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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Applied Geophysics, Geotechnical Engineering and Rock Physics

earth and environmental sciences

Although geophysics is a very broad field, most professional geophysicists are involved in the exploration for natural resources such as petroleum, economic minerals and groundwater. Petroleum and mineral companies around the world spend billions of dollars each year on in geophysical exploration. Geophysical methods are increasingly being used in near-surface applications to help solve complex environmental and engineering problems. In our applied geophysics program, we emphasize the basics: a solid foundation in geology, geophysics, mathematics, physics, chemistry and computing. No matter what the scale of investigation, geophysical explorationists should be able to think geologically and have the technical and analytical skills to solve real world problems. Some of the applied geophysics and engineering projects that we are currently involved in are summarized below.


We are using geophysical methods to characterize the structure of subsurface soils and to find buried objects. Ground penetrating radar, EM, resistivity, IP magnetic, shallow seismic and sometimes gravity methods are used for these environmental applications. This is excellent training for those students who are seeking work in the environmental and geotechnical engineering industries. The same exploration methods that are employed in environmental and engineering work are also used in the exploration for petroleum and other mineral resources. Although most of our thesis projects currently focus on problems in earthquake seismology, environmental geophysics, rock physics, and geotechnical engineering, many of our students pursue careers in petroleum exploration. The fundamental training that our students receive in geology and geophysics has served our graduates well. Over the years, many of our graduates have been recruited by major petroleum companies and have gone on to have very successful careers. Many of our students also have opportunities to work as summer interns with major oil companies.


Subsurface fluid flow patterns and geologic heterogeneity can significantly affect the strength, stability and reliability of building foundations and subsurface structures. Therefore, these hydrological and geological factors must be taken into account in the design, construction, and evaluation of engineered structures such as buildings, bridges, roads, dams, tunnels, mines, and landfills. We are involved in a variety of geotechnical engineering projects, both locally and abroad, in which we use our collective expertise in geotechnical engineering, hydrogeology, geophysics, and geology to address these complex problems of immediate and practical concern.