Applying for a PhD in Polar Studies at SIO

Polar research is interdisciplinary, and at SIO it is spread across several curricular groups (CGs) within the three educational programs:

  1. GEO (geosciences)
  2. COAP (climate-ocean-atmosphere)
  3. OBP (ocean biosciences)

Many potential advisors have affiliation with more than one curricular group, meaning that incoming MS and PhD students have some flexibility in choosing the curricular group they are applying to. For example, a prospective student who is interested in ice sheet/ocean interaction can decide whether to apply with a primary emphasis on the COAP (PO) or GEO (GP) program. You can select more than one educational program when you apply, and select faculty from each one on your application. We advise potential applicants to email their potential advisor(s) before applying.

If accepted to SIO, in the first year the student will build a solid disciplinary foundation through the core classes required to pass the departmental exam for their chosen curricular group. After passing the departmental exam, a graduate student then can select classes across curricular groups to fill any gaps from their first year through a coordinated series of polar-based courses, or “polar pathways,” through the SIO curricular groups, e.g. an interdisciplinary/cross-curricular-group course on ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions. The Scripps Polar Center is in the process of establishing a Polar Certificate Program to recognize students who complete the polar curriculum.

Below is a diagram with some of the faculty in each research area. Not all faculty on this list are accepting students (that information will be added soon!) but we recommend that you reach out to advisors whose work aligns with your own interests.



Vernet BowmanMitchell


FrickerBorsaS. Constable
Aarons • GreenbaumHaase
Dzieciuch GerstoftWorcester


The UC San Diego graduate program application can be accessed here

The application includes the specific requirements for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography department, such as your selection of a faculty advisor. Scripps strongly recommends that prospective students contact their advisors beforehand. You can find more information about the Scripps graduate programs here.