EAPS Seminars and Special Offerings

Interested in cross registration and need more information? Visit our Cross-Registration page for a summary of useful links.

SPRING 2021 | FALL 2020 | SPRING 2020 |

PLEASE NOTE:  Subjects listed on this page are being taught under a Special Problems number, used for one time only classes. The title and description that you will see on the Registrar's and pre-registration sites will NOT match what you see here. They will list the general info that applies to all terms and years. Register for the right number, and you will be in the class you want.



12.091/ 12.s489 The Grand Challenge:  Making Geological Carbon Sequestration Applicable
Instructors:  B. Hager, O. Jagouts, M. Pec
Units: TBA  [P/D/F]
Schedule:  M 1-3:00pm
Location: Virtual
In this seminar, we will discuss proposed technologies for negative Carbon emissions. The class is separated in three parts: In the first part of class we will review the observations that indicate that negative carbon emission technology (NET) is essential to prevent a climate disaster. We will briefly discuss NET’s that not necessarily rely on a geological and geophysical expertise. In the second and third part of the class we focus in depth and two NETs that are at the heart of EAPS expertise: Mineral Carbonatization and Geological Carbon storage. We will discuss the basic concepts of these NET’s, and the problems, possible solutions and knowledge gaps that should be filled with future science.

We will discuss one (or two) papers per week, students registered for the class choose topics to present, meet with the appropriate course leader, read additional background literature (3-5 papers), check in with the course leader about the presentation and then present a short introduction to the topic and lead the in class discussion.  The class is open to anyone but best suited for advanced undergraduates, graduate students and postdoc. We also invite any faculty, researchers interested in this subject to participate.

12.S591 Earthquake dynamics and source physics
Instructor: C. Cattania & W. Frank
Units: 9  [P/D/F]
Schedule: TTh 11:00am - 12:30pm
Location: Virtual

Overiew of outstanding questions in earthquake science and recent research.  Fields to be covered include, but are not limited to" earthquake physics, statistical seismology, source modeling, numerical fault modeling, and earthquake geodesy.  Course includes a weekly lecture compnent to introduce topics to cover, followed up by readings and discussions. 

12.S593  The Balance of Nature
Instructor: Rothman
Units: 6  [P/D/F]
Schedule: W 2:30 - 4:00pm
Location: Virtual

The natural world has long been perceived to be an expression of an exquisite equilibrium---the "balance of nature."  Although the notionof balance seems obviously at odds with the episodic evolution of Earth and life, its modern cousin---the pervasive assumption of steady states in the Earth system---is alive and well, despite its likely irrelevance.  Why is this so? And what are the alternatives?  In the first half of this seminar course, we examine the history of the idea of the balance of nature, with particular attention to changing views of mass extinction.  We then consider alternative models in which the coevolution of many components results in periods of punctuated change away from equilibrium.  We close with an examination of an attempt to explain coevolutionary change toward equilibrium---the Gaia hypothesis.

Participation is open to all, including undergraduates.  More information, including the syllabus, is available at the Canvas site, https://canvas.mit.edu/courses/8999.

12.S595 Special Sem in Geophysics
Instructor: Minchew
Units: 6  [P/D/F]
Schedule: TTh 3-4:30PM
Location: Virtual

The Antarctic Ice Sheet forms a unique part of the climate system. It is the world's largest ice sheet, desert, and wetland. It bounds the Southern Ocean and supplies much of the cold, salty water found in the deepest parts of the oceans. It supports rich ecosystems by eroding and transporting minerals that it expels along with large volumes of freshwater. Antarctica is changing rapidly as the climate warms and poses the greatest risk for rapid sea-level rise.
We will examine the various connections between the Antarctic Ice Sheet, the climate system, and the solid Earth.  Each week, we will focus on a new topic, with the Tuesday classes focused on seminal papers and foundational learning, and the Thursday classes focused on current work and key unknowns. Discussions will be led by students registered for the course and anyone else who is interested. Topics will include ice sheet stability and the drivers of ice sheet change, responses of the climate system to changes in the ice sheet, and paleo evidence for past changes in the ice sheet.

12.S597 Graduate Writing Seminar for EAPS Students
Instructor: T. Bosak
Units: 6 [P/D/F]
Location: Virtual

Graduate work in EAPS and later professional activities require writing, revising, and peer-review skills. Graduate students will develop these skills by working on drafts of a writing project. Depending on the stage in their graduate studies, this can include short proposals, journal articles, generals papers, teaching and research statements and other examples of professional writing. The students will present outlines and progress on the projects and develop continuous writing habits by writing during and outside of class time and discussing their writing with peers and the instructor. Guest lecturers will discuss common examples of writing products, criteria for successful teaching and research statements at their institutions and guidelines and tips for peer review. Participants are expected to spend six hours per week on this class—2 hours per week in class and 4 on the related reading and writing outside of class. Interested upper-level undergraduates can take the course for credit after contacting the instructor.

12.S680 Special Topics in Planetary Science - Exoplanet Atmospheres
Instructor:  S. Seager
Units: 12 (Letter Grade)
Schedule: W 9:00am - 12:00pm
Location: Virtual

This graduate-level class aims to give participants both a general understanding of the theory of exoplanet atmospheres and a working knowledge of a practical set of computer simulation tools via publicly available codes.  The class will cover an overview of the fundamentals in exoplanet atmospheres including transmission, reflection, and emission spectroscopy, molecular cross sections, equilibrium chemistry, 1D temperature structure, cloud formation, and telescope noise. While each sub topic alone would be a semester-long class, here we aim for a deep conceptual understanding. This is a hands-on class. Students will be expected to lead discussion of one or two journal articles (either review and/or  topical) and download, run, and help each other debug computer codes. Each weekly three hour session will be split into theory and computer code application. 

FALL 2020

12.S593 Special Seminar in EAPS (Proposals, Papers and Pathways)
Instructor: P. O'Gorman
Units: Arranged [P/D/F]
Schedule: Th 9-10:30am
Location: Virtual

This seminar will build skills for writing scientific proposals and papers, and it will also facilitate investigation of career pathways. Topics covered include scientific writing and graphics, peer review, proposal writing for grants and fellowships, and exploration of academic and non-academic careers.



12.091/12.S593 What drives long-term climate variations?
Instructors: O. Jagoutz and D. McGee
Units: 2-0-4 P/F
Schedule: W 2-4pm, 54-517
Prerequisites: None. Intended for upper-level undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs; undergraduates who have taken 12.001 or 12.003 will get more from the seminar.

In this seminar we will explore the driving forces for climate variations on long geological timescales. The seminar is a combination of students presenting selected papers and researchers presenting their own work in these areas.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Driving forces for long-term changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide: What processes control the atmospheric carbon dioxide level? It has been postulated that either variations in carbon sources (volcanism, metamorphism, organic carbon) or sinks (enhanced chemical weathering, organic carbon burial) drive atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, yet both are controlled by tectonic processes. So how do tectonic processes affect these sources and sinks? What is the role of plate motions and volcanism in shifting Earth’s climate between greenhouse and icehouse states? How can different hypotheses be tested?
  • Tectonics and ocean/atmospheric circulation: How did changes in ocean gateways (Drake passage, Central American seaway, Tethyan seaway, Maritime continent) alter ocean circulation, and what effects did these circulation changes have on global climate? What were the impacts of uplift (Tibet, western North America, Andes) and plate motions (supercontinent formation, growth of an equatorial Maritime continent) on atmospheric circulation? How can model experiments and data help us explore these questions?
  • Climate and weathering: What changes in globally-averaged weathering and landscape evolution have accompanied the decreasing mean global temperature and increased climate variability of the last 5 million years?


Classes will revolve around discussion with short lectures as necessary. Students that take the class for credit are required to present papers and lead discussions for one class session.

12.S493 Molecular Biogeochemistry Seminnar
Instructor: Roger Summons
Schedule: Th 2-3:30pm, E25-605

Evaluation: Evaluation for 12.S493 will be continuous 100% for weekly participation in the class discussion.

Content: Detailed surveys and critiques of current literature on topics of particular interest to current EAPS Geobioologists. Depending on individual interests we will choose from:

Potential Topics:

  • Weird biomarker reports
  • Biomarkers over the Precambrian-Cambrian transition & advent of complex life
  • Biomarkers for processes taking place during Oceanic Anoxic Events
  • Lipid biomarkers as tools for archeological and prehistory investigations
  • Biosynthetic pathways; biomarker relationships to physiology and phylogeny
  • Biomarker taphonomy
  • Pigment biomarker analysis and interpretation
  • Advanced analytical techniques to study lipid biomarkers

12.S489 The Field Geology of Scotland
Instructor: Tanja Bosak
Units: 3
Schedule: F 1-3pm, 54-517

Description:  Graduate students will meet weekly to plan the Crosby field trip to Scotland, currently scheduled for June 2020. Students will learn how to prepare for and organize field trips. The participants will define the itinerary using existing field trip guides, identify scientific topics relevant to the proposed field sites to present in class and in the field, take charge of logistical details (itinerary, accommodation, transportation, food), assemble materials and tools needed for the trip and prepare their own field guide. Students from all parts of the Earth sciences are encouraged to participate; GGG students will be given preference if the trip is oversubscribed.

12.S592 Machine Learning Foundations with Systems Science: Deep Learning Edition
Schedule:  F 9am - noon, 54-1623
Teaches Machine Learning Foundations with application to Science and Engineering, using a distinct approach that arises from its intricate connection to Dynamics and Optimization. The topics covered are divided into preparatory, core and advanced material that pedagogically complement other courses offered at the Institute and elsewhere. Preparatory material is covered every term. Core material is covered in round-robin fashion. Select topics are covered by participant interest. Currently, we are studying the myriad aspects of Deep Learning with application to the Earth, Planets, Climate and Life. 

Participants typically undertake a project or finish PSETs and participation has extended across terms in the past to cycle through core material.  In addition to lectures, participants of this course also have access to Machine Learning consultation for incorporating ML algorithms and thinking in their work using a fairly strong pool emerging from prior years. Come join a rapidly growing peer group in this exciting area of Science and Computing.  For more information, please visit: http://essg.mit.edu/ml
Instructor: Ravela