May 22, 2024  
2021-2022 SDSM&T Academic Catalog 
2021-2022 SDSM&T Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geology and Geological Engineering Department

Contact Information

Dr. Laurie Anderson, Department Head 
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Mineral Industries 303
(605) 394-2461

Geological Engineering Faculty

Professor Stetler; Associate Professors Katzenstein and Li; Assistant Professor Fang; Professors Emeritus Davis, Rahn, and Sawyer.

Geology Faculty

Professors L. Anderson, Duke, Masterlark, M. Price, and Uzunlar; Associate Professor Pagnac; Assistant Professors Keenan, Ustunisik, Waldien, and Ward; Lecturer C. Price; Professors Emeritus J. Fox, Martin, and Paterson.

Adjunct Faculty

M. Anderson, Benton, and Valder.


Research Scientists Nielsen and Roggenthen; Coordinator and Instructor Pellowski; Museum of Geology Associate Director and Instructor N. Fox; Museum Preparator and Instructor Johnson.

The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Geological Engineering and in Geology. Also offered at the undergraduate level are minors in geology, geospatial technology, and petroleum systems, as well as a certificate in geospatial technology.

Geological Engineering

Geological engineering is the development and conservation of natural resources in ways useful to humankind. It encompasses diverse fields such as groundwater resources, subsurface contamination, slope stability, environmental site design, and mineral and petroleum exploration and production. Geological Engineering (GEOE) as a relatively rare degree program that only 13 schools in the U.S. offer. The geological engineering bachelor of science degree bridges the gap between the science of geology and multiple engineering disciplines including mining, civil, petroleum and environmental engineering. As such, the curriculum that students complete as part of the degree is very diverse, with courses covering topics in geology, the engineering disciplines stated above, and engineering topics unique to geological engineering.

The GEOE program at South Dakota Mines prides itself in providing a hands-on field-based education. Students spend a large amount of instruction time in the field through lab and design courses, as well as a GEOE specific, six-credit summer field course. It is this significant field experience and wide breadth of expertise that sets geological engineering graduates apart from other engineering fields, and is a large contributor to why our program has such a high placement rate (95% over the past 5 years). Complete information on requirements is provided on the Geological Engineering, BS  page of this catalog.

The bachelor of science program in geological engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,, 415 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone +1.410.347.7700.

Geological Engineering Program Educational Objectives

The program educational objectives describe what graduates of the geological engineering program are expected to attain within a few years after graduation. These objectives are based on the needs of the program’s constituencies.

  1. Graduates of the geological engineering program will perform competently in professional practice in the areas of:
  • groundwater
  • environmental site planning and natural hazards
  • geomechanics and geotechnics
  • fuels or minerals
  1. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to design and implement appropriate solutions to geological engineering problems, within economic constraints, while exercising ethical responsibilities and continued professional development and/or licensure.

In support of these objectives, the program in geological engineering provides students with:

  1. an understanding of the fundamental principles of geological engineering, basic engineering, engineering economics, and geology,
  2. academic training and design experiences to prepare them for engineering practice and career advancement in the geological engineering profession during their first several years of work, and
  3. an education that prepares them to pursue advanced studies if they so desire.

Geological Engineering Education

An integral part of the educational experience is development of the ability to design solutions for meeting desired needs in geological engineering work. The design component of the curriculum is developed within geological engineering courses that integrate basic science (including geology, chemistry, and physics) and engineering science (including statics, mechanics of materials, fluid mechanics, soil mechanics, and thermodynamics). This engineering design experience includes a two-semester capstone design sequence. The capstone engineering design courses build upon and integrate previous coursework to prepare graduates for the professional practice of geological engineering.

The nature of geological engineering is continually evolving as the needs of employers change in response to advances in technology and economic forces. To prepare adequately for careers in geological engineering, students must be willing to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies to embrace new technologies and to stay current within the engineering profession. Graduates with a broad range of skills, flexibility in learning new technologies, and sound training in fundamental principles can expect a competitive advantage in the job market and workplace.

Professional Development: Geological Engineering

Students in geological engineering are encouraged to participate in student chapters and organizations within GGE as well as seek student membership in professional societies. The department also hosts a chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the geoscience honor society.

Students are strongly encouraged to take the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, as the first step in becoming a registered professional engineer.


Geologists study processes shaping Earth today and through its history to learn how it formed, how it has developed over time, and how life has evolved through time in response to tectonic and climatic changes.  In their careers, geologists may seek to understand the formation of natural resources like minerals or petroleum, protect water and soil resources, mitigate against geologic hazards like earthquakes and volcanoes, or examine the history of Earth and life on Earth through the study of fossils (paleontology) and Earth materials. 

The GEOL program at South Dakota Mines takes advantage of the proximity of the Black Hills through a rigorous field-based education that provides students a unique blend of hands-on experiences with strong theoretical foundations.  Students have the opportunity to take electives in six focus areas including Energy and Mineral Resources, Environmental Geology, Geophysics, Geospatial Technology, Paleontology, and Solid Earth and Tectonics. Complete information on requirements is given at Geology, BS .

Geology Program Educational Objectives

Program educational objectives are broad statements that describe what graduates are expected to attain within a few years after graduation. Program educational objectives are based on the needs of the program’s constituencies. The program educational objectives of the South Dakota Mines geology bachelor’s degree program are to produce graduates who can:

  1. Pursue productive careers as geoscientists and/or succeed in graduate or professional educational programs
  2. Continue professional growth, including – but not limited to – becoming leaders in professional organizations and/or earning licensures or certifications
  3. Become advocates for science through effective communication to broad audiences

Choosing a career focus

Many different career opportunities are open to students in the geosciences. Geology majors at South Dakota Mines complete a core of geology courses to solidly prepare them for careers in the geosciences. Additional program (courses with a GEOL or GEOE prefix) and free electives (other courses approved by a student’s academic advisor) can be chosen to focus on one or more career paths to best prepare the student for employment or graduate school. Professional placement for geology graduates has averaged 86% over the last 5 years.

GEOL focus areas include:

  • Energy and Mineral Resources:  exploration and development of energy and mineral resources. Graduates may explore for and assist with extracting these resources.
  • Environmental Geology:  protection and management of natural resources.  Graduates may work for environmental firms or could do environmental work for petroleum and mineral companies.  Many government agencies also hire graduates with these skills.
  • Geophysics: applications of physics, mathematics, statistics, remote sensing, and numerical methods to image the Earth at centimeter to megameter scales and  scales and investigate dynamic geologic processes. Prepares students for careers in environmental consulting, hazard mitigation, resources, non-profit, law, and graduate studies. Interdisciplinary skills that merge geophysics with other related fields to address basic research and societal problems are in high demand for employment in academic, industrial, and government research sectors.
  • Geospatial Technology:  managing spatial data using GIS, GPS, and remote sensing.  Graduates may work in petroleum, mining, or environmental companies, for government agencies, or within the geospatial industry that provides and manages maps and imagery to the world.
  • Paleontology:  study of ancient organisms and environments.  Graduates in this focus area will often attend graduate school to develop research and teaching careers, but career opportunities also are available in museums, governmental agencies, or with consulting firms that survey and preserve fossils as natural resources.
  • Solid Earth and Tectonics: encompass the study of Earth’s crust, mantle, and core as well as other planetary bodies. This includes the use of seismology, mantle dynamics, palaeomagnetism, tectonics, volcanology, petrology, mineralogy, and geomorphology to understand the formation and evolution of Earth processes. Graduates in this focus area are well prepared to pursue graduate level research at academic institutions or begin careers within private industry and government entities.

Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor in selecting a career path and electives.

Complete information on requirements is given at Geology, BS  

Professional Development: Geology

The senior year culminates in an individual research project (GEOE 464 , GEOL 465 ) in which the student practices the professional accomplishments of project planning and organization, professional ethics, scientific research, time management, and oral/written/graphics communication.

Students are strongly encouraged to participate in student chapters and organizations within GGE as well as seek student membership in professional societies. The department also hosts a chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the geoscience honor society.

Students interested in paleontology and mineralogy may have opportunities to volunteer or work on collections, archives, educational outreach, and/or research projects through the Museum of Geology. 

Internships in industry and government are commonly available and highly recommended.

In addition to careers in geoscience, the B.S. in Geology can provide a pathway to professional careers in teaching, law, or medicine.  For careers in science education, students should consult teaching programs at other colleges for auxiliary education courses that would be needed for teacher certification. 

Other Degree Programs

Graduate Degrees

Graduate programs, both master’s and doctoral, are available and involve additional specialization in geological engineering, geology, or paleontology and incorporate original research leading to the completion and defense of a thesis or dissertation.  Additional information can be found in the GGE graduate programs page  of this catalog. Completion of graduate degrees leads to higher-level professional employment including college-level instruction.

Accelerated MS Programs

The M.S. programs in geology and geological engineering and in paleontology both offer an accelerated M.S. track open to students enrolled in the B.S. in Geology or B.S. in Geological Engineering at South Dakota Mines. Complete information on requirements is located in the Accelerated M.S. Programs section of the GGE graduate programs page .

Minor in Geology

Majors in other science and engineering disciplines may pursue a minor in geology by completing eighteen (18) credit hours of geology courses.  Complete information on requirements is given at Geology Minor .

Minor and Undergraduate Certificate in Geospatial Technology

Geospatial technology is a career field that measures, visualizes, and analyzes features on the earth’s surface. It includes diverse applications such as mapping and cartography, aerial photography and satellite remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), global positional systems (GPS), geostatistics, lidar, photogrammetry, and geolocation. It forms an integral part of government services and industries, including natural resources management, environmental protection, architecture, urban planning, insurance, retail, marketing, agriculture, forestry, mining, petroleum, water resources, transportation, utilities, and more. It is an actively growing field with high demand for trained workers. It requires strong computer skills.

The Minor in Geospatial Technology requires 18 credits. Complete information on requirements is given at Geospatial Technology Minor 

The certificate requires completion of four courses (twelve credits) in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing. Complete information on requirements is given at Geospatial Technology- Undergraduate Certificate  .

This certificate program is designed to enhance an individual’s existing work or academic training by building specific geospatial competencies required in the workplace. The ideal career preparation is to combine this certificate with a degree or work experience in one of the fields listed above. It is strongly recommended that persons wishing to pursue this certificate already have an associate’s degree or will soon have a bachelor’s degree. Before enrolling in any classes for this certificate, the candidate must have strong computer skills including the Windows operating system, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, Internet, e-mail, and file management. Training in statistics is also recommended.

Minor in Petroleum Systems

The petroleum industry employs a wide variety of engineers and scientists and this interdisciplinary minor is available to students in any major interested in expanding their portfolio of coursework to include additional content relevant to the energy sector. Complete information on requirements is given at Petroleum Systems Minor .

Additional Facilities

Geology and Geological Engineering Laboratories

The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering has laboratory facilities that include a groundwater laboratory with digital and analytical modeling capabilities, a petrophysics lab, an experimental petrology lab, an InSAR laboratory, a geotechnics laboratory, 3D photogrammetric camera systems, a ground-based lidar camera, an operational well field with data loggers and transducers, a geochemistry and geomicrobiology lab, and labs for paleontology specimen and sample preparation and imaging. Instrumentation includes field GPS units, levels and total stations (shared with the MEM Department), geophysical equipment, ground-probing radar, a hydrologic analysis system, a portable wind tunnel, and a mobile drilling rig.

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing Laboratory is a facility for generating and analyzing spatially-referenced digital information, including maps and remotely-sensed data. Licenses for remote sensing and GIS software are available in labs, for use on university and student-owned computers, and as online cloud services. Computing facilities, including a computational geodynamics lab and a computational seismology lab, are continually updated and contain high-speed computers with GIS and other analytical capabilities. Computer programs are available for digital modeling of groundwater flow and contaminant migration, petroleum engineering, petroleum systems, slope stability, geophysical applications, and geochemical modeling.

The Black Hills Natural Sciences Field Station

The Black Hills Natural Sciences Field Station functions in cooperation with universities from South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin with the purpose of providing field courses. Field courses in geology, geological engineering, paleontology, petroleum, depositional systems, volcanology, alpine tectonics, sequence stratigraphy, and environmental science and engineering are offered. The Field Station operates from multiple sites: South Dakota; Wyoming; Death Valley; western California; Arizona; Montana; Hawaii; Utah; Taskesti, Turkey; the Himalayas of Nepal; Morocco; Iceland; Spain; France; New Zealand; the Andes and Galapagos Islands; Ecuador; and the Bahamas.

Geology and Geological Engineering Field Camps:

GEOL 410 Field Geology  - five (5) weeks (six (6) semester hours) - South Dakota; Wyoming; Montana; Spain; Morocco; and Turkey.

GEOE 410 Engineering Field Geology  five (5) weeks (six (6) semester hours) - South Dakota.

GEOL 412/512 /GEOE 412/512  Science and Engineering Applications (3 to 6 semester hours), South Dakota; Wyoming; Death Valley; western California; Arizona; Hawaii; Utah; Nepal; Iceland; France; New Zealand; Ecuador; and the Bahamas.

Paleontology Field Camps:

  - two (2) weeks two (2) semester hours - held at one of several sites of ongoing paleontological research throughout the western United States with department and Museum of Geology faculty and personnel.

Further information on field camp opportunities may be obtained by calling (605) 394-2494, or going to the website:  All deposit fees are non-refundable upon acceptance into the course.