Geophysics

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Carl Sagan

Geophysics—MS, PhD

Fast Facts

  • Research funding averages nearly $3 million per year.
  • The nation's only geoscience/engineering master's program partnered with the US Peace Corps offering a Peace Corps Master's International program in Natural Hazard Mitigation.
  • We offer a rare international perspective on geoscience through our INVOGE (International Geological Master's in Volcanology & Geotechniques) program, which offers broad-based training in volcanology and geotechniques as well as a year spent studying abroad in France or Italy.
  • The Earth Magnetism Laboratory features a magnetically shielded room and the equipment needed for paleomagnetism studies
  • Researchers in our Subsurface Visualization Lab help companies extract oil from abandoned or nearly abandoned fields, enhancing US energy independence.

Learn more about the Geophysics programs.

Graduate Programs in Geological Engineering

Departmental research activities span from fundamental and precise laboratory studies of rocks and minerals to field studies in remote and rugged locations to high-performance computing and subsurface visualization. Faculty members are involved in domestic and international field studies including:

  • Seismic petrophysics for exploration and reservoir characterization
  • Seismic source mechanisms of tectonic and volcanic earthquakes
  • Mantle and crustal-scale seismic tomography
  • Magnetic susceptibility and paleointensity of rock formations in Australia, India and Brazil
  • Paleomagnetic studies of the Keweenaw/Midcontinent Rift Volcanics

The geophysics program is highly quantitative, requiring a firm background in mathematics and physics. Students will study the earth through physical measurements, employing theory, laboratory and/or field experimentation, and modeling. Graduates of the program will have broad training in geophysics and develop expertise in one or more of the following specialties: 

  • geomagnetism
  • earthquake seismology 
  • exploration seismology
  • volcano seismology

Research activities include development of complex computational models of earth systems, laboratory experiments analyzing earth material phenomena, analysis of remote sensing data, and field measurements of volcanologic, hydrologic, and petroleum systems.

Learn more about the Geophysics programs.

Master's Degree: Thesis Option

This option requires a research thesis prepared under the supervision of the advisor.  The thesis describes a research investigation and its results. The scope of the research topic for the thesis should be defined in such a way that a full-time student could complete the requirements for a master’s degree in twelve months or three semesters following the completion of course work by regularly scheduling graduate research credits. 

The minimum requirements are as follows:

Course work (minimum)20 credits
Thesis research6–10 credits
Total (minimum)30 credits
Distribution of course work credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)12 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

 

Programs may have stricter requirements and may require more than the minimum numbers of credits listed here.

Master's Degree: Report Option

This option requires a report describing the results of an independent study project. The scope of the research topic should be defined in such a way that a full-time student could complete the requirements for a master’s degree in twelve months or three semesters following the completion of course work by regularly scheduling graduate research credits. 

Of the minimum total of 30 credits, at least 24 must be earned in course work other than the project:

Course work24 credits
Report2–6 credits
Total (minimum)30 credits
Distribution of course work credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)12 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

 

Programs may have stricter requirements and may require more than the minimum numbers of credits listed here.

PhD Requirements

To complete a doctoral degree, students must complete the following milestones:

  • Complete all course work and research credits (see credit requirements below)
  • Pass Qualifying Examination
  • Pass Research Proposal Examination
  • Prepare and Submit Approved Dissertation
  • Pass Final Oral Defense

The minimum credit requirements are as follows:

Total Credit Requirements 
MS–PhD (minimum)30 credits
BS–PhD (minimum)60 credits

 

Individual programs may have higher standards and students are expected to know their program's requirements. See the Doctor of Philosophy Requirements website for more information about PhD milestones and related timelines.