EEPS 1745: Planetary System Design

Instructor:                    Alex Evans

Online Office Hours by Appointment


**Put ‘EEPS 1745’ in subject of any email sent to Prof. Evans regarding class**

Course Website:        TBA

Time and Location:       T/Th 2:30pm-3:50pm via Canvas/Zoom

Syllabus PDF –>

For non-DEEPS graduate students: If your department requires additional coursework for this class to be considered a graduate course, see the additional requirement here ->

Course Description:

Introduction to the research process for planetary systems. This upper-level undergraduate course includes a lecture phase that covers an overview of planetary science, the research project(s) to be pursued, problem-solving, scientific writing, communications, and diversity and bias in the field of planetary science. Subsequently, students experience the latest practices in planetary research by forming sub-project teams and collectively designing and planning a research project. Effective team and communication skills are emphasized. Scientific writing and presentations are required throughout, culminating in the final paper and public presentation.This course will be submitted for special designations in writing (WRIT), race, gender, and inequality (DIAP), and collaborative research & scholarly experiences (COEX).


The following courses are recommended prerequisites (and/or permission of the Professor):

  • MATH 0090, 0100;
  • PHYS 0030, 0040 or 0050, 0060 or 0070; and,
  • EEPS 0250, 0220,1610, 1810, or 1950H

Learning Goals

The intended purposes and desired achievements of this course are listed below.

  • Ability to work in groups and acquaintance with techniques needed to create effective teams
  • Development of communication skills, both in writing and for presentations
  • Understanding of the appropriate level of modeling and analyses needed to submit an article to a peer-reviewed scientific journal
  • Ability to use an informed decision-making process in order to answer a relevant, scientific question
  • Familiarize students with modeling and analytical issues arising from research of planetary geophysical
  • Acquaint students with the research process for planetary geophysical processes, including identification of a valid and relevant question, evaluation and assessment of the methods to answer the question, execution of a research project to get an answer to the relevant scientific question, and communication of the results to a broader audience.
  • Introduce students to non-technical research drivers such as time and other resource limitations
  • Introduce students to realistic review and research methodology practiced by researchers in planetary geophysical systems
  • Introduce students to the importance of iteration and processes of revision, learning from failure, and acknowledging and building on the work of others.

Learning Outcomes

The intended outcomes of this course are listed below.

  • Work effectively and collaborate in teams by holding efficient meetings, distributing work effectively, setting realistic goals and deadlines, and managing conflicts smoothly
  • Write a mission statement, objectives, and requirements, and identify research drivers, constraints, and alternative approaches
  • Perform a research project in the field of planetary geophysics
  • Generate a written summary of the work.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Bias (DIAP) in Planetary Science and Teams

Recent research in earth and planetary sciences have identified that there has been little to no progress on diversity in the field over the last forty years and that earth sciences is the least diverse of all STEM fields (e.g., Bernard et al., 2018).  Across a set of at least four class session, we will examine the ways in which the structures, institutions, practices, and attitudes within the field enable and maintain structural inequality within the earth sciences with an emphasis on planetary science and mission teams.  We will also examine the role that the power structures within science (e.g., missions, conferences, government, and academia) have in these contexts. Associated class sessions will include exercises and discourses on race, power, and privilege that will be used to produce a series of practices (derived from recommendations of previous work) that can be applied in our class and beyond ­to generate and sustain an inclusive environment.

Collaborative Research and Scholarly Experiences (COEX)

This course will engage students in addressing a research question of interest to the planetary science community. The course is designed to allow students to engage in scientific research practices used for disciplines within planetary systems. Students will explore scientific questions where the outcome is not known to the students nor the instructor, allowing for the potential of generating new knowledge and insights that has potential impact beyond the classroom. The research will take place through project and sub-project teams that allow for the giving and receiving of regular peer feedback, pooling of data, and sharing interpretations of results.

The Work Expectations

Over 14 weeks, students will spend an average of ~12.8 hours per week on the class (180 hours total). One lecture week will account for 2.7 hours per week (37.3 hours), weekly assessments over the final ten weeks of the class are expected to take ~15 mins each (2.5 hrs), and the planetary science project review is expected to take ~15 hours.  In addition, the preparation for weekly team presentations is expected to take approximately 0.5 hours per week for 7 weeks (~3.5 hours) and the preparation of the research project (including associated writing projects, final presentation, draft and final text writing, and meetings and project work outside of class) is estimated to total approximately 120 hours over the course of the term. Workload was estimated using online tool at There are no midterm exams and no final examination associated with this course.

Tentative Schedule

Note: Dates, topics, and assignment dates are subject to change. All changes will be announced during class time. Students are responsible for keeping up-to-date on changes to syllabus and coordinating with classmates to obtain any lecture material missed during absences.

Course Grading Scheme

  1. Previous Planetary Science Project Review (10%)
  2. Weekly self-assessments of attendance & participation(10%)
  3. Team evaluations (10%)
  4. Proposal of Methodology and Scope (>4 pages) (10%)
  5. Proof-of-Concept (10%)
  6. Research Updates(10%)
  7. Draft project text for final paper (3%)
  8. Final paper (> 6 pages) (17%)
  9. Final project presentation (20%)

The majority of this course relies on completing a team-based research project and collaboration, therefore attendance and participation of each student is crucial and will make up 20% your grade (combination of self-assessments and team evaluations). Attendance at lectures is mandatory.

Presentations will be graded on Organization (20%), Topic Knowledge (20%), Audience Adaptation, (20%), Language (20%), and Delivery (20%). The grading rubric is provided on course website, but a parent version of the rubric can be viewed here.

Writing projects will be graded on the Introduction (10%), Focus and Sequencing (10%), Research (30%), Support Sources (10%), Conclusion (10%), Formatting (10%), Style and Communication (10%), and Citations (10%). The grading rubric is provided on course website, but a parent version of the rubric can be viewed here. Students will receive substantive feedback on the text for the (1) written proposal of methodology and scope and (2) the draft of the final paper. The feedback provided and revisions requested in each of these assignments should be incorporated into the final paper. Writing assignments will follow AGU Science Writing Guidelines.

Textbook and Pre-Class Reading Assignments

There is no textbook assigned for this course. Readings will be provided by instructor and may consist of excerpts from books, papers, online media, or other materials specifically developed for this course.

Diversity and Inclusion

The instructor is committed to creating and sustaining a learning environment for all students that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, experiences, and identities. Please feel free to communicate to the instructor suggestions on ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally, or for other students or student groups. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated.


The instructor is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform the instructor early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with the instructor after class or during office hours. For more information, please contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office.