The Department of the Geophysical Sciences covers a wide range of disciplines related to the Earth and other planets. We study the history of life, the physics of atmospheres and oceans, the solid Earth and its interior, the early Solar System and planetary formation, and the cosmic environment in which the Solar System formed. To do so, we apply concepts and methods from mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology to fundamental problems in our field.
Located in the Henry Hinds Laboratory for the Geophysical Sciences, our department has extensive facilities and resources. We have 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. We also have internal high-performance computing and access to Midway, a super-cluster run by the Physical Sciences Division. We use these computing resources for mathematical modeling, simulation, and data analysis across the spectrum of the geophysical sciences.
Most graduate programs fall into one of four broad areas: (1) atmospheres, oceans, ice, and climate; (2) coevolution of life and its environments; (3) Earth surface, interior, and evolution; and (4) planetary sciences and cosmochemistry. 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.
Graduate student Madeline Marshall and professor Susan Kidwell doing field work at Monsanto's Ballard Mine in Idaho