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Chair's Welcome

Wendy Mao
Wendy Mao

Living at a time of rapid environmental change and growing demand on Earth’s resources, understanding how our planet works has never been more important, not only to satisfy our innate curiosity about how the world we live in came to be but also for ensuring a sustainable world for ourselves and future generations. We are dedicated to improving our understanding of planetary processes from core to atmosphere, as well as how those processes led to the origin and evolution of life on Earth (and perhaps other planets) and the formation of Earth’s natural resources.
Undergraduate and graduate courses and degree programs within the department offer an opportunity to understand our planet and its neighbors, broad skillsets in field observation, laboratory analysis and experiment, data analysis, as well as written and oral communication. Previous students in the department have applied these skills to subsequent careers in a wide variety of fields, including: geosciences in academia, government, and industry; law; medicine; journalism; environmental science; and many more. Please contact us if you would like to learn more.

Wendy Mao
Earth and Planetary Sciences, Chair

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Commitment to Diversity

Our community of faculty, staff, students, postdocs, and alumni is committed to providing a safe, inclusive, supportive, diverse, and equitable environment that celebrates all cultures and backgrounds. Our students come with different backgrounds and thus contribute to the richness of our department's scholarly and scientific strides. We acknowledge that the field of Earth Sciences has been one of the least diverse fields in STEM. Our department is actively planning to address these barriers to diversity through the following:

  • We account for known biases in the graduate admissions process by recognizing that students applying to our department have diverse backgrounds and hence different levels of academic opportunity and preparation.
  • We are committed to a holistic admissions strategy that evaluates scientific and research accomplishments within the context of an applicant's unique circumstances, life experiences, and educational pathways.
  • We are committed to fostering positive advisor-advisee experiences.
  • We are committed to broadening participation in field-based science through virtual field trips and other fieldwork preparation.
  • We cultivate a culture of academic service by including DEI efforts in annual faculty evaluations.

EPS Research

Students standing in Death Valley

The Earth and Planetary Sciences are naturally interdisciplinary and include the study of planetary materials, processes, and multi-billion year histories. More specifically, courses and research within the department address the chemical and physical makeup and properties of minerals and rocks (at pressures from the surface to the core), as well as of soils, sediments, and water; the formation and evolution of Earth and other planets; the processes that deform planetary crusts and mantles and that shape planetary surfaces; the stratigraphic, paleobiological, and geochemical records of Earth history including changes in climate, oceans, and atmosphere; present-day, historical, and long-term feedbacks between the geosphere and biosphere, and the origin and occurrence of our natural resources.

The department's research is critical to the study of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods), environmental and geological engineering, surface and groundwater management, the assessment, exploration, and extraction of energy, mineral and water resources, remediation of contaminated water and soil, geological mapping and land use planning, and human health and the environment.

A broad range of instrumentation for elemental, structural and radiogenic/stable isotope analysis is available, including ion microprobe, electron microprobe, thermal and gas source mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. The Stanford Nanocharacterization Laboratory and facilities at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) and the U.S. Geological Survey in nearby Menlo Park are also available. Branner Library, devoted exclusively to the Earth Sciences, represents one of the department's most important resources. The department also maintains rock sample preparation (crushing, cutting, polishing), mineral separation, and microscopy facilities.