Graduate Studies

The Department of Geosciences, together with its affiliated interdepartmental programs and institutes, serves as the central focus for the earth, atmospheric, oceanographic and environmental sciences at Princeton.  As such, the department encompasses a rich diversity of scientific expertise and initiatives that ranges from Geology and Geophysics, to Environmental Geosciences (including Oceanography) and to Climate, today, in the past (Paleoclimate), and in the future.  Graduate education within the department is focused on research.  Students are required to participate in research activities from the beginning and to develop an independent research program as soon as possible.  Graduate students benefit from close collaboration with faculty members and postdocs, and from access to shared facilities.  Course work, seminars and field trips are designed to convey a comprehension of modern earth sciences and to build a strong background in at least one of the supporting physical sciences.

The exciting research programs aim to characterize the present day structure and physics of the earth’s interior, the tectonic and geodynamic processes responsible for generating the architecture and composition of the mantle and crust, and the interaction between the solid earth, biology, and the ocean and atmosphere systems through earth history.  The department hosts a number of state-of-the-art analytical centers including spectroscopic and mass spectrometric facilities for sample-based inquiry. Geoscientists capitalize on Princeton’s supercomputing facilities by pushing the limits of modern computation in the increasingly data-driven natural sciences.  The Biogeochemistry group conducts laboratory, field and computational research on all aspects of the physics and chemistry of Earth’s surface environments.  The group offers courses on chemical and biological oceanography, paleoceanography, the carbon cycle and paleoclimatology.  The Climate group is closely affiliated with the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS), a collaboration between Princeton University and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. AOS offers graduate study leading to a Ph.D. degree in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Its activities, which complement those of the Geosciences Dept., concern mainly the climate of today, and future global climate changes associated with global warming and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.  AOS offers a number of courses that may be of interest to Geosciences students.  Most of those courses are taught in Guyot Hall, but research activities are located at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory on Forrestal Campus where students benefit from access to an outstanding group of research scientist, and to GFDL's supercomputing resources.

The areas of research interests include structural geology, tectonics and geophysics, geochemistry, petrology, mineral physics, geochemistry, biogeochemistry, environmental geology, biological oceanography, climate, global warming, paleoclimate, paleoceanography and paleontology.  In addition the Department has associated programs in environmental policy with The Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP), environmental science in collaboration with the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) and The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM), and materials science in collaboration with Princeton Materials Institute (PMI).

Graduate education within the department focuses on research, and on the development of a strong sense for the interdisciplinary nature of the geosciences. As a consequence, Princeton has been extraordinarily successful in mentoring students to move on to tenure-track positions in academia as well as leading research positions in industry or government laboratories.  The department offers only a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, for which both beginning and advanced students may apply.  The average time to graduation is five years.

How to Apply:

For current information, please visit the Graduate School Website. See Geosciences on the Graduate School Website. 

Deadlines and fees.

For students who find the application fee to be a financial burden, please see the fee waivers program offered by the Graduate School. 

Associated Programs and Institutes:

Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) 

High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI)

Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering (PICSciE)

Princeton Materials Institute (PMI)

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (NOAA/GFDL)

Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM)

Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP)

Graduate Work Committee

John A. Higgins, Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Chair
Committee Members: Jie Deng, JeroenTromp, and Bess Ward

Graduate Student Handbook

Grad Student Handbook thumbnail image
  • Graduate Student Handbook
    Last Update: 07/31/2023
    This guide comprehensively covers the academic requirements for attaining a Ph.D. in GEO. It focuses on the first and second years, as these have the most requirements. Information pertaining to subsequent years focuses on dissertation research and career services.