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College of Engineering

Geological Engineering

Geological Engineering Curriculum
Geological Engineering Electives
Honors in Research

2228 Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3491; www.gle.wisc.edu

Professors Benson (chair), Anderson, Bahr, Edil, Feigl, Goodwin, Tobin, Tikoff, Wang, Wu; Associate Professor Fratta; Assistant Professors Loheide, Schneider, Tinjum

Geological engineering integrates two disciplines—geology and engineering. Geologists study the earth—its origins, its composition, and its evolution. Engineers apply scientific principles to practical ends, such as the design and construction of facilities for practical use by society. Geological engineering is interdisciplinary with faculty from the College of Engineering and the College of Letters & Science.

Geological engineers find the best way to use the earth's resources to solve technical problems while protecting the environment. They solve a variety of practical problems associated with rock and soils using principles of sustainable engineering. They design and construct structures, transportation facilities, dams, tunnels, and power plants. They mitigate naturally occurring phenomena such as floods, landslides, and earthquakes, and develop safe and environmentally sound sources of energy and minerals. Geological engineers also manage groundwater and surface water resources to ensure the public has access to safe drinking water. They also design and construct subsurface repositories for waste disposal and remediate contaminated sites.

Students pursuing the B.S. degree are encouraged to obtain an additional major in geoscience. The B.S. program is set up so that students can obtain a degree in geological engineering and an additional major in geoscience in a single 125-credit program. No extra credits are required to obtain the additional major in geoscience. The B.S. degree in geological engineering is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET), which is required to obtain a professional engineering license. 

Geological Engineering Curriculum

Students are encouraged to download a GLE Undergraduate Handbook from the Current Students/Undergraduate page on the department website. The handbook has detailed curriculum information as well as other practical information for undergraduate students to supplement the information provided here.

Students completing the geological engineering degree are also eligible to earn an additional major in geoscience with no additional coursework. Students are encouraged to declare an additional major in geoscience. Students must contact an advisor to complete the necessary paperwork to declare an additional major in geoscience.

Freshman Year, First Semester, 3 credits + plus General College Requirements (GCR)

Math 221 Calculus and Analytical Geometry, GCR
Chem 109 General Chemistry, GCR
Geosci 101 General Geology or 106 Environmental Geology
Communications Elective "A," GCR

Freshman Year, Second Semester, 4 credits + GCR

Math 222 Calculus and Analytical Geometry, GCR
Geosci 204 Evolution of the Earth, 4 cr
EMA 201 Statics, GCR
GLE 171 Introduction to Geological Engineering, GCR

Sophomore Year, First Semester, 16 credits

Math 234 Calculus—Functions of Several Variables, 3 cr
GLE 291 Problem Solving Using Computer Tools, 3 cr
EMA 202 Dynamics, 3 cr
Geosci 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures, 4 cr
Geosci 360 Principles of Mineralogy, 3 cr

Sophomore Year, Second Semester, 17 credits

Physics 202 General Physics, 5 cr
Liberal Elective, 3 cr
EMA 303 Mechanics of Materials, 3 cr
Geosci 370 Elementary Petrology, 3 cr
Stat 324 Statistics, 3 cr

Junior Year, First Semester, 16 Credits

CEE 310 Fluid Mechanics, 3 cr
EPD 275 Technical Presentations, 2 cr
GLE 330 Soil Mechanics, 4 cr
Geosci 431 Sedimentary Stratigraphy Lab, 1 cr
ISyE 313 Engineering Economic Analysis, 3 cr
Liberal Elective, 3 cr

Junior Year, Second Semester, 14 credits

EPD 397 Technical Writing, 3 cr
GLE 474 Rock Mechanics, 3 cr
Geosci 455 Structural Geology, 4 cr
Professional Issues, 1 cr
Technical Elective, 3 cr

Senior Year, First Semester, 17 credits

GLE 627 Hydrogeology, 4 cr
GLE 594 Introduction to Applied Geophysics, 3 cr
GLE 595 Field Methods in Applied and Engineering Geophysics, 1 cr
Liberal Elective, 3 cr
Technical Electives, 6 cr
Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, fall or spring of senior year

Senior Year, Second Semester, 16 credits

GLE 479 Geological Engineering Design, 3 cr
Technical Electives, 6 cr 
Liberal Electives, 7 cr
Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, fall or spring of senior year

Geological Engineering Electives

Students must take at least 15 credits in the Technical Electives category. All students must complete at least two designated design courses (noted as D in the GLE Undergraduate Handbook) as part of the technical electives. Students may take up to 6 credits of GLE 489 Honors in Research as technical electives. The technical electives are organized into five tracks, described below. Students may select courses within these tracks to focus coursework in a particular area. However, students may complete the technical electives requirement using courses listed in multiple tracks.

Energy, Minerals & Mining

Geological engineers possess knowledge and a skill set that serve society's need to manage extraction of traditional energy and mineral resources in more sustainable and efficient ways, and to lead in new technologies to limit carbon emissions through geological sequestration or to develop geothermal energy in deeper reservoirs.

Within this track, the 16 credit of liberal studies can be framed to match those of the Energy Institute certificate in Energy Sustainability.

Sustainability & Environment

Methods for quantifying the long-term effects of development, natural resource extraction, and environmental damage are often neglected or misapplied in cost-benefit life cycle analysis. This track intends to produce professionals capable of leading the field in sustainable design and construction. The Sustainability & Environment track focuses on quantification, design, and optimization in relation to the use of natural resources and construction materials/methods as well as minimizing the long-term impacts of these activities.


The number of fatalities and amount of economic loss due to geohazards increases every year. These losses may result from various geohazards, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, flooding and tsunamis. The Geohazards track aims to provide students with the necessary skills to perform analyses that minimize loss of life and economic costs associated with geohazards.

The number of fatalities and amount of economic loss due to geohazards increases every year. These losses may result from various geohazards, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, flooding and tsunamis. The Geohazards track aims to provide students with the necessary skills to perform analyses that minimize loss of life and economic costs associated with geohazards.


Water is an essential resource for humans and ecosystems. Water is also linked to mineral and energy resource production, waste management, and land reclamation. Population growth and climate change are creating increasing challenges to this resource. Development and sustainable management of groundwater and surface water, including prevention and mitigation of water quality problems, require combined expertise in geoscience, hydrology and water resources engineering offered through the Water track.


There are many challenges that need to be overcome to address the ageing infrastructure of this country as well as develop cost effective solutions for new infrastructure in developing nations. The Infrastructure track is developed to provide students a background that enables them to perform engineering calculations to design, construct, assess the current condition (level of safety), and develop repair and retrofit solutions for civil engineering structures resting on, or constructed in, soil or rock.

Suggested technical electives and associated credits (D indicates design course) for each track are included below.


 Energy, Minerals
& Mining
& Environment 



 BSE 356  Sustainable Residential Construction    3      
 BSE 367  Renewable Energy Systems  3  3      
 CBE 511  Energy and Sustainability  3  3      
 CEE 311  Hydroscience        3  
 CEE 315  Hydrology        3  
 CEE 320  Environmental Engineering    3      
 CEE 357  Introduction to GIS  4    4    
 CEE 412  Groundwater Hydraulics        3  
 CEE 427  Solid and Hazardous Waste Engr    3D      
 CEE 500  Water Chemistry        3  
 CEE 514  Coastal Engineering      3D    
 CEE 619  Hydroecology    3    3  
 CEE 649  Sustainable Construction    3      3
 CEE 698 Sust. Devel. Princ. & Pract.    2      
 EMA 405  Practicum in Finite Elements  3    3    3
 Geosci 320  Geomorphology      3  3  3
 Geosci 326  Fluvial Geomorphology      3  3  
 Geosci 390  Global Geophysics      3    
 Geosci 410  Minerals as a Public Problem  3  3      
 Geosci 411  Energy Resources  3  3      
 Geosci 420  Glacial and Pleistocene Geology        3  3
 Geosci 430  Principles of Stratigraphy        3  3
 Geosci 457  Conducted Field Trip  2        
 Geosci 459  Field Geology  6    6    
 Geosci 462  Geologic Hazards      3    
 Geosci 515  Princples of Economic Geology  4        
 Geosci 533  Resources From Space  3        
 Geosci 629  Contaminant Hydrology    3D    3D  
 GLE 401  Wind Energy Dsgn & Const  3D  3D      3D
 GLE 444  Practical Applications of GPS Surveying      2    2
 GLE 475  Rock Mechanics App to Env Prob  3        
 GLE 476  Fluid Methods in Geological Engr        3D  3D
 GLE 530  Seepage and Slopes  3D    3D  3D  3D
 GLE 531  Retaining Structures  3D        3D
 GLE 532  Foundations          3D
 GLE 597  Borehole Geophysics      3    
 GLE 633  Waste Geotechnics    3D      
 GLE 635  Remediation Geotechnics    3D      
 GLE 730  Engineering Properties of Soils          3
 GLE 732  Unsaturated Soil Geoengineering    3    3  
 GLE 735  Soil Dynamics      3D    3D
 SoilSci 321  Soils and Env Chemistry    3      
 SoilSci 324  Soils and Env Quality    3      
Liberal Studies

The College of Engineering Liberal Studies guidelines are followed.

Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

All students must take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. The General Engineering or Civil Engineering sections are recommended for the afternoon portion of the exam, as there is no section specifically for Geological Engineering.

Honors in Research

Students in geological engineering that have completed at least two semesters on the Madison campus with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 may apply to participate in the Honors in Research program. Students may register for 1 to 3 credits per semester. A grade of P (Progress) will be assigned each semester until the student completes the honors in research program or drops out of the program, at which time a final grade is assigned (based on research progress and the written thesis, if completed). This becomes the grade for all credits taken in GLE 489.

A senior thesis worth 3 credits of GLE 489 is required. The senior thesis is a written document reporting on a substantial piece of work that is prepared in the style of a graduate thesis. The thesis advisor determines the grade which the student receives for the thesis. A bound copy of the thesis must be submitted to the geological engineering office to complete the program.

The designation "Honors in Research" will be recorded on the student's transcript if the following criteria are met:

  1. Satisfaction of requirements for an undergraduate degree in Geological Engineering.
  2. A cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.3.
  3. Completion of a total of at least 8 credits in GLE 489.
  4. Completion of a senior honors thesis with a final grade of B or better.

Students interested in the Honors in Research program should contact their advisor or the GLE chair for more information. Applications to the program are to be submitted to the GLE chair with a supporting letter from the student’s academic and thesis advisors. Decisions regarding acceptance are made by the GLE chair.


The Geological Engineering Program utilizes laboratories that are shared with other departments. They include:

Land Information and Surveying Laboratories
Fluid Mechanics Laboratory
Materials Testing Laboratory
Geology and Hydrogeology Laboratories
Rock Mechanics Laboratory
Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Laboratories
The Halliburton Geoscience Visualization Center