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.