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.
Contact the program
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
January 2024 Intake
Application Open Date01 April 2023
September 2024 Intake
Application Open Date01 October 2023
January 2025 Intake
Application Open Date01 April 2024
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)
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.
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
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,802.52||$3,166.73|
|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)||$1,081.64 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $18,517.90 (check cost calculator)|
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
PhD students are guaranteed a minimum salary of CAN$ 25,500 (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.
- 10 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 10 students was $6,667.
- 11 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 11 students was $7,938.
- 11 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 11 students was $13,292.
- 6 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 6 students was $24,500.
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.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
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.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
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 EducationUniversity of British Columbia
Columbia University in the City of New York
University of Ottawa
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationBlack Tusk Geophysics (3)
Arcis Seismic Solutions (2)
High Power Exploration
Dead Sea and Arava Science Center
Computational Geosciences Inc.
Oyu Tolgoi LLC
Baziw Consulting Engineers Ltd.
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationGeophysicist (3)
Geologist, Research scientist
Lead Backend Developer
Advanced Geophysical Software Developer
Senior Earth Scientist
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese 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.
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.
Completion Rates & Times
|2014||Dr. Leaney completed his PhD in Geophysics. His thesis dealt with the influence of elastic anisotropy on micro-earthquakes generated during hydraulic fracturing. A data set from central Alberta was analyzed using newly developed techniques, which should benefit the oil and gas industry in Canada, the US and the rest of the world.|
|2014||Dr. Blanchette-Guertin developed new tools and analytical methods to study seismic energy propagation in highly scattering environments, such as on the Moon. His work resulted in a better understanding of shallow lunar structures and offers new avenues to study the interiors of other scattering bodies, such as asteroids and Mars.|
|2014||Dr. Royer devised deterministic and statistical models of seismic deconvolution. She exploited the latter model to generate low frequency earthquake templates from tectonic tremor. Its application to the Cascadia subduction zone provides insight into the plate boundary properties.|
|2014||Dr. Winslow studied Mercury's magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind. She developed a new method to measure the magnetic field strength at the surface of planets using high altitude spacecraft magnetic field and plasma observations. She applied this technique to Mercury, making the first measurements of its surface magnetic field.|
|2013||Dr. Smithyman developed novel methods that enable processing of on-land seismic data, to generate detailed geophysical images. He applied the new techniques to produce models of rock type in the Nechako-Chilcotin plateau, British Columbia. These models can be used to infer rock type and interpret underground geology, from surface to about 2 km depth.|
|2012||Dr. Hodge studied how magma, or melted rock, moves within underground magma chambers. She developed a technique to use features in solidified magma, or rocks, to understand how the magma moved prior to solidification. Her work explains how new injections of magma interact below volcanoes, affect magma chamber growth, and increase the potential for volcanic eruptions at the Earth's surface.|
|2012||Dr. Holtham developed geophysical methods to image the sub-surface of the earth. Measurements due to electomagnetic sources from lightning and solar events, were modelled to understand the physical properties of the earth. The research results can be used for resource exploration and environmental applications.|
|2011||Dr. Vaghri developed numerical models to investigate how surface deformation around active faults depends on properties of the Earth's crust. He also made important findings about the fault zone geometry at depth and crustal deformation north of the San Francisco Bay Area.|
|2010||Dr. Beran developed techniques for discrimination of unexploded ordnance from metallic clutter using geophysical data. He showed how parameters of a physical model can be estimated from observed electromagnetic data, and how these parameters can be used to make discrimination decisions. These methods improved the efficacy and reduced the costs of environmental remediation of military munitions.|
|2009||Dr. Zhang studied signal absorption phenomena in seismic data that are collected for oil and gas exploration. He developed new methods to estimate absorption properties based on the frequency variation with time of seismic signals. He then used these properties to compensate for the amplitude attenuation and phase distortion of the signals caused by absorption and thus to obtain more accurate images of the earth structure in seismic data processing.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
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.