Senior Capstone

This guide outlines the different options for majors in Earth Sciences (standard major, concentrations in planetary science, ocean science, geophysics and geology) as well as ANTH/EART combined majors in order to fulfill their UCSC capstone requirement.

The primary options for students are:

*may not count toward fulfilling an upper-division elective if used as a capstone.

E&PS has an annual Capstone Workshop that takes place in the middle of Fall quarter. It will be announced via email and with posters. It is highly recommended that you attend this workshop to learn more about your options. Attendance at this meeting is mandatory for those interested in taking EART 189A/B that school year.

For up-to-date undergraduate opportunities of all varieties (including internships and other field camps for capstone), take a look at flyers posted on the undergraduate bulletin board outside the E&PS main office (A234 in EMS).

    Summer Field EART 189A/B

  • Dr. Hilde Schwartz introduces EPS 188A summer field students to their capstone mapping project in the Poleta Fold Belt of eastern California.

    Our summer field program EART 189A/B (with EART 109, 110A/L, 110B/M as a pre-requisites) is the most straightforward and popular route. It is well-structured and particularly suited for those with an interest in geology. The summer field portion takes place over 5 weeks in late-June (after spring quarter ends) through late-July. Virtually all students really enjoy their time in the field. For more information, please contact Jeremy Hourigan or Noah Finnegan.

    To Do:

    -  Contact Jeremy or Noah and find out how to apply to summer field.

    -  Complete the senior comprehensive approval form.

  • Senior Thesis

  • Another common choice, especially for students following the planetary or ocean sciences concentrations. This capstone typically involves performing original research under the guidance of an advisor and then writing up the results in the form of a scientific paper. Many faculty consider this to be viable for better students only since it requires more self-motivation and self-discipline.

    You will need one faculty member or researcher to read and sign your thesis. Faculty members from other departments (e.g. Ocean Sciences) are acceptable. Often this person will be your primary advisor, but not always. The project must be related to the Earth and planetary sciences because it is a comprehensive requirement. This is fairly broadly interpreted but it can't be, say, on the historical significance of Orson Welles films.

    This option must set up early. A typical timeline is as follows:

    Spring quarter, junior year: Talk to faculty and find out who has interesting projects to work on for the next year. By the end of the quarter, have a project and advisor identified.

    Summer: do some reading to get ready to do the work for the project. Some students get paid to do research during the summer that will become part of their thesis.

    Fall and winter, senior year: Start or continue the research work. Meet regularly (once per week or more) with the advisor.

    Spring quarter, senior year: Enroll in EART 195. Write up the thesis. This will require multiple iterations. If you are off-cycle, enroll in EART 195 during the quarter you will complete the thesis, typically your last quarter.

    To Do:
    -  Find an advisor and develop a project with this advisor.

    -  Complete a senior comprehensive approval form.

    -  Make sure to sign up for EART 195 during your final quarter.

  • Earth Sciences 191, 191B or 191C

  • Earth Sciences Capstone Seminar (EART 191), is an in-depth exploration of a topic within the Earth sciences. Involves at least one research paper. Topics vary quarterly.

    The Planetary Capstone (EART 191B) course examines a cross-cutting topic in planetary science (e.g. volcanism) to satisfy the senior capstone requirement. Students are assessed on the basis of an oral presentation and a written report in which a synthetic review is present.

    Practical Geophysics (EART 191C) offers hands-on practice analyzing real-life observational data including earthquake catalogs, seismograms, gravity and GPS data. Emphasis on data collection, access and manipulation skills. Introduction to matlab programming included

  • Internship

  • Some internships have been very successful. Typically this is a one- or two-quarter internship, after which the student will write a report describing their activities. These must be pre-approved in order to count as a capstone. Internships can take place at a very wide range of institutions:

    -  research organizations within UCSC or UC (e.g., Lick Observatory)

    -  city, county, state or federal government agencies (for land, ocean or environmental management, for example)

    -  local or national parks services

    -  research institutes: too many to name, but examples are MBARI, NASA, USGS, NOAA, LLNL, other national labs

    -  companies: from environmental consulting to oil companies

    Many corporate internships are word-of-mouth, so if you're interested in something that our internship program isn't offering, make some calls, send some emails or (best) go in person to drop off a resume. Free labor is always useful, but especially when it's competent labor!

    To Do:
    -  You will need to complete a Learning Contract form to do any internship (for capstone or not). Send an email to for information on the Learning Contract.

    -  Complete the senior comprehensive approval form.

    -  Sign up for one quarter of EART 198.

  • Options for Substitution by Petition

  • These are options that can only be used by petition, for those who need structure to their capstone but would prefer the subject matter to be something other than traditional geology offered in our own field camp. Here are a few examples out of a large number of possibilities:

    Alaska Wildlands Program

    SEA Semester

    Los Alamos National Lab Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience

    In general, an acceptable program is comparable to our own summer field program in length and rigor, and is accredited through a reputable university or college, which allows us to transfer the course credit over.

    Usually the hang-up is that some field experiences are very short (say one to two weeks) in length, and these are generally too short to count. Three weeks should be considered the minimum, with four weeks or more preferable. Check with the Faculty Undergraduate Advisor whether or not a program you are interested in will work.

    Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs can be attractive. These typically revolve around doing research in a lab (typically at a university or government facility). Duration is normally much longer than field camp, about 10 weeks, during the summer. Some actually pay a stipend, like a summer job, to help with living expenses.

    To Do:
    -  Find a program that you are interested in and discuss it with the Faculty Undergraduate Advisor to ensure it is suitable as a capstone option.

    -  Complete the senior comprehensive approval form.

See Also