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Calling all students….

May 12, 2009

Women in Planetary Science includes not just professional planetary scientists, but also undergraduate and graduate women.  We’d like to beef up the offerings for students here … if you have ideas or needs that aren’t being met by other organizations, would you please let us know?

We’d like to help facilitate conversation betwen undergrads and grads at different institutions, and help you meet women who are more senior as well.  If you’re interested in this, please speak up, by comment or by email, and we’ll get started!

You can also join the mentoring email list,

15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 11:01 pm

    If you are interested in some sort of joint events or offerings partnered with the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, do let me know.

  2. Lynnae permalink
    August 24, 2009 2:46 pm

    I’d add Johns Hopkins Earth and Planetary Sciences department as well. Within the department, there are research opportunities in planetary atmospheres and geophysics of Earth and other planets. However, the potential for research collaborations with the farily large planetary science group at the the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) really sets them apart. APL is a great place for summer internships and even thesis work. I spent two summers there myself and will mainly be conducting my thesis research there. Within the planetary group, there are ample projects being worked on including impact processes on planetary surfaces, Lunar Science, Mars (geology & atmosphere), asteroid studies, Mercury geology, geology of the Galilean Satellites(Europa specifically), planetary system formation, and I think opportunities for studying Titan, and some of Saturn’s other moons.

    I’m coming into planetary science with more of a physics background and I’ve been told that getting a good, basic understanding of geology and geophysics that can then be applied to planetary surfaces and internal processes is the most important thing. So I would think that if an undergraduate interested in a career in planetary sciences could find a program in geology or geophysics and supplement that with summer research experiences in planetary science, then that might work well.

    For graduate school specifically, it should also be added to consider Geology and Earth and Planetary Science departments that are closely tied to research labs. University of Maryland and George Mason University both have undergraduate and graduate programs in geology that are not neccesarily planetary intensive. However, both schools have wonderful astronomy (or physics & astronomy) departments with planetary scientists on faculty and planetary science course offerings. Beyond that, we have NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center, Carnegie Institution, Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab who all have planetary science “departments” of their own, frequently take students researchers, and are well within driving distance of the schools mentioned.

    I’ll also mention:

    -North Carolina Agricultutal and Technica (A&T) State University: Major in Earth and Environemntal Sciences( I did my undergrad in physics here & recently looked over the course offerengs for the earth science major. It turns out that there are some VERY good courses listed(geomorphology, etc); wish I had taken advantage of the earth sciences program while i was there!)
    -North Carolina State University : Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Departnemt
    -University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Geological Sciences
    -University of Idaho: Geological Sciences
    -Wheaton College: Physics and Astronomy

    I should mention that thee departments and majors at NC State, UNC, UI and NC A&T are more geology focused and might be better for someone wanting a solid backgorund in geology and geophysics before entering a planetary program.

  3. June 17, 2009 2:40 pm

    As to the list of grad schools that you can do planetary at, I’d like to add University of Minnesota. I’m at the Astronomy Department there and working on my dissertation on main belt asteroids. My advisor mainly does comets, but since I cam in with an idea about what I’d like to do, he was very amenable to the topic and has been very useful when my studies have me wading the sloshy waters between asteroids and comets.

  4. Kelsi permalink*
    June 16, 2009 4:55 pm

    Thanks for adding to the list of schools!

    Note on Undergrad Degrees:

    Perhaps the main point to keep in mind is that the more rigorous your degree the better you will be prepared for grad school. If a B.S. program can be chosen over a B.A. at the school you want to go to, then go for that, but maybe it doesn’t have to be the overriding deciding factor between several schools.

    As far as I have heard whether you get a B.A. or B.S. is more dependent on administrative shenanigans than necessarily the merits of your program. As in, your institution is able to grant only certain kinds of degrees. For example, at University of Colorado where I went to undergrad all of the degrees granted in the college of Arts and Sciences were B.A. no matter what your field (so that means that astrophysics, physics, biology, chemistry, geology etc. all got B.A.s). Some schools can grant either (such as Brown). If you already know what you want to do, then there is no reason you can’t take more than the required set of courses for a given degree, and hopefully your advisors would advise you to do so :).

    If you want to get an idea of what courses are required for degrees at other institutions than your own you can check out their webpages. As a planetary science student, you may have to tailor a degree that is meant for either strictly astronomy or strictly geology to your own advantage which means you should take courses in other departments, outside of the basic requirements in your degree.

    – As a starting point, here is Brown’s web-page for their undergrad degrees in Geology. This way you can see the differences between the B.A. and B.S. (also known as A.B. and Sc.B.)

    – University of Colorado also has two tracks in their Astronomy program, one more for people interested in grad school (in astrophysics) and one more for people interested in being in science media etc.:

    – Talk to someone who does planetary science research and ask them what classes they think would be useful. For example, I got an astronomy degree, and taking classes in the geology department was certainly not required, although we did have a sequence of planetary science classes. In retrospect I wish I had taken more geology or geophysics classes (so I took them in grad school instead).


    This brings up another topic I thought might be good to put out there for undergrads… there is a huge range of possibilities when I comes to what you can do as a planetary scientist. It is an extremely interdisciplinary field. When I started undergrad I definitely did not know there were so many possibilities. I was also not one of those people who knew exactly what planet I wanted to study my whole life, and thus as I learned more about astronomy/planetary science I kept changing my mind as to what I thought the neatest aspect was (and therefore what I wanted to study).

    Thus I thought it also might be useful to make a list of all of the fields/options that make up/contribute to planetary science just to give people some idea. It is a great suggestion to look at the latest (or past) LPSC abstracts to see what people are working on. For those not acquainted, LPSC is the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held every year in March. The program with abstracts for 2009 can be found here:

    This list could also get quite long, but here is a start (please add!):

    – Remote Sensing (various: spectroscopy, radar, imaging and image processing)

    – Engineering Oriented (instrumentation, aerospace etc.)

    – Planetary Geology

    – Planetary Geophysics (theoretical modeling, convection, interior dynamics, etc.)

    – Material Oriented (physics of rock/ice, actually studying planetary materials such as meteorites or Apollo samples)

    – Biologically Oriented (life on Earth in extreme environments: cold, hot, etc., possibility of life elsewhere)

    – Planetary Atmospheres

    – Exoplanet Observations and Theory

    – Earth Based Observing

    – Etc. etc. etc.

    No matter what field you choose, it is safe to assume you will need a solid base in physics, math and programming as an undergrad, with whatever other direction you would like to take it on top of that (bio, geo, chem., astmospheres, etc.).

  5. June 16, 2009 10:51 am

    That’s a good start – but I will make a recommendation that interested students check out what current research is going on, for two reasons. First, as Kelsi notes, the list is not complete and is based on Google searches for planetary departments (which may miss a lot of departments). Second, when choosing grad schools, you should also consider what research you would be interested in, so you can choose a school that does what you are interested in (for example, if you want to study clouds on Titan, you’ll find it hard to do that with an advisor who focuses on Mars.)

    I’d also suggest avoiding the M.A. (or B.A.) degrees — you need the science background that comes with an M.S. (or B.S.) if you want to continue to a PhD. [Someone correct me if I’m wrong here.]

    My undergraduate mentor, when I asked him about grad school, pulled out the most recent LPSC abstract volume and helped me select schools based on what topics I was interested in – the affliations of those authors were a great place to start.

    I would add – at the very least 🙂 (sorry if I don’t have departments for all of these – look in astronomy and geology departments, as appropriate):
    University of Tennessee – Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
    University of Pittsburgh – Department of Geology and Planetary Sciences
    SUNY Stonybrook
    University of California at Santa Cruz
    University of California at Los Angeles
    Ohio University (geology dept.)
    Texas Christian University (geology, I think)
    Central Connecticut State University – Department of Physics and Earth Sciences (Undergrad only)
    Winona State University – (Geology department – Undergrad only)
    Mt. Holyoke College – also geology, and I believe undergrad only
    Wesleyan University (CT) – also geology, Undergrad and Masters only

  6. Kelsi permalink*
    June 15, 2009 7:59 pm


    I just started making a list of schools, so please add to the list!

    ** Some of these I know about personally, and some I just found from a google search that anyone could do. The list could be much longer if you add every school that has any astronomy or geology programs, but I guess the idea for a school that doesn’t have a dedicated department or program with the word “planetary” in it is to check and see what research the faculty conducts.

    Planetary Science Schools (Grad and Undergrad)

    Washington University in St. Louis – Earth and Planetary Sciences
    Brown University – Geological Sciences
    University of Arizona – Planetary Sciences
    Arizona State University – School of Earth and Space Exploration
    University of Colorado – Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
    California Institute of Technology – Geological and Planetary Science
    University of California, Los Angeles – Earth and Space Sciences
    Columbia University – Interdepartmental Committee on Atmospheric and Planetary Science
    Northwestern University – Earth and Planetary Sciences
    Western Connecticut State University – Physics, Astronomy & Meteorology (Undergrad and M.A. in Earth and Planetary Sciences)
    Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts) – Astronomy and Physics, (Undergrad only)
    The University of Western Ontario – Planetary Science (Collaborative program)
    Harvard University – Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
    University of Hawaii – Geology and Geophysics, Institute for Astronomy
    University of Idaho – Department of Geological Sciences
    Cornell University – Astronomy
    Berkeley – Earth and Planetary Sciences, Astronomy


  7. June 14, 2009 6:29 am

    YAA Adding this to my bookmarks. Thank You

  8. May 26, 2009 10:12 pm

    Kelsi & Kara, I’m sending you each others’ emails. This is a great discussion and I hope you continue it, and bring it over to one of the lists when you’re ready….

  9. Kelsi permalink*
    May 26, 2009 12:36 pm

    I have a feeling the collected wisdom of the group would be more helpful, but I am happy to be in contact as a starting point and to offer what I have to offer 🙂 As I am not an administrator to this site I cannot access the edit comments page and for some reason I can only respond to these posts at my computer at work (not on my laptop), so sorry I could not respond sooner… here is my e-mail address: kelsi.singer at gmail


  10. Kara permalink
    May 23, 2009 1:23 pm

    Could someone please contact me via email? This is going to be far too extensive of a discussion for a comments thread.


  11. May 23, 2009 9:34 am

    If it’s okay with you, Kelsi, I’ll be happy to set you guys up. Or Kara, you are welcome to join our “wps-mentoring” group and ask the question of all!

  12. Kara permalink
    May 21, 2009 10:22 pm

    Kelsi – Is it ok if we continue this via email? My email address should be included with my comment on the WordPress ‘edit comments’ page.

  13. May 21, 2009 10:06 pm

    Hi Kara,

    What is your status right now? that would probably help to know what kinds of opportunities might be available to you 🙂

    Hi all,

    I am of course glad to help with anything I can help with and think that this sort of thing (web resources for planetary science students) must be in need because people who have posted on here seem to not be able to find what they need elsewhere. I have been thinkig for a while it would be good to have a planetary science grad/undergrad student central and since I just passed my qualifying exams (yay!) I might have time in the near future to try to help organize such a thing.

    – Uh, just for some place to start, perhaps we could make a list of all institutions which have planetary undergrad or grad degrees? Of course this could include ones that the degree is not named “planetary science” but for example where you might still get say a planetary oriented astronomy degree etc. (ok, so that is what I got :).

    – I also have to admit that I didn’t really know what would be best for me to study to get into what I am doing now (icy geophyics), so perhaps advice on that couldn’t hurt.

    – I also really like the idea of communication between grads and undergrads inter-institutionally.


  14. Kara permalink
    May 14, 2009 5:29 pm

    Hello ladies! I am interested in getting a B.S. in Planetary Science, and would love some advice and general guidance. I couldn’t find a contact page on this site, thus putting this plea in a comment. I am also eager to find some internship/volunteer opportunities for this summer/fall. Any help you can offer would be much appreciated. Thanks!


  1. Calling all students…. « Women in Planetary Science | Cell Call World

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