Environmental Physical Science Advice for Current Students

Goals: You have chosen this major for specific reasons and most likely have goals in mind that this program can help you attain. My goals for this program are simple: to give you the background to succeed in this field, and to help you improve your ability to think and solve problems. I cannot promise that you will be able to find a good job or gain admittance into graduate school; you and only you can determine your future. I will do all that I can to help you achieve your goals, but your success will ultimately depend on your dedication, discipline, and effort.

The Environmental Physical Science Major: As you should already know, this is a fairly rigorous program. Environmental work requires a multidisciplinary approach. You are therefore required to take physics, chemistry and mathematics courses in addition to the geology courses. However, you will need to go beyond the required courses to properly prepare yourself for employment or graduate school. There are four areas of course work you should strongly consider as you plan your program.

  • English courses: Your work and ideas are only as good as your ability to communicate them to others. I therefore strongly suggest that you take more than Written Communications I and II. Any upper division English course that requires you to express your ideas in a written format is a good choice.
  • Mathematics courses: Your math skills will follow you throughout your career. If you are truly serious about obtaining the best education possible, then you take and successfully complete Differential Equations before leaving Black Hills State. Not only will this course expose you to a variety of tools necessary for high-level science, it will separate you from others in your field as you look for employment or at graduate schools. Also consider courses in Statistics in order to acquire the mathematical tools needed to deal with data sets. More and more graduate programs are now requiring statistics for entrance into their programs. Talk with one of the math professors and listen strongly to their advice about courses that may serve you well in the future.

  • Chemistry and Physics courses: Upper division chemistry and physics are excellent courses to add to you transcript. The one course that will attract the most attention from employers and graduate schools is Physical Chemistry. This course is challenging, but is the basis for all advanced level chemistry work. Talk to the chemistry and physics professors to get any additional advice.

  • Technology courses: Computer-aided drafting (CAD) classes are becoming quite popular with many science majors, especially those courses that focus on AutoCad. AutoCad is the most popular drafting software package in the world, and is used by just about every government agency and consulting firm in the country. AutoCad drawings are typically integrated into GIS projects, and a good working knowledge of AutoCad and GIS can certainly open some doors for you during a job search.

  • Philosophy: The most important thing you can learn in college is the ability to think and reason. No course will help you more with thinking skills than a well-taught philosophy course. The philosophy offerings at Black Hills State are expanding and should provide you with several choices.

  • Field Camp: As with most science majors, it is typically difficult to attain the required number of upper division courses prior to graduation. One option I strongly suggest to all Environmental Physical Science students is a geology field camp. Field camp is a geology or hydrology course that consists of 4 to 8 weeks of intensive geology training, typically in one of the mountainous areas in the western United States. Field camp students will learn basic geologic mapping procedures, to interpret geological sites, and to use basic field equipment such as the GPS, Brunton compass and the plane table/alidade. There are dozens of good field camps, and several of them spend time in the Black Hills. Most field camps students receive 6 to 8 upper division credits. When I went to field camp (not all that long ago) the cost for room, board and non-resident tuition was about $1300. Most field camps now cost approximately $1500 to $2000.
    • If you are interested in field camp, plan to attend the summer between your junior and senior years. Applications are typically due during the latter part of the fall semester or early part of the spring semester prior to the summer of attendance. The University of Indiana probably has the most well respected camp in the nation. For those of you tight on funds, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology offers a Black Hills field camp at Ranch A outside of Beulah, Wyoming (less than 20 minutes from BHSU). Please see me if you are interested in field camp or have any questions.

Quality: I have one expectation for students in this program; that they will always give their best effort as they produce high-quality work. Anything less than high-quality is unacceptable, whether it is on an exam, research paper, or in how you conduct yourself.

Students Involved in Research: In my opinion, the best way to hone your thinking skills, apply your background knowledge, network with professionals and prepare yourself for life after college is through research. Undergraduate research is challenging, both for the student and the advisor. The most difficult aspect appears to be in time management. It is quite difficult to find time to conduct research during the academic year because many courses compete for your time. To provide more structure and encouragement for those of you engaged in research, I will try to set up weekly or bi-monthly meetings with you to discuss your work.

Contact Info

Abigail Domagall
Phone: 605-642-6506

Black Hills State University
1200 University St.
Spearfish, SD, USA 57799