Geophysics (GP)

Information for the Geophysics PhD program and Master's degree programs

Students in the Geophysics graduate program study Earth and other planets to advance our fundamental understanding their origin, composition, and evolution, and explore the implications for life, for the environment, and for society.

The graduate program provides a broad education in the fundamentals of geophysics, alongside research and coursework spanning multiple specializations. Our flexible curriculum and multidisciplinary group allows us to welcome graduate students from a diverse range of backgrounds in science and engineering, resulting in graduates being well prepared for future careers in academia, industry, or public service.

Our multidisciplinary program offers graduate students a unique hands-on, collaborative learning environment. In addition to our core academic curriculum, we emphasize linking observational techniques and the collection of novel datasets for testing new theoretical and computational approaches. GP students participate extensively in field experiments, instrument development, laboratory investigations, and shipboard expeditions.

Is our Geophysics graduate program for you?

You can either complete a PhD or Masters degree. Here are some thoughts from Peter Shearer on which is best for you, and why you should choose Scripps.

Geophysics group

Potential Advisors and Projects for Fall 2021 Admission

The following faculty and research scientists are interested in seeking new students for Fall 2021 intake.  If you wish to find out more about their research, please email them individually.  If you are are not sure what specific area of research you wish to pursue, or have any questions, please email the admissions coordinators, Ross Parnell-Turner and Catherine Constable at for help and guidance.

Catherine Constable
Geomagnetism. Possible projects include modeling paleosecular variation and linking paleomagnetic records of geomagnetic excursions and reversals to numerical dynamo simulations. Website: 

Steven Constable
Marine electromagnetic methods.  Projects include the study of offshore groundwater, marine gas hydrate, tectonic plate boundaries, and pretty well any other geological feature found offshore.  We collect and interpret our own field data, but the lab is also interested in developing algorithms and software needed for data processing and modeling/inversion of EM data.

Wenyuan Fan
Earthquake seismology, environmental seismology, and marine geophysics. Possible projects include analysis of earthquake dynamic triggering in the Caribbean, studying subglacial hydrology with seismic tremors in Greenland, imaging fault zone materials with dense OBS arrays, and investigating submarine landslides in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yuri Fialko
Geodesy and tectonics. Current projects include studies of sub-surface geometry of the Southern San Andreas Fault using space geodetic and seismic data, probing rheologic structure of the Earth using postseismic transients, evaluation of state of stress in seismogenic crust. Website: 

Helen Fricker
Glaciology and remote sensing.  Satellite remote sensing (particularly radar and laser altimetry) of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets; mostly focusing on the ice shelves, to understand mass loss processes driving changes (basal and surface melting, and iceberg calving)

Alice Gabriel 
Computational and theoretical seismology. Projects are available which use high-performance computing and physics-based modeling constrained by a multitude of observations. Application areas range from the seismic cycle in subduction zones and tsunami genesis, to strong ground motion scenarios in complicated settings, to induced seismicity. Projects may involve utilising new methods in terms of numerical discretisation, uncertainty quantification, imaging and monitoring. Website:

Peter Gerstoft
Machine learning seismology. My group focuses on data-driven approaches supported by statistical and physical models. Recently we have focussed on tomography, deep clustering of noise phases, and extracting information from noise. Website:

Jennifer Haase
The Haase research lab investigates and develops innovative uses of GPS and GNSS technology for sensing the environment and improving understanding and prediction of geophysical processes. New students are welcome to imagine creative investigations of the tropical atmosphere including applications to hurricanes, storm surge, the North American monsoon, convection and convectively generated equatorial waves.

Matti Morzfeld
Data assimilation and theoretical geophysics. The research projects are interdisciplinary and revolve around creating new numerical methods (Markov chain Monte Carlo or optimization) and their application across disciplines in geophysics.

Ross Parnell-Turner
Marine geophysics. Possible projects, with sea-going opportunities, will investigate oceanic crustal formation, faulting and magmatism using earthquake seismology and underwater mapping with robots.

Anne Pommier
Earth and planetary interiors. Different projects are available and will combine high-pressure and high-temperature experiments on Earth and planetary materials with geophysical observations, in order to probe the structure and dynamics of planetary interiors. The student will also have opportunities to participate in experiments on melts at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab (Chicago), and in an outreach program for K-12 teachers and students in the San Diego Unified School District.

David Sandwell
Space geodesy and geodynamics. (1) Crustal deformation data from radar interferometry and GNSS are used to understand the earthquake cycle along the San Andreas Fault system. (2) New radar altimeter data from the NASA SWOT mission will reveal the gravity signatures of previously unmapped tectonic structures in the deep oceans.
Lab web site:

Mark Zumberge
Projects include 1) the advancement of optical fiber sensors for strain measurements on land and on the seafloor.  This involves fabrication of optical interferometers as well as analysis of instrument noise and real strain signals.  2) Measurement of time-lapse gravity for mapping ground water changes.

Revelle cruise for geophysics

Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the PhD program, a major in physics, mathematics, or earth sciences is recommended. GRE scores are not required for Fall 2021 admission.

There are various application fee waiver programs offered by the UC San Diego Graduate Division. Please inquire with

For full consideration, please submit applications by December 2nd. Applications submitted after the deadline may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Financial Support

All PhD applicants are considered for financial support. More information about funding can be found here

Group for geophysics page


Additional Information

Program of Study for PhD

McMurdo station for geophysics

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.

Borsa Bolivia for geophysics

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 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.

Research in Geophysics

IGPP cover for geophysics page

For an overview of the latest geophysics research at Scripps, please see the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics annual report. For a broader view of Earth Sciences research at Scripps, see the Earth Section annual report.

Faculty and Researchers

Emeritus Faculty and Researchers