What is Geological Engineering?

Geological Engineering merges geology and engineering, utilizing technical expertise to work with projects involving the Earth. With the application of engineering principles and earth science, Geological Engineers provide innovative solutions for issues related to the environment, sustainability, energy, and infrastructure. While relationships between the use of natural resources and the environment are becoming increasingly critical, Geological Engineers bridge the gap between society’s needs and nature.

What Makes Geological Engineering Different?

Students are often curious about how Geological Engineering (GLE) differs from other engineering disciplines. Most importantly, earth science is woven throughout the GLE curriculm. That is why GLE students also receive a degree in Geology when they complete the BS in Geological Engineering. GLE focuses on safe and sustainable extraction of energy and minerals, renewable energy systems, protection of groundwater, environmental managament and remediation in the subsurface, surface and subsurface infrastruture, and geohazards. Since GLE’s focus nearly always has an earth science (geoscience/geology) component, graduates consistently work in the field as well as in the office. Our motto is “The Earth is Your Office.”

What Do Geological Engineers Do?

Geological engineers use their technical expertise to manage and solve a wide range of projects, both outdoors and in the office. Geological engineers:

- Clean up environmental sites and restore ground water, wetlands, and natural areas
- Explore the earth for new energy and mineral sources
- Map groundwater supply and maintain groundwater quality
- Design roads, railroads, tunnels, dams, levees, and foundations
- Reduce damage of geologic hazards from landslides, erosion, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes.

Geological Engineers use sophisticated high-tech instruments to study the properties of soil and rock beneath the ground surface and the ocean floor to find the energy resources that power our nation. Geological Engineers predict the volume and extent of these resources using powerful computer models.

Geological Engineers design renewable energy such as near-surface or deep geothermal fields. They explore the thermal properties of the earth using non-invasive and invasive instruments and use computer models to predict the flow of heat and energy in geothermal systems.

Career Prospects for Geological Engineering Graduates

With the increasing importance given to sustainable practices, environmental protection, and the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure, GLE graduates are in high demand (In the Geosciences, Business Is Booming – Science 2008). The faculty in Geological Engineering is well connected within the industry, which provides unique connections to job opportunities for students. All Geologic Engineering graduates have received jobs in engineering or related disciplines. Graduates can anticipate a variety of jobs and employers to choose from, including:

- Engineering and Environmental Consulting Firms
- Geotechnical Firms
- Petroleum Industry
- Mining Industry
- Renewable Energy Companies
- Government Agencies
- Education/Research
- Urban Planning & Design
- Construction/Development

Geological Engineers are well paid and earn salaries competitive with other major engineering disciplines. In addition, Geological Engineers entering the Energy or Mining industries receive some of the highest salaries of all engineering disciplines.

Careeer-Themed Technical Tracks

The Geological Engineering (GLE) curriculum provides students in-depth technical expertise in one of five technical tracks. The 125-credit GLE curriculum enables students to earn a dual major in BOTH Geological Engineering and Geology.

Sustainability & Environment
Inefficient geo-material use in construction, overuse of natural resources, and disregard for environmental impacts may lead to an unsustainable balance between infrastructure development and the environment. The Sustainability & Environment track produces engineers capable of combining sustainable design, construction, environmental conservation, and remediation. Students focus on quantifying and optimizing the use of natural resources and construction materials and methods to minimize the long-term impacts of construction and development.

Energy, Minerals, and Mining
Energy and natural resources are needed to sustain continued economic development. The Energy, Minerals, and Mining track trains students in the sustainable and efficient extraction of traditional and renewable energies as well as mineral resources. Resources include fossil fuels, geothermal and wind energy, metals, and minerals.

Ground Water and Surface Water
Clean water is an essential resource for humans and ecosystems. Water resources are stressed by mineral and energy resource production, waste management, and land reclamation. The Ground Water and Surface Water track provides students with an expertise in the development and sustainable management of groundwater and surface water. Prevention and mitigation of water quality problems require students to utilize a combined knowledge of geology, geophysics, hydrology and water resources engineering.

Geohazards
Landslides, erosion, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes have the potential to cause damage and lead to uncontrolled risks. The Geohazards track equips students with the skills necessary to perform analyses and design systems that minimize loss of life and economic costs associated with geohazards.

Infrastructure
Cost-effective solutions are needed for our aging infrastructure as well as new infrastructure in developing nations. The Infrastructure track trains students to design, construct, assess the current condition or safety, and develop repair and retrofit solutions for structures resting on or constructed in soil and rock.

For More Information

Prospective Undergraduate Students
2304a Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Tel: 608/890-0864
Fax: 608/890-3718
E-mail:gle@engr.wisc.edu