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Geophysics and Seismology


Insider Info

What to Expect

The physical nature of geophysics means students often find themselves traveling for their work.

"I have gone -- or had the opportunity to go -- to Belize, New Mexico, El Paso, Austin, San Antonio and on oceanic studies in the Gulf of Mexico," says Kara Hackwith. She took an undergraduate degree in geophysics at Rice University in Texas.

She says she likes geophysics because it combines so many subject areas. "It combines mathematics and physics principles, geology -- the history of the Earth -- and the practicality of engineering principles...the practical application of theory."

Hackwith says a typical day depends on your year of study. You may be involved in a research project, which involves a lot of independent work. If you plan to go on to graduate school, it's important to do some independent research at the undergrad level.

Survival Skills

Hackwith says there are some difficult aspects of the program that new students should be prepared for. "I came from a very poor scientific background, which hindered my performance for at least a few years," she says.

"I would take things slow -- take math and physics first, then geology and chemistry; not all at once. It's too much work!" she says. "Be prepared to read long -- and often boring -- scientific papers. Also, it is a very physical field -- hands-on use of instruments and also hiking for mapping exercises is common."

How to Prepare

"Students should take the highest level math and physics offered at their school," says Hackwith. "It is also helpful to take advanced placement courses in fields other than science -- arts, humanities, history, etc.

"Students in this field should take every opportunity to participate in geological or geophysical fieldwork. It is beneficial for enhancing the classroom experience as well as making everything more memorable, fun and exciting."


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