The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

Geophysical Sciences - PhD

Division: Physical Sciences
Degree Type: PhD

Program Description

The Department of the Geophysical Sciences covers a wide range of disciplines related to the Earth, including its origin, life, fluid envelopes, and cosmic environment. Concepts and methods in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology are applied to the problems of the atmosphere, the oceans, the solid earth, and the evolution of life.

Research facilities include laboratories for sediment transport, high pressure geophysics, mass spectrometry, environmental chemistry, and rock and fossil preparation; scanning electron microscopy; and general chemical analyses. Special types of equipment include a wave tank, a scanning electron microscope, an electron probe, and X-ray diffractometers. Computing resources in the department are devoted to mathematical modeling, simulation, and data analysis across the spectrum of the geophysical sciences.

Most graduate programs fall into one of three broad areas: (1) atmospheres, oceans, and climate; (2) solid earth geology, geophysics, and geochemistry; and (3) paleobiology and historical geology. The boundaries between these areas are anything but rigid, however. Students may, for example, combine meteorology, geophysics, and paleobiology in studies of paleoclimate and paleogeography. Work in geophysical fluid dynamics may be directly applicable to topics as different as mantle convection and ocean tides. As a result, the curriculum of a graduate student is highly flexible, and programs can be designed to meet the needs of the individual. Much of a student's coursework and research may actually be carried out in other departments of the University. This is especially common in evolution and paleobiology and in aspects of geochemistry and cosmochemistry.

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Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: January 12, 2015

Campus Visits

The Department does not require interviews for applicants, but you are welcome to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students. You may contact faculty with questions, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Degree Objective

The Department admits applicants only for the PhD degree.

Application Requirements

  1. Online application
  2. Personal information section
  3. At least 3 letters of recommendation (can be submitted online)
  4. GRE and TOEFL scores
  5. Official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended
  6. Statement of academic purpose

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are released in early March. No decisions will be given by phone or email.

Program Requirements

  1. GEOS 30200 must be taken in the student's first or second year.
  2. A program of study approved by the student's advisory committee.
  3. A reading comprehension examination in a modern foreign language may be required, if deemed appropriate by the advisory committee.
  4. A preliminary examination consisting of a written part covering fields that the student has selected for a program of study, and an oral part based upon the student's proposal for a dissertation topic that has been submitted as a research prospectus.
  5. Admission to formal candidacy for the degree, based upon (1) the above requirements and (2) the advisory committee's assessment of the student's competence and promise in independent research.
  6. A dissertation by the candidate on the results of independent research in the geophysical sciences.
  7. An oral final examination, concerned mainly with the subject of the dissertation and the field of specialization.

Costs & Financial Aid

All applicants to the PhD program are automatically considered for financial aid in the form of a graduate assistantship (teaching or research). Graduate assistantships include tuition remission, health insurance, and a monthly salary.