Building Strong Geoscience Departments > Program Assessment > Developing an Assessment Plan > Student Learning Goals or Outcomes > UNM Earth & Planetary Sciences

Student Learning Goals and Outcomes

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico



B.S., Earth and Planetary Sciences

Download the assessment plan for the BS in Earth and Planetary Sciences (Microsoft Word 72kB Feb16 09)

All Earth and Planetary Science Bachelor of Science Majors shall:

  1. Develop an understanding of interconnected Earth systems, with special emphasis on the physical and chemical processes that result from plate tectonics.
    • Understand the role of plate tectonics in Earth history
    • Relate igneous and metamorphic rock-forming processes to plate tectonic setting
  2. Develop an understanding of Earth materials as recorders of geological processes.
    • Identify and be able to classify Earth materials
    • Understand the composition, genesis and deformation of Earth materials
  3. Develop an understanding of geologic time and Earth history.
    • Produce and use field-based and petrographic measurements to interpret geologic history and geologic structures
    • Understand the evolution of Earth in terms of changes in life forms and physical processes through geologic time
  4. Be able to acquire geologic data in the laboratory and the field, analyze these data, and interpret their meaning through application of the scientific method.
    • Obtain geologic data from field measurements and hand samples
    • Read and interpret topographic maps
    • Visualize and interpret Earth structures in three dimensions using modern mapping tools
    • Use field and petrographic data to test competing hypotheses for a set of observations
  5. Be able to read geological literature, and be able to clearly and concisely present (both in oral and written form) geological information.
    • Critically evaluate a geologic report
    • Prepare and present a professional-quality report on a geologic problem
  6. Understand applications of geologic sciences to natural resource development and natural hazard assessment and mitigation.
    • Describe and assess natural hazards in terms of geologic processes
    • Understand the origins of fossil fuels
    • Understand the origins of metallic and nonmetallic resources
    • Understand the hydrologic cycle and the geologic constraints on water resources
  7. Understand the principles of ethics in the conduct and application of science within the academic and professional arenas.
    • Understand professional ethical standards for reports and publications associated with collaboration, data collection, authorship, and citation of previous results
    • Understand the statistical uncertainties associated with drawing conclusions from limited data sets
    • Demonstrate a high level of integrity in the collection, analysis, and presentation of data
    • Explain and apply the concept of intellectual property as it applies both generally and legally to scientific information and ideas
    • Use proper attribution and citation of open data sources and scientific literature in reports and presentations
  8. Develop proficiency in quantitative problem solving, applying first principles from supporting sciences.
    • Solve problems using chemical and/or physical equations and data in a geological context
    • Solve problems using equations from algebra and calculus in a geologic context
    • Use desktop computing software to analyze data and prepare documents
    • Understand basic techniques for quantitative analysis of data

B.S., Environmental Sciences

Download the assessment plan for the BS in Environmental Sciences (Microsoft Word 71kB Feb16 09)

All Environmental Science Bachelor of Science Majors shall:

  1. Develop an understanding of Earth systems, emphasizing the physical and chemical processes linking these components.
    • Describe the general characteristics of each of the principal components of the Earth System (geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere)
    • Analyze fluxes of energy and key elements and compounds, including water, carbon, and nitrogen, between the principal components of the Earth System
    • Understand the hydrologic cycle and the environmental constraints on water resources
  2. Develop proficiency in supporting sciences, quantitative problem solving and the scientific method.
    • Develop the mathematical proficiency needed to characterize environmental systems quantitatively, and apply and evaluate the most common equations in several chosen subfields of Environmental Science
    • Apply fundamental principles of chemistry, physics and biology to Earth's environment
    • Organize and analyze data sets with appropriate statistical rigor, using modern data analysis software too
  3. Have a broad but solid grounding in general measurement and analysis tools needed for process-based assessment of Earth systems.
    • Measure and interpret meaningful environmental parameters using modern equipment and techniques
    • Apply common tools used in Environmental Science, such as map interpretation and general concepts of Earth Systems modeling, to enable analysis and synthesis of data collected in the field
    • Use desktop computing software to analyze data and prepare documents
  4. Develop more specialized and advanced expertise in several subfields of Environmental Science.
    • Apply quantitative scientific tools in an advanced manner for several subfields of Environmental Science
  5. Undertake at least one major project that applies the scientific method to the environment by a team of collaborating peers.
    • Search, read and report on literature related to Environmental Science
    • Complete a field-based environmental project with scope large enough to require collaboration with peers
    • Organize and compile a concise written report of findings from the major project(s)
    • Produce and present a well-organized talk describing their findings, and have skills in using presentation software
  6. Understand the principles of ethics in the conduct and application of science within the academic and professional arenas.
    • Understand professional ethical standards for reports and publications associated with collaboration, data collection, authorship, and citation of previous results
    • Understand the statistical uncertainties associated with drawing conclusions from limited data sets

M.S., Earth and Planetary Sciences

Download the assessment plan for the MS in Earth and Planetary Sciences (Microsoft Word 71kB Feb16 09)

Upon graduating (M.S.) from the graduate program in Earth and Planetary Sciences, students will be able to:

  1. Broadly understand and explain the significance of major research questions in one or more areas of earth and planetary sciences.
    • Students will summarize current research questions and approaches in one or more subfields in earth, atmospheric, and/or planetary science.
  2. Formulate testable scientific hypotheses.
    • MS students will write at one research proposal that presents a testable hypothesis, outlines the types of data needed to test the hypothesis, and describes how the collected data will be used to test the hypothesis.
  3. Carry out independent research in one or more subfields of earth and planetary sciences, using appropriate field, experimental, analytical, and/or computational methods.
    • Students will read and critically evaluate primary scientific literature in one or more subfields in earth, atmospheric, and/or planetary science.
    • Students will devise and implement a field, experimental, analytical, and/or computational plan aimed at collecting and analyzing the data necessary to address a specific scientific question.
  4. Describe, synthesize, and interpret the results of a scientific investigation orally and in writing.
    • Students will present and defend the results of their research (orally or in poster format) in order to demonstrate mastery of the material and an ability to communicate the results and significance of their work to other scientists.
    • Students will write a thesis, dissertation, or collection of manuscripts in which the motivation for the research is outlined, methods are described, data and interpretations are clearly separated, prior work is appropriately referenced, and the significance of the work is articulated.
    • Students will communicate the results of research carried out independently or as part of a team via publication of peer-reviewed articles, maps, meeting abstracts, and/or technical reports. Publication is an obligation inherent in the acceptance of funding for scientific research, and the submission and revision processes force critical reevaluation of data and improvement of writing skills. Publication is also an essential mechanism for communicating and engaging with the larger professional community.

Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences

Download the assessment plan for the PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences (Microsoft Word 70kB Feb16 09)

Upon graduating from the graduate program in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Ph.D. students will be able to:

  1. Broadly understand and explain the significance of major research questions in one or more areas of earth and planetary sciences.
    • Students will summarize current research questions and approaches in one or more subfields in earth, atmospheric, and/or planetary science.
  2. Formulate testable scientific hypotheses.
    • PhD students will write at two research proposals that present a testable hypothesis, outline the types of data needed to test the hypothesis, and describe how the collected data will be used to test the hypothesis. They will demonstrate greater independence than most MS students in preparing the proposal documents.
  3. Carry out independent research in one or more subfields of earth and planetary sciences, using appropriate field, experimental, analytical, and/or computational methods.
    • Students will read and critically evaluate primary scientific literature in one or more subfields in earth, atmospheric, and/or planetary science.
    • Students will devise and implement a field, experimental, analytical, and/or computational plan aimed at collecting and analyzing the data necessary to address a specific scientific question.
  4. Describe, synthesize, and interpret the results of a scientific investigation orally and in writing.
    • Students will present and defend the results of their research (orally or in poster format) in order to demonstrate mastery of the material and an ability to communicate the results and significance of their work to other scientists.
    • Students will write a dissertation, or collection of manuscripts in which the motivation for the research is outlined, methods are described, data and interpretations are clearly separated, prior work is appropriately referenced, and the significance of the work is articulated.
    • Students will communicate the results of research carried out independently or as part of a team via publication of peer-reviewed articles, maps, meeting abstracts, and/or technical reports. Publication is an obligation inherent in the acceptance of funding for scientific research, and the submission and revision processes force critical reevaluation of data and improvement of writing skills. Publication is also an essential mechanism for communicating and engaging with the larger professional community.

See more Student Learning Goals or Outcomes »