Program of Study

Program of Study for PhD

Students admitted to Geosciences of the Earth, Oceans, and Planets (GEO) are assigned an adviser, who is the chair of their three-person guidance committee. Based on the student’s interests and the major affiliation of the adviser, students are assigned to a curricular group upon admission. Although students may change curricular groups in the course of the year, they must choose which departmental exam they will take. Departmental exams have similar structures among the curricular groups within GEO (a written exam at the end of spring quarter of their first year and an oral exam before the beginning of fall quarter of their second year). The material covered is quite different so students must begin preparing for a particular group's exam from the start. Student support for the first year comes from a variety of sources including departmental fellowships and research grants. Students are encouraged to begin a research project from the beginning and typically do not hold teaching assistant positions during their first year. Students may change advisers during their first year, and they must find an adviser by the end of the first year.

There is no single course of study appropriate to the geophysics curriculum; instead, the individual interests of the student will permit, in consultation with the first-year guidance committee, a choice of course work in seismology, geomagnetism, etc.

The content of six core courses taken during the first year (SIOG 223B, SIOG 224, SIOG 225, SIOG 227A, SIOG 229, SIOG 234) forms the basis for the written departmental examination. Those lacking adequate preparation in probability and statistics are encouraged to take SIOG 223A, or a comparable course, before enrolling in SIOG 223B. Students should also consider taking SIOG 233 if they have little experience in programming.

Finally, students are also encouraged to participate in the Special Topics seminars (SIOG 239) where students have a chance to practice their speaking skills before their peers.

Program of Study for MS

The geophysics master’s degree provides a solid grounding in the fundamentals of geophysics for students intending to pursue professional positions in government, industry, or nonprofit organizations or to apply to PhD programs. Two different degree options are available:

Plan I—Thesis

This involves both course work and research, culminating in the preparation of a thesis. A total of thirty-six units of credit is required: twenty-four units must be from Category A courses (see below); and twelve units in research work leading to the thesis. Students should contact a thesis adviser and coadviser prior to, or as part of, the application process. Students are rarely accepted into the program without this prior consultation. This two-member faculty committee, in consultation with the student and the geophysics MS program director, will select the courses and research topic to be completed in two years or less.

Plan II—Comprehensive Exam

This course of study is intended to be completed in a single year and requires a minimum of thirty-six credit units. At least twenty-four units must be from Category A and will be selected in consultation with the geophysics MS program director. The remaining twelve units are electives chosen from either Category A or B, or other courses taken with permission of the geophysics MS program director. Students must pass a comprehensive final examination at the end of the spring quarter of the first year, which will cover material in the Category A course work.


Category A courses (24 units):

  • SIOG 223A Geophysical Data Analysis I (4 units)
  • SIOG 223B. Geophysical Data Analysis II (4 units)
  • SIOG 225. Physics of Earth Materials (4 units)
  • SIOG 227A. Introduction to Seismology (4 units)
  • SIOG 229. Gravity and Geomagnetism (4 units)
  • SIOG 230. Introduction to Inverse Theory (4 units)
  • SIOG 231. Introduction to EM Methods in Geophysics (4 units)
  • SIOG 234. Geodynamics (4 units)
  • SIOG 236. Satellite Remote Sensing (4 units)
  • SIOG 238. Numerical Methods (4 units)

Category B courses (24 units):

  • SIO 105. Sedimentology and Stratigraphy  (4 units)
  • SIO 110. Introduction to GIS and GPS for Scientists (4 units)
  • SIO 113. Introduction to Computational Earth Science (4 units)
  • SIO 160. Introduction to Tectonics (4 units)
  • SIO 162. Structural Geology (4 units)
  • SIO 182A. Environmental and Exploration Geophysics (4 units)
  • SIO 182B. Environmental and Exploration Geophysics (4 units)
  • SIOG 224. Internal Constitution of the Earth (4 units)
  • SIOG 226. Introduction to Marine Geophysics (4 units)
  • SIOG 227B. Advanced Seismology I (4 units)
  • SIOG 227C. Advanced Seismology II (4 units)
  • SIOG 233. Introduction to Computing (4 units)
  • SIOG 239. Special Topics in Geophysics (4 units)
  • SIOG 247. Rock Magnetism and Paleomagnetism (4 units)

Students are encouraged to participate in SIOG 239, Special Topics in Geophysics, where students have a chance to practice their speaking skills before their peers.