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Information for New Graduate Students










From: Paul Brooks, Faculty Graduate Advisor

Hello New Geology and Geophysics Graduate Students,

We look forward to you joining us this fall in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah. I am the Director of Graduate Studies here and am writing to describe upcoming dates and activities to help you plan for the start of your acedemic career at the U.

The coming year will present unique challenges to the beginning of your graduate career as we deal with the uncertainties associated with the COVID19 pandemic. We remain committed in the face of these challenges to help you transition smoothly to your graduate career here and succeed in graduate school and beyond.


I. What to do before you get to Salt Lake City

A. Mark your calendar with these important dates: 

You should meet research advisor to discuss your course preparation and requirements (See details in Section IV below). It is very important to do this early so that you can enroll in the appropriate fall semester courses.

Department Graduate Student Orientation (mandatory for all new students) August 21, 2020

The Geology and Geophysics Department Graduate Student Orientation August 21, 2020 is an opportunity to meet faculty, staff, and new students, learn about program requirements and resources, and ask questions of faculty and staff to ease your transition to the U. Our orientation this year will be held outside where we can maintain social distance as we review information provided to you beforehand. Please review these videos and pdf files before orientation.

Classes begin Monday, August 24.

Your research advisor may have plans for you in addition to the above dates. Some students will begin research over the summer. PLEASE BE SURE TO CONTACT YOUR ADVISOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO CONFIRM YOUR ARRIVAL DATES.


B. Housing

You should have received information from the Graduate Division describing on-campus housing options for both single students and those with families. Most students opt to live off-campus in a shared house or condo. More information on graduate housing options can be found at the U’s Housing & Residential Program.   Or you can check Craigslist or for rentals. You may also email other grads in our department at, if you are looking for a housemate. You can also drop the department a note if you would like your contact information circulated to the other new graduate students as a potential housemate.

When you are looking at housing, be sure to think through the transportation options to and from campus. The U’s commuter services website has all your transportation information if you are living on or near campus. For off campus housing transportation information Utah’s UTA website will give you an idea of the alternative transportation options Salt Lake City has to offer.  Salt Lake City is a very bike friendly community and it's a common commute method among our graduate students.  To get information on your portfolio of commuting options you can also check out this short video produced by students in our department.

The Salt Lake City valley is very unique in that if you take a stroll around any city block in downtown Salt Lake, expect that the trip will take much longer than it would to circle a block in any other state. This is due to the fact that Salt Lake City has the largest city blocks in the United States. The early pioneer settlers in the valley were planning ahead to accommodate for their agricultural and lifestyle needs and due to this wonderful forethought the valley is very easy to navigate because it is laid out in a grid system. Most major streets run very nearly north-south and east-west. The grid's origin is the southeast corner of Temple Square, the north-south axis is Main Street; and the east-west axis is South Temple Street.  Addresses are coordinates with the system (very similar to latitude & longitude). For example, in the neighborhood layout picture below you will see a neighborhood named 9th and 9th, this means the intersection of 9th and 9th is located 9 blocks east of Main St. and 9 blocks south of South Temple St.

Most graduate students opt to live in the neighborhoods from Sugarhouse, north toward the Avenues, while most students don’t live west past the Gateway neighborhood.


      Figure 1: Salt Lake City neighborhoods surrounding the University of Utah

C. Enrollment for classes

Open enrollment for new graduate students is available as of July 26 and is done online via your student portal.  Take a look at the instructions on the Graduate Division web site and the Fall 2020 Schedule of Classes. Discuss your course load with your primary advisor and don’t be afraid to consider several courses during the first week of class before finalizing your schedule. If you are doing research, you will also want to enroll in an independent study (research course). Please contact the department for the class number specific to your advisor, which changes every semester.

II. What to do when you get to Salt Lake City

You should be aware of who your research advisor is from the recruitment process. If you are at all unclear, please drop a note to the department. Please check in with your research advisor as soon as you get to campus so that you can start doing science. As mentioned above, please keep your advisor apprised of your summer plans and contact information and be sure that he/she knows when you plan to arrive.

When you arrive in Salt Lake City please check in the departmental office, FASB 383, to get a key for your office and building access. Thea can also help you with numerous general questions or problems. If you cannot find Thea, any of the departmental office staff will be able to assist you.

Many departmental communications and reminders are sent via email, so you will want to establish your University of Utah email account soon, if you have not already.  You should have a pre-assigned UMail account, the default address for which is your university ID (e.g.,  Information on accessing and using campus IT resources is available from the Campus Help Desk.

If you need computer assistance such as networking your Macintosh or Windows machine, having virus software installed, setting up a Linux account on research Linux machines, etc., please contact Computer Services.

You will also have a mailbox in the department office, FASB 383. Please check your box for other information when you arrive. You may also call, email or stop by my office (Paul Brooks, (801) 585-2858, FASB 429) with questions or concerns before or after your arrival on campus.

After you have sorted out your keys, office and paperwork, you should arrange to meet with your faculty advisor(s) to discuss appropriate fall quarter classes. 

III. Teaching Assistant assignments and payment

If you will be employed as a TA or Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) during Fall 2018 you will need to visit with Thea Hatfield, in the departmental offices, to set up your payroll account. You will receive your first paycheck Sept 7.  Fellowship funds are generally available in a lump sum by the start of the semester.   If you have any questions or concerns about payroll issues please contact Thea. 

IV. Preliminary information on courses

You will find much more detailed information concerning course enrollment in various university and departmental documents, but here is a brief overview. Many first-year graduate students enroll during each semester in one or more traditional courses, seminars, or independent study (research) courses.  As soon as you arrive on campus, you will arrange a meeting with your advisor to develop an individualized course plan that meets your educational goals and background. You will then be expected to meet the requirements of this plan during your tenure at the U.

Note that TAs and GSRs are expected to complete their work in addition to regular classes. TA and GSR work is a form of student employment for which students do not receive academic credit. 

All first year Masters students and PhD students who have not received a Master’s degree in the Earth or Geosciences are required to take GEO 6950, Reviews in Earth Sciences, during their first semester in the department. This course is highly encouraged for other graduate students, as well, and will provide an opportunity to get to know the faculty and survey the range of research fields represented within the department.

V. Where to read more

Much of the information provided in this letter can be found at the departmental website. Follow the links on the top navigation bar for a preliminary listing of courses being offered next year, faculty web pages, seminar schedules, and more. I encourage you to review the Geology and Geophysics Grad Handbook. You should have been contacted already by the University of Utah Division of Graduate Studies with referrals to their website, which contains other resources such as financial and registration/enrollment information.

Best wishes until we meet in Salt Lake City,
Paul Brooks
Professor, Geology & Geophysics
Office: 429 FASB
Office Phone: (801) 585-2858


Last Updated: 10/29/20