Earth 436A/B (4th Year Thesis Project)

Purpose of Earth 436A/B:

  • The Honours B.Sc. Thesis provides an opportunity for students to design and conduct independent research under the supervision of a faculty member in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. 
    Blue Calcite
  • It is a two-term course (8 months long) with Earth 436a happening in the first term and Earth 436b in the second term. 
  • Requirement for the following programs:
    • Geology
    • Hydrogeology
    • Geophysics
    • Geoscience

Components of Earth 436A/B


Field Work
  • Students must find a supervisor from the Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences before starting Earth 436A. Students are not assigned supervisors automatically.
    • possible to have co-supervisors with one of the supervisors being from another department, however, at least one of the two supervisors must be from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. You must talk to the two supervisors and the course instructor to work out the logisitics of this. 
  • Some professors already have projects in mind for undergraduate thesis students to do, but it is possible for you to suggest topics that you are interested in and overlaps with your supervisor's research area as well. 
  • Supervisors will answer all of your project-specific questions (ex. data interpretation), and arrange all the resources for your project (ex. field work, lab work etc.). 
  • The level of data collection and field work involved would be very dependent on the project that you choose to do for your thesis.


Marking Scheme

  • In Earth 436A, a detailed research proposal is prepared that includes an introduction, literature review, goal(s) and objectives, experimental design and methods (including anticipated results). Usually has a presentation component (oral or poster presentations). The research proposal is 50% of your final grade in Earth 436A and the rest of the grade is made up of small assignments. 
  • Students must normally obtain a minimum mark of 75% in Earth 436A to be allowed to register in Earth 436B.
  • In Earth 436B, the thesis is completed based on the experimental design formulated in Earth 436A and a final presentation builds on the first presentation in Earth 436A to reveal the results and conclusions of the research. The thesis component is 65% of the final grade in Earth 436B and the rest of the grade is made up of the final presentation, small assignments etc. 
    • Two professors in the Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences mark your completed thesis and the instructor of the course averages the two marks to determine the final grade for the thesis component. 
  • Course Outline for Earth 436A & Earth 436B:Earth 436A & Earth 436B

Next Steps

Finding a Supervisor

  • It's never too early to think about a potential thesis supervisor.
  • Talk to your professors. Let them know you're interested in a BSc thesis, even if you don't know what that will be or who it could be with. Think about which courses were the most interesting to you.
  • Ask for advice from professors, graduate students etc. This is a good way to build relationships before you reach your 4th year.
  • Start reaching out to potential supervisors (at least) 4-8 months before your planned start date.
    • There is a limited amount of projects and resources available every year, so please reach out early to secure a supervisor.
    • Narrow down your focus for which professors you want to approach by looking at their University of Waterloo profile or lab website, and get a better understanding of their research.  Feel free to reach out to your academic advisor if you need help with narrowing down your interests or you are not sure whether a certain professor is accepting thesis students currently. 
    • Feel free reach out to a few potential supervisors (about 2 professors) at a time to discuss possible projects, but once you commit to doing a project with one of those two professors, communicate this to other professor as well (the professor that you are not doing thesis project with), so that the other professor can give their project to another potential thesis student. 
    • If you don't have a supervisor by the second week of being enrolled in Earth 436A, you will have to drop the course
  • Some projects can be based around data/collected during a work term or summer job before you start your thesis. Talk to employers about potential topics. 
  • Supervisors are always on the lookout for good students. Many go onto MSc projects with the same supervisor.
  • Take it seriously. Treat it like it's one of your heaviest and most important courses. So, you may want to consider reducing your course load during 436A/B to ≤4 courses + thesis. 5 courses + thesis is a very heavy load! You are not bound to the topic of your thesis for future jobs or graduate school. A 436A/B thesis topic does not dictate your future. It's a unique opportunity and it is your project. Make the most of it.

Flexibility: one term vs two terms

  •  EARTH 436A is required for all students in Faculy of Earth and Environmental Sciences except Water Science students, but Water Science students do have the option of taking this course if they would like. 
    Joanne Angai
  • Earth 436A is offered in the Fall term. 
  • Students can choose between continuing to EARTH 436B or taking a 300/400 level Earth elective. 
    • If you do not get 75% or higher in Earth 436A or supervisor permission, you will be forced to choose the earth elective option. 
  • When finding a supervisor, it will be assumed you are doing both Earth 436A and Earth 436B.
  • A thesis project is only for the duration of the last year of your undergraduate degree, it does not extend into your Master's program if you choose to pursue one. You can however, pursue a Master's program in the same research area as your undergraduate thesis project and with the same professor as well. 
  • If you would like to pursue a Master's program that is quite a bit different from your undergraduate thesis project, this should not deter you from applying to that Master's program because the research skills would still be transferrable even if the subject areas are different. 

Additional Information

  • You can use the thesis project to fulfill your PGO requirements
  • Usually, you will complete the thesis project during two study terms back-to-back, with no co-op terms in between. 
  • Ideally, you will do your fourth year thesis project during your 4A and 4B term.
  • Students don't have to apply for grants for their projects, usually they use the funding that their supervisors have.