UO Geophysics

Department of Earth Sciences

About Us

Geophysics is broadly defined as the quantitative study of the physical Earth. While there are a diverse number of sub-disciplines within the field including seismology, tectonophysics, and geodesy, geophysics is united in how physics and mathematics are applied to increase our understanding of conditions and processes within the Earth system. Most students who pursue careers in geophysics share some common attributes including the perseverance to deal with complex problems, the patience to deal with confusing data, a knack for applied mathematics, an interest in computers, and a love for the outdoors. If you can identify with several of these attributes, then geophysics may be the field of study for you.

The Geophysics group at the University of Oregon consists of a collection of faculty, staff scientists, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students within the Department of Earth Sciences who share a common interest in geophysical problems. We hold regular meetings to discuss contemporary topics and share results from current research. The diversity of specialties represented by the membership helps to broaden the group’s exposure to fundamental issues and enrich internal discussions.


The courses offered in the department emphasize the properties and processes of the solid Earth.

Undergraduate Program

The geophysics undergraduate curriculum consists of courses in geology, physics, and math that build a quantitative understanding of the processes that shape the Earth. The program provides a broad, multidisciplinary foundation to prepare students for the successful pursuit of an advanced degree or a technical career. The curriculum includes a set of core courses, which are taken by all geology majors; this is augmented by courses in geophysics, math and physics that build a strong foundation in computational and analytical skills. Geophysics is an applied and interdisciplinary science and students will gain experience in using geologic and geophysical observations (gravity, magnetic, seismic, electromagnetic, remote-sensing and GPS) in the analysis of Earth processes. The detailed requirements of the geophysics option are described in the course catalog.

Graduate Program

The geophysics graduate program combines course-work with independent research. A range of courses is offered with topics that vary in response to the current interests and needs of the graduate students. While course work is an efficient way to convey knowledge, much of the graduate-level instruction occurs through one-on-one interactions with the faculty. Masters students are expected to take 45 credits of course work and complete a thesis. The course requirements for the Ph.D program are less restrictive, and are tailored around the research interests of each student. Ph.D. students must pass a comprehensive exam in their second year and then continue on to complete a dissertation. Our group benefits from transparency between individual faculty and students quite often have multiple advisors; they are thus able to bridge gaps between specialties and also disciplines. To encourage interdisciplinary study, Ph.D. students are required to present two projects during their comprehensive exam, each in a different research area. Geophysics involves the study and exploration of the entire Earth, and a graduate program typically combines travel to the field and scientific meetings with the quantitative analysis of Earth processes.

Faculty Members


Emilie Hooft

Seismology, marine geophysics, volcanic plumbing systems and eruptions, modeling of physical processes.


Gene Humphreys

Upper mantle seismology, lithospheric dynamics, tectonics, geodynamics.


Leif Karlstrom

Volcanology, glaciology, landscape evolution, and fluid mechanics.


Diego Melgar

Earthquake seismology, tsunami modeling, earthquake early warning systems.


Alan Rempel

Geomechanics, mechanics and physics of ice, glaciology, fluid and granular mechanics.


Josh Roering

Landscape evolution, geomorphology, landslide mechanics, remote sensing.


Valerie Sahakian

Active tectonics, marine geophysics, ground motion, engineering seismology.


David Sutherland

Oceanography, Glaciology, Ice-Ocean Interactions, Estuarine Dynamics.


Amanda Thomas

Earthquake seismology, fault mechanics, active tectonics, geodesy, and numerical modeling.


Doug Toomey

Studies of magmatic and tectonic processes at spreading centers, subduction zones, and hotspots.


Ray Weldon

Paleoseismology, neotectonics, structural seismology, earthquake hazards, field geology.

Prospective Students

The graduate program in geophysics offers opportunities for quantitative studies in the fields of fault mechanics, continental and marine tectonics, active- and passive-source seismology, mid-ocean ridge and hotspot dynamics, ice physics, and geomechanics. We offer a collegial, supportive environment focused on developing skilled scientists. Qualified, enthusiastic students who wish to explore interdisciplinary research on fundamental geophysical problems are encouraged to apply. Research apprenticeships and teaching assistantships fund student research towards a Ph.D or M.S. Visit the department’s webpage for additional information and to learn about the application process. The application deadline for fall 2018 enrollment is December 15th, 2017. Students are encouraged to contact individual faculty members to learn more about specific research opportunities.