Undergraduate FAQ for AY 2020-21

If you have a question not addressed below, feel free to reach out to the Academic Programs Manager, Chenoweth Moffatt (moffatt@eps.harvard.edu).


  1. I am writing a senior thesis. Will I be able to return to campus in the fall?
    • Talk to your advisor to confirm that your research needs to take place in a physical lab, then fill out the Learning Environment Questionnaire by July 13 and explain your situation and request to return to campus. These petitions will be reviewed by a College committee, and they will check in with the department as well.
    • You will be notified by July 20 if your request to return to campus has been approved. You should submit your enrollment confirmation by July 24.
    • Once your request has been approved, you should work with your advisor to make sure you complete all of the requirements to work in your lab and that you are added to your lab’s approved reoccupancy plan.
  2. If I am an enrolled student living off campus, will I be able to access the labs?
    • No. Students living off campus will not be able to access any campus buildings, including labs. However, you will be able to pursue remote research opportunities.
  3. What kinds of research are conducted in EPS?
    • The Earth and Planetary Science department houses faculty and students conducting research across all STEM disciplines. Research is often interdisciplinary, including biology, chemistry, physics, applied math, computer science, engineering, and astronomy. Research crossing disciplinary boundaries to study the intersection of economics, public policy, social sciences, government, etc. with the geosciences is also encouraged. You can get a sense of research in the department by visiting https://eps.harvard.edu/pages/research and the linked websites for faculty and their research groups. To see current undergraduate research projects, visit https://eps.harvard.edu/undergraduate-research.
  4. How do I get to know more about the faculty and their research?
    • In addition to visiting faculty websites and taking their courses, students are invited to attend monthly Undergraduate Department Tutorials. At these informal gatherings, faculty members talk about their research interests and take questions from students. While classes are online, we will continue to hold monthly tutorials over Zoom. If you would like to get on the mailing list to receive announcements about tutorials, contact Chenoweth Moffatt (moffatt@eps.harvard.edu).
  5. What kinds of remote research are available?
    • Faculty and students have already demonstrated incredible creativity in providing research opportunities that can be conducted completely online. Research may include modeling all types of geophysical processes—climate change, glacier dynamics, atmospheric pollution, groundwater flow, biogeochemical transformations, mineral physics, earthquakes and tectonics, volcanism, natural hazards, and much more! Research may include analyzing and asking new questions about existing or remotely collected data sets. Most remote research will provide opportunities to improve proficiency in coding. Feel free to propose other creative ideas for remote research.
  6. Is there funding available for remote research?
    • The EPS department is anticipating being able to provide some financial support for undergraduate research assistants who are enrolled in Harvard classes, though the exact amount has not yet been determined. EPS concentrators, secondary students, and other students who have indicated interest in EPS will receive an email in August with more details about funding. For questions or to be added to this mailing list, contact Chenoweth Moffatt (moffatt@eps.harvard.edu).
  7. Can I do remote research as a student on leave? Is there funding available?
    • If you are on leave of absence, you cannot work as a research assistant funded by Harvard (i.e., the department funding will not be available).  Any exceptions must be approved by the Ad Board prior to starting the position. For more information, see https://uraf.harvard.edu/fall-2020.
  8. What is the difference between being a research assistant and taking EPS 91?
    • Enrolling in EPS 91 provides an opportunity to receive academic credit for conducting research. Since you are receiving course credit, you are not eligible for funding at the same time. EPS 91 is a good opportunity to explore a topic of interest and gain research experience.
  9. When and how do I get involved in research?
    • All students (first-years through seniors) are welcome to do research. The best way to get involved is to reach out to faculty whose research is of interest to you. You can get to know faculty through attending tutorials, taking classes, or even reading through their websites and sending them emails.
    • Once you find a faculty member you’d like to work with, ask about the possibility of working with them. Sometimes faculty have existing projects you can work on, or you may be able to bring an idea of something you’d like to research and see if you can make it into an appropriate research project. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t hear back from them right away or if they don’t currently have a project for you. The faculty may be able to refer you to other related research projects.
    • Once you have identified a faculty member to work with, you can seek out funding through the department (see above) or from many other sources (see the website for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships here: https://uraf.harvard.edu/funding-considerations).
  10. What is the short-term summer research program?
    • This program, initiated in the summer of 2020, is intended to provide opportunities for incoming first-year students and rising sophomores who are not already involved in EPS. These 10 hour/week opportunities last for 2-3 weeks and pay $15 per hour. New opportunities will be emailed to current and identified prospective concentrators, and to all the undergraduate program administrators to forward to their lists. https://sites.google.com/g.harvard.edu/eps-summer-short-term/
    • Once selected for one of these positions, you will work with the host (the researcher providing the research opportunity) to determine the timeline of the research before the fall semester begins.


  1. What classes will be offered in the upcoming academic year?
    • For a list of EPS courses, visit https://eps.harvard.edu/pages/courses. Descriptions of these courses will be available in my.harvard beginning on July 20. If you have questions about specific courses, feel free to reach out to Chenoweth or the course head.
  2. Will all pre-requisite courses be offered in the fall?
    • Yes. The Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE) has instructed departments that all pre-requisite courses should be offered. Few EPS courses have other EPS courses listed as pre-requisites, though it is a good idea to check the course catalog for the math, physics, or chemistry pre-requisites for some upper level courses. Courses required for pre-professional students should continue to be offered by other departments.
  3. What will be the grading policy for courses?
    • All College classes will return to normal grading for the fall semester. Courses may be taken for letter grades or pass/fail, though classes taken pass/fail cannot be used to satisfy concentration requirements. Courses that need to be used as pre-requisites for other courses should also be taken for a letter grade. For more information on concentration and secondary requirements,  https://handbook.fas.harvard.edu/book/welcome
  4. In general, what will Harvard classes look like in the fall?
    • The number of courses offered will be similar or higher than a typical fall semester. Faculty are doing mandatory training this summer of how to make the most of the remote learning environment. They are working hard to make their courses even more engaging than usual.
    • In alignment with guidelines from the College, all courses will provide at least 2-4 hours of synchronous (live) interaction between every student (in any time zone) and the teaching staff each week. This interaction may include lectures, sections, office hours, or other meetings.


  1. If I decide to defer, what is recommended for my time away from school?
    • This entirely depends on what is best for your individual circumstances. In general, try to do something that is exciting to you and will prepare you to continue your learning at Harvard and beyond. Research at another institution is one option. If you are focused on STEM, perhaps you could take the opportunity to explore other fields—music, arts, languages, public policy, etc. You could seek out service opportunities that are remote or local to where you live. If you would like to speak to your advisor, don’t hesitate to reach out.
  2. What is the Geological Society (GeoSoc) and how do I get involved?
    • The GeoSoc is the undergraduate organization open to all students (concentrators, secondaries, students who have taken EPS courses, and anyone else with an interest!). The group organizes social activities throughout the year and is a great way to connect with fellow undergrads. To get involved reach out to this year’s officers Maddie Goldberg (madisongoldberg@college.harvard.edu) and Maya Levin (mayalevine@college.harvard.edu).
  3. Since the undergraduate field trip was cancelled for this year, is there a replacement activity for EPS undergrads?
    • The undergraduate field trip provides a wonderful opportunity for bonding, and it is disappointing that it had to be cancelled this year. If you have ideas for bringing the community for a fun and/or educational replacement activity, let us know!
  4. Where should I go for more information?
    • For general questions about the undergraduate experience in the EPS department, contact the Academic Programs Manager, Chenoweth Moffatt (moffatt@eps.harvard.edu).
    • If you would like to get in touch with current undergraduates or recent graduates, contact Chenoweth, who can share the email addresses of students who have indicated their willingness and excitement to provide insight into the student experience, advice about classes, etc.
    • You can also reach out to the officers of the GeoSociety who can put you in touch with current students:  Maddie Goldberg madisongoldberg@college.harvard.edu and Maya Levin mayalevine@college.harvard.edu.