Student Life

San Diego is one of the most popular destinations in the United States, with a diverse cross section of society, picturesque settings, miles of beaches, and the assortment of sports and leisure activities that Southern California is famous for. The University of California, San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography both provide a strong academic support structure for graduate students at IGPP with excellent research and support facilities.

Extra-curricular activities

Each year, IGPP students organize a camping trip to the nearby Southern California desert parks such as Anza-Borrego or Joshua Tree. This is an opportunity to enjoy the local wilderness areas, get a fantastic view of the stars, and bond with your fellow students. All IGPP students are warmly encouraged to attend. Other activities include the annual beach barbecue, ski trip (to Mammoth), pizza parties, and the daily tea break (3:30 pm in the Munk Reading Room). Interaction with other SIO students can be found at TGIF (Fridays @ 5 pm, Surfside) or through intramural sports (innertrube water polo, soccer, softball, beach volleyball, and more). IGPP is located within walking distance of world-class snorkeling and surf spots.


San Diego's predominantly warm, sunny weather is one of its main attractions. Winters are very mild with an average temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius). Summer temperatures range between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (22 and 30 degrees Celsius). Even in the summer months the evenings can turn cool, so visitors should make sure they pack a light jumper or jacket.

Sports & Recreation

With over 70 miles of beaches, a semi-enclosed bay (Mission Bay), and numerous canyon trails and national parks, San Diego enjoys a diverse array of outdoor activities including watersports (surfing, sailing, sea kayaking, kelp forest SCUBA diving, snorkelling, whale watching) and land-based sports (hiking, biking, running, racing). Several world famous surfing beaches and dive sites are close to IGPP, as well as the nearby La Jolla Glider Port for airborne adventurers. The Anza Borrego Desert State Park, the largest State Park in California, provides visitors with outdoor beauty, wildlife, and desert flora. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, with 26,563 acres of alpine meadow, forested mountain peaks and some 110 miles of hiking trails is another popular destination, as is Palomar State Park, with it's spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

Arts & Culture

A thriving arts and culture community is found in San Diego, with over 90 museums, two Tony � Award-winning theatres, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Opera, the Mainly Mozart Festival, the La Jolla Summerfest, diverse live music, innovative dance, and numerous festivals.

Program Overview


Every graduate student is encouraged to take coursework during their first few years in order to acquire a base knowledge in Geophysics, and develop practical research skills. Courses are taught by faculty members in small groups, and student-faculty interaction is encouraged. For more information, see New Student Help.

The Keller Lab

The Keller Laboratory is the first year graduate student lab, complete with wired and wireless network access, a microwave, sofa, coffee machine, refrigerator, and other such luxuries. The lab is located on the west side of the Institute, with a full view of the Pacific Ocean. All first year students are assigned space in the lab, allowing new students to get to know each other, help each other with coursework and research questions, and generate the amiable feeling that is found throughout IGPP.

After one year, the graduate students are relocated to offices close to their advisors or in their curricular groups, and the new first years take over the lab. The atmosphere in the Keller lab is relaxed and informal, with students coming and going to class, or working on research papers, proposals, or coursework.


Many geophysics students at SIO do fieldwork as part of their thesis research. Some deploy geophysical instruments at sea on Scripps research vessels. Others assist on land-based sensor deployments and surveys at exotic locations around the world. IGPP operates the Piñon Flat Observatory in Southern California.

Getting your Ph.D.

At the end of the first year of classes, all SIO students take a two-part Departmental Exam. A written part is based on the material covered in classes, and an oral part assesses the student's ability to understand and conduct research. Sometime in the third year, a student organizes their thesis committee and defends a proposal of thesis research in a Qualifying Exam. After completing the Qualifying Exam, a student meets annually with their committee for progress updates until the final Thesis Defence. Students at SIO are not required to get a Masters degree en route to their Ph.D. degree.

How to Apply

Interested in applying for graduate school in geophysics at SIO? See the SIO page here to begin the application process.