Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry (MCG)

Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry concerns chemical and geochemical processes operating in a broad range of study areas: the oceans, the solid earth, the atmosphere, marine organisms, polar ice sheets, lakes, meteorites, and the solar system.

Areas of advanced study and research include:

  • Atmosphere-ocean chemistry feedbacks
  • The physical and inorganic chemistry of seawater
  • Ocean circulation and mixing based on chemical and isotopic tracers
  • Marine organic and natural products chemistry
  • Geochemical interactions of sediments with seawater and interstitial waters
  • Geochemistries of volcanic and geothermal phenomena
  • Chemical exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere
  • Geochemical cycles of carbon, oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen, and other elements
  • Isotopic geochemistry of the solid earth and meteorites
  • Atmospheric trace gas chemistry
  • Paleoatmospheric composition recorded in polar ice cores, corals and sediments
  • Chemistry of lakes and other freshwater systems

Studies are typically interdisciplinary and involve integration of chemical concepts with information about the physical, biological, or geological processes that influence natural systems. Students in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry curricular group are encouraged to explore these links.

Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the PhD program listed here, a major in chemistry, geology, biochemistry, or related field, is required.

Program of Study


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.

In their first year at Scripps Oceanography, students in MCG are required to take SIO 210, 260, and either SIO 280 or SIO 240, as well as three additional elective courses.

In their second year, students are required to take three additional elective courses. Although the exact choice of such courses will depend on the student’s research interests, these required electives must be four-unit courses that are offered at the graduate level, and that have been approved by the curricular group as suitable electives.  If a student desires to take (as a required elective) a course that is not already approved, he or she should consult with the MCG curriculum adviser to get approval.


Required course work:

  • SIO 210. Physical Oceanography (4 units)
  • SIO 260. Marine Chemistry (4 units)
  • Select one of the following:
    SIO 240. Marine Geology (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. 

Research in Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

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

Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Faculty and Researchers: