Environmental Science

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Foreign:$ 71.6 k / Year(s) Deadline: Jan 1, 2024
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The Department of the Geophysical Sciences offers a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Science. The program is designed to prepare students to enter a variety of interdisciplinary fields in the environmental sciences, including the interface of environmental science and public policy. Students are given the opportunity to study topics such as the chemistry and dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere, climate change, biogeochemical cycles, ecology, conservation, and environmentally relevant aspects of economics and policy. Undergraduate research is strongly encouraged.

The department typically sponsors several trips each year that range in length from one day to five weeks. Destinations of trips have included areas as far afield as Newfoundland; the Canadian Rockies; Baja, California; the Caribbean; Italy; and Iceland. The shorter trips are mostly scheduled in connection with undergraduate and graduate lecture courses. However, the trips are open to all students if space permits. The longer trips are designed as undergraduate field courses.

The requirements for the BS degree in Environmental Science involve completion of:

  • six required courses that fulfill general education requirements for the physical sciences, biological sciences, and mathematics
  • seven required science or mathematics courses
  • eleven elective courses pertinent to the major from the electives lists below, which must include
    • four courses designated ENSC or GEOS
    • one course in Statistics, and two more in any of Mathematics, Statistics, or Computing
    • one to three courses in Social Science/Public Policy

Candidates for the BS in Environmental Science complete a year of chemistry, a year of mathematics (including Calculus I-II), and a year of biology (ENSC 24400 Ecology and Conservation, GEOS 27300 Biological Evolution, and BIOS 20198 Biodiversity), as well as PHYS 13100 Mechanics or the equivalent. (Note that some advanced chemistry courses require further physics as a prerequisite.)

Students are encouraged to begin discipline-specific courses as early as possible. Required disciplinary courses include ENSC 13300 The Atmosphere, ENSC 23800 Global Biogeochemical Cycles, and ENSC 23900 Environmental Chemistry. (Note that ENSC 23800 Global Biogeochemical Cycles is typically offered every other year.) Of ENSC/GEOS science electives, one can be a field course, and one may be ENSC 29700 Reading and Research in Environmental Science. Students participating in the Semester in Environmental Science receive credit for four courses in environmental science, two of which can be used to substitute for ENSC 24400 Ecology and Conservation and ENSC 23900 Environmental Chemistry.

The major is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate students whose primary interests cover various aspects of environmental science. Sample course schedules below give examples of course plans appropriate to students focusing on climatology, conservation, and biogeochemistry. Students with a focus on policy questions may take up to three courses in social science/public policy. These courses are available through undergraduate programs in Economics, Public Policy Studies, and Environmental Studies, or through the Harris School of Public Policy.

Because analysis of data and mathematical modeling are fundamental to environmental science, the major requires six courses in quantitative methods: a year of mathematics, one course in statistics, and two additional courses in mathematics, statistics, or computing.

Note that while students taking calculus through the more introductory MATH 13000s sequence are encouraged to complete the third quarter of calculus, MATH 13300 Elementary Functions and Calculus III, in the higher tracks Calculus III (e.g., MATH 15300 Calculus III) is not specifically required or recommended, as the first two courses offer a sufficiently comprehensive calculus training for students to move on to other courses. Depending on the choice of electives, students may credit as many as nine Mathematics/Statistics/Computing courses toward the major.

Summary of Requirements for the BS in Environmental Science

GENERAL EDUCATION  
One of the following sequences: 200

CHEM 10100
  &  10200

Introductory General Chemistry I
   and Introductory General Chemistry II
 

CHEM 11100-11200

Comprehensive General Chemistry I-II *  

CHEM 12100-12200

Honors General Chemistry I-II  
One of the following sequences: 200

MATH 13100-13200

Elementary Functions and Calculus I-II *  

MATH 15100-15200

Calculus I-II  

MATH 16100-16200

Honors Calculus I-II  
Both of the following: ** 200

BIOS 20198

Biodiversity  

GEOS 27300

Biological Evolution §  
Total Units 600
MAJOR  
ENSC 13300 The Atmosphere 100
ENSC 23800 Global Biogeochemical Cycles 100
ENSC 23900 Environmental Chemistry 100
ENSC 24400 Ecology and Conservation 100
CHEM 11300 Comprehensive General Chemistry III * 100
or CHEM 12300 Honors General Chemistry III
One of the following: 100

PHYS 12100

General Physics I * ‡  

PHYS 13100

Mechanics  

PHYS 14100

Honors Mechanics  
One of the following: 100

MATH 20000

Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences I  

MATH 20250

Abstract Linear Algebra  

PHYS 22000

Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics  

BIOS 20152

Introduction to Quantitative Modeling in Biology (Advanced)  

MATH 13300

Elementary Functions and Calculus III *  

MATH 15300

Calculus III  

MATH 16300

Honors Calculus III  
Eleven electives as follows: 1100

Four courses designated ENSC or GEOS from List E-1: Physical and Biological Sciences

 

One course from List E-2: Social Sciences

 

Three courses from List E-3: Computational Sciences, of which one must be under the heading of Statistics

 

Three more courses from any of the elective lists, but only up to two of these may be from List E-2: Social Sciences

 
Total Units 1800
*

Credit may be granted by examination.

**

Only students majoring in Environmental Science or Geophysical Sciences may use this pairing toward the general education requirement in the Biological Sciences. Environmental Science and Geophysical Sciences majors can take these courses without the BIOS prerequisites (BIOS 20150-20151/20152) unless they pursue a double major in Biological Sciences. They are expected to show competency in mathematical modeling of biological phenomena covered in BIOS 20151/20152.

§

Biological Evolution has several cross-listings; Environmental Science majors must register for the course under the GEOS 27300 listing.

PHYS 13100 or PHYS 14100 are the preferred courses. PHYS 12100 is allowable on a case-by-case basis but may not provide adequate preparation to allow for enrollment in higher level PHYS courses. Additionally, PHYS 12100 has a prerequisite of a year of Chemistry. Special petition to the department counselor is required for PHYS 12100 approval.

Lists of Elective Courses

List E-1: Physical and Biological Sciences

Environmental Science

ENSC 21100 Energy: Science, Technology, and Human Usage 100
ENSC 23805 Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry 100
ENSC 24000 Geobiology 100
ENSC 24500 Environmental Microbiology 100
ENSC 25200 Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast 100
ENSC 29700 Reading and Research in Environmental Science 100

Semester in Environmental Science/MBL

The following courses are the College designations for the Semester in Environmental Science that is taught at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. One quarter at MBL counts for four courses: ENSC 23820, ENSC 24100, ENSC 29800, and an elective of ENSC 24200, ENSC 24300, or ENSC 28100. Admission to the Semester in Environmental Science program is by application, which must be received by the MBL generally in March of the year preceding the start of the semester. Admissions decisions will generally be sent in April. Note that these courses start at the beginning of September, typically four weeks prior to the start of the College’s Autumn Quarter and are completed by the end of Autumn Quarter. More information on the course content and the application process, and deadlines can be found at https://college.uchicago.edu/academics/semester-environmental-science-ses. Students participating in the Semester in Environmental Science receive credit for four courses in environmental science, two of which can be used to substitute for ENSC 24400 Ecology and Conservation and ENSC 23900 Environmental Chemistry.

ENSC 23820 Biogeochemical Analysis in Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems – Marine Biological Laboratory 100
ENSC 24100 Ecology – Marine Biological Laboratory 100
ENSC 29800 Independent Undergraduate Research in Environmental Sciences – Marine Biological Laboratory 100
ENSC 24200 Methods in Microbial Ecology – Marine Biological Laboratory 100
ENSC 24300 Roles of Animals in Ecosystems – Marine Biological Laboratory 100
ENSC 28100 Quantitative Environmental Analyses – Marine Biological Laboratory 100

Field Courses in Environmental Science

The department sponsors field trips that range in length from one day to several weeks. Shorter field trips typically form part of lecture-based courses and are offered each year. (The trips are open to all students and faculty if space permits.) Longer trips are designed as undergraduate field courses, and one such course may be used as an elective science course for the major. Destinations of field courses have recently included Baja California and the Bahamas.

ENSC 29002 Field Course in Modern and Ancient Environments 100
ENSC 29005 Field Course in Environmental Science 100

Geophysical Sciences

GEOS 21000 Introduction to Mineralogy 100
GEOS 21400 Thermodynamics and Phase Change 100
GEOS 22060 What Makes a Planet Habitable? 100
GEOS 22200 Geochronology 100
GEOS 23205 Introductory Glaciology 100
GEOS 24220 Climate Foundations 100
GEOS 24230 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics: Foundations 100
GEOS 24240 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics: Rotation and Stratification 100
GEOS 24250 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics: Understanding the Motions of the Atmosphere and Oceans 100
GEOS 26100 Phylogenetics and the Fossil Record 100
GEOS 26300 Invertebrate Paleobiology and Evolution 100

Chemistry

CHEM 20100-20200 Inorganic Chemistry I-II 200
CHEM 22000-22100-22200 Organic Chemistry I-II-III 300
CHEM 23000-23100-23200 Honors Organic Chemistry I-II-III 300
CHEM 23300 Organic Chemistry of Proteins * 100
CHEM 26100-26200-26300 Quantum Mechanics; Thermodynamics; Chemical Kinetics and Dynamics ** 300

Biology and Ecology***

BIOS 20200 Introduction to Biochemistry 100
BIOS 22244 Introduction to Invertebrate Biology 100
BIOS 23232 Ecology and Evolution in the Southwest 100
BIOS 23252 Field Ecology 100
BIOS 23254 Mammalian Ecology 100
BIOS 23258 Molecular Evolution I: Fundamentals and Principles 100
BIOS 23266 Evolutionary Adaptation 100
BIOS 23289 Marine Ecology 100
BIOS 23404 Reconstructing the Tree of Life: An Introduction to Phylogenetics 100
BIOS 23406 Biogeography 100
BIOS 25206 Fundamentals of Bacterial Physiology 100

Physics

PHYS 12200
  &  12300
General Physics II
   and General Physics III ‡
200
PHYS 13200-13300 Electricity and Magnetism; Waves, Optics, and Heat 200
PHYS 14200-14300 Honors Electricity and Magnetism; Honors Waves, Optics, and Heat 200
PHYS 18500 Intermediate Mechanics 100
PHYS 19700 Statistical and Thermal Physics 100
PHYS 22500 Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism I 100
PHYS 22600 Electronics 100
PHYS 22700 Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism II 100
*

 Enrollment in CHEM 23300 requires a grade of C or higher in CHEM 22200 or 23200

**

 Prerequisites include MATH 20100 and PHYS 13300

***

ENSC majors can take these courses without the BIOS prerequisites (20150-20151) unless they pursue a double major in biology. Students are expected to show competency in the mathematical modeling of biological phenomena covered in BIOS 20151.

PHYS 13200-13300 or PHYS 14200-14300 are the preferred sequences. PHYS 12200-12300 is allowable on a case-by-case basis but may not provide adequate preparation to allow for enrollment in higher level PHYS courses. Special petition to the department counselor is required for PHYS 12100-12200-12300 approval.

List E-2: Social Sciences

Microeconomics foundations

Students may take one of the following:  

ECON 19800

Introduction to Microeconomics  

ECON 20000-20100

The Elements of Economic Analysis I-II *  

PBPL 20000

Economics for Public Policy  

PPHA 32300
  &  32400

Principles of Microeconomics and Public Policy I
   and Principles of Microeconomics and Public Policy II *
 

Other social science electives

(Note that many courses below require microeconomics as a prerequisite)

ECON 19900 Introduction to Macroeconomics ** 100
ECON 26500 Environmental Economics 100
ENST 24102 Environmental Politics 100
PBPL 21800 Economics and Environmental Policy 100
PBPL 23100 Environmental Law 100
PBPL 24701 U.S. Environmental Policy 100
PBPL 26530
  &  26531
Environment, Agriculture, and Food: Economic and Policy Analysis
   and Environment, Agriculture, and Food: Advanced Economic and Policy Analysis
200
PBPL 27750-27751 Practicum in Environment, Agriculture, and Food Policy I-II 200
PPHA 36921 Energy Economics and Policy 100
PPHA 36930 Environmental Economics 100
PPHA 38900 Environmental Science and Policy 100
PPHA 39901 Policy Approaches to Mitigating Climate Change 100
*

 Must be taken in sequence

**

 Acceptable only if a microeconomics course is also taken

List E-3: Computational Sciences

Mathematics

MATH 15300 Calculus III 100
or MATH 16300 Honors Calculus III
MATH 15910 Introduction to Proofs in Analysis 100
or STAT 24300 Numerical Linear Algebra
MATH 20000-20100 Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences I-II * 200
MATH 21100 Basic Numerical Analysis 100
MATH 20250 Abstract Linear Algebra 100
BIOS 20152 Introduction to Quantitative Modeling in Biology (Advanced) 100
BIOS 26210-26211 Mathematical Methods for Biological Sciences I-II 200

Physics

PHYS 22000 Introduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics ** 100
PHYS 22100 Mathematical Methods in Physics *** 100

Statistics

Students may take any course in statistics at the 22000 level or higher, but recommended courses are shown below. Some courses require one of the first three as a prerequisite.  
Students may take one of the following:  

PPHA 31200
  &  31300

Mathematical Statistics for Public Policy I
   and Mathematical Statistics for Public Policy II ‡
 

STAT 22000

Statistical Methods and Applications §§  

STAT 23400

Statistical Models and Methods ‡‡  
STAT 24400-24500 Statistical Theory and Methods I-II § 200
STAT 22400 Applied Regression Analysis 100
STAT 22600 Analysis of Categorical Data 100
STAT 26100 Time Dependent Data 100
PPHA 34600 Program Evaluation 100
The 30000 (and above) level courses listed below are a joint offering of the Department of Statistics and the Department of Public Health Studies, and may be suitable for Environmental Science majors.  
STAT 31900 Introduction to Causal Inference 100
STAT 35800 Statistical Applications 100
STAT 36900 Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis 100

Computing

GEOS 25400 Introduction to Numerical Techniques for the Geophysical Sciences 100
CMSC 12100-12200-12300 Computer Science with Applications I-II-III 300
CMSC 23710 Scientific Visualization 100
CMSC 28510 Introduction to Scientific Computing 100
*

 Recommended prerequisite is MATH 19620 or MATH 15300 or MATH 16300

**

 Would generally substitute for MATH 20000-20100

***

 Recommended in addition to MATH 20000-20100 for advanced students—covers partial differential equations

 Must be taken as a sequence

‡‡

 Higher programming component than STAT 22000

§

 Recommended for advanced students. Must be taken as a sequence to be credited. STAT 24400-24500 have no prerequisite but it is possible to take both STAT 23400 and STAT 24400-24500.

§§

AP credit for STAT 22000 does not count toward the major requirements. Students with AP credit for STAT 22000 should plan to take at least three other courses from List E-3: Computational Sciences, one of which must be under the heading of Statistics.

  • Application
  • Personal Statement
  • Application Fee or Automatic Fee Waiver
  • Secondary School Report and Transcript
  • Two Teacher Evaluations
  • Standardized Test Scores. We understand that access to the SAT and ACT is not available in all countries. While we hope that you will make your best effort to take one of these tests if you can, we will give full consideration to the applications without an ACT or SAT score from students in these countries.
  • Midyear Report (first-year applicants only)
  • English Language Proficiency Test Scores (international applicants only). The University of Chicago only admits students who have demonstrated a superior level of English language competence: we strongly recommend a score of 100 or higher on the Internet-Based TOEFL or 600 or higher on the Paper-Based TOEFL. Minimum required scores on the IELTS (students must take the Academic test, not the General Training test) are an overall score of 7, with subscores of 7 each. The minimum acceptable score on the PTE is 70.
  • College Official's Report and Transcript (transfer students only)
  • Financial Aid Application
  • Interview

Scholarships

First-year international applicants are eligible for both need-based and merit-based aid.

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