Undergraduate Courses

I teach the following courses on an annual basis, and provide here a brief synopsis of each.

EARTH 255 “Earth and Space Sciences” is for students in the School of Education who will become K-8 educators and be responsible for teaching natural sciences to their students. The course combines traditional lectures and hands-on activities to give the future teachers a depth of understanding for material that ranges from the water cycle, Earth’s climate, volcanic eruptions, natural hazards, earthquakes, the formation of the solar system. The course enrolls 30 students each year, and each student will teach 30 students per year for their 30 year career, which translates to 27,000 students at the K-8 level who will benefit.

EARTH 344 “Fossil and Renewable Energy” is a field-based course taught each summer out of our field station near Jackson, WY. I team-teach this course with Shelie Miller, professor of engineering in the School of Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) at UM. We combine traditional lectures with lots of field visits to places and people who play real-world roles in energy. We visit a coal mine, a uranium mine, a wind farm, a solar farm, hydroelectric dams, a waste-water treatment plant; we meet with science and business policy advisors for the Governor of Wyoming, the government leaders of the cities of Jackson, Caper and Gillette to talk about the role for energy extraction in the local, state, national and international economies. The class is capped at 24 students, and has two faculty and two graduate instructors. This intimate setting allows us to really engage the students to assess and challenge their intuitive theories of energy in their life, and the lives of future global citizens.

EARTH 380 “Natural Resources, Economics and the Environment” deals with the geology of energy and mineral resources on which society depends, and the engineering, environmental and economic factors that control our access to them. This class is all about connections. Students are introduced to the processes that concentrate natural resources, the politics (local, state, national, & international) that shape regulation and commerce, the environmental footprint of resource extraction (mining) and how all of these issues are connected to every member of society. Students will gain familiarity with the discussion of natural resources in the media, including interpretation of natural resources from multiple media outlets, and gain experience with critical thinking and scientific writing by completing major writing assignments that undergo GSI review and will require substantive and stylistic revision. Students in this class spend the entire semester conducting a quantitative assessment of the University of Michigan’s electricity infrastructure. Students learn to use GIS to map solar and wind potential, how to price electricity production, how to calculate emissions for different electricity production technologies, how power purchase agreements are negotiated and implemented, and how social license is perhaps the most critical aspect of developing and re-imagining our energy infrastructure.

EARTH 498/499 “Senior Thesis” is open to students who want a transformative experience outside the brick and mortar classroom. I’ve mentored lots of undergraduates from different academic majors (Earth; Economics; PitE) who performed research with me and my graduate students. To me, this is the opportunity for students to distinguish themselves from the pack.