Solid Earth Geophysics

Laura Reiser Wetzel

Eckerd College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


An introduction to the quantitative analysis of Earth structure and plate tectonics using earthquake seismology, seismic reflection and refraction, gravity, magnetics, and heat flow.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geophysics
Resource Type: Course Information:Goals/Syllabi
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Type: Upper Level:Geophysics
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Geophysics
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-level course required for Marine Science majors specializing in Marine Geophysics. It is an elective for Marine Science majors specializing in Marine Geology. The prerequisites are Marine Geology and Calculus II. The course has three hours of lecture per week and does not have an additional laboratory.

Course Goals:

  • Students should be able to work independently to solve quantitative geophysical problems.
  • Students should be able to conduct geophysical background research in primary literature, including using academic search engines and databases available through the library.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The class typically has fewer than ten students, allowing me to tailor the course to individual interests and talents. Currently, problem sets, papers, and an oral presentation are the primary student products. A final exam, given to them in advance but completed in class, also assists in assessing their overall understand of geophysical concepts.

Skills Goals

  • Quantitative abilities
  • Accessing and critically reading the geologic literature

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

I assign about eight problem sets throughout the semester to encourage students to work independently from their professor. I encourage students to work in groups, and to come see me with specific questions, but discourage them from simply saying, "I don't know how to do this." I also assign an extensive research project culminating in a final report and oral presentation.

Attitudinal Goals

Building students' confidence in tackling quantitative problems.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Unlike most of the other courses in my Marine Science department, the geophysics course has a significant number of quantitative problem sets. I purposely do not have a separate lab or study period where students can ask me how to do the problems before they have given them much thought.


In the geophysics course, I assess student learning through problem sets, writing assignments, oral presentations, and a final exam.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 29kB Jun19 07)

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