small class settings, such as EARTHSYS 41N: The Global Warming Paradox; GEOPHYS 60N: Man v. Nature: Coping with Disasters Using Space Technology; EARTHSYS 185: Feeding Nine Billion; GEOPHYS 90: Earthquakes and Volcanoes…just to name a few. Check out our Freshmen Seminars —EARTHSYS 44N: The Invisible Majority: The Microbial World that Sustains our Planet, and GS 59N: The Legacy of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, both in Spring Quarter

Field trip opportunities. Get outside! We offer several field trips during Autumn Quarter and throughout the year with the goal of getting students out of the classroom and into the natural environment. In GS 5: Living on the Edge, you’ll spend a weekend learning about life on an active plate boundary as you explore local beaches and ancient redwood groves. GS 42N: Landscapes and Tectonics of the San Francisco Bay Area is a Freshman Seminar with weekly excursions out to the hills, valleys, and coastlines near the Stanford campus. In the Spring, you can sign up for ENERGY 101A: Energizing California, for an up-close and personal look at the diversity of energy resources in our state, or enroll in EARTH 193: Natural Perspectives, and explore the geology and environmental history of the ruggedly beautiful region just east of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range while also learning some techniques for pen and ink sketching.

Research opportunities. Each year, we hire about 30 students, including freshmen, to do research during the summer. You can explore the breadth of research areas in our School by taking EARTH 1 in Autumn Quarter, a one-unit seminar in which you’ll learn from faculty about their research and opportunities to collaborate with them. In the meantime you can learn more by visiting the Stanford Earth Summer Undergraduate Research webpage and checking out the blogs of our past summer researchers. You’ll find students doing work on everything from the geophysics of earthquakes in Antarctic ice, to enzymes in soil, to corporate sustainability choices.

Come meet us! Once you’re on campus, you can visit during New Student Orientation at one of the Choosing Courses events or at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences Open House on September 22. We also invite you to visit us at the Stanford Earth tables at Majors Night.