Soil Science

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Soil scientists study and manage land and water resources to protect the environment and enhance agricultural productivity. Graduate education opportunities in Soil Science at NC State prepare students for careers with public and private organizations in soil, agricultural, environmental, and natural resource sciences. Our graduates find employment opportunities with private sector firms, government organizations, academia, and entrepreneurship.

You will have the opportunity to study and do research with world-class faculty in outstanding laboratory and field facilities.  Graduate students may specialize in the following sub-disciplines: soil physics; soil chemistry; soil microbiology and biochemistry; soil fertility and plant nutrition; soil genesis, morphology and classification; and soil, water and land management and conservation. Students can also incorporate other disciplines into their work, presenting outstanding opportunities to focus on issues of interest. 

Graduate Degrees

The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences offers three graduate degrees in Soil Science. A short description of each follows. 

The Master of Soil Science (the MR degree) is a non-thesis, course-based program that is available as both a campus-based and an online, distance education program. This degree is considered a terminal degree and is well suited to professionals requiring further education in soils for their careers. 

The Master of Science in Soil Science (MS) is a research degree that requires the successful completion of coursework, a research problem, and the submission of a written thesis that documents the research. 

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree symbolizes the ability of the student to undertake original research with minimal supervision and demonstrates the student’s ability to write a dissertation reporting the results of this research. Most students in the Soil Science Ph.D. complete an MS degree prior to enrolling in the Ph.D., although exceptions are sometimes made.

Admission Requirements

A minimum of a 3.0 GPA at the baccalaureate (BS) or master’s (MS) level is required. However, exceptions may be made for master’s applicants with a very strong GPA in science classes, an exceptional track record in their final two years, or substantial post-baccalaureate work experience. Students accepted will typically have a BS or MS degree in Soil Science, or closely related fields, with strong preparation in the biological and physical sciences. Research experience is helpful. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for application or admission to Soil Science graduate programs. International students must demonstrate proficiency in English prior to admission.  Admissions are competitive and subject to adequate funding for research assistantships. A committee of faculty members evaluates each application and admission is offered if funding is available to support a student.  Master of Soil Science applicants are admitted without regard to funding; the department does not provide stipends for students in the MR program.

Faculty


Associate Professors



Practice/Research/Teaching Professors

  • Robert E. Austin
    Area of Research: Geospatial Information and Analytics in Soils, Agriculture and Environmental Science

  • Stanley W. Buol
  • Keith Cassel
  • Maurice Cook
  • Fred Cox
  • Carl Crozier
  • George Cummings
  • J. Wendell Gilliam
  • Dean L. Hesterberg
  • Daniel Israel
  • Joseph Kleiss
  • David Lindbo
  • Gordon Miner
  • George C. Naderman Jr.
  • Wayne Robarge
  • Thomas J. Smyth
  • Richard Volk
  • Michael Wagger
  • Jeffrey G. White
  • Arthur Wollum

Courses

SSC 511  Soil Physics  (4 credit hours)  

Soil physical properties and theory of selected instrumentation to measure them. Topics including soil solids, soil water, air and heat. Emphasis on transport processes and the energy concept of soil and water.

Prerequisite: SSC 200, PY 212

Typically offered in Fall only

SSC 521  Soil Chemistry  (3 credit hours)  

A consideration of the chemical and colloidal properties of clay and soil systems, including ion exchange and retention, soil solution reactions, solvation of clays and electrokinetic properties of clay-water systems.

Prerequisite: SSC 200, one yr. of general inorganic chemistry

Typically offered in Spring only

SSC 532/MB 532  Soil Microbiology  (4 credit hours)  

Soil as a medium for microbial growth, the relation of microbes to important mineral transformations in soil, the importance of biological equilibrium and significance of soil microbes to environmental quality.

Prerequisite: MB 351, CH 220

SSC 535/CS 535  Root and Rhizosphere Processes for Plant Nutrition  (3 credit hours)  

The focus of this course is on the understanding of concepts and principles of plant hydro-mineral acquisition, plant adaptation to nutrient deficiencies, water and nutrient cycles in the soil, and the impact that microbial communities have on these processes. Understanding below ground biological networks and their complexity is crucial for understanding soil fertility and improving the acquisition of nutrients in natural and agroecosystems.

Prerequisite: SSC 200 or PB 321, or consent of instructor

Typically offered in Fall only

SSC 540/SSC 440  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Soil Science and Agriculture  (3 credit hours)  

Geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning system (GPS), and remote sensing to manage spatially variable soils, vegetation, other natural resources. Develop: function understanding of GIS principles, working knowledge of ArcGIS, problem-solving/critical-thinking necessary to use GIS to characterize and manage soils, agriculture, natural resources. Introduction to GIS; Maps/Cartography; Vectore/Raster Data Models; Georeferencing/Coordinate Systems; Spatial Data Sources; GPS/GPS skillls/ Remote Sensing; Statistics/Interpolation; Precision Agriculture; Computer Aided Design and GIS; Creating Analyzing 3-D Surfaces. Credit not given for both SSC 440 and SSC 540.

Prerequisite: SSC 200

Typically offered in Spring only

SSC 541  Soil Fertility  (3 credit hours)  

Soil conditions affecting plant growth and the chemistry of soil and fertilizer interrelationships. Factors affecting the availability of nutrients. Methods of measuring nutrient availability.

Prerequisite: SSC 341

SSC 545  Remote Sensing Applications in Soil Science and Agriculture  (3 credit hours)  

Overview of remote sensing including history, evolution, vocabulary, and physical principles, i.e., electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with matter. Distant and proximate remote sensing techniques (aerial photography, satellite imaging, radar, lidar, etc.), hardware, and platforms and their application in the characterization and management of soils and crops. Development of strategies for incorporating remote sensing into soil and agronomic research, and of practical skills for processing, analysis, display, and discussion of remote sensing data with applications in soil science and agriculture.

Prerequisite: SSC 200, PY 212

SSC 551  Soil Morphology, Genesis and Classification  (3 credit hours)  

Morphology: Chemical, physical and mineralogical parameters useful in characterizing soil. Genesis: soil-forming factors and processes. Classification: historical development and present concepts of soil taxonomy with particular reference to worldwide distribution of great soil groups as well as discussions of logical bases of soil classification.

Prerequisite: SSC 200

SSC 562  Environmental Applications Of Soil Science  (3 credit hours)  

Identification and evaluation of basic factors influencing movement of potential pollutants through soil and their underlying strata. Development of understanding of processes of soil and site evaluation for waste disposal and transport of pollutants through soils.

Prerequisite: SSC 200

Typically offered in Spring only

SSC 570/SSC 470  Wetland Soils  (3 credit hours)  

Wetland definitions, concepts, functions and regulations; chemical, physical and morphological characteristics of wetland soils. Wetland soil identification using field indicators and monitoring equipment; principles of wetland creation, restoration and mitigation. Special project required for SSC 570. Two mandatory field trips. Field trips for distance education students are not required but optional. Credit will not be given for both SSC 470 and SSC 570.

Prerequisite: SSC 200, SSC 452 recommended

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 573/SSC 473/BAE 473/BAE 573  Introduction to Hydrologic and Water Quality Modeling  (3 credit hours)  

Concepts in basic hydrologic, erosion and chemical transport used in modeling. Evaluation of typical hydrologic and water quality models on watershed systems. Project examples using state-of-the-art models. Credit will not be given for both BAE 473 and BAE 573.

Prerequisite: BAE 371

Typically offered in Fall only

SSC 590  Special Problems in Soil Science  (1-6 credit hours)  

Special problems in various phases of soils. Emphasis placed on review of recent and current research. Credits arranged in consultation with sponsoring faculty member.

Prerequisite: SSC 200 or consent of instructor.

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 592  Special Topics in Soil Science  (1-6 credit hours)  

Special Topics in Soil Science. Topics of contemporary interest in soil science presented in an experimental or pilot course format.

P: Graduate Standing

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 601  Seminar  (1 credit hours)  

A maximum of two semester hours allowed toward the master's degree, but any number toward the doctorate. Scientific articles, progress reports in research and special problems of interest to soil scientists reviewed and discussed.

Prerequisite: Graduate standing in SSC

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 609  Colloquium In Soil Science  (1-3 credit hours)  

Seminar-type discussions and lectures on specialized and advanced topics in soil science. Credits Arranged

Prerequisite: Graduate standing in SSC

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 620  Special Problems  (1-6 credit hours)  

Special problems in various phases of soils. Emphasis placed on review of recent and current research. Credits Arranged

Prerequisite: SSC 200

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 675  Project in Soil Science  (1-6 credit hours)  

Credit for required, independent project in soil science for the Master of Soil Science degree program. Project topic and learning contract will be developed with, and approved by, the student's faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Programs. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit hours towards the Master of Soil Science degree. May not be taken by Master of Science or PhD students.

R: Master of Soil Science (MR) students only

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 685  Master's Supervised Teaching  (1-3 credit hours)  

Teaching experience under the mentorship of faculty who assist the student in planning for the teaching assignment, observe and provide feedback to the student during the teaching assignment and evaluate the student upon completion of the assignment.

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 688  Non-Thesis Masters Continuous Registration - Half Time Registration  (1 credit hours)  

For students in non-thesis master's programs who have completed all credit hour requirements for their degree but need to maintain half-time continuous registration to complete incomplete grades, projects, final master's exam, etc.

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 689  Non-Thesis Master Continuous Registration - Full Time Registration  (3 credit hours)  

For students in non-thesis master's programs who have completed all credit hour requirements for their degree but need to maintain full-time continuous registration to complete incomplete grades, projects, final master's exam, etc. Students may register for this course a maximum of one semester.

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 690  Master's Exam  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students in non thesis master's programs who have completed all other requirements of the degree except preparing for and taking the final master's exam. Credits Arranged

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 693  Master's Supervised Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Instruction in research and research under the mentorship of a member of the Graduate Faculty.

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 695  Master's Thesis Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Thesis Research

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 696  Summer Thesis Research  (1 credit hours)  

For graduate students whose programs of work specify no formal course work during a summer session and who will be devoting full time to thesis research.

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Summer only

SSC 699  Master's Thesis Preparation  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students who have completed all credit hour requirements and full-time enrollment for the master's degree and are writing and defending their thesis. Credits arranged

Prerequisite: Master's student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 720  Soil and Plant Analysis  (3 credit hours)  

Theory and advanced principles of utilization of chemical instruments to aid research on the heterogeneous systems of soils and plants.

Prerequisite: PY 212; CH 315; at least three soils courses including SSC 341

Typically offered in Spring only

SSC 725/TOX 725/CS 725/HS 725  Pesticide Chemistry  (1 credit hours)  

Chemical properties of pesticides including hydration and solvation, ionization, volatilization, lipophilicity, molecular structure and size, and reactivity and classification according to chemical description, mode of action or ionizability. Taughtduring the first 5 weeks of semester. Drop date is last day of 3rd week of the minicourse.

Prerequisite: (CH 201 or CH 203) and (CH 221 or CH 225)

Typically offered in Spring only

SSC 727/TOX 727/CS 727/HS 727  Pesticide Behavior and Fate In the Environment  (2 credit hours)  

Sorption/desorption, soil reactivity, movement, volatilization, bioavailability, degradation and stability of pesticides in the environment. Taught during the last 10 weeks of semester. Drop date is last day of 3rd week of the minicourse.

Prerequisite: CS(HS,SSC,TOX) 725,SSC 200

Typically offered in Spring only

SSC 771/BAE 771  Theory Of Drainage--Saturated Flow  (3 credit hours)  

Discussion of physical concepts and properties of fluids and porous media in relation to soil-water movement. Derivation and discussion of the fundamental laws and equations governing saturated flow in porous media. Analysis of mathematical solutions of steady-state and transient flow equations to determine their applicability to drainage problems. Consideration of analogs and models of particular drainage problems.

Prerequisite: MA 301

Typically offered in Fall only

SSC 790  Special Topics  (1-6 credit hours)  

The study of special problems and selected topics of current interest in soil science and related fields.

Typically offered in Fall only

SSC 801  Seminar  (1 credit hours)  

Weekly seminars on topics of current interest given by resident faculty members, graduate students and visiting lecturers.

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 809  Colloquium In Soil Science  (1-3 credit hours)  

Seminar-type discussions and lectures on specialized and advanced topics in soil science. Credits Arranged

Prerequisite: Graduate standing in SSC

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 820  Special Problems  (1-6 credit hours)  

Special problems in various phases of soils. Emphasis placed on review of recent and current research. Credits Arranged

Prerequisite: SSC 200

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 885  Doctoral Supervised Teaching  (1-3 credit hours)  

Teaching experience under the mentorship of faculty who assist the student in planning for the teaching assignment, observe and provide feedback to the student during the teaching assignment, and evaluate the student upon completion of the assignment.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall and Spring

SSC 890  Doctoral Preliminary Examination  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students who are preparing for and taking written and/or oral preliminary exams.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 893  Doctoral Supervised Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Instruction in research and research under the mentorship of a member of the Graudate Faculty.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 895  Doctoral Dissertation Research  (1-9 credit hours)  

Dissertation research.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer

SSC 896  Summer Dissertation Research  (1 credit hours)  

For graduate students whose programs of work specify no formal course work during a summer session and who will be devoting full time to thesis research.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Summer only

SSC 899  Doctoral Dissertation Preparation  (1-9 credit hours)  

For students who have completed all credit hour, full-time enrollment, preliminary examination and residency requirements for the doctoral degree and are writing and defending their dissertations.

Prerequisite: Doctoral student

Typically offered in Fall, Spring, and Summer