Feb 22, 2024  
2021-2022 Catalog 
2021-2022 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Earth Science and Engineering, Ph.D

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The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth Science and Engineering (ESE), building on existing engineering and science BS and MS programs and the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG). Graduates will be positioned for numerous careers important to Montana, including energy/mineral development, geological/geophysical exploration, environmental consulting/protection, land/resource management, state and federal government, academia, and non-profits. Specialties take advantage of Montana Tech’s and MBMG’s distinctive strengths in Geological, Environmental, Petroleum, Mining, Mineral and Metallurgical Processing, and Hydrogeological Engineering, along with Geochemistry, Geophysics, Hydrogeology, and Economic Geology. This Ph.D. proposal and focus area builds naturally on Montana Tech’s historic status as Montana’s School of Mines; its current designation by the Board of Regents as a special focus institution, focused on science, engineering, technology, and health; its long-standing constituency of extractive and natural-resource-focused stakeholders; and the continuing economic importance of such industries to Montana.


ESE-Ph.D. is a research degree. Students would be required to earn at least 60 credits (beyond the bachelor’s degree). The curriculum requires a minimum of 26 credits of course work (2 credits of Earth Science and Engineering seminar + eight 3-credit courses). At least five of the courses (15 credits) must be at the 500 level, and no credits can be accepted below the 400 level. Students entering with a master’s degree would be allowed to petition to transfer up to 24 course credits (no research credits and no seminar credits) toward the Ph.D., subject to approval by the faculty, if they are applicable to the degree. Within the curriculum at least three courses (9 credits) must feature engineering content and skills and at least three courses (9 credits) must feature science content and skills. All PhD students must take a 1-credit Earth Science and Engineering seminar during their first semester, at which participating faculty introduce and present their research. ESE-PhD students will also take Montana Tech’s graduate writing seminar.

Each student could specialize and earn a degree concentration or option, such as geochemistry, geological engineering, hydrogeology, mining engineering, or any other earth science and engineering subdiscipline where Montana Tech offers a M.S. or Geoscience M.S. option. For the option, each department will have a specified set of at least four courses or a menu from which students seeking that option would select at least four courses.  Montana Tech currently offers more than 70 different 400- and 500-level courses applicable to the ESE-Ph.D at least every other year. Students would not be limited to these courses, but would be encouraged to seek out and enroll in specialized advanced graduate-level courses at UM, MSU, and other highly regarded institutions, where they can learn from leaders in the field about topics important to their specialties.


Students must pass three examinations to demonstrate their ability to be independent thinkers and scholars, along with a comprehensive foundation of earth science and engineering knowledge and understanding: the Qualifying Exam, the Candidacy Exam and the final Dissertation Defense. The Qualifying Exam tests the student’s ability to be an independent thinker and scholar, as well as demonstrate knowledge breadth and depth in earth science and engineering. The student will write an independent research proposal unrelated to their dissertation research topic and present and defend it to their dissertation committee. During the oral defense, the student will be questioned on their proposal as well as breadth of knowledge in earth science and engineering. The Candidacy Exam is a dissertation proposal defense by the qualified student to the dissertation committee. This oral defense is designed to help the student have a plan to execute successful and original research. Finally, students will complete and defend orally a dissertation presenting the results of significant and original research that advances knowledge in earth science and engineering. Students must enroll in a total of at least 18 dissertation credits to complete the degree. To reach the total of 60 credits, students may take additional courses or additional research credits beyond the minimum amount required.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcome Goals. The proposed ESE-PhD program has five objectives that reflect the learning outcomes established by the Graduate School. The Assessment section below summarizes how these outcomes will be assessed. Students will

  • Acquire up-to-date, advanced knowledge, skills, and understanding in and integrating earth science and engineering, as needed to meet the changing needs of society;
  • Blend theory with practice and science with engineering to integrate, design, model, problem solve, and apply advanced knowledge, skills and understanding in earth science and engineering;
  • Develop skills in communicating technical and complex material orally, in writing, and using various media for a broad range of audiences;
  • Demonstrate leadership skills and ethical principles applicable to earth science and engineering as a discipline and profession, including the ability to enable the responsible and sustainable development and use of natural resources, and to address issues related to natural resources and to protecting and restoring the environment facing humanity today and in the future; and
  • Make a significant and original contribution to advance knowledge in earth science and engineering.

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