Introduction to Mineralogy

Catherine Macris, Earth Sciences

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis


This is a hybrid-traditional course, involving face to face laboratory sessions, asynchronous online work, and synchronous online instruction/activities.

Course URL: []
Course Size:


Course Format:

Lecture and lab

Institution Type:

University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is the first core course for Geology majors in our department. The pre-requisites for this course are Introductory Chemistry and Introduction to Physical Geology. Students are usually sophomores and juniors.

Course Content:

This courses focuses on how to identify the major, rock-forming minerals in hand sample and thin section. Students learn to appreciate minerals in the context of the broad field of geology and in terms of how they affect their everyday lives.

Course Goals:

  • Explain basic concepts in crystallography (atomic arrangement/structure of minerals) and crystal chemistry (chemical makeup of minerals).
  • Classify minerals and describe their physical properties (together these are called systematic mineralogy).
  • Relate the physical properties of minerals to their crystal structures and chemistry.
  • Describe the major rock-forming minerals (especially the "Big Ten") in detail in terms of their chemistry, structure, and geological significance.
  • Use and/or describe modern analytical methods in mineralogy, especially the polarizing light microscope, to identify minerals and their properties.
  • Identify the major rock forming minerals (especially the "Big Ten") in hand sample and thin section.
  • Explain the influence of crystal chemistry on mineral assemblages and weathering.
  • Analyze and describe the connections between mineralogy and (1) the broader field of geology, (2) society, and (3) your own life.

Course Features:

This course is organized in weekly modules. Because hands-on lab activities are important to reinforce the essential concepts of Mineralogy, I use most of the allotted class time for lab activities. Students complete assignments independently throughout the week, including reading comprehension quizzes, discussion forums, and assessment activities. I use class time for short lectures and to answer questions and explain concepts that students are struggling with that week. The students complete three "Big Projects" as major assessments, in lieu of mid-terms and a final.

Course Philosophy:

This course is partly a flipped classroom format is highly structured. The course format and assessments were chosen to help students build skills in geology/mineralogy, but also to prepare them for employment in and outside of the field. The assessments allow students freedom of choice, sufficient time, and the opportunity to use creativity in their work.


Students are graded on reading comprehension quizzes, participation in discussion forums and synchronous review sessions, lab activities, weekly problem sets, and three "Big Projects."


G221_Syllabus_F21.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 715kB May11 22)

References and Notes:

Mineralogy and Optical Mineralogy by Dyar, Gunter, and Tasa