Course Overview, Logistics and Policies#

Welcome to Fundamentals of Solid Earth Science! In the interests of keeping important material somewhere easy to find, this document contains useful information about the course, what will happen when, and our general class policies. If you have any questions or concerns about the information presented here, or about something not covered, please contact Dr. Moulik.



This course provides a quantitative introduction to the geosciences, focusing on the physical, chemical, and biological processes that created and continually influence the habitable conditions on our planet. Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, surface & interior form a coupled system, interacting through processes that operate over a wide range of spatial & temporal scales. Various physical, chemical & biological processes, such as meteorite impacts, glaciation & erosion, erase the geological memory of Earth’s outermost layers. The solid interior, in contrast, harbors the long-term memory of transformations that shape our planet. These include accretion & the evolution of the crust, mantle & core through differentiation, plate tectonics, climate change & anthropogenic forcing. Human interactions with the solid interior include extraction of natural resources and engineering to mitigate the effects of environmental risks and disasters. We will end with the evolution of life and climate, long-term transformations that are either recorded by or have feedbacks with the solid Earth.

When and where does the class meet?#

Note that most lecture sessions will include in-class activities that require your participation (e.g. using iClicker), as well as opportunities for you to ask questions and give input – and it is important for you to realize that YOU are a critical component of the community of learning we seek to develop. In the precepts, we cover material that expands upon and complements lecture, and focus on concepts and tools needed for the problem sets. If you have an important religious observance, health issue, or other conflict that causes you to miss a significant number of classes, talk to us as soon as you know.

  • Lectures: L01 Tues/Thurs 3:00-4:20 in Guyot 220 (one floor above the giant globe)

  • Precepts: in Guyot 178; enrollment to be adjusted/rearranged at the first class meeting.

    • P01 Thursdays 10:00-10:50am

    • P02 Fridays 1:30-2:20pm


The Canvas site is managed via “Modules” in the left-hand menu. There is a module for staff information, problem sets, and then modules for each week of the course where we will post details about readings, materials, etc. for the lecture and precept sessions. iClicker: We will be using iClicker to make our class time more engaging. This will help us understand what you know, give everyone a chance to participate, and increase how much you learn in class. You are required to participate with the iClicker student app on a smartphone, tablet or laptop.


Single variable calculus is a prerequisite for the class - we’ll integrate, differentiate, and use simple logarithms and basic statistics. We’ll also use Python in several problem sets (free to download), but this will be introduced in precept so no prior knowledge of is needed. If you are concerned your background may not have prepared you for this course (it probably has…) please talk to Dr. Moulik.

Textbook and other readings#

The required textbook is Earth, Portrait of a Planet by Stephen Marshak, 7th edition, 2022, Norton Publishers. Hard copies of the text are available at Labyrinth. Used copies, E-textbook, loose-leaf and rental versions are also available via other sellers.

For topics not sufficiently covered in EPP, there will be a few readings from other books, which will be provided via Canvas (following Fair Use Provisions of US copyright law). Please refer to the online syllabus for an updated list.


Your final course grade will be based on five components weighted as follows:

  • Mid-Term Exam: 20%·

  • Final exam (non-cumulative): 30%

  • Problem sets: 50% This component includes three subsets that will be added to arrive at an average score.

    1. Quizzes on Reading assignments: 10% These are short assignments, posted on and submitted online via Canvas, and due at the start of lectures. They are designed to “warm you up” for lecture and encourage you to stay up to date with the reading. They are graded on a scale of 0-2, with 0 indicating no attempt, 2 indicating a thoughtful and solid effort, and 1 somewhere in between.

    2. Class Attendance and Participation through iClicker: 5% We will assess your collegiality, teamwork and the ability to influence outcomes during group exercises and field excursions. Class participation will be recorded through the iClicker app, and a summary score will be calculated for the entire semester.

    3. Precept Problem Sheets: 35% The lowest score of the problem sets you have properly attempted and turned in will be dropped when we calculate your problem set average – so one bad week will not unduly impact your grade (if you make sure you understand what went wrong). If you completely skip a problem set, however, this does not apply - you’ll get a “0” on that problem set and it will figure into your problem set average.

Late work policy#

Over the semester you will be allowed two days of late turn-in of problem sets – either used together or separately. Work handed in after this will be subject to a 25% penalty for each day of lateness, so that work more than three days late will get a mark of zero. If you are unwell or have another extenuating circumstance, please talk to your residential college dean, director of studies, and us so that we can consider appropriate accommodations.

Accessibility and accommodations#

We want this class to be accessible to everyone taking it. If there is something hindering your learning (or enjoyment) of this course, please talk to us, either after class, in private during office hours, or contact us by email. For academic accommodations in assessments, the Office of Disability Services works with students to evaluate what is needed. They can be contacted by email: and telephone: 609-258-8840.

Field opportunities#

We plan to run fieldwork opportunities on three weekend days. One will focus on regional geology of New Jersey, and another on the application of geophysical field techniques. The third field trip will involve a trip to the American Museum of Natural History to visit the Hall of Planet Earth, Hall of the Universe, and the newly renovated Halls of Gems and Minerals. You are required to attend two of the three opportunities, but of course are welcome on all three!

Class Etiquette#

Please be prompt to lecture and precept. Laptop/tablet use in lectures is permitted but not necessarily recommended as it often leads to checking email, social media or browsing the internet. This hinders your learning, distracts those around you and has a negative influence on the classroom climate we are trying to foster. If you must use your laptop/tablet, please do so only for taking notes and participating in class activities. Violations will lead to a suspension of laptop/tablet use during lecture.

Also, please keep your cell phones on silent and only use it for the iClicker responses. If there is something that needs your immediate attention (and really, most things can wait…!), please leave the room, attend to it and return. We want to foster a class environment where we solicit and learn different perspectives on all topics pertaining to the solid Earth. No electronic recording devices are allowed in the lectures and precepts. Please talk to Dr. Moulik if this restriction will hinder your learning.

Class attendance policy#

We will take attendance in lectures. Some of the lectures will include calculations on the blackboard and will therefore not be available to those who skip class. If you are absent from class, ask a classmate if you may borrow their notes. In addition, mid-lecture activities will form part of many of the problem sets. Precepts often form the starting portion of the problem sets. We strongly encourage you to attend both lectures and precepts! If you miss a class for a pre-excused reason, or due to illness, we will work with you to re-create or summarize missed activities.

If you are an athlete who will be absent for competitive reasons, have an important religious observance, or an equivalent conflict, talk to Dr. Moulik as soon as you know you will be away from classes. Academic Integrity: Intellectual honesty is the foundation of the academic community, and the submission of original work is the basis for the evaluation of your academic work. For these reasons, all students are expected to abide by the Honor Code and to complete their own work in accordance with the University’s academic regulations. More guidance can be found in the University’s Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities as well as in the University’s booklet Academic Integrity at Princeton. We will refer any suspected infractions of the honor code to the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline or the Honor Committee, in accordance with the University policy. You are encouraged to form groups to review course material and work on problem sets. But the problem sets you submit for grading must represent your own work, be in your own words, and represent your own understanding of the material. Activities carried out in class or precept may also be conducted in groups, but any work turned in must be your own unless group work is specifically permitted by the activity. Direct copying is not permitted and will be considered an academic integrity violation.

Specific requirements:

  • Problem sets: At the end of each problem set, type the following sentence and sign your name: “This paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations.” Then, since you will be submitting these electronically, type your name preceded by the notation /s/, which stands for “signature.” If you have worked with other students on the assignment, you should also list their names.

  • Exams: On exams, you will be prompted to write out and sign the honor pledge: “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.”

  • iClicker: iClicker activities fall under the provisions of our campus academic honesty policy. Students must not engage in academic dishonesty while participating in iClicker activities. This includes but is not limited to:

    • Checking in while not physically in class

    • Having another student check you into class

    • Looking at other students’ devices while answering live questions

    • Using more than one iClicker remote or account at a time

These signed pledges symbolize your adherence to the University’s core values of honesty and integrity in intellectual work.

Plan for the semester#

Please note that the topics in the online syllabus might be modified based on progress and reading assignments will be posted on Canvas. We will keep you informed of relevant updates in class and via Canvas if necessary.