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Departments & Programs


Degree Program Requirements

Requirements for Degrees in Geophysics

  1. The specific degree requirements you must fulfill are those listed in the Bulletin of the year in which you were admitted.
  2. See your advisor for advice on courses and your program.
  3. See Nancy Massarweh, Student Services Manager, for forms, procedures and questions.
  4. See Gary Mavko,  Director of Graduate Studies for approvals and course waivers/exemptions.
  5. See Stewart Levin, Graduate Studies Coordinator for scientific support and general inquiries.

MS Degree Information

Program Proposal for Master's Degree
MS Requirements for 2013/14
MS students, and those PhD students who wish to also receive a Master's degree, must fill out this form during their first quarter. The department recommends that all PhD students get their MS degree as well. Confer with your advisor, get his/her signature, and make sure the courses you propose to complete total at least 45 units. Return it to Nancy. She will check the form for accuracy and obtain the Chair's signature. Waivers or substitutions for the required courses must be documented in writing and approved by your advisor and Gary Mavko. After obtaining the signatures, give the memo to Nancy for filing in your student record.

PhD Degree Information

PhD Requirements for 2013/14 Academic Year

Second Project

The purpose of the second research project is to add breadth to Ph.D. study and give the student the ability and confidence to carry our research in multiple areas.


The second project should stand alone as a separate piece of work from the primary research project.

  • The second project must be in Geophysics or a closely related discipline.
  • The topic must be substantially different from the topic of the PhD thesis; i.e. it cannot be the same method applied to a different problem, or a different method applied to the same problem.
  • The second project must be supervised by a faculty member who does not serve as the primary research advisor, and who must be in a separate research group, in any department at Stanford University. Non-Geophysics faculty serving as second project advisors must be approved by both your advisor and graduate advisor.  In rare cases the second project advisor may be from outside Stanford, and only as approved by your advisor and the graduate advisor.
  • The expected level of work on the second project should be about one academic quarter of full time effort.


  • Completion of the second project is defined as a publication in the refereed literature, or a presentation at a scientific conference (with an alternate form of completion allowed if approved by the second project advisor, your primary advisor and departmental graduate advisor).
  • The qualifying exam includes approximately 10 minutes of presentation time related to the second project
  • If the project has been completed (or is close to completion), evidence of this must be given at the time of the qualifying exam; e.g. a copy of the paper, the poster, or the submitted conference abstract.
  • Unless the project has been completed, a proposal (~4 pages) for the second project must be presented at the time of the PhD qualifying exam. The paper or presentation must be completed within one year from the time of the qualifying exam.
  • Students register for 3 research units in one quarter with their second project advisor or the graduate advisor if advisor is outside Stanford; your grade will be submitted on completion of the project.
  • The completion of the Second Project form and signature of the second-project advisor is a graduation requirement.
  • Students cannot be advanced to TGR status until completion of the second project.

For more information, please see our Graduate Admission page.

Departmental Oral Qualifying Exam for PhD students

PhD students must pass this exam before the end of their sixth quarter (summer quarters excluded) and before they can be officially admitted to the PhD program. Schedule this with your advisor. (For details, see Nancy Massarweh).

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination Requirements

  1. One research proposal (10-20 pages) with a completed component that outlines a plan of research for 2 -3 year;
  2. Second scientific proposal or paper (4-10 pages) with a professor in another area;
  3. An oral presentation with the student's advising committee on both the research proposal (~30-40 min) and the second proposal/paper (~10 min, with questions by the committee constituting the qualifying exam.

Fill out the Qualifying Oral Examination form and return it to Nancy. Once you pass, fill out the:

Academic Requirements

Work with your advisor on the plan for fulfilling the academic requirements. The minimum units to graduate are 108 for those admitted prior to Sept. 2001, and 135 units for those admitted in or after Sept. 2001. Have your advisor sign the form and return it to Nancy. She will check the form for accuracy and obtain the Chair's signature. Waivers or substitutions for the required courses must be documented in writing and approved by your advisor and Gary Mavko. After obtaining the signatures, give the memo to Nancy for filing in your student record.

Prior to your university oral defense, you must find a Reading Committee made up of your advisor and at least two other readers. They are all required to sign this form. Next, have the Dept. Chair sign and then return it to Nancy.

Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) means you have completed all the course requirements for your degree and are very close to graduating. It also saves a lot of money for your advisor on tuition costs. In order to qualify for TGR, review your record with your advisor to be certain you satisfied all requirements. Those students admitted prior to Sept. 2001 must have earned at least 10.5 "residency quarter credits" and must have submitted their Reading Committee form. (The University grants 1.0 residency credit after each full-tuition paid quarter and .62 residency credit after each 8-9-10-unit tuition paid quarter. ) Those admitted in or after Sept. 2001 must have completed 135 total units, and must have submitted their Reading Committee form in order to qualify.

When all this is done, have your advisor sign the TGR form and return it to Nancy. After review, the Reg. Office will adjust your tuition to the TGR rate. Once the adjustment is done, you can register for the GP802 course in Axess.

This form is due 2 weeks before the "University Oral Examination Schedule" form--1 month before your defense date. You must submit a complete draft (including figures and appendices) to the members of your Reading Committee who must verify to the Department that your thesis is ready for defense. Return it to Nancy.

This form is due 2 weeks before your defense. You will need to determine time, place, and your committee members. You are required to have at least 4 committee members plus a committee chair from a department other than Geophysics. No more than 1 of the 4 committee members can be a "non-academic" faculty member (such as a consulting faculty). The form must be returned to Nancy, so she can update your on-line student record.

Thesis Preparation

Please visit the Registrar’s Office webpage for information on how to submit your thesis. For additional questions, please contact Nancy or submit a Student Service Center Help Ticket.

Grade Change Card

See Nancy in order to change a grade or an incomplete card in your academic record. After it's completed and signed by your instructor she will see that it gets to the Registrar's Office.

Adding Masters Program to PhD

If you are already in the PhD program and also want to obtain your master’s degree, let Nancy know and submit a Graduate Authorization Petition form through Axess. Once you have met the Master’s degree requirements, file your intent to graduate in Axess.

From Masters to PhD

Your advisor must formally request to the Department Admissions Chair that you be considered for the PhD program. Your academic progress will be reviewed by the entire Geophysics faculty and is subject to their approval. Once approved, you will need to complete the Graduate Program Authorization Petition form, which you will find in Axess.

With your advisor's approval, you may take up to one year's leave of absence. Summer quarters are exempt. Process the form through Nancy as she must track your leave and adjust your funding.