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Geophysics further study after physics BS

  1. Apr 5, 2013 #1
    Does anyone here know much about going into geophysics from a physics BS? I'm trying to figure out what extra prerequisites would be needed - different schools are giving different answers :/ I've also heard it's less competitive than physics graduate school, but I'm not sure what sort of GPA and so on is needed...
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2013 #2
    I'm also planning on transitioning from physics to geophysics in graduate school. With that being said, I can share with you what a few of my professors have told me... Typically, geophysics departments are very flexible as far as prerequisite geology courses go. In fact, I've even heard that physics and math preparation are more important than the geology as this can be easily picked up in graduate school. With that being said I'm personally going to try to get a geology minor just to show that I'm serious about having an interest in geophysics. Also, to be a geophysicist your degree doesn't have to be in geology/geophysics, it could instead be in physics. For example, one geology professor that I will be working with next semester actually has both his BS and PhD in physics and the only geology he ever took was 15 hours as an undergrad to fulfill a minor. Now this depends on the specific department that you are in. For example, some schools have geology departments with geophysics as a "sub department" so you may take more geology. Other schools such as Stanford, University of Washington, and UCLA have specific geophysics/space physics departments where you will probably take more math/physics. Also there is the option to do geophysics through the physics department at schools like UC Boulder, New Mexico, and several Canadian schools where obviously you will take plenty of physics alongside some geology if you want. From what I've gathered, as a geophysicist, you are truly a physicist who is studying physical processes in the earth.

    To answer your question more directly, depending on what your interests are as long as you take an intro geology course or two and possibly a physical geology/geophysics course (and research!) you should be fine. Though, I would think the more exposure to geologic principles/jargon as an undergrad, the better. What area of geophysics are you mostly interested in?
  4. Apr 6, 2013 #3
    Thanks for your response! I'm mostly interested in mantle and core mechanics/dynamics. I'm not sure exactly what I'd want to go into yet, but possibly mantle dynamics, seismology or rock mechanics. I've taken two upper level geophysics classes, and I'm currently doing geophysics research (and I'll be doing research over the summer too, as well as my senior thesis).

    Have you taken any chemistry classes? This is my biggest concern - I'm a rising junior in college, so I have time to fulfill prerequisites, but I'd need to take the chemistry classes next year so that they appear on my transcript by the time I apply to graduate. Some of the school's I've looked at seem to require a year of chemistry, but given that I did advanced chemistry in my school's high school curriculum, I don't want to take introductory chemistry... and given that I want to avoid orgo at all costs, this would mean taking pchem... which may be a bad idea...

    I've also heard really weird things about applying to geophysics graduate school - people have told me that for physics graduate school you need a 3.8+ or so, but for geophysics graduate school, you need a 3.0+ or a 3.5+ for better places. I'm really confused :/
  5. Apr 6, 2013 #4
    I have similar interests but I'm definitely leaning towards seismology. Another thing you may want to consider is the type of physics that you're most interested in. I'd never really thought of this until one of my professors mentioned it to me. He said if you like waves and wave mechanics then go seismology, but if you like fluid and continuum dynamics then try geodynamics. Also, if your interested in probing the earth's interior, no other approach comes close to seismology!

    My department requires the first two semester of general chemistry for physics majors and since I took some in high school, I've only needed to take one semester. Chemistry definitely seems to be important for most fields of geology but I'm not sure that it's as important for geophysics unless you're more interested in mineral physics for example. It couldn't hurt to take a semester or two of chemistry if you have time, but I would worry about trying to have them on your transcript, as long as you have general chem. If you had transfer credit for chem from high school then I wouldn't worry about taking any more.

    I can't really comment on this, but I'd be interested know. For some reason, I've gotten the impression that this might be somewhat true though. For example, I'm sure that applying to Stanford would be insanely more competitive for physics than it would be for geophysics simply because physics has a very standard curriculum where many students may take graduate level courses in undergrad, whereas people come to geophysics from geology, math, physics, computer science, engineering, etc...

    Are you doing an REU this summer by chance?
  6. Apr 6, 2013 #5
    No, I'm not doing a summer REU program per se - I'm not a US citizen so basically nothing's open to me. I will be doing the DAAD RISE program in Germany, and I'll be doing geophysics research there. Flights home are really expensive, so instead of going home, I'm going to go back to my university before school starts to continue my current research. Are you doing IRIS, given your interest in seismology? One of my friends did it last year and seemed to have a great time :)

    Are you a sophomore as well? We both have some time, at least! I'm really trying to figure out things though, given that I'll be done with my physics major next semester :/ I'd rather not take more math as my interests lie elsewhere (I've taken up to PDEs, including linear algebra), but I'm not sure if I should take undergrad geophysics classes, graduate ones (as these would be more physicsy), or grad classes in the physics department... I shall see, I shall see.

    In physics, I really like classical mechanics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, and I've enjoyed fluids in the little bit of it that I've done. I'm currently taking seismology and I *really* like it - potentially more than any of my physics classes this semester.

    I'm so glad I found another person considering the switch! :)
  7. Apr 6, 2013 #6
    You're doing the RISE program?! I considered applying for that one but I figured I wouldn't have a chance since it was international, but it looked awesome. Yeah, I'll be doing IRIS this summer, so hopefully I'll have a better idea what I want to do after it's all over. My interest in geophysics started about a year ago and I'm only just taking my first geology class this semester. I've been doing research in computational neuroscience for the past year and a half and it has been enough for me to realize that I want out... In fact, one of the things that first caught my interest with geophysics was the possibility of doing fieldwork so I'm excited to see that aspect of IRIS.

    Yes, I'm a sophomore but you seem to be way ahead of me :) Personally, if I were in your situation I'd probably try to take grad classical mechanics to get my hands on some tensor math. Also, as many grad geophysics courses as I possibly could and maybe some programming/numerical methods...

    You're the first person I've met that is going the physics ---> geophysics route as well. We should definitely keep in touch!
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