Dec 05, 2023  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Earth Sciences - Geophysics Concentration, (PhD)

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The Earth Sciences PhD Geophyics concentration is housed in the Center for Earthquake Research and Information.

Program objectives are: (1) understanding geophysical concepts and theories and in-depth knowledge in a chosen branch of geophysics; (2) experience formulating and conducting original research projects; (3) experience in data acquisition and analysis methods, and oral and written presentation of research results; (4) become competitive for professional positions in geophysics.

Program Admission

See MS Degree Program Requirements .

Program Requirements

Course Work Requirements

The doctoral degree program includes the requirement of the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 72 hours of graduate credit beyond the Bachelor’s degree. The 72 credit hour total is subject to the following restrictions:

  1. No more than 12 credit hours at the 6000 level may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.
  2. At least 12 credit hours must be in courses numbered CERI 7104 -CERI 7702 .
  3. A maximum of 36 credit hours for CERI 9000 - Dissertation  may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree. A minimum of 6 credit hours of CERI 9000  is required.
  4. A maximum of 6 credit hours of CERI 7621 /8621 (Independent Study) may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.
  5. A maximum of 32 hours of graduate course credit completed at the University of Memphis or another accredited institution (including credit applied to a MS degree) may be applied to the 72 credit hour requirement subject to the approval of the students graduate committee. A minimum of 9 hours other than CERI 7621 , CERI 7701 , CERI 7702 CERI 7703 , or CERI 9000  must be completed at the University of Memphis.
  6. The last 30 hours of credit must be earned at the University of Memphis.


A student must commit to full-time study for a minimum of two successive semesters after admission to the degree program to fulfill the residency requirement. The purpose of the residency requirement is to provide students with significant time for sustained participation with peers and faculty in scholarly and creative activities. Summer terms will count toward residency.

Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to determine if a student has the appropriate aptitude and background to be retained in the Ph.D. program. The student is required to write an abstract identifying an original research proposition. The subject of the proposition may or may not become part of the dissertation. The examination will begin by the student giving a brief presentation of the material in the abstract. An oral examination, not to exceed two hours, will follow covering the topic described in the abstract but the questions can and should broaden to other areas. The qualifying examination will be given just prior to the start of the third semester of residence. If the student does not pass on the first attempt, the examination can be taken a second time at the beginning of the fourth semester.

Comprehensive Examination

A comprehensive examination will be administered by the student’s graduate committee covering course work taken within the program just before the start of the fifth semester of residence. The student will take a one day, 6 hour written examination. This will be followed by a two-hour oral examination scheduled no later than two days following the written examination. The oral examination will be broad in nature. The graduate committee members will grade the written exam and discuss the overall performance of the student. In general, a student will have to receive a grade of 60% or higher on the written portion of the exam to pass. If a majority of the committee members vote pass, recommendations may be made to remove deficiencies in background by coursework or reading. In the event of a tie, the outcome is a failure and the committee may recommend completion of a M.S. thesis followed by a reexamination, or a second examination at the option of the student. A second failure of the comprehensive exam results in termination.

The Advisory Committee

Upon admission, a student will be assigned a temporary committee consisting of 5 faculty members based upon research interests expressed in the application documentation. A permanent advisor and committee must be selected at the start of the first Spring Break for students entering in the fall semester and the start of the first fall semester for students entering in the spring semester. One member of the permanent committee must be external to CERI. External members from other universities/institutions/agencies may serve on the Ph.D. committee but must obtain adjunct faculty status through the University of Memphis and must agree to be present for the dissertation defense.

Submission of Manuscripts to Refereed Journals

Each student is required to be an author on two manuscripts submitted to refereed journals. The student does not have to be first author on either manuscript to fulfill this requirement but must be first author on any manuscript included in his/her dissertation. Both manuscripts must be submitted prior to filing for candidacy.

Doctoral Research and Dissertation

A minimum of six semester hours of CERI 9000 - Dissertation  is required for the doctoral degree. NOTE: Students should familiarize themselves with the Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Guide before starting to write.

Final Oral Examination

The student’s graduate committee will administer a final oral examination based upon the student’s dissertation after completion of all other requirements. This examination will be held two weeks after the student has distributed the dissertation to the graduate committee and must occur at least one week before the deadline for submission of material to the Graduate School for review. If the oral examination is unsatisfactory, it must be repeated within one year and may not be repeated more than once.


A student pursuing the doctoral degree may be terminated for any of the following reasons:

  1. Failure to maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or above. A student who has a cumulative grade point average below 3.0 will be placed on probation. The Dean of the Graduate School must approve continuation in graduate school. Any person whose continuation is denied may appeal the decision to the University Council for Graduate Studies.
  2. Failure to pass the Qualifying exam.
  3. Failure to pass the Comprehensive Examination.
  4. Failure to make satisfactory progress towards completion of the degree in a timely manner, as determined by the student’s graduate committee.
  5. Failure to satisfy the graduate committee on the final oral examination.

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