Earth Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

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The IIT Kanpur is starting a new undergraduate program in the Earth Sciences from July 2016. The students qualified in JEE will be admitted in this program which has been designed as a highly quantitative and diverse in nature with a strong focus on modern tools and methods being used across various industries. Some of the important sectors include oil and gas, mineral exploration, non-conventional energy, water management, natural resource management and disaster mitigation. The program is highly interdisciplinary in nature, utilizing the methods and principles of all basic sciences namely Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and with several overlaps with engineering discplines such as Material Sciences and engineering, civil engineering and Mechanical Engineering. For example, Chemistry comes into picture while studying rocks and minerals, Physics is at play every time an earth Scientist tries to "peep inside" the earth by looking at the variation of Magnetic and Gravitational field of earth. Similarly, methods and tools developed in Mathematics and Computer Science are indispensable for an Earth Scientist trying to predict the Monsoon. Mechanical Engineering and Material Sciences come into play while studying the mechanical property like strength, ductility, hardness etc. Thus Earth Science is an all-encompassing field trying to address a varied range of problems and employing tools and technique from a diverse set of fields. At the same time, this discipline offers an opportunity to solve multitude of problems which our society is facing including water scarcity, climate change and natural disasters such as floods, landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis.

What is Earth Sciences?
Earth Science is a strongly interdisciplinary subject with several links to fundamental science pillars like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology. The subject links important resources such as minerals, energy, and water, as well as to hazards and environmental management. Over the years, this discipline has developed into a major knowledge domain of science and technology due to the advent of modern space observation systems, new exploration technologies for probing earth's surface and sub-surface for resources, and the development of sophisticated geochemical analytical methods. In addition, several important issues such as climate change, natural hazards, environmental degradation and resource depletion have made this science highly relevant to the society.

Why should I study Earth Sciences as Major?
Some of you may have never been exposed to this subject formally in your school days. Having said that, as you live and perform your daily activities using the resource and energy derived from Earth, you certainly are familiar with the topic and have questions in your mind that you could not answer. Let's consider a few examples –

  • In 2015 you must have felt few earthquakes that happened in the Himalaya. You know why earthquake happens by some keywords, like tectonic plate, tectonic force, collision, release of energy, fault etc. etc. If you study earth science you can go much deeper with your understanding using the integrated knowledge of science and know what is the origin of the plates, why do they move at all, when and where should the earthquake happen again?
  • You probably know that the rocks at the summit of Mt. Everest have fossils which used to live in the deepest part of an ancient ocean. How did it travel from the deep-ocean to the top of the world? Earth Science is the subject to answer such questions.
  • The electricity or any form of energy, water, all the metals, building materials, ceramics are the integrated parts of our daily life. The earth is the supplier of all these and the resource is limited. Will our future generations be able to access and use them? You need to be an Earth Scientist to answer the question and help the community to plan accordingly.
  • When you stand on the ground and look up to the sky, the science and technology is now so developed that it can answer many questions about the space and cosmos. However, if you want to go below your feet, unfortunately, we have virtually no direct access after maximum 1-2 km given the radius of the Earth is about 6400 km. What is there in the deep earth? How does it behave? Does a change in the deep earth influence our daily life and future? The subject Earth Science is waiting for you.

There are many such examples and the list is never-ending. In general, Earth Science studies are critically important to modern society. An understanding of the rocks and minerals that make up the solid Earth, and how these materials interact with the atmosphere, the world water supply, and living organisms provides the foundation for all natural and environmental sciences. All of these factors are critical for understanding how the Earth has changed in the past and how it may change in the future.

Is Earth Science a quantitative, qualitative or descriptive subject?
It is true that Earth Science has been taught in a descriptive in most universities across the country, but the modern trends and innovation in this science have brought several quantitative aspects in this subject. Our BS-MS program in Earth Sciences has been designed to capture some of these modern developments which have utilized the fundamentals of physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology to understand the dynamics of the interior of the Earth in past and present time and the phenomena associated with ocean and atmosphere. In several sub-branches of Earth sciences such as geophysics, structural geology, hydrology, and petrology a sound quantitative knowledge is essential. For example, solid earth geophysics explains the shape, interior structural details, tectonic forces, magnetic and gravity fields associated with the Earth, whereas structural geology describes the mechanics of the surficial processes and their links with the underlying tectonic activities. To understand all these phenomena geophysicists and structural geologists follow advanced quantitative tools including continuum mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, acoustic, gravity and electromagnetic principles, statistics, numerical modeling, optimization techniques, scientific parallel computing and so on. A blend of all these aspects is commonly used to generate models of the Earth's internal structure and its evolution with time at different scales. As a whole doing Earth Sciences is a great fun where you can utilize your analytical and quantitative skills to understand your mother Earth in a better way.

What should be my background to study Earth Sciences?
Science, in general, with a curious mind. Practicing Earth Science is very similar like the job of a detective. All the clues are around you and you have to search for it. Using the tools of science and logic the Earth Scientists try to reconstruct the history of the Earth and predict the future. In addition, if you are fun-loving, like to explore the nature with a different view and perspective, then your background is certainly suitable to study Earth Sciences.

If you like Physics, the branches of Geophysics, Geomechanics, Geodynamics, Structural Geology etc. are there to explore. Is Chemistry your passion? A person specialized with Geochemistry or Petrology (chemistry of rocks) is in high demand in industry and academia. If solving critical differential equations and general mathematics are your favorites, we welcome you to guide us in building the analytical and numerical models to solve several interesting problems. And if you are fascinated with the exciting world of animals and plants, you are the best one to solve the missing links in our evolution.

Why should I study Earth Sciences in IIT Kanpur?
There are many brilliant institutes, universities and colleges in India, which offer Geology and Earth Sciences courses. The key features of the Department of Earth Sciences of IIT Kanpur that should attract you for your undergraduate studies are –

  • It is a new department and therefore the course curricula is significantly modern with a special emphasis on the applied and fundamental topics of Earth Sciences.
  • For the same reason, that the department is new, we are flexible and ready to grab whatever comes exciting on our way.
  • The faculty members of the department are highly qualified and experts in their own domain with significant international exposure and recognition. Moreover, the department has an excellent blend of young and experienced faculty members who are passionate in teaching. We also frequently invite the best scientists and teachers from India and abroad to teach specialized topics.
  • One of our teaching goals is to provide hand-on training on the modern instruments apart from building theoretical framework through lectures. Several newly built laboratories in the department host sophisticated instruments and facilities of international standards and a few of them are unique in India.
  • Finally, the brand "IIT Kanpur" makes the difference particularly for your future job and academic opportunities.

What is the general structure of the BS-MS programme in Earth Sciences in IIT Kanpur?
The structure of the BS-MS programme in Earth Science is similar to other BS and BT programs being offered at IIT Kanpur. The first two semesters are devoted to the core courses in basic sciences and engineering, which are common across all disciplines. The third and fourth semester involves some core courses common across all departments together with some departmental courses. Similar to other departments, fifth and sixth semester involve many departmental courses together with some departmental and open electives. Last two semesters mainly comprise of departmental and open electives, thus making the program academically flexible. Students are also required to take five courses in Humanities and Social Sciences in line with other programs. Keeing in view that Earth Science is primarily a field science, the department has taken special care to design several field-based courses which involve training outside the campus to observe, map and measure the natural processes in action. In addition, the MS part of the programme will involve thesis work on a well-chosen problem of Earth Sciences and the department expects high quality research output using the learnings from the BS programme.

The Earth Science department has designed five modules within the BS-MS programme namely, (a) Applied Geology, (b) Water and climate, (c) Applied Geophysics, (d) Solid Earth, and (e) Natural Hazards. Each of these modules includes a set of specialized courses but cross-fertilization across the modules will be encouraged. A brief description of each of these modules is as follows:

  1. Applied Geology - mainly deals with application of geology for various applications such as mineral and fuel exploration, movement and distribution of groundwater, soil erosion, and other environmental problems related to water and sediment pollution. 
  2. Water and Climate - involves the study of all water related issues including rivers, glaciers, groundwater and oceans as well as the climate change issues involving atmosphre-hydrosphere interactions; also includes impacts of climate change on water-resources, agriculture and ecology.
  3. Applied Geophysics – applies the principles of physics to study the internal processes of earth such as earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides as well as for exploration of natural resources; involves the use of various tools such as magnetic, electromagnetic, gravity and seismics many of which are indispensible for exploration industries related to oil and gas, groundwater and minerals.
  4. Solid Earth – includes geological and geophysical aspects of the solid earth invloving its planetary evolution, geodynamics, mantle dynamics and rock deformation.
  5. Natural Hazards - aims to study natural hazards such as landslides, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis affecting the humanity to understand the controlling processes and mitigation strategies. This module has a strong societal relevance and offers huge opportunities to understand the vagaries of nature.

What are the detailed course structure, course contents and credit distributions of this course?
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Can any prospective student come to visit?
Yes, all prospective students are welcome to visit the department and interact with our faculty members and senior students. This will greatly help in making up their mind.

Any financial aid available?
Yes, DST INSPIRE fellowship should be available as per the DST guidelines.

What kind of physical fitness I need to be in the field trip and who supports the field training?
Since there are several field-based courses as a part of the BS-MS programme, a basic physical fitness is essential. However, no specialized field skills are required. In case of any medical problems, the students should report this to the instructor beforehand. All expenses related to travel and logistics for field trips are supported by the department.

What is the career opportunity after studying Earth Sciences?
The students graduating from the department of Earth Sciences will be invaluable to the industry due to interdisciplinary and quantitative nature of the program. The students are expected to be recruited by the energy industry, construction industry, industries involved in mineral exploration, environmental industries and space industries, including satellite tracking and meteorology and hurricane tracking. Students will also have career opportunity in Public Sector Unit (PSU) like Geological Survey, Coal India, ONGC and Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd.
Students of the BS-MS programme in Earth Sciences will also have excellent opportunities to opt for academic and research careers. The undergraduate program in Earth Sciences will also prepare students for higher studies in post graduate programs within and outside India. Most of the leading universities in the world have postgraduate as well as undergraduate programme in Earth Sciences. The students graduating from the Department of Earth Sciences at IIT Kanpur will be the new breed of Earth Scientists of this country and the graduates will find excellent employment in a competitive global economy and will also contribute towards Earth Sciences research.

Does the department encourage extra-curricular activities?
The department supports a vibrant Earth Science Society run and managed by the students. Activities of the Society include social and cultural events, popular lectures, sports activities and other events, which facilitate to build a better academic and social environment in the department.