Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics (PhD)


Theoretically, experimentally, and observationally oriented Master of Science (M.Sc.), Master of Applied Science (M.A.Sc.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs are offered in a number of key areas of geophysics. Current interests include topics in observational and theoretical glaciology; climate variability; geodynamics of the crust, mantle, and core of Earth and other planets; geological fluid mechanics; volcanic processes; surface processes on Earth and other planets; origin and structure of planetary magnetic fields; inversion methodologies with application to reflection seismology, mineral exploration, and environmental studies; computational electrodynamics; seismology with observational programs in crustal and upper mantle studies; earthquake studies focused on understanding past and current tectonic processes in Western Canada, and data science including applications of machine learning to Earth scientific problems.

What makes the program unique?

Geophysics at UBC was originally a subprogram within the Department of Physics until 1963 when the Department of Geophysics was formed. In 1972 the Department of Geophysics changed its name to the Department of Geophysics & Astronomy reflecting increased activity in astronomical research and teaching. This department was dissolved in 1996, and geophysics faculty were merged with colleagues from geology, oceanography and, later, atmospheric sciences to become the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS). EOAS is the largest and most diverse department of its kind in Canada and, accordingly, geophysics graduate students have unparalleled opportunities for engaging in cutting-edge pure and applied research in both traditional geophysical topics and those that cross disciplinary boundaries. 


Program Enquiries

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Admission Information & Requirements

1) Check Eligibility

Minimum Academic Requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 100









IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 7.0









Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

2) Meet Deadlines

September 2022 Intake

Application Open Date
01 October 2021
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 January 2022
Transcript Deadline: 15 January 2022
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2022
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 January 2022
Transcript Deadline: 15 January 2022
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2022

January 2023 Intake

Application Open Date
01 April 2022
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 June 2022
Transcript Deadline: 15 June 2022
Referee Deadline: 15 June 2022
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 June 2022
Transcript Deadline: 15 June 2022
Referee Deadline: 15 June 2022

3) Prepare Application


All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.


Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Research Information

Research Facilities

In 2012 the new Earth Sciences Building was completed. The $75 million facility was designed to inspire collaboration and creativity across disciplines.

Tuition & Financial Support


FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$108.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,732.53$3,043.77
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$969.17 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $17,242.00 (check cost calculator)
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Financial Support

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

PhD students are guaranteed a minimum salary of CAN$ 25,000 (plus tuition) per year for the first four years, which can consist of research assistantships (RAs) to help professors with their grants and contracts, teaching assistantships (TAs) to help teach courses and labs and grade assignments, scholarships and prizes, and combinations of all the above. 

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 11 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research/academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $30,759.
  • 8 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 8 students was $3,748.
  • 8 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 8 students was $13,737.
  • 11 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 11 students was $8,073.
  • 5 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 5 students was $21,933.

Study Period: Sep 2019 to Aug 2020 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

18 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 18 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):

RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
University of British Columbia
Columbia University in the City of New York
University of Ottawa
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
Black Tusk Geophysics (3)
Arcis Seismic Solutions (2)
3point Science
High Power Exploration
Dead Sea and Arava Science Center
Computational Geosciences Inc.
Seabed Geosolutions
Oyu Tolgoi LLC
Baziw Consulting Engineers Ltd.
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Geophysicist (3)
Consulting Geophysicist
Geologist, Research scientist
Lead Backend Developer
Advanced Geophysical Software Developer
Senior Geophysicist
Senior Earth Scientist
Principal Geophysicist
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Career Options

Geophysics graduate programs prepare students for work in a wide range of Earth science disciplines. The programs afford students with strong critical thinking, analytical problem solving, communication, statistical, computational and research skills, and the ability to work effectively in teams.These skills are highly sought after and are transferable to many workplaces. Recent graduates have found employment in academia (universities in Canada, United States, Europe and Australia), government (Geological Survey of Canada), environmental monitoring and mineral exploration industries, hydrocarbon exploration, software engineering (Google) and elsewhere in the technology sector (Tesla).

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

Enrolment Data

Offers  223
New registrations   23
Total enrolment1619193035

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 75% based on 8 students admitted between 2007 - 2010. Based on 13 graduations between 2016 - 2019 the minimum time to completion is 4.00 years and the maximum time is 8.00 years with an average of 5.60 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 22 April 2021]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs [data updated: 29 October 2020].

Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Bostock, Michael (structure of the Canadian upper mantle, Geophysics, formation and evolution of the first continental landmasses, the structure and dynamics of subduction zones)
  • Haber, Eldad (Scientific computing and its application to geophysical and medical imaging)
  • Jellinek, Mark (Volcanology, Geodynamics, Planetary Science, Geological Fluid Mechanics)
  • Johnson, Catherine (Lunar geophysics, Evolution of Mars' Magnetic Field and Atmosphere)
  • Radic, Valentina (Atmospheric sciences; Geophysics; Climate Changes and Impacts; Climate Science; Glaciology; Meteorology)
  • Schoof, Christian (Geophysics; Ice and Snow; Transformation and Evolution of the Earth Surface; Fluid mechanics; Hydraulic; Asymptotic and Classical Applied Analysis; Differential Equation; applied mathematics; glacier hydrology; Glaciology; ice sheet dynamics)

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2020 Dr. Astic coupled multi-physics simulations with data science to develop a new methodology to image the subsurface and map underground resources from geophysical data with an improved resolution. This new approach will help locate and estimate the resources available for a sustainable future, such as minerals, water, and CO2 storage capacity.
2020 Dr. Mitchell worked to develop new data quality control and survey design methodologies specifically tailored for electrical and electromagnetic surveys collected in tunnel-based environments. These methodologies improve our ability to image the regions surrounding tunnels to mitigate hazards and map mineralized zones.
2020 Dr. Plourde studied how the distribution of earthquakes near tectonic plate boundaries is affected by the distribution of groundwater. To help unravel these tectonic systems, he presents new computational methods to illuminate detailed earthquake source processes.
2019 Dr. Peters developed mathematical tools and software to merge measurements and prior knowledge to improve the quality of imaging methods. His work focussed on imaging applications in the earth sciences.
2019 Dr. Fournier's research builds upon well established imaging technologies used by earth scientists to better understand the sub surface and interior of our planet. He focused on the processing of surface gravity and magnetic field data -- an active field of research in applied geophysics. His work is frequently used in the scientific community.
2019 Dr. Belliveau developed algorithms that produce three-dimensional images of the interior of the earth from remotely collected electrical and magnetic measurements. These images help scientists understand the Earth's interior.
2019 Dr. Mittelholz explored the magnetic field environment of Mars, addressing the crustal, ionospheric and magnetospheric fields from satellite data. Her work also addressed the longevity of the ancient dynamo field, a constraint on Mars' early thermal evolution.
2019 Dr. Heagy studied the use of electromagnetic data for monitoring hydraulic fracturing operations. Her work contributed to the understanding of electromagnetic fields and fluxes in settings with steel-cased wells, as well as the development of open-source software tools for building models of the subsurface from geophysical data.
2018 Dr. Fang studied how to use seismic data to create an image of the Earth's interior. He developed a technique to achieve this goal without knowing the original signal characteristics. This technique can help oil and gas industries make better exploration decisions.
2018 Did rivers ever flow on Mars? The remnants of channels on its surface suggest they did. Dr. Grau Galofre showed that although rivers existed, the majority flowed beneath hundreds of meters of glacial ice. This discovery may help to understand the climate and hydrology of ancient Mars and to focus the search for life outside of our planet.


Further Information


Current interests include topics in observational and theoretical glaciology; climate variability; geodynamics of the crust, mantle, and core of Earth and other planets; geological fluid mechanics; volcanic processes; origin and structure of planetary magnetic fields; reflection seismology; time-series analysis and wavelet processing; inversion methodologies with application to reflection seismology, mineral exploration, and environmental studies; computational electrodynamics; seismology with observational programs in crustal and upper mantle studies; earthquake studies focused on understanding past and current tectonic processes in Western Canada; and theoretical model studies to investigate wave propagation in laterally heterogeneous media.

Faculty Overview

Program Identifier




September 2022 Intake

Application Open Date
01 October 2021
Canadian Applicant Deadline
15 January 2022
International Applicant Deadline
15 January 2022

January 2023 Intake

Application Open Date
01 April 2022
Canadian Applicant Deadline
15 June 2022
International Applicant Deadline
15 June 2022
Supervisor Search

Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update the application inquiries contact details please use this form.

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