Before the end of the fall of your junior year, talk to your advisor as well as other faculty about how you want to complete the capstone experience for your major track.  You can see the various capstone options for each major track at:

Regardless of how you complete your capstone experience, they are not regular courses though they do get credit and a grade.  As such you cannot preregister for them, you simply must complete the Registrar’s “Special Course Options Permission Form” by the end of Add/Drop.  You can access the form at:

Majors who complete the capstone with research must complete either ERSC 550 (Independent Research) or ERSC 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research).  Students will earn 0.5 credit in the spring semester of the junior year as they conduct background research, formulate a testable hypothesis and draft a project proposal. Should a student be abroad for the first 0.5 credit, the student will meet regularly via Skype (or other appropriate real-time media) with the faculty member on campus who is advising the capstone project.  The second 0.5 credit will be completed in the fall semester of the senior year with data collection, analysis and writing.

Junior Year - Spring Semester
 Date  Items Due
Monday after the start of classes  Students turn in research proposals*
2 weeks later  Students meet with faculty and get their proposals back
2 weeks later  Revisions to proposals are due
4 weeks before the end of classes  First draft of paper due**
2 weeks before the end of classes  Students get their paper back
Last day of classes  Final paper is due, no exceptions

Senior Year - Fall Semester
 Date  Items Due
 4 weeks before the end of classes  First draft of final paper due
 2 weeks before the end of classes  Students get their paper back
 Last day of classes  Final paper is due, no exceptions

Senior year - Spring Semester
 Date  Items Due
Early in the semester (dates to be determined in the seminar series schedule)  Students give oral presentations
Late in the semester  Students present at annual Science Symposium Poster Session ***

*This brief (2 page) description should describe how you want to complete your capstone experience (e.g., state a hypothesis you are interested in testing, a means of determining the validity of that hypothesis, and a possible study area).

**Students will complete and submit a 10-15 page research proposal.  This proposal will ultimately be expanded and become a working draft of your final paper the following semester.  The literature review will serve as a basis for the Introduction and Materials and Methods sections and should be readily adaptable for the final project.  This proposal should include the following elements:  

1. A clear and concise summary

2. A statement of the Intellectual Merit for the proposed research (Why does this research need to be done? What are the broad-scale research questions that are driving the research?)

3. A clearly stated hypothesis and predictions based on the hypothesis

4. An Introduction to the research topic that includes a broad-based literature review with proper references (using GSA format)

5. Suggested field location (s), sample collection strategies, materials needed, and a brief description of possible Analytical Methods to be used (as applicable)

6. Preliminary Results (if applicable)

7. Well-annotated figures including location maps, images of any proposed field sites, diagrams summarizing previous data, etc.

8. A proposed timeline and budget justification (not to exceed $500 without a secondary application to the Earth Sciences department chair)

The proposal should have the following components with the headings listed below:

1. Cover page with the title of the proposed project and student name

2. A Project Summary (less than 250 words)

3. The Hypothesis Statement and Predictions

4. Introduction

5. Methods and Materials

6. Preliminary Results

7. Project Timeline

8. Project Budget

***Each ERSC major is expected to present a poster at the science symposium summarizing their capstone project.