Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

Glaciologist and professor Slawek Tulaczyk and graduate student Jake Walter work in the fast-evolving world of ice-sheet dynamics.

The Earth & Planetary Sciences Department at UCSC has an outstanding reputation; our PhD recipients are leaders in academia, research, government, and industry. The Ph.D. program in Earth Sciences teaches students to conduct basic and applied research, to work in a cutting-edge technical environment, both independently and in groups. The program is tailored to the individual student's academic background, professional experience, research plans, and career goals.

All graduate students (except those in the coursework M.S. program) must enroll in EART 203, Introductory Teaching Seminar (2 units) fall quarter of their first year. Also part of the standard graduate curriculum are these required courses:

  • EART 204, Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) Foundations
  • EART 206, Great Papers in Earth Sciences
  • at least one of the following: EART 207, Tectonics, EART 209, Solid Earth Geochemistry, EART 210, Stellar/Planetary Formation and Evolution, and EART 220, Ground Water Modeling, EART 231, Igneous Petrology, EART 254, The Climate System, EART 262 Planetary Interiors, EART 265 Order of Magnitude Estimation, EART 270 Global Seismology, EART 275 Magnetohydrodynamics
  • EART 292-01, Whole Earth Seminar and EART 292-02, IGPP Seminar - every quarter
  • EART 293, Graduate Research Seminar (1 unit) - every winter quarter

After successfully completing the preliminary interview and course work (in the first year), and selecting an approved dissertation subject (normally at the beginning of the second year), a student takes their qualifying oral examination by no later than the end of the 8th full-time quarter, conducted by a committee of faculty including one external examiner. The doctoral dissertation that follows presents the results of original and creative work by the student. Students will present a dissertation defense seminar prior to the final signing of their dissertation. The degree is completed upon the signing of the final written doctoral dissertation by the student's reading committee, submission to the Graduate Division, and presentation of the public defense seminar.

Guangsheng Zhuang PhD 2011 China

Guangsheng Zhuang (PhD 2011) takes in an overview of a Cretaceous fluvial-lacustrine basin on the western side of the Hei Shan, China. Guangsheng, Peter Lippert (PhD 2010), research associate Brad Ritts, and assistant professor Jeremy Hourigan study these rocks as part of a larger project to understand the long-term slip history of the Altyn Tagh strike-slip fault.


EART 292-01, Whole Earth Seminar (Tuesdays, 4 pm) and EART 292-02, IGPP Seminar (generally Fridays, 3:30, but schedules vary) are weekly seminars that bring researchers from other institutions and organizations to give talks and interact informally with E&PS students, researchers, faculty, and staff. These multi-disciplinary seminars are intended to keep faculty and students up-to-date on recent research developments in the sciences. In addition, most visitors are happy to meet with interested students - be sure to contact the seminar host if you are interested in meeting with a speaker, and tell the organizers if you know of excellent speakers we should bring to give a talk.

During the Graduate Research Seminar, two to three graduate students (generally in their 2nd, 4th, and occasionally 6th year) give oral presentations on current or anticipated research and are critiqued by their peers for both content and presentation. The primary purpose of this seminar is to give students practice in presenting research results. Students should prepare carefully and practice for these seminars. E&PS graduate students have received a large number of awards for presentations at national and international meetings, and EART 293 has helped contributed to this. This seminar also helps keep students and faculty aware of the kinds of research projects planned or underway.

Students considering applying to do a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at UCSC are encouraged to contact faculty and researcher advisors in areas of mutual interest as early as possible.