Program for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (PIER)

PIER is an approved UCSD Specialization available in 9 UCSD departments (Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Economics, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Rady School of Management, Scripps Institution of Oceanography).  The Specialization will acknowledge interdisciplinary skills trainees acquire beyond a traditional Ph.D.

Note:  Current Ph.D.students outside the approved PIER departments may apply with support of their faculty advisor.  If admitted, CMBC will work with the new department and Graduate Council to approve a new degree code for the additional department.

Training for UCSD Ph.D. Students
Solving threats to the oceans and human society in the face of global change requires collaboration between disciplines.   PIER is designed to train students to find creative and practical solutions within ecological, social, economic, and ethical constraints.

CMBC is seeking the next generation of scholars capable of confronting the biological and societal issues with respect to the health of the world’s ocean.   We are interested in people that bring unusual and valuable skills to the program and think creatively about how to solve environmental problems.

PIER Proposal as amended approved June 6, 2016 available for download:
PIER Proposal

16 unit summer boot camp
2 unit interdisciplinary forum (IFER)
8 units outside the home department

How to apply:
Existing UCSD Ph.D. students in most departments are eligible to participate after completing core course requirements in the home department. (SIO requires students participate in their first year and must apply as candidate to the graduate program – see below) All applicants must submit a two page PIER essay to The essay should expand on the applicant’s personal and research goals and how they will benefit from the integration of that natural, and social sciences or humanities.  Existing students will also need a letter of support from their graduate advisor. Departments who nominate candidates to PIER are responsible for that student’s summer stipend.  The graduate advisor letter must acknowledge this. The essay and support letter are due by the last day of JANUARY for existing students.

Candidates to SIO (2020-2021): Incoming Ph.D. candidates to SIO must submit a separate 2 page PIER essay as part of the application (  Beyond what is in your statement of purpose, this essay should describe your personal and research goals and how these will benefit from the integration of natural and social sciences. Upload this essay on the Academic Program Areas page of the application.

There are hundreds of Ph.D. applicants to SIO. Applicant to PIER should contact to confirm receipt of their PIER essay.

Inquires may be sent to

The PIER specialization is NOT a funding mechanism but a way to acknowledge interdisciplinary skills and training beyond a traditional Ph.D.
All students accepted into PIER must have summer support provided their department or advisor.  CMBC provides summer session registration and campus bases summer fees for all PIER students.

Donors who wish to support PIER students can give on-line to CMBC Fellowship Fund.

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