Planetary Science

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Planetary science encompasses the study of the physical and chemical nature of planetary bodies both in the Solar System and in extrasolar systems. The formation of planets, the forces that sculpted their orbits, the processes that shaped their interiors, surfaces, and atmospheres and the development of life all fall under its rubric. Understanding these complex phenomena requires knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics, earth science, meteorology, atmospheric science, space science, plasma physics, chemistry, and biology. The Planetary Science major has been developed to study the remarkable interface among these disciplines.

Declaring the Major

Students are strongly encouraged to see the student services advisor as early as possible. Students are accepted into the major with a C average or better. There are a number of scholarships and research opportunities as well as other benefits available to declared majors.

Honors Program

Students in the honors program must fulfill the following additional requirements: 1) maintain a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.3 in all courses in the major and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in the University and 2) carry out an individual research or study project involving at least three units of EPS H195. The project is chosen in consultation with a departmental advisor, and the written report is judged by the student's research supervisor and a departmental adviser.

Minor Program

For information regarding the requirements, please see the Minor Requirements tab. Program planning and confirmation should be done with the undergraduate major advisor and the planetary science faculty adviser.

Other Majors and Minors Offered by the Department of Earth and Planetary Science

Atmospheric Science: BA, Minor
Climate Science: Minor
Earth and Planetary Science: Minor
Environmental Earth Science: BA, Minor
Geology: BA, Minor
Geophysics: BA, Minor
Marine Science: BA, Minor

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than two upper division courses may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's double major and no more one course may be used to fulfill minor program requirements with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.
  4. For more information on AP/IB Exam Scores & A-Level Course Equivalencies for EPS Majors, please see here.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Requirements

EPS 50The Planet Earth4
MATH 1ACalculus4
MATH 1BCalculus4
MATH 53Multivariable Calculus4
MATH 54Linear Algebra and Differential Equations (Choose one of the following physics sequences:)4
or PHYSICS 89 Introduction to Mathematical Physics
CHEM 1A
1AL
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory
5
or CHEM 4A General Chemistry and Quantitative Analysis
Choose one of the following physics sequences:
Introductory Mechanics and Relativity
and Introductory Electromagnetism, Waves, and Optics
and Introduction to Experimental Physics I
and Introductory Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics
and Introduction to Experimental Physics II
Physics for Scientists and Engineers
and Physics for Scientists and Engineers
and Physics for Scientists and Engineers

Upper Division Requirements 

EPS 102History and Evolution of Planet Earth4
EPS 150Case Studies in Earth Systems2
EPS/ASTRON C162Planetary Astrophysics4
Electives: Select 14 upper division units from the following list of suggested courses: 114
Geodynamics [4]
Computer Simulations with Jupyter Notebooks [4]
Geomorphology [4]
Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors [3]
Isotopic Geochemistry [4]
Stable Isotope Geochemistry [4]
Air Pollution [3]
Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Laboratory
Critical Zone Characterization using Geophysical Methods [2]
Optical and Infrared Astronomy Laboratory [4] (A choice of one of the following two:)
Radio Astronomy Laboratory
Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences [4]
Mathematical Methods in Geophysics
1

 All elective courses used to fulfill the major requirements must be approved by the faculty adviser. This list is intended as a guide; the suggested courses are not limited to only courses included in this list.

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements.

General Guidelines

  1. All minors must be declared before the first day of classes in your Expected Graduation Term (EGT). For summer graduates, minors must be declared prior to the first day of Summer Session A. 

  2. All upper-division courses must be taken for a letter grade. 

  3. A minimum of three of the upper-division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.

  4. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required in the upper-division courses to fulfill the minor requirements.

  5. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.

  6. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.

  7. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. If students cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, they should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.

  8. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

Requirements

Lower Division
EPS 50The Planet Earth (or equivalent)4
Upper Division
Select a minimum of five courses from the following:
History and Evolution of Planet Earth [4]
Mathematical Methods in Geophysics [4]
Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences
Geodynamics [4]
Computer Simulations with Jupyter Notebooks [4]
Geomorphology [4]
Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors [3]
Planetary Astrophysics [4]
Air Pollution [3]
Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics [3]
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Laboratory [3]

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For a detailed lists of L&S requirements, please see Overview tab to the right in this guide or visit the L&S Degree Requirements webpage. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley and must be taken for a letter grade. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and American Institutions requirements are based on the principle that all U.S. residents who have graduated from an American university should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this campus requirement course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses are plentiful and offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer/data science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course taken for a letter grade.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work taken for a letter grade.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College of Letters and Science requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses in sequential order by the end of their fourth semester for a letter grade.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes at Cal for four years, or two years for transfer students. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you graduate early, go abroad for a semester or year, or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an L&S College adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your B.A. degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Mission

The goal of the Earth and Planetary Science (EPS) BA degree is to provide students with a broad and sound education that provides general and specialized knowledge and is intellectually challenging and stimulating. Upon completion of the degree students are ready to enter graduate school at top-ranking institutions (about half of them choose this path), find employment in the profession (geological and environmental engineering and consulting are major opportunities), continue in public education as teachers, or use their background as a sound basis for a new career such as in public policy, law or medical sciences.

Learning Goals for the Major

EPS majors acquire knowledge through course work, laboratory training (expertise in experimental techniques), primary field research, library research, and computer applications, with oral presentations and written reports required in many of our classes.

The undergraduate program provides strong technical training for those who wish to pursue professional careers in the earth, environmental, and planetary sciences as well as training in analytical, creative, and critical thinking and communication that serves well those who choose paths in new fields.

The field of Planetary Science encompasses the study of the physical and chemical nature of all planetary bodies both in our and other solar systems. The formation of planets, the forces that sculpted their orbits, the processes that shaped their interiors, surfaces, and atmospheres, and the development of life all fall under its rubric. Understanding these complex phenomena requires interdisciplinary knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics, earth science, atmospheric science, space science, and of fundamentals in physics and chemistry. The specialization prepares students for graduate school as well as employment in research laboratories and government agencies.

Advising

Undergraduate Student Services

Anna Atkinson, Undergraduate Major Advisor
epsua@berkeley.edu

Faculty Advisor

Professor Burkhard Militzer
militzer@berkeley.edu

EPS Undergraduate Appointments

To make an appointment, please visit the Contact Undergraduate Advisor website

Courses

Planetary Science

Contact Information

Department of Earth and Planetary Science

307 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3993

Fax: 510-643-9980

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Professor Michael Manga

manga@seismo.berkeley.edu

Faculty Advisor

Burkhard Militzer, PhD

militzer@berkeley.edu

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