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Department Information

The Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College at SMU has an internationally distinguished faculty active in both field and laboratory-based studies. They are joined by a dynamic group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who benefit both from the Department's excellent laboratory and computational facilities as well as from the individual attention possible in a private university with a low student-to-faculty ratio.

Our location in Dallas offers all of the cultural benefits of a major metropolis at a much lower cost of living and with less congestion than in most cities of comparable size. The city’s mild climate allows for outdoor activities year-round.

Earth Sciences was one of the University’s first Ph.D. granting departments. SMU grants graduate degrees in geology, geophysics, and applied geophysics.

Program Features

Earth Sciences serves as a core discipline in Dedman College and helps students ponder some of the most pressing issues of our day including climate change, natural resources, and hazards. The study of the Earth places the consequences of our activities such as pollution, land use, resource exploitation, and population growth into the greater framework of Earth history and planetary evolution.

With funding from organizations such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy, the National Science Foundation and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Earth Sciences has achieved international recognition in the research areas of seismology, geothermal studies, radar remote sensing, and paleoclimatology. Recently, an Earth Sciences faculty member helped develop a pilot project on setting up a seismic network on the Moon.

Degrees Offered

Explore our M.S. Program in Geology

Explore our M.S. Program in Geophysics

Explore our M.S. Program in Applied Geophyiscs

Explore Our Ph.D. Programs in Geology or Geophysics

Southern Methodist University Facilities

The Department of Earth Sciences is well equipped to support graduate-level research. The facilities enable graduate students to gain practical experience in state-of-the-art data acquisition.

These include mass spectrometers, electron microprobe, variable pressure scanning electron microscope, hydrothermal apparatus, geophysical imaging lab, palynology lab, wet chemical lab, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence equipment, the Shuler Museum of Paleontology within Heroy Hall, the Lajitas (TX) seismic array, and access to the Fort Burgwin Research Center operated by the University.

Geothermal Laboratory

Geothermal Laboratory

The Geothermal Laboratory has equipment for the measurement of thermal conductivity and radioactive heat production. A mobile laboratory is available for well-logging focusing on high precision temperature logging of drill holes. The laboratory also conducts fission track studies.

Geothermal Laboratory Equipment List

Gravity Studies:

  • Gravimeter (Model G, LaCoste and Romberg Company)

Thermal Conductivity Measurements, made on core or crushed samples:

  • Divided Bar
  • Shotherm QTM
  • Needle Probe

Equipment Measurements:

  • Collar Locator
  • Gamma Ray
  • Spinner Flow Velocity
  • Temperature
  • Fluid Pressure

Fort Burgwin Research Center

Fort Burgwin Research Center


Fort Burgwin supports a unique environment for learning. Though isolated in the ruggedly beautiful terrain of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the fort facilities accommodate a wide range of educational and recreational pursuits. Located at an elevation of 7,400 feet within the Carson National Forest, Fort Burgwin lies near the juncture of two streams and is home to more than six different life zones supporting varied populations of plants and animals. Both nature and bicycle trails are located close by, as are several forest access roads and campsites.


The campus is located approximately eight miles south of Taos on New Mexico Highway 518. The campus itself is comprised of twenty-four structures. Ten adobe dormitories (casitas), which house a total of 110 students. Each casita has a sleeping area with bunk beds and a closet and drawers for every student. Electrically heated, the casitas also include bath and shower facilities and a large common area with a wood-burning fireplace. Faculty members are housed in the rebuilt officers quarters, Chalet, and in three adobe duplexes.


The old fort houses classrooms and office space, while the open-air courtyards serve as gathering areas for classes and leisure activities. The newly constructed Wendorf Information Commons is home to the Fort Burgwin Library and also contains a student computer lab. An archaeology laboratory, studio facilities, auditorium, and dining hall support the academic life of the campus. Also on campus are laundry facilities, a tennis and basketball court, and a sand volleyball court.

Admission Requirements

  • GPA of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale

  • A GPA of 3.25 in the major

  • Majors may be in mathematics or other fields of science besides geology

  • GRE Scores

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for international students
  • GPA of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale

  • A GPA of 3.25 in the major

  • Majors may be in mathematics or other fields of science besides geology

  • GRE Scores

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for international students

Deadlines for Admission

For graduate Earth Sciences programs:

  • Priority deadline for Fall admission to the Ph.D. in Geology or Geophysics is January 15th.
  • Final deadline for Fall admission to the M.S. degrees is May 1st.

Departmental Assistantships

All applications to be considered for department assistantships must be completed by the applicable priority deadline.

Note: Applications received after the applicable priority deadline will be considered for any remaining funds and openings.




Discovering your Planet: A Complete Guide to Earning a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences



Degree Requirements

  • Passed a general qualifying examination.
  • Written and successfully defended a thesis.
  • Passed a general qualifying examination.
  • Completed and successfully defended a project related to some facet of applied geophysics.


  • Successfully passed a general qualifying examination.
  • Completed a minimum of three years of graduate academic work (48 credit hours minimum), with at least two years of full-time residence on the SMU campus or at a research facility approved by the departmental faculty and the dean of graduate studies.
  • Written and made a successful public defense of a dissertation.

Alumni Spotlight


Benjamin Phrampus

Ph.D. in Geophysics and Seismology, Class of 2015

After Ben obtained his Doctoral degree from Southern Methodist University, he was a NRC Post Doctoral Research Fellow working at Oregon State University studying gas hydrate dynamics and heat and fluid flow. While a a NRC Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Ben analyzed the heat and fluid flow characteristics of hydrothermal vents in Yellowstone Lake.

Now, Ben works as the ASEE Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Stennis Space Center, MS. His current research focuses on answering geologic and geophysical questions utilizing physical processing models where possible and machine/deep learning techniques where necessary as well as geospatial datasets (remote sensing, well data, and sparse seabed observations) on local, regional, and global scales.


Do not hesitate to contact your program of interest with any questions you might have!



Want to learn more about SMU’s graduate programs in Earth Sciences?

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