Opportunities for graduate study in seismology

M.S. and Ph.D. program

Graduate student assistantships in seismology are available each year at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This is an opportunity to apply the computational tools of seismology to all flavors of earthquake, volcano and tsunami hazards. These research assistantships provide tuition and a competitive stipend, as well as travel to conferences and field work. Because of the numerous experiences available in earthquake and volcano seismology in Alaska, our programs are quite competitive. The student body in the geophysics program is strong and our alumni go on to a wide range of jobs in seismology. Experience in geophysics is not required. A solid background in physics, mathematics, or computer science is excellent preparation if accompanied by a strong interest in the Earth sciences.


Our unique location provides a natural laboratory for research in earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Students in the seismology program frequently contribute to the efforts of the Alaska Earthquake Center and/or the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Through these facilities, students complement their individual research with real world application. Current research opportunities exist in earthquake, volcano and tsunami applications. This video briefly introduces volcanology and seismology, and space physics, at the Geophysical Institute.

the university

The Geophysical Institute (GI) is home to 50+ faculty and more than 70 M.S. and Ph.D. students. The GI is one of several such research institutes at UAF, the research campus of the University of Alaska system. Our faculty are interwoven with the department of Geology and Geophysics and other academic departments. Our students are active outdoors and take advantage of Alaska’s limitless wilderness opportunities, often in conjunction with their research. As the second largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks combines the conveniences and cultural resources of a medium city with the wilderness and wildlife of interior Alaska. If this mix of quantitative science and application appeals to you, please feel to write me with specific questions.

how to get in ...

In recent years we have accepted about 20% of applicants with interests in seismology and volcano seismology. The unusual nature of our program makes UAF geophysics more selective than might be anticipated. Though we try to select students based on their potential, and not necessarily their preparation, here are a few pointers if you are serious about a graduate degree at UAF in these fields: (1) Get a strong foundation suitable for the UAF geophysics program. At a minimum this includes math through linear algebra and preferrably differential equations and a solid selection of physics coursework - and, of course, do well in these classes! Computer programming experience is not essential but is a significant asset. UAF is a great place to get involved in research from day one. In my opinion, it is not an ideal school to make up coursework deficiencies. (2) Get some experience. There are numerous summer opportunities to get hands-on geophysics experience. Two excellent programs include the SAGE and IRIS internship programs, though there are innumerable others. This type of experience is important because it allows you to figure out which types of research excite you and which don't. An internship is certainly not essential for graduate school admissions. However, it will give you the experience to write a meaningful personal statement and make sure that you are soliciting the appropriate programs and faculty. (3) Get in touch with us. If you have the appropriate academic preparation, then introduce yourself with an email. If you have any chance to meet us at professional meetings such as the annual AGU meeting, seize it. Successful scientists come in all flavors, but initiative and motivation are traits shared by all.