Geology for Engineers/Engineering Geology

Diane Doser, Department of Geological Sciences,
University of Texas at El Paso


This course emphasizes how geology is used by engineers so that they can coverse with geoscientists, read pertinent geoscience literature and identify geological problems in the field. The lecture material complements laboratory activities and a capstone team project summarized in a poster at the end of the semester.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This course is a required course for junior level civil engineering students. Occasionally a few geoscience majors and other engineering majors take the course to fulfill their physical geology requirement or a science elective. Each year the course increases in enrollment. This year it has 64 students. Civil engineers are expected to take this course 1 semester prior to their required soil mechanics course.

Course Content:

Please see the attached lecture and laboratory syllabi.

Course Goals:

Please see the syllabi which state the knowledge and skills goals for the course.

Course Features:

The students' final project focuses on an issue of sustainability, including designing aqueducts, mass transit systems and sustainable housing developments.

Course Philosophy:

I originally designed this course after extensive conversations with civil engineering faculty about what they felt their students needed to learn about geology. The focus is on local issues and local geology. I use an active-learning style with think/pair/share activities and voting cards for lectures. In laboratories students work in groups and have a series of mini-field trips on campus.


Students take pop quizzes and announced short (20 minute) exams in lecture. Every exam/quiz has a short answer/essay section. They also have short written homework assignments they turn in on Blackboard. They complete laboratory assignments and have laboratory quizzes that emphasize more practical/hands-on activities. The final project is a large portion of their lab grade and combines nearly everything they have learned in lecture and lab. The project has team and individual components. The final exam is comprehensive.


lecture syllabus (Microsoft Word 49kB Feb19 13)

Teaching Materials:

laboratory syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Feb19 13)

References and Notes:

West, Geology Applied to Engineering
Selected papers from popular science journals such as American Scientist, AGI publications, Smithsonian, etc. are used in homework assignments. I also have written a laboratory manual for the course with the assistance of my graduate teaching assistants.