Applied Ocean Science (AOS)

Applied Ocean Science is multidisciplinary and focused on the application of advanced technology to ocean exploration and observation. Applied Ocean Science (AOS) 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 applicable engineering and three years of mathematics at college level are expected. 

Program of Study


Students admitted to Climate-Ocean-Atmosphere Program (COAP) choose a curricular group by the end of the fall quarter. This choice is aided by the student’s guidance committee, which includes a chair from one of the COAP curricular groups. The guidance committee will help to arrange an individually tailored set of first-year courses for the student, and to ensure that the student has taken all necessary courses to prepare for the departmental exam. During the year, students may be supported in a variety of ways, but by the end of the spring quarter students must choose a research adviser. After the first year the guidance committee is dissolved, and the research adviser, and eventually the dissertation committee, provide guidance.

The AOS academic program is designed to provide both a broad background and a core technical base to support the diverse interests and activities of its students. Early participation in an ongoing research project is encouraged. However, specialization and focus on a specific thesis topic is not required until the second or third year of the program.

Required courses include SIO 214, Introduction to Fluid Mechanics and the two quarter Wave Physics sequence SIO 202 A-B. Two of the four SIO introductory courses, (SIO 210, 240, 260, 280), must be completed during the first year, with the remaining two courses required prior to passing the doctoral qualifying exam at the end of the third year. In addition, the applied math sequence, SIO 203 A-B or MAE 294 A-B is taken in either the first or second year of study.

The AOS Seminar (SIO 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.

The AOS departmental examination, held at the end of the first year, is based on the core technical courses SIO 214A, SIO 202A–B, and two of the four introductory courses (chosen by the student). The exam has both oral and written components.


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:

  • SIO 214A. Introduction to Fluid Mechanics (4 units)
  • SIO 202A and SIO 202B. Fundamentals of Wave Physics (two-quarter sequence; 4 units each)

Any two of the following SIO introductory courses:

  • SIO 210. Physical Oceanography (4 units)
  • SIO 240. Marine Geology (4 units)
  • SIO 260. Marine Chemistry (4 units)
  • SIO 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 SIO 208 (Seminar in Applied Ocean Sciences, one unit per quarter) is expected during the student’s entire period of study. SIO 208 serves as a communications bridge across the program.

Research in Applied Ocean Science

Of the sixteen categories of research at Scripps, the AOS group is most closely associated with the following integrated research themes:

Applied Ocean Sciences Faculty and Researchers: