Study the Earth
Rensselaer was the first school in North America dedicated to instruction in technology and science, and earth science was one of the first topics incorporated into the school curriculum. America's earliest preeminent geologist, Amos Eaton, was one of the principle founders of RPI, and he quickly established the school's reputation in science by training a number of the early leaders in earth science research. Our modern department carries on this proud tradition, educating students at the forefront of scientific understanding.
Ever since its inception, Rensselaer has been a leader in science and technology education. Today, the institute provides undergraduates with one of the most modern environments for learning. Students have access to substantial computing resources, such as an award-winning network infrastructure, 24/7 computing labs, and extensive campus-wide site licensing of popular technological software. Coursework typically integrates these computing resources, exposing students to these tools, and allowing them to use them creatively.
Earth & environmental sciences provides undergraduates with some of the most innovated classes in tertiary education. Our classes are designed to engage students in activities, and support independent thinking, taught by people researching many of the most significant topics in earth science today. Students experience this knowledge in the classroom, in teaching laboratories and field trips that accompany most classes, and in research, if they so choose (there are numerous opportunities to work on existing projects or those of one's own design). Students also gain hands-on experience with the latest and most powerful research tools in earth science.
Graduate students within earth and environmental sciences have the opportunity to engage in a wide range of courses, both within our department and other related disciplines. Courses are typically tailored to meet the educational needs of each student. This is coupled with a research program that requires students to develop their own lines of inquiry on the cutting edge of earth science.
Graduate and advanced undergraduate students are also exposed weekly to innovations in earth science research through the Earth Sciences Joint Colloquium Series, hosted by our department in conjunction with the University at Albany. Here students are exposed to other top researchers in the fields of geology, geophysics, geochemistry, and environmental science. Other relevant lectures include the Environmental Science Series and the Origins of Life Seminar.
Our graduate students conduct internationally-recognized research that advances humankind's understanding of the earth and our environment. Graduate students are involved in the development of the latest techniques in research to pursue questions at the forefront of earth science. Our department houses an impressive array of tools for analyzing nature, from atoms to the solar system, and students learn to use these instruments to their fullest extent. We also provide resources to extend research at other facilities; we have ongoing partnerships with Columbia Univerisity, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the Carnegie Institute of Washington, and the University at Albany. In total, the graduate research experience within our department ranks among the world's best.
Our greatest facility: Eastern Central New York
Rensselaer is located in one of the most geologically interesting regions of the world. As a consequence, students are allowed to explore a diverse range of earth processes first-hand, right in our own back yard.
The city of Troy, our hometown, sits on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, directly across form the confluence of the Mohawk River, and its famed Erie Canal. Rensselaer is near the top of the hill overlooking the valley of the Hudson, directly on top of the westernmost thrust of the Taconic Mountain system. From the campus, one can see both the Adirondack Mountains to the north, and the Helderberg and Catskill Mountains to the south.
The Adirondack Mountains contain the oldest rocks within the region. Composed of granites, anorthosites, amphibolites, marbles, and quartzites, with astounding mineral deposits of garnet, magnetite, and wollastonite, the rocks of the Adirondacks were formed over 1.3 billion years ago. These were then uplifted 1 billion years ago: rocks that were as deep as 30 km below the surface were slowly exhumed. The slow erosion of these crystalline rocks has lead to the formation of the tallest mountains within New York (greater than 4,000 feet), some with stunning relief.
The Taconic Mountains, to the immediate east, are a series of 400 million year old rocks, initially formed within an ocean basin and an adjacent arc of volcanoes, were squeezed together along the eastern margin of North America. The westernmost thrust fault produced by this squeezing runs through the middle of campus and may be seen to the immediate south, in the Poestenkill Gorge (not to worry about earthquakes; the fault has been inactive for 400 million years).
The rocks of Helderberg Escarpment and Catskill Mountains to the south were formed in a shallow sea and in the river deltas formed along its shoreline with the Taconic Mountains some 400 million years ago. Subsequent erosion has produced the escarpment to the immediate south of Albany, and the higher mountains further southwest.
The Hudson River Valley, like much of the area, was formed by glaciers and then flooded by their melt water over 10,000 years ago. Evidence of this is everywhere, including the glacial lake deposits found beneath RPI's campus.
The modern Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, and their tributaries make up a dynamic and unique setting. Troy, Albany, Schenectady, and other nearby towns were great centers of the industrial revolution, and continue to host a number of significant industries, and the surrounding region supports abundant agricultural enterprises. The interaction of humans and the environment makes these waterways living laboratories for modern Earth Science studies.
These are just some of the nearby features, all within an hour's drive of RPI. Numerous additional exposures of unique geology, such as the Great Lakes (and Niagara Falls), the Moteregian Hills, the southern Ontario region, the Acadian granite belt, the Atlantic coastline, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, are within a day of campus. All of these locations and more provide a educational and potential research setting for our students.
Teaching Lab (JSC 3W13)
Room map available at: http://ees2.geo.rpi.edu/3W13/