Geophysics

Degrees Offered

  • Graduate Certificate (Petroleum Geophysics)
  • Professional Masters (Petroleum Reservoir Systems)
  • Master of Science (Geophysics) (Non-Thesis)
  • Master of Science (Geophysical Engineering) (Non-Thesis)
  • Master of Science (Geophysics)
  • Master of Science (Geophysical Engineering)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Geophysics)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Geophysical Engineering)

Program Description

Founded in 1926, the Department of Geophysics at Colorado School of Mines is recognized and respected around the world for its programs in applied geophysical research and education.

Geophysics is an interdisciplinary field that blends disciplines such as geology, physics, mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. Professionals working in geophysics often come from programs in these allied disciplines, as well as from formal programs in geophysics.

Geophysicists study and explore the interior of the Earth (as well as of other planetary bodies) through physical measurements collected at its surface, in boreholes, from aircraft, and from satellites. Using a combination of mathematics, physics, geology, computer science, hydrology, and chemistry, a geophysicist analyzes these measurements to infer properties and processes within Earth’s complex interior. Noninvasive imaging beneath the surface of Earth and other planets by geophysicists is much like the noninvasive imaging of the interior of the human body by medical specialists.

Earth supplies all materials needed by our society, serves as the repository of used products, and provides a home to all its inhabitants. Therefore, geophysics and geophysical engineering have important roles to play in the solution of challenging problems facing the inhabitants of this planet, such as providing fresh water, food, and energy for Earth’s growing population, evaluating sites for underground construction and containment of hazardous waste, monitoring noninvasively the aging infrastructures (natural gas pipelines, water supplies, telecommunication conduits, transportation networks) of developed nations, mitigating the threat of geohazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, avalanches) to populated areas, contributing to homeland security (including detection and removal of unexploded ordnance and land mines), evaluating changes in climate and managing humankind’s response to them, and exploring Earth and other planets.

Energy and mining companies employ geophysicists to explore for hidden resources around the world. Engineering firms hire geophysical engineers to assess the Earth’s near-surface properties of sites chosen for large construction projects and waste-management operations. Environmental organizations use geophysics to conduct groundwater surveys and to track the flow of contaminants. On the global scale, geophysicists employed by universities and government agencies (such as the United States Geological Survey and NASA), work to understand Earth processes such as heat flow, gravitational, magnetic, electric, thermal, and stress fields within Earth’s interior. For the past decade, 95% of CSM’s geophysics graduates have found employment in their chosen field within 6 months of graduation.

With 12 full-time faculty members and small class sizes, students receive individualized attention in a close-knit environment. Given the interdisciplinary nature of geophysics, the graduate curriculum requires students to become thoroughly familiar with geology, physics, mathematics, and computer science, in addition to exploring the theoretical and practical aspects of the various geophysical methodologies.

Research Emphasis

The Department conducts research in a wide variety of areas that are mostly related, but not restricted, to applied geophysics. Candidates interested in the current research activities of specific faculty members are encouraged to visit the Department's website and to contact that faculty member directly. To give prospective candidates an idea of the types of research activities available in geophysics at MINES, a list of the recognized research groups operating within the Department of Geophysics, and information about other research strengths in the Department, is given below.

The Center for Wave Phenomena (CWP), led by four faculty members, is supported by the petroleum exploration industry and various U.S government agencies (e.g. USGS, NASA, DOE). CWP is focused on the development of advanced seismic modeling, imaging, and inversion methods for realistic heterogeneous, anisotropic media. Among the current CWP research topics are wavefield imaging and tomography, waveform inversion of reflection and microseismic data, seismic interferometry and Marchenko imaging, quantification of uncertainty in seismic inversion, seismic fracture characterization, data acquisition using robotics and distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) and applications of geophysical technology to space exploration. CWP faculty and students actively work on large-scale cluster and GPU computing. Further information about CWP can be obtained at https://cwp.mines.edu/

The Reservoir Characterization Project (RCP) integrates the acquisition and interpretation of 3D multicomponent time-lapse seismic reflection and downhole data with geology and petroleum engineering information of existing oil fields to solve complex reservoir challenges and to gain improvements in reservoir performance prediction and development optimization.  RCP's unique research model emphasizes a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach for practical research. RCP also focuses on specific research areas such as fiber optics, machine learning, compressive sensing and EOR in unconventionals.   It is an industry-funded research consortium with faculty and graduate-level students from Geophysics, Petroleum Engineering, and Geology disciplines. Read more about RCP at http://rcp.mines.edu/.

The Center for Gravity, Electrical & Magnetic Studies (CGEM) focuses on the quantitative interpretation of gravity, magnetic, electrical and electromagnetic, and surface nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data in applied geophysics. The Center brings together the diverse expertise of faculty and students in these different geophysical methods and works towards advancing the state of art in geophysical data interpretation for real-world problems. The emphases of CGEM research are processing and inversion of applied geophysical data. The primary areas of application include petroleum exploration and production, mineral exploration, geothermal, and geotechnical and engineering problems. In addition, environmental problems, infrastructure mapping, archaeology, hydrogeophysics, and crustal studies are also research areas within the Center. There are currently five major focus areas of research within CGEM: Gravity and Magnetics Research Consortium (GMRC), mineral exploration, geothermal exploration, surface NMR, and hydrogeophysics. Research funding is provided by petroleum and mining industries, ERDC, SERDP, DOE, and other agencies. More information about CGEM is available on the web at: http://cgem.mines.edu/.

The Center for Rock and Fluid Multiphysics focuses on fluid distributions in rocks and how these distributions affect characteristics such as wave attenuation, velocity dispersion, and seismic signature.  The Center uses a range of instrumentation through the Rock Lab in the Green Center, including low-frequency devices, laser optics equipment, and x-ray computed tomography equipment. The Center manages two major research consortia.  For more information, visit https://crusher.mines.edu/.

The Global and Computational Seismology Group focuses on investigating Earth’s interior and other planetary bodies using passive seismic sources, such as quakes and ambient noise. Harnessing the opportunities provided by high-performance computing, ever-increasing seismic data, the group analyzes seismic wiggles and construct high-resolution CAT scan images of Earth’s interior to interpret the composition & inner dynamics of our planet, and relate them to surface processes to understand the origin of and the driving forces behind tectonic activities. These studies also have strong societal impact including assessment and mitigation of natural hazards related to seismic activity and tsunamis in earthquake-prone regions. The experience gained from our planet is also used to inspect the composition and dynamics of Mars and Moon. Research interests of the group include (numerical) simulations of seismic wave propagation & full-waveform inversion (FWI) from regional to global scales; seismic tomography with emerging data sets (i.e., from floating robots and distributed acoustic sensors, environmental noise, etc.); multi-scale structure, anisotropy, and anelasticity of Earth’s mantle, D’’ region and core; seismic hazard analysis; planetary seismology.  For more information, visit https://ebrucsm.wordpress.com/.


Hydrogeophysics and porous media research focuses on combining ground-penetrating radar, electrical, and seismic measurements with rock physics models at various scales and for various applications including the study of contaminant plumes, geothermal systems, leakage in earth dams and embankments, and active volcanoes.

The Mines Glaciology Laboratory uses satellite remote sensing techniques in combination with field-based and airborne geophysical methods to understand physical processes of Earth’s glaciers and ice sheets.   The team aims to apply creative, geophysical approaches to overcome the inherent difficulty of observing continent-scale ice masses that drive and react to other components of the Earth’s global climate system in order to develop new insight into ice-sheet evolution.  For more information, visit https://www.mines.edu/glaciology/.

Professors

John H. Bradford, Vice President for Global Initiatives

Yaoguo Li

Manika Prasad

Paul C. Sava, Interim Department Head, C.H. Green Chair of Exploration Geophysics

Roelof K. Snieder, W.M. Keck Distinguished Professor of Professional Development Education

Ilya D. Tsvankin

Ali Tura

Associate Professors

Brandon Dugan, Associate Department Head, Baker Hughes Chair of Petrophysics and Borehole Geophysics

Jeffrey C. Shragge

Assistant Professors

Ebru Bozdag

Ge Jin

Matthew Siegfried

Professors Emeriti

Norman Bleistein

Thomas L. Davis

Dave Hale

Alexander A. Kaufman

Kenneth L. Larner

Gary R. Olhoeft

Phillip R. Romig, Jr.

Terence K. Young

Emeritus Associate Professor

Thomas M. Boyd

Research Professor

Jeffrey Lee

Research Associate Professor

James L. Simmons

Research Assistant Professors

Jyoti Behura

Richard Krahenbuhl

Mathias Pohl

Adjunct Faculty

Timothy Collett, Senior Scientist, US Geological Survey

Gavin P. Hayes, NEIC Reseach Seismologist, US Geological Survey

Morgan Moschetti, Research Geophysicist, US Geological Survey

Ryan North, Principal Geophysicist, Olson Engineering

Nathaniel Putzig, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute

Andreas Rueger, Chief Geophysicist, Digital Geo Specialists