Jul 21, 2024  
2023/2024 University Catalog 
2023/2024 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geophysics, Ph.D.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs by Campus Location

(Major Code: 19160) (SIMS Code: 775370)

General Information

The cooperating faculties of the Department of Geological Sciences at San Diego State University and the Geophysics Curricular Program of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Graduate Department at the University of California, San Diego offer a joint doctoral program in geophysics. The complementary specialties of the two groups result in two focus areas: earthquake science and applied geophysics. Each student’s program is designed around one of these two areas.

Admission to Doctoral Study

Applicants for admission to the doctoral program in geophysics offered jointly by SDSU and UCSD must meet the requirements as outlined under General Requirements for Doctoral Degrees given in Requirements for Doctoral Degrees . Admission into the program requires acceptance by the graduate deans and by the participating departments at UCSD and SDSU. Candidates for admission should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in physics, mathematics, earth science, or equivalent training; degrees in engineering science are also accepted. The student’s preparation should include:

  1. Mathematics through differential and integral calculus.
  2. Physics, one year with laboratory (the course should stress the fundamentals of mechanics, electricity, magnetism, optics, and thermodynamics, and should use calculus in its exposition).
  3. Chemistry, one year with laboratory.
  4. An additional year of physics, chemistry, or mathematics.
    Students seeking admission to the joint doctoral program in geophysics should electronically submit the university application available at http://www.calstate.edu/apply. Application deadlines and contact information for the joint doctoral program coordinator are available at http://geology.sdsu.edu.

In addition, all applicants must submit the following admissions materials separately to SDSU Graduate Admissions and to the Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University.

Graduate Admissions

The following materials should be submitted as a complete package directly to:

Graduate Admissions
Enrollment Services
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-7416

  1. Official transcripts (in sealed envelopes or mailed directly from the issuing institution) from all postsecondary institutions attended (students with international coursework must submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they must be accompanied by a certified English translation).
  2. GRE scores (http://www.ets.org SDSU institution code 4682);
  3. English language score, if medium of instruction was in a language other than English (http://www.ets.org SDSU institution code 4682).

Department of Geological Sciences

The following materials should be mailed as a complete package to:

Department of Geological Sciences
(Attention: Joint Doctoral Program Coordinator)
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-1020

  1. Three letters of recommendation (in sealed and signed envelopes);
  2. Curriculum vitae or resume;
  3. Applicant’s statement of purpose in seeking the Ph.D.

A scholastic average of B (3.0 /4.0) or better in upper-division courses, or prior graduate study, is required. Special consideration occasionally can be given to candidates with outstanding records who do not meet all preadmission criteria, but such students should expect to take additional courses to improve their backgrounds.

Satisfaction of the minimum requirements at San Diego State University or the Department of Geological Sciences does not guarantee admission to the doctoral program.

Specific Requirements

Residency Requirements

After formal admission to the joint doctoral program, the student must spend at least one academic year in full-time residence on each of the two campuses. The definition of residence must be in accord with the regulations of UCSD and SDSU. Usually, the first year is spent at UCSD; the second and subsequent years at SDSU.

Advising Committee

Upon admission to the program, the joint doctoral graduate advisers of the two institutions will establish an advising committee for each student. The committee will consist of four faculty members, normally two from each campus. In consultation with the student, the committee will develop a course of study, including identifying academic deficiencies and recommending remedies for them. The advising committee will be the official advising group for the student until a joint doctoral committee has been chosen and recommended to the Graduate Divisions by the advising committee.

Language Requirement

There is no specific language other than English requirement for this program, but knowledge of a language other than English may be deemed necessary by the advising committee to successfully pursue the student’s research goal. All students must be proficient in English.

Course Requirements

There is no single course of study appropriate to the geophysics doctoral program. Instead, the individual interests of the student will permit, in consultation with the advising committee, a choice of course work in earthquake science or applied geophysics, although certain core courses are usually taken during most of the first year. In the summer or early fall following the first year of study each student will take the departmental examination which is both written and oral. The foundation for this examination is laid by the core courses.

Departmental Examination

Doctoral candidates normally will be required to take a departmental examination not later than early in the second year of study. The examination will be oral and written. The examination tests the student’s general preparation in geophysics and associated areas (e.g., geology, math, computer programming). The student will be required to demonstrate, in a quantitative and analytical manner, comprehension of required subject material and of the pertinent interactions. Part of the examination is based on the knowledge of a number of assigned journal articles. The oral examination includes a discussion of the student’s research progress.

Qualifying Examinations

Joint Doctoral Committee

After the student has passed the departmental examination, a joint doctoral committee will be appointed. The joint doctoral committee must be formed before the student may proceed to the qualifying examination. The student will select a dissertation supervisor (major professor), who will chair the joint doctoral committee. The joint doctoral committee shall be composed of at least four members of the joint doctoral program faculty, two from the SDSU department and two from the UCSD department. The committee may be augmented as needed by an additional member from outside geophysics at UCSD or a member of the faculty at SDSU from outside of geophysics or, when authorized, another university. The joint doctoral committee shall be responsible for evaluating the dissertation proposal, administering and evaluating the qualifying examination, judging the dissertation, and administering and evaluating the dissertation defense.

Qualifying Examination

The joint doctoral committee will determine the student’s qualifications for independent research by means of a qualifying examination which will be administered no later than the end of the third year. The qualifying examination is an exploration of the research project, its feasibility, originality and appropriateness. The student must write a concise report describing his or her proposed original research project and give an oral presentation to the joint doctoral committee covering the planned work and any progress to date. The student’s joint doctoral committee will conduct the oral qualifying examination to ensure that the student possesses the full knowledge and competence required to carry out her or his dissertation research proposal. Passing the oral presentation and defense of this proposal signifies that the doctoral dissertation proposal is approved.

Upon satisfactory completion of the oral qualifying examination and prescribed coursework, the student must apply to the graduate dean at UCSD for advancement to candidacy. Upon payment of the candidacy fee to UCSD, and after approval by the graduate deans of both campuses, students will be notified of their advancement to candidacy by the UCSD graduate dean.


Following the successful completion of all prescribed coursework and qualifying examination, the major remaining requirement for the Ph.D. degree will be the satisfactory completion of a dissertation consisting of original research of publishable quality carried out under the guidance of the major professor. Approval of the completed dissertation by the joint doctoral committee implies that an organized investigation yielding substantial conclusions of interest which expand the frontiers of knowledge and understanding in the discipline has been carried out. Results must be reported in a manner demonstrating the ability of the candidate to effectively prosecute and report independent investigation.

The requirement for completing and filing the dissertation, including the number of copies required, will be decided jointly by the graduate deans and in accordance with regulations of the Graduate Divisions.

Final Examination

The final examination, organized and administered by the joint doctoral committee, shall consist of a dissertation defense, before the joint doctoral committee with the public invited.

Award of the Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in geophysics will be awarded jointly by the Regents of the University of California and the Trustees of The California State University in the names of both institutions.

Financial Support

The Department of Geological Sciences at SDSU has teaching assistantships and fellowships available on a competitive basis and research assistantships and internships are available from research grants and contracts or through industry contacts. All students applying for admission to the joint doctoral program will be considered for financial support.


The following faculty members of the cooperating institutions participate in the joint doctoral program, being available for direction of research and as departmental members of joint doctoral committees.

San Diego State University:
Committee Members: Day, Ma, Olsen
University of California, San Diego:
Committee Members: Agnew, Bock, Constable, Dorman, Fialko, Harding, Minster, Sandwell, Shearer, Vernon

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs by Campus Location