EEPS 2910H: Geophysical Phenomena Across the Solar System

Instructor:                    Alex Evans

Arnold Lab 409,, x3-1287

Course Website: 

Time and Location:       T/Th 10:30am-11:50am in TBD

This graduate level course will survey the current state of knowledge for geophysical processes and mechanisms related to the formation and evolution of terrestrial bodies within the inner Solar System and will incorporate case study investigations of outer Solar System worlds (excluding gas giants). The course will apply fundamental science concepts in physics and chemistry to examine key topics within planetary geophysics, including planet-wide magma oceans, planetary collisions and impacts, volcanism, tectonics, and magnetism. Course is formatted to allow for lecture content and presentation and discussion of relevant themes and concepts. No prior background in the geological sciences is required.


Date Topic Milestones
Thu, 27-Jan Overviews of Course, Project, and Team Structures
Tue, 01-Feb Lecture on Planet Formation / Knowledge/ Structure
Thu, 03-Feb Formulating a Good Research Project: A Panel
Tue, 08-Feb Planetary Differentiation I
Thu, 10-Feb Planetary Differentiation II
Tue, 15-Feb Core Dynamos / Magnetic Fields I
Thu, 17-Feb Core Dynamos / Magnetic Fields II
Tue, 22-Feb No Class: Long Weekend
Thu, 25-Feb Lecture; Mantle Thermochemical Evolution I
Tue, 01-Mar Mantle Thermochemical Evolution II
Thu, 03-Mar Lecture on Gravity, Loading, and Flexure
Tue, 08-Mar No Class: Lunar and Planetary Science Conference Week
Thu, 10-Mar No Class: Lunar and Planetary Science Conference Week
Tue, 15-Mar Gravity & Loading I Project Topic Approval
Thu, 17-Mar Gravity & Loading II
Tue, 22-Mar Lecture on Impacts; Impacts I
Thu, 24-Mar Impacts II
Tue, 29-Mar No Class: Spring Recess
Thu, 31-Mar No Class: Spring Recess
Tue, 05-Apr Fracturing and Porosity I
Thu, 07-Apr Fracturing and Porosity II
Tue, 12-Apr Tectonics I
Thu, 14-Apr Tectonics II Draft Project
Tue, 19-Apr Creep and Relaxation I
Thu, 21-Apr Creep and Relaxation II
Tue, 26-Apr Europa
Thu, 28-Apr Psyche
Tue, 03-May Pluto
Thu, 05-May Hot Topics I Final Project Due
Tue, 10-May Hot Topics II

The Grading Scheme

Literature presentation & discussion leadership (30%)
Class attendance & participation (25%)
Synthesis (10%)
Draft paper outline (10%)
Final paper (25%)

The majority of this seminar relies on reading and discussing book chapters and journal articles therefore attendance and participation of each student is crucial and will make up 25% your grade. All students are expected to submit (at least) 2 questions via the course website, 24 hours prior to class. Submitted questions will count towards your participation grade for that class.

Topics for the seminar are outlined above. Students will choose at least two topics to act as discussion leads – one as primary lead and one as secondary lead. The secondary lead will be responsible for writing a one-page summary (synthesis) of the discussion to be submitted via Canvas by Monday 5 PM of the following week. Roughly half the class period should be spent presenting material covered in the readings as well as relevant background material. This could also include presentation of material from more recent work and/or potentially conflicting hypotheses. For the remainder of the period the leaders (primary and second) are expected to guide class discussion in a structured way using their own and submitted questions. Helpful hint: Discussion facilitation will benefit from having all the paper figures easily accessible.

The primary leader is responsible for presentation and leading the discussion along with the secondary leader. Both should meet together before the class period to develop their presentation and discussion questions.

Presentations for which you are the discussion leader will be graded on a three-point scale. This system tries to differentiate between gaps in understanding that are easily addressed – i.e., not understanding what this figure is showing or not knowing what a technical term means – and gaps in conceptual understanding that should be part of the in-class discussion. Please note that this grading scale is not black and white, but should provide some sense on how the presentation and discussion quality and preparation will be assessed.

  • Score of 3: All important paper material is covered and clearly explained. Background materials from other sources and/or relevant concepts are discussed (if necessary or useful). Discussion lead provides some creative/critical analysis (e.g., extrapolation to the next step; comparison to other papers and studies we have discussed).
  • Score of 2: Most important paper material is covered. Some discussion of background material is provided.
  • Score of 1: Discussion of important material is flawed or incomplete. Presentation reveals gaps in understanding that could have been easily been clarified by consulting other sources.

The synthesis will be graded as follows:

  • Score of 2: All important discussion aspects and the diversity of opinions are adequately captured.
  • Score of 1: Synthesis of discussion is flawed or incomplete. Summary does not adequately capture breadth of discussion.

The final paper for the course should center on an outstanding problem related to geophysical phenomena and must contain original research and/or original analysis.

A preliminary project title will be due week 6. You must meet with the instructor prior to the due date to receive approval of your topic. In the case where two students propose the same or very similar topics, they will be advised on how to break up the topic into separate, non-overlapping portions or to pick new topics. Note that your chosen discussion topics do not dictate your final project topic, however it may be advantageous for you to choose related topics.

The draft project abstract, due week 11 is a 1 to 2 page LPI conference style abstract (see template here: outlining the topic of your final project.

The final project abstract, due initially during week 14 with modifications allowed through the end of the reading period, is a 2 to 3 page LPI conference style abstract (see template here: Please note that figures and references are included in this limit.


Textbook and 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.