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 2022 | FALL 2021 | SPRING 2021

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.



12.094/12.s590 Understanding earthquake hazard: from seconds to centuries
Instructor: Cattania
Units: 6
Schedule: TTH 11am-12:30pm
Location: TBD
Description: Overview of the scientific and societal challenges posed by earthquakes as an example of natural hazards. Outlines physical principles controlling earthquake occurrence, from tectonic forces acting over centuries to wave propagation during seismic events. Includes historical prospectives on earthquake prediction and discusses current mitigation measures, including long-term hazard models, building codes, and earthquake early warning, using case studies from around the world. Other sources of hazard (volcanic eruptions, tsunami, landslides) will also be discussed.

12.s493 Forensics of Food
Instructor: Summons
Schedule: Th 3:30-5pm
Location: E25-605
In this seminar each participant will present 1 to 2 seminars on research pertaining to the microbiology and chemistry of food preservation and utilization present and past. Appropriate topics include how geochemical tools (isotopes and molecules) can be used to discern food preservation methods, food provenance and the role of these processes in human health and development. A particular focus will be the application of geochemical tools to the analysis of archaeological remains.

12.S591 Special Seminar in Geophysics
Instructor: Frank
Units: 6 [P/D/F]
Schedule: M 2-4pm
Location: 54-209
Description: Overview of recent research in geophysics, including but not limited to earthquake seismology and geodesy, glacial dynamics, fault rheology, and experimental petrology. The course will include a reading component (2-3 papers) and student-led in-class discussion. Every other week, external speakers will give an invited lecture followed by discussion. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with invited speakers throughout the day.The class is geared towards advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Interested faculty, researchers and postdocs are welcome to participate.

12.S597 Humanity, the Earth system, and the long-term future
Instructor: Rothman
Units: 6
Schedule: F 2:30-4pm
Location: 56-169
Description: Human actions are drastically and irreversibly modifying the Earths system, yet this is the very system upon which our survival as a species depends. Could such actions lead to our own destruction? If so, how? And what should we do about it? This seminar aims to address these questions, integrating perspectives spanning the Earth sciences, social sciences, and philosophy. Topics include nuclear winter, global warming, how to reason about future human welfare and present-day costs, how to do so while considering uncertainty and low-probability catastrophic outcomes, pandemics and Earth system change, and technology as an increasingly autonomous or perhaps even geological phenomenon. We end by discussing physical, social, and dynamical aspects of achieving long-term sustainability on a planetary scale.

12.S680 Exoplanet Atmospheres
Instructor: Seager
Units: 6
Schedule: Th 9-10:30AM
Description: This is a project-based class where each student will choose a research project in exoplanet atmospheres to complete during the course. Instruction will cover fundamentals needed to pursue the research project, possibly including including transmission, reflection, and emission spectroscopy, molecular cross sections, equilibrium chemistry, 1D temperature structure, cloud formation, and telescope noise. Students will gain a working knowledge of exoplanet atmospheres as well as a practical set of computer simulation tools via publicly available codes.  


FALL 2021

12.091/12.S597 The Persistence of Earth's Biosphere
Instructor: Rothman
Units: TBD [P/D/F]
Schedule: F 2:30-4pm
Location: TBD
Description: Earth has undergone many dramatic perturbations throughout its history, yet life on Earth has continuously persisted for nearly 4 billion years. Why is that? The Gaia hypothesis — the idea that life acts to stabilize its own environment — is one potential explanation, but it suffers from a lack of clarity and an apparent conflict with standard ideas of evolutionary biology. This seminar examines how Earth's biosphere may have contributed to its own billion-year persistence, focusing on how stabilizing behavior could arise through Darwinian selection operating at smaller scales. The emerging story encompasses questions regarding the existence and dynamical evolution of biogeochemical cycles, planetary habitability more broadly, and the apparent absence of life elsewhere in the universe. We close by considering the implications for the resilience and future of Earth's biosphere in the Anthropocene epoch.

12.S591 Special Seminar in Geophysics
Instructor: Cattania
Units: 6 [P/D/F]
Schedule: T 3-5pm
Location: 54-209
Description: Overview of classical papers and recent research in geophysics. Fields to be covered include geodesy and earthquake physics (e.g. tectonic earthquakes, induced seismicity, glacial earthquakes). The course will include a reading component (2-3 papers) and student led in class discussion. Every other week, external speakers will give an invited lecture followed by discussion. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with invited speakers throughout the day.The class is geared towards advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Interested faculty, researchers and postdocs are welcome to participate.

12.S593 Phytoplankton: from Cellular Physiology to Global Ecology
Instructor: Follows
Units: 6 [P/D/F]
Schedule: F 1-3pm
Location: 54-824
Description: Special seminar in phytoplankton physiology. Marine phytoplankton are responsible for half of the world’s primary production. They are functionally and taxonomically extremely diverse. In addition to photosynthesis, many participate in complex trophic lifestyles and have evolved elegant solutions to the complexities of resource availability and mortality. We will read and discuss a series of classic papers on the physiology and ecology of marine phytoplankton encompassing the relationships between population growth and resource availability, predator-prey interactions, resource allocation and elemental composition, how competition and mutualism shape populations, and the application of remote sensing and numerical simulations in studies of phytoplankton. Weekly discussions will center around a focal journal article will be accompanied by background readings to reinforce key concepts. This course is best suited for graduate students, but undergraduates are encouraged to seek instructor permission if interested.
Grading: PDF

12.s595 Geophysics Field Course
Instructors: B. Minchew, W. Frank
Units: 3
Schedule: F 3-4pm
Location: 54-824
This seminar is part of the geophysics field course sequence and will prepare students to conduct fieldwork during IAP 2022. The seminar will involve practice fieldwork in the local area and background reading and exercises. The practice fieldwork will allow students to familiarize themselves with geophysical methods that we will use in the field, such as active seismics, GPS positioning, and, if possible, mapping using drones. The background reading and exercises will familiarize everyone with the field site and relevant processes that we will observe and study in the field.


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.