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Planetary Science

EAPS Curriculum

Planetary Science Graduate Course Menu

24 course credits are required by EAPS for PhD students, and it is recommended for planetary students that at least 15 of those credits come from courses specifically named in the list below. However, this is a recommendation and should be discussed with your advisor and your committee as you put together your plan of study. The learning outcomes of each course are listed below.


Foundational (Recommended: 3 or more)

These courses cover fundamental topics in planetary science at a very broad level, and together provide a foundation for the breadth that significantly benefits a career in planetary science. We recommend that at least 3 of these courses should be incorporated into your plan of study depending on your areas of interest and guidance from your advisor.

  • EAPS 556 Planetary Geology (3 cr): Understand the physical and chemical principles behind processes that modify planetary surfaces; Identify planetary surface features in orbital imagery and use observational evidence to postulate their origin and modification histories; Gain field experience with planetary surface processes and landforms at local planetary analog sites.

  • EAPS 506 Geo/Cosmochemistry (3 cr): Understand the cosmochemical model of formation of our solar system; Become familiar with the inventory of planetary materials in our solar system and understand their characteristics; Understand what causes the distribution of elements through different parts of the Earth and other planets; Describe geochemical systems and assess the exchange of elements between and within Earth and planetary systems; Gain experience interpreting laboratory data to understand geochemical processes
  • EAPS 591 Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems (3 cr): The goal of this course is to understand the origin and dynamical evolution of planetary systems, including both our own solar system and planetary systems around stars other than our own. To facilitate the goal, the course will include material to help develop quantitative skills necessary to understand the dynamical behavior of protoplanetary disks, the orbital and tidal motions of planets and minor bodies in planetary systems, the compositional makeup and general material properties planetary systems, and how the properties of planets and planetary systems change with time.
  • EAPS 580 Geodynamics (3 cr): This course provides students with a broad understanding of geodynamics.  Topics include stress and strain, the interpretation of gravity and topography data, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and the expression of geodynamical processes at the surface.  These topics will all be applied to the interiors of solid planets and moons in the Solar System, including Earth, other rocky worlds like Venus and Mars, and icy worlds like Europa and Enceladus.

  • EAPS 591 Planetary Atmospheres (3 cr): (atmosphere evolution, dynamics, exoplanet atmospheres)
  • EAPS 591 Astrobiology and Planetary Habitability (3 cr): Describe the origin of life on Earth and its co-evolution with Earth’s surface environments; Become familiar with other potentially habitable environments in the solar system, including early Mars and Venus, the present-day atmosphere of Venus, and the oceans of icy moons; Understand the planetary and stellar phenomena that may favor long-term climate stability and life beyond our solar system; Design a research project involving simple biogeochemical or climate models


Skills (Recommended: 1 or more)

These courses provide hands-on learning experiences and aim to develop concrete skills with wide application in planetary science. We recommend that all students take at least one in an area relevant to your interests, but encourage students to consider taking more to add to your toolkit.

  • EAPS 577 Remote Sensing (3 cr): Gain proficiency in the acquisition, processing, and analysis of remote sensing data, including visible and thermal imagery, visible through infrared spectroscopy, topographic datasets, and other survey topics; Primarily a computer lab course giving students experience with programming and image processing in IDL, data analysis in ENVI, and mapping and analysis in JMARS. 

  • EAPS 591 Laboratory Analysis of Earth and Planetary Materials (3 cr): Become familiar with common laboratory analytical techniques used in Earth and planetary science; Understand the fundamental principles for how these techniques work and the data products associated with them; Gain experience working with analytical instruments and processing the associated laboratory data; Design a research project requiring use of coordinated analytical techniques.

  • EAPS 591 Mapping the Planets (3 cr): In this course, students will learn to display and analyze Earth and planetary data using geographic information systems (GIS). Students will learn how to find data from NASA’s suite of planetary missions and work with coordinate systems and map projections on planetary bodies. Using a variety of spatial data, students will make maps, perform analyses using a range of toolboxes and processing pipelines, and automate procedures.

  • EAPS 591 Numerical Modeling of Planetary Orbits (3 cr):The goal of the course is twofold. First, you will develop quantitative skills to understand the orbital motions of planets and minor bodies in planetary systems, both in our solar system and in exosolar systems. Second, you will develop practical skills and techniques for using computers to solve scientific problems. We will begin with classical analyses of the two-body and N-body problems. We will then learn about modern, powerful, analytical and numerical techniques. We will then see how these techniques are applied to solving real problems in understanding the origin and evolution of planetary systems. These problems will include understanding planet formation, planet migration, resonance dynamics and resonance capture, tidal evolution of planets and natural satellites, and the collisional evolution of small body populations. 

Professional Development (Required by EAPS)

These courses are required for all EAPS PhD students.

  • EAPS 691 Colloquium (1 credit per semester, two semesters required): The EAPS Colloquium series showcases weekly talks on geoscience research and other topics, typically from nationally-recognized scientists. 

  • EAPS 602 New grad seminar (1 credit, taken first semester): 


Other Topics (As Needed):

 (3) Impact cratering

 (3) Geologic Dating Methods

 (3) Exoplanets

 (3) Ocean Worlds

 (2) Mars Seminar

 (2) Lunar Seminar

 Other EAPS 500/600 level courses

 300/400-level courses (2 allowed total for credit toward degree)

 EAPS 105 The Planets (no credit toward degree)


Possible courses of interest beyond EAPS:

 AAE 590 Space Flight Operations

 AAE 532 Orbital Mechanics

 AGRY 565 Soils and Landscapes

 AGRY 650 Clay Mineralogy

 HIST 387 History of the Space Age

 ME 597 Data Analytics for Scientists & Engineers

 Graduate GIS certificate 

 College teaching certificates 

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