Geology

Degree Type Bachelor of Arts Bachelor of Science
Department Geology
Academic Division The College
Offerings Major
Students who major in geology are curious about the natural world, enjoy solving complex problems in the field or laboratory, like spending time outdoors, and are interested in using or protecting our natural resources.

Why Study Geology at W&L?

Students in our program are exposed to the breadth of core geoscience fields as well as a wide variety of specialty and interdisciplinary science courses. Our curriculum ensures that students develop analytical thinking, reasoning, communication and problem-solving skills, as well as a thoughtful, creative and inquisitive intellect. Much of our coursework is hands-on and completed in the field, laboratory or computer classrooms.

About the Department

Lexington is surrounded by some of the most interesting and classical geology in the entire Appalachian Mountain system — and our programs take advantage of this location. The campus lies in the middle of the Great Valley of Virginia, within easy reach of the Blue Ridge Province and the Allegheny Mountains. During the fall and winter terms, many of our courses include field trips for hands-on study of this superb geology. During Spring Term, we offer more intensive field experiences. Some of these spring courses emphasize the geology of the local area and provide familiarity with modern methods of field mapping, while others offer extended field trips to study the geology of a specific region and/or the environment.

The B.S. degree in geology prepares students for graduate school and a career as a professional geological scientist. The B.A. degree prepares students who simply have an interest in the origin and evolution of Earth, as well as those who wish to study earth sciences for a career in any number of fields in addition to geology and the environment, including business, law or secondary school teaching. Many of our B.A. students also go on to graduate school in geoscience fields. Several geology faculty are core or affiliate members of the Environmental Studies Program.

Opportunities for Students

Collaborative research: Students commonly gain research experience working with faculty for credit during the academic year or in the summer with paid stipends. This has resulted in many student co-authored presentations and scientific publications over the years.

Conference travel and presentation: We offer generous financial support for students to attend national and international meetings, where many students present their own research.

Spring Term travel courses: We provide numerous opportunities for students to learn geology in exciting locations at both the introductory and advanced level. In the past few years, geology students have traveled to New Zealand, Iceland, Belize, Greece, the American Southwest, the Grand Canyon and Hawaii for class.

Field work: Geology students spend much of their time learning about geology in the field. We are ideally situated in a geologically rich area of Virginia, with quick access to a wide variety of geology.

Analytical and computing capability: We have state-of-the-art analytical and laboratory equipment, including a scanning electron microscope, stable isotope mass spectrometer with gas bench, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer, ion chromatograph, X-ray diffractometer, seismic acquisition unit, magnetometers, gravimeter, resistivity unit, unmanned aerial devices, differential GPS, many cutting-edge software programs including ArcGIS and MatLab, and some of the highest quality computing capabilities on campus.

After W&L

Geology alumni work in a variety of jobs, including environmental consulting, oil and gas, geophysics, alternative energies, geotechnical engineering, geochemistry, investment and commerce, entrepreneurship, environmental law, academia, secondary education, and as geoscientists in government agencies. Sample employers of W&L geology graduates include:

  • Consulting and engineering: Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure, ARCADIS Geraghty and Miller, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Oil and gas corporations: Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Hess, Chesapeake, Advanced Resources Inc.
  • Investments and finance: Wells Fargo, DuPont, Hayek Kallen Investment Management
  • Conservation and education: Sierra Club, Outward Bound, Brown University, University of North Carolina, Western Albermarle High School Environmental Studies Academy
  • Federal and state agencies: EPA, USGS, NOAA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Park Service, North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program

"Research opportunities in geology are plentiful and diverse. If you choose, you can participate in multiple projects with different advisors over the course of your four years, or you can work with one advisor and become deeply involved in a particular topic. W&L geology taught me how to ask the right questions and where to look for the answers, whether it be in the library, online, on a hillslope or at the bottom of a river!"

Clare WilkinsonClass of 2017

Jeffrey Rahl

Department Head

Sarah Wilson

Administrative Assistant

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