As a department, we place the highest emphasis on graduate student advising. Advisers work individually with their students, overseeing coursework and research. Advisers assist with professional development, something many programs overlook, which includes such written and verbal communication skill, attention to detail, critical analysis, and – if needed – encouragement regarding work habits. Achieving an M.S. degree would mean very little without an increase in professionalism. This important fact is why we require all M.S. students to have an adviser, as detailed below, and give individual attention to our students.

  1. An M.S. student must complete a research-based thesis to graduate. The research is conducted in tandem with an adviser, so we give much greater attention to applicants with whom an individual professor has agreed to advise.
  2. Applicants should contact one or more professors about their research and the possibility of working together. As a first step, applicants can email or call those professors whose research they find interesting. These professors will reply in kind and can answer questions about their own work, as well as questions concerning our graduate program.
  3. The application process includes writing a letter of intent, which should clearly identify the professor with whom a mutual agreement has been made. The professor can act as an advocate for the applicant, which will greatly increase their standing among applicants.
  1. Helps graduate students plan their coursework.
  2. Supervises and assists graduate student research.
  3. Helps a student prepare a poster or presentation for a geology convention.
  4. Assists with applying for research and travel grants.
  5. Serves as both a writing coach and editor for theses and scientific papers. (Very important!)
  6. Gives general advice and counsel when graduate school problems arise.
  7. Works with Graduate Chair and student concerning teaching assignments, office space, and computers.
  8. Provides guidance about job hunting as graduation approaches.
  9. And much more.
  1. First and foremost, an adviser helps pick a specific research question to be addressed. The overall topic will be within the adviser's research interests, but the specific problem is defined in cooperation with the advisee; we offer flexibility, which ensures both parties will enjoy the chosen work.
  2. Oversees the writing of a thesis proposal during a student's first year. This includes guidance about problem formulation, the scientific literature, and formatting.
  3. Helps pick members of the student's thesis committee and coaches students as they prepare a verbal presentation to the committee of a research plan.
  4. Shows an advisee how to pursue their chosen research, including data collection in the field and lab.
  5. Coaches an advisee on data analysis and interpretation.
  6. Acts as a writing coach and editor during writing of a thesis.
  7. Assists with preparation of a thesis defense, a verbal presentation to the committee and Department of a student's research findings.

M.S. Student Heather Weismiller (middle)
with her adviser (right; Dr. Gierlowski-Kordesch)
and Dr. Alycia Stigall in Namibia.
Credit: Dr. Daniel Hembree