Working in the Ocean
Physical Oceanography is the field of study that deals with mechanisms of energy transfer through the sea and across its boundaries, and with the physical interactions of the sea with its surroundings, especially including the influence of the seas on the climate of the atmosphere. Research activities within this curricular group are both observational and theoretical and include: study of the general circulations of the oceans, including the relations of ocean currents to driving forces and constraints of the ocean basins; fluctuations of currents, and the transport of properties; the mechanisms of transport of energy, momentum, and physical substances within the sea and across its boundaries; properties of wind waves, international waves, tsunami, and planetary waves; the thermodynamic description of the sea as a system not in equilibrium; optical and acoustic properties of the sea; and the influence of surf on near-shore currents and the transport of sediments.
Program of Study
Programs of study vary widely among the curricular programs, but generally first-year students are expected to enroll in core courses that cover physical, geological, chemical and biological oceanography and in other courses recommended by the student's faculty advisor. Then, by the end of Winter quarter in the first year, students usually select a particular area of focus and choose a major professor. As students advance beyond the first year, they begin to function quite effectively as research assistants, high level technical personnel or, in some cases, as teaching assistants. Furthermore, during their third to fifth year they are working toward writing their dissertations. The interdisciplinary nature of research in marine and earth sciences is emphasized; students are encouraged to take courses in several programs and departments, and to select research problems of interdisciplinary character.
Students in this curricular program are required to take SIO 203A-B, 214A and 212A. Students in physical oceanography are required to take 16 four-unit graduate courses, of which 12 are covered during the first year. As part of the overall requirement, the choice of courses will include a breadth component of 2 or more four-unit courses in other scientific disciplines. These might come from SIO courses in other oceanographic disciplines (for example SIO 240, 260, 280) or from related graduate level courses taught at UCSD. The SIO department offers regular seminars in several areas of current interest. After the first year, students in residence are strongly encouraged to enroll for credit in at least one-unit seminar class each quarter.
Physical oceanography students are required to take the departmental examination after completing one year of graduate work at UCSD. The examination covers the material in the four required courses and in additional first-year graduate courses chosen by the student in consultation with the Curriculum Advisor.
For the MS Program of Study, click here.