Applied Ocean Science (AOS)

Interested in applying to our MS or PhD programs? View presentations from this year's info sessions.


Researchers in high-visibility wet-weather gear on the deck of a research vessel.
Physical oceanographer Amy Waterhouse of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, during the ArcticMix cruise.

Information for  the Applied Ocean Science PhD program and Master's degree programs

Applied Ocean Science is multidisciplinary and focused on the application of advanced technology to ocean exploration and observation. Applied Ocean Science (AOS) PhD and Master's degree students perform research in marine acoustics, optics, electromagnetics, geophysics, ecology, sediment transport, coastal processes, physical oceanography, and air-sea interaction.

The emphasis is on the resolution of key scientific issues through novel technological development.

The curricular group's science focus is complemented by parallel Applied Ocean Science programs in both the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) and the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) departments. Students have access to professors, courses, and research facilities across all three departments.

Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the PhD program listed here, students are admissible to the AOS program with a strong background in physical science, engineering science, or mathematics. Three years of physics or engineering and three years of mathematics at college level are expected. 

Applicant evaluation criteria

Factors used to evaluate applicants include: (1) Academic preparation; (2) Previous research experience; (3) Research interests aligned with the program; (4) Communication with prospective advisors; (5) Diversity, equity, and inclusion contributions.

If an AOS applicant submits optional GRE scores, those scores may be considered along with the applicant's GPA and used along with other materials that inform an holistic assessment.

Potential advisors for prospective applicants

Prospective PhD and MS applicants should reach out to potential advisors based on research interests to ascertain potential opportunities for graduate research support. Additionally, PhD program applicants should be aware that funding for PhD students is usually supplied by individual advisors and that funding is limited; hence, securing outside fellowships (e.g., the NSF GRFP) greatly increases the chance of admission. See here for more information concerning funding.

Program of Study for PhD

Required courses include the two quarter Wave Physics sequence SIOC 202 A-B and two of the four SIO introductory courses, (SIOC 210, 240, 260, 280), which must be completed during the first year. 

One math and one data analysis class must be taken in either the first or second year of study, selected from the following list: SIOC 203 A-B (MAE 294 A-B) Introduction to Applied Mathematics; MAE 208 Mathematics for Engineers; SIO 207C A-B Digital Signal Processing; SIOC 221 A-B Analysis of Physical Oceanographic Data; ECE275A Parameter Estimation.

Two additional technical courses must be taken prior to the doctoral qualifying exam, selected in consultation with the students' advising committee. Examples include: SIOC 200AB Computational Ocean Acoustics; SIOC 214A Introduction to Fluid Mechanics; SIOC 213 Turbulence and Mixing; MAE 210 AB Fluid Mechanics; MAE 224A Environmental Fluid Mechanics; SIOC 237A Introduction to Ocean Optics; SIOC 237B Ocean Color Remote Sensing, SIOG 227A Introduction to Seismology, and SIOG 227B Advanced Seismology.

Additional coursework is designed to focus on the students' area of study, selected in consultation with the students' advising committee.

The AOS Seminar (SIOC 208) serves as a communications bridge across the program; enrollment in this seminar is required during the student's entire period of study. Beyond these core courses, the majority of each student's academic program is tailored to individual interests.

Program of Study for MS

The applied ocean science academic program is designed to provide both a broad background and a core technical base to support the diverse interests and activities of the students.

Required course work:

  • SIOC 202A and SIOC 202B. Fundamentals of Wave Physics (two-quarter sequence; 4 units each)

Any two of the following SIO introductory courses:

  • SIOC 210. Physical Oceanography (4 units)
  • SIOG 240. Marine Geology (4 units)
  • SIOG 260. Marine Chemistry (4 units)
  • SIOB 280. Biological Oceanography (4 units)

Elective course work:

Students may fulfill the remaining units of required course work through elective course offerings selected in consultation with the students’ guidance committee. In addition, enrollment in SIOC 208 (Seminar in Applied Ocean Sciences, one unit per quarter) is expected during the student’s entire period of study. SIOC 208 serves as a communications bridge across the program.

Research in Applied Ocean Science

Applied Ocean Sciences Faculty and Researchers: