Information for New Graduate Students

June 19, 2019

From: Noah Finnegan, Faculty Graduate Advisor

Hello New Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) Graduate Students,

We look forward to your enrollment in the department this fall. I am the current faculty graduate representative for the UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences Department and am writing to describe upcoming dates and activities to help you to plan for the start of the new academic year.

I. What to do before you get to Santa Cruz

A. Mark your calendar with the below important dates:

The most important item on this calendar is the introductory advising session. Your preliminary research advisor and you will meet with me to discuss your course preparation and requirements (See details in Section IV below). It is very important that we get this done before classes start so that you can enroll in the appropriate fall quarter courses. Therefore, you should plan to meet with your preliminary advisor to craft a plan before Monday 9/24. The two of you will then bring this plan to the meeting for discussion.

The Earth and Planetary Sciences Department New Graduate Student Orientation (Monday, 9/24, 2:30 – 4:00p.m.) is also required. Faculty, staff, and new students will be introduced, and we will talk about courses and the overall program structure. This orientation will be followed by a department-wide reception.

EPS Introductory Advising Session with Noah Finnegan and Faculty Advisor(s)
Monday 9/23 -Wednesday 9/25, By assigned appointment
A115 Earth & Marine Sciences Building

Earth and Planetary Sciences Department New Graduate Student Orientation (mandatory for all new EPS Grads)
Tuesday 9/24, 2:30-4:00PM, EMS Building, Room D250

Earth and Planetary Sciences Department New Grad Reception
Tuesday 9/24, 4:00-5:00PM
Dreiss Lobby (1st floor, A-wing, EMS Building)

International Grad Student Orientation & Title IX Training
Tuesday 9/25, 8:00PM - 12:00PM
Classroom Unit 2

Domestic Grad Student Title IX Training
Wednesday 9/25, 11:00AM - 12:00PM
Humanities Lecture Hall

Resource Fair, Luncheon & Social for all Grad Students
Wednesday 9/26, 1:00PM - 3:30PM
Quarry Amphitheater

Instruction begins Thursday 9/26/19

Friday 10/11, morning - Sunday 10/13, evening, Big Sur

*Please see the UCSC maps available at:  Some maps are interactive online, and others can be printed at high resolution.

Your preliminary research advisors may have plans for you in addition to the above dates. Some students will begin research over the summer. PLEASE BE SURE TO CONTACT YOUR PRELIMINARY ADVISOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO CONFIRM YOUR ARRIVAL DATES. 

The last item on the calendar to the right is the new graduate student field trip. We are planning on taking you on a 3-day tour of California geology. I am sure that you do not want to miss this event, so set aside this Friday through Sunday now. More details will be discussed at the introductory orientation.

B. Housing

You should have received information from the Graduate Division describing on-campus housing options for both single students and those with families. Most students opt to live off-campus in a shared house or condo. For general housing information, please see the Student Housing Services website at: The Student Community Rental Program has listings of available local housing (phone: 831-459-4435;;; Rm. 104 Hahn Student Services Bldg.).  Or you can check Craigslist for rentals: You may also email other grads in our department if you are looking for a housemate (since you all already have your email address, you have been included in this group email alias). You can also drop Jennifer Fish ( a note if you if you would like your contact info circulated to the other new graduate students as a potential housemate.

When you are looking at housing, be sure to think through the transportation options to and from campus. The TAPS website: has bus routes and information on alternative transportation options like the free bicycle shuttle. Take a good look at these pick-up spots when selecting your home. The bicycle shuttle is a common commute method among our graduate students.

The San Lorenzo River divides Santa Cruz into Eastside and Westside. Most students opt to live on the Westside, as it is closer to campus. The condos at the base of campus and the rentals in the region from the vicinity of Bay & Mission through the circular roads (known as the Circles) to West Cliff are particularly popular.

 C. Enrollment for classes

Open enrollment for new graduate students is available as of Thursday, 6/22/18 and is done online via your student portal: Take a look at the instructions on the Graduate Division web site and the Fall 2018 Schedule of Classes (  All thesis graduate students need to enroll in EART-203 and EART-204 (see below for descriptions). If you are doing research, you will also need to enroll in an Independent Study (research course). Please contact Jennifer Fish( for the class number specific to your advisor, which changes every quarter.  These will also be posted outside of office door (E&MS A251) and emailed to the grads group email alias.  The rest of your courses will need to be discussed with your advisor.  In general, it is OK to wait until you are on campus to sort this out.  However, if you have any concerns about classes in other departments filling up, please feel free to contact me for advice.  The general info on classes at the bottom of this letter might help you begin to think about your plan.

II. What to do when you get to Santa Cruz

You should be aware of who your preliminary research advisor is from the recruitment process. If you are at all unclear, please drop a note to Jennifer Fish (  Please check in with your preliminary research advisor as soon as you get to campus so that you can start doing science. As mentioned above, please keep your advisor apprised of your summer plans and contact information and be sure that he/she knows when you plan to arrive.

When you arrive in Santa Cruz please check in with Jennifer Fish (831-459-1235; Earth & Marine Sciences A251), she can help you with numerous general questions or problems. If you cannot find Jennifer, go to the department assistant Amy Kornberg (; 831-459-4137; E&MS A232A).

Many departmental communications and reminders are sent via email, so be sure to check your UCSC email account often.

If you need computer assistance such as networking your Macintosh or Windows machine, having virus software installed, setting up a Linux account on research Linux machines, etc., please contact the local computing support group by emailing  The group also maintains a help web site with help on some topics at

You will have an individual mailbox in the EPS Department Office Mailroom, E&MS A234. Each student is assigned a mailbox for official university business mail (only) – not to be used for personal mail (no bills, personal letters, etc.). Please check your box for other information when you arrive. You may also call, email or stop by my office (; 831-459-5110; E&MS A115), with questions or concerns before or after your arrival on campus.

By September, Jennifer will be emailing out graduate student office assignments and key information.  After you have sorted out your keys, office and paperwork, you should arrange to meet with your faculty advisor(s) to discuss appropriate fall quarter classes.

III. Teaching Assistant assignments and payment

A draft TA assignment list for 2019-20 should be available by September and will be distributed via email. Please note that all TA assignments are tentative and subject to change until formal appointments are made. If you have a fall quarter TA appointment you will receive an appointment letter by early September; we generally avoid placing incoming graduate students in TA positions during their first quarter at UCSC, but this may be desired and necessary depending on your background, research and teaching plans, and other factors.

If you will be employed as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) or a Teaching Assistant (TA), you must fill out important payroll paperwork with our Physical & Biological Division Business Office before you begin work. Each student will need to provide a document that establishes personal identity such as a passport, Driver's License, State ID card, or Valid Student ID. Each student will also need to provide a document that establishes employment eligibility such as a U.S. Birth Certificate or Social Security card. All non-citizen and non-resident alien students will have to have a Social Security card and will also need to provide all visa and passport documentation, including the I-94 and I-20 forms. For payroll questions, please contact Andrew Melford (831-459-3565 or who is in the Physical & Biological Sciences Building, PSB room 508.

Paychecks are available on the 1st of the month (following the month worked), from Amy Kornberg in E&MS room A232A. If you will be employed as a TA or GSR during Fall 2018, you will receive your first of three monthly paychecks (for the period of 10/1/19-12/31/19) on November 1st. To set up GSR and TA payroll direct deposit, please visit At Your Service at:

GSR and TA pay dates are as follows:
Fall Quarter = Nov 1, Dec 1, Jan1
Winter Quarter = Feb 1, Mar 1, Apr 1
Spring Quarter = May 1, June 1, July 1

If you are receiving fellowship funds, they are generally available in a lump sum by the start of the quarter. To set up direct deposit for fellowship refunds, please sign up through your student account through your MyUCSC portal at:

IV. Preliminary information on courses

You will find much more detailed information concerning course enrollment in various university and departmental documents, but here is a brief overview. Many first-year graduate students enroll during each quarter in one or more traditional 5-unit courses, seminars, or independent study (research) courses.  As soon as you arrive on campus, you will arrange a meeting with your advisor to develop an individualized Course Plan that meets your educational goals and background. You and your advisor will then meet together with the faculty graduate representative (me) at an assigned time between Monday 9/23 and Wednesday 9/25 to discuss the plan and adjust as necessary. You will then be expected to meet the requirements of this Course Plan during your tenure at UCSC. We will try to send your assigned meeting time to you in early September; if this is not possible we will arrange this in late September.

Note that TAs and GSRs are expected to complete their work in addition to regular classes. TA and GSR work is a form of student employment for which students do not receive academic credit.

All first-year thesis graduate students in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department are required to take the following courses: EART 203 Introductory Teaching Seminar (1 unit) and EART 204 Earth & Planetary Sciences Foundations (5 units) during their first fall quarter, and EART 206 Great Papers in the Earth and Planetary Sciences (5 units) during their first winter quarter. EART 203 will familiarize you with the resources and methods for instruction specific to UCSC. The course usually consists of five, 2-1/2 hour weekly sessions during the month of October. EART 204 will provide an overview of major topics in the Earth and Planetary Sciences and faculty research.

Please count on being available for EART 204, which will be meeting Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  EART 203 will most likely be meeting Mondays from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

During Winter Quarter, EART 206 Great Papers will continue to provide a broad overview of the field by presenting some of the most important ideas in the Earth and Planetary Sciences through lecture, discussion, and exploration of the primary literature. Seminal papers in different sub-disciplines are read and analyzed to provide breadth, a common knowledge base, and practice with critical thinking.

V. Student ID Card

How to get an ID card:

All incoming students will need to get their pictures taken before the start of the fall quarter for their student identification cards.  ID Card Services is located on the first floor of the Bay Tree Bookstore building in between the Digital Copy Center and the Express Store in the UCSC Quarry.  You will need to show some form of picture ID.  A driver’s license or passport will be acceptable. For more information, call 831-459-2990 or e-mail  Refer to their website for their Fall incoming student ID services schedule. They are open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm.  Enrollment stickers verify a student’s enrollment and quarterly status at UCSC.  A current sticker on your ID card functions as a free metro/shuttle bus pass for around campus/town, a recreation facilities card, and library card.  You will receive your Fall 2019 sticker when you pick up your card from ID Card Services after your photo has been taken.  In subsequent quarters, you will obtain your quarterly stickers from our EPS Graduate Programs Coordinator, Jennifer Fish, once she has verified your enrollment.


What you can do with your ID card:

  • Take the bus - It is a free Santa Cruz County Metro Bus Pass, with a valid quarter sticker. Visit TAPS for more info.
  • Go to the gym or borrow equipment - It is a free Recreation Facilities Pass – with a valid quarter sticker. Visit OPERS for more info.
  • Go to the library - It is a Library Card – UPC code on the front of your ID card is your library check out number. Please see University Library Lending Guide
  • Eat – Flexi Dollars are “food dollars”, which are accessed with a student’s university ID card – and can be spent like cash at dining halls and all on-campus restaurants/dining halls, cafés, coffee bars, and convenience stores. Flexi Dollars can be added to any meal plan or purchased alone. Please see Flexi Dollar Info.
VI. Where to read more

Much of the information provided in this note can be found at the departmental web site:  Follow the links on the top bar for a preliminary listing of courses being offered next year, faculty web pages, seminar schedules, and more. I encourage you to review the Earth and Planetary Sciences Grad Handbook at:   You should have been contacted already by the UCSC Division of Graduate Studies ( with referrals to their website, which contains other resources such as financial and registration/enrollment information, as found in their Graduate Student Handbook (

Best wishes until we meet in Santa Cruz and stay in touch,

Noah Finnegan
Associate Professor of Geology