The Geological and Planetary Science (GPS) major is designed to provide its students with a thorough training in the geological and planetary sciences and, whenever possible, to integrate these studies with the core curriculum courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology that all students take during their first years at Caltech.
Students may elect to pursue a specialization track under the GPS major, which include geology, geobiology, geochemistry, geophysics, and planetary science.
The Geological and Planetary Science minor, is intended for non-GPS undergraduates to supplement a major degree with knowledge of earth and planetary science.
GPS Coursework at a Glance
Ge 124 a. Paleomagnetism and Magnetostratigraphy. Application of paleomagnetism to the solution of problems in stratigraphic correlation and to the construction of a high-precision geological timescale. A field trip to the southwest United States or Mexico to study the physical stratigraphy and magnetic zonation, followed by lab analysis.
Ge/Ay 159. Astrobiology. We approach the age-old questions "Why are we here?" and "Are we alone?" by covering topics in cosmology, the origins of life, planetary habitability, the detection of biosignatures, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and humanity's future in space. Specific topics include: the emergence of life at hydrothermal vents; the habitable zone and the Gaia hypothesis; the search for ancient habitable environments on Mars; icy satellites like Europa, Enceladus, and Titan as astrobiological prospects; and the hunt for atmospheric biosignatures on exoplanets.
Ge/Ch 128. Cosmochemistry. Examination of the chemistry of the interstellar medium, of protostellar nebulae, and of primitive solar-system objects with a view toward establishing the relationship of the chemical evolution of atoms in the interstellar radiation field to complex molecules and aggregates in the early solar system that may contribute to habitability. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the physical conditions in various objects, timescales for physical and chemical change, chemical processes leading to change, observational constraints, and various models that attempt to describe the chemical state and history of cosmological objects in general and the early solar system in particular.