Planetary Sciences

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Foreign:$ 29.8k / Academic year(s) Deadline: Dec 1, 2021
StudyQA ranking:821 Duration:

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Our research program is working to make the Jackson School of Geosciences one of the world's leading centers for planetary research. Scientists in the planetary theme are exploring geology across the solar system, with special emphasis on the Moon, Earth, Mars, asteroids, and icy satellites. JSG researchers combine mission involvement, data analysis, theoretical work, and terrestrial analog field investigations to advance the cutting edge of planetary geosciences, astrobiology, and solar system exploration.
Research in the Planetary Sciences theme focuses on the following subthemes:

  • Chemical & Dynamic Evolution of Planets
  • Extraterrestrial Seismology
  • Geodesy
  • Human Exploration & Habitability
  • Planetary Surface Processes
  • Solar System Materials

Graduate courses in the Planetary theme area focus on understanding the physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and interiors. A wide variety of courses across several departments are available to graduate students interested in perusing research and training in this multidisciplinary field. No fixed curriculum is required for planetary graduate students, allowing students to work with their advisors to assemble an individualized program of courses to best suit their needs. Courses listed below are offered through the Department of Geological Sciences (GEO), the Department of Astronomy (AST), Chemistry (CH), and Aerospace Engineering (ASE). Not all courses are offered every term. An updated list of GEO courses being offered during Fall 2013 is listed at the end of this page.

Graduate Courses

  • GEO 391 Meteoritics and Early Solar System Processes
  • GEO 391 Planetary geology and geophysics
  • GEO S391 Field Methods in Planetary Geology
  • GEO 380G Construction and Interpretation of 3-D Stratigraphy
  • GEO 384C Seismology I
  • GEO 380C Advanced Structural Geology
  • GEO 380N Sequence Stratigraphy
  • GEO 381E Brittle Structure
  • GEO 381G Geomicrobiology
  • GEO 380T Geoclimatology
  • GEO 382G Fluid Physics for Geologists
  • GEO 383 Clastic Depositional Systems
  • GEO 383D Numerical Methods I: Computational Methods in Geological Sciences
  • GEO 383G Geochemistry of Sedimentary Rocks
  • GEO 383P Potential Field Applications in Geophysics
  • GEO 384D Physics of Earth
  • GEO 384M Inverse Theory
  • GEO 384F Computational Methods for Geophysics
  • GEO 384R Geophysical Time Series Analysis
  • GEO 386G GIS and GPS Applications in Earth Sciences
  • GEO 385Q Mathematical Methods in Geophysics
  • GEO 387D Climate Dynamics
  • GEO 387F Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
  • GEO 387H Physical Climatology
  • GEO 389P Digital Methods in Morphology
  • GEO 390M Thermodynamics of Geologic Processes
  • GEO 191 Proposal Writing
  • GEO 291 Geomorphology/Glaciology Seminar
  • GEO 391 Essentials of Flow in Porous Media
  • GEO 391 Field Stratigraphy: Guadalupe Mountains
  • GEO 391 Hydrogeophysics
  • GEO 391 Morphodynamics
  • GEO 391Q Topics in Quarternary Geology 
  • AST 364 Solar System Astronomy
  • AST 380E Radiative Processes and Radiative Transfer
  • AST 381 Planetary Astrophysics
  • AST309L The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence
  • AST 383 Astroseismology
  • AST 392J Astronomical Instrumentation 
  • CH391L Astrobiology for Chemists & Biochemists
  • CH391L Biochemistry and Astrobiology 
  • ASE 382Q Fluid Mechanics.
  • ASE 387P Flight Mechanics, Guidance, Navigation, and Control.
  • ASE 388P Celestial Mechanics.
  • ASE 389P Satellite Applications. 


If you miss the December 1 deadline but meet the January 1 deadline you will still be considered for other forms of financial support.  Any applications completed after the January 1 deadline will only be considered on a space-available basis.

All items are to be submitted electronically, and you are strongly encouraged to complete the online application well in advance of the actual deadline.  Items such as the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation will have instructions in the online application.

NOTE: Do NOT submit any paper documents to GIAC or to the department.  They will not be accepted and could cause your application to be delayed.

If you feel compelled to submit items such as a CV, abstract, or other supporting information please contact faculty members or research scientists with whom you wish to work.  They will let you know if they want these documents.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact members of the Department of Geological Sciences Graduate Studies Committee in the field of interest, as all students are admitted to the graduate program on the recommendation of one or more members of the GSC.

The procedures may vary slightly for non-US citizens or for former UT students.  See the GIAC website for full information. Applicants to our graduate program are expected to have completed a minimum of two college-level courses in calculus and 4 courses completed in at least 2 of the following areas:  physics, chemistry, biology and computer science.  All of these courses must have received a C or better.  Additional courses in geological sciences, including field training appropriate for the subject of interest, depend on the particular area within the geosciences that a student wishes to study.  Specific programs may require additional prerequisite coursework. Any deficiencies in these areas must be addressed early in a student’s program. Other areas of study that are identified by a student’s mentor and examining committee as deficient should also be addressed early in a student’s program.


On average, Jackson School graduate students admitted with support receive some of the best overall packages in the country. In 2011-12, starting salaries for TAs and RAs were approximately $1,950 a month. Full fellowships were $36,000 for a 12-month period and are now eligible for the same UT Austin benefits package as any TA or RA. JSG support, in addition to being generous, is guaranteed (subject to requirements) and includes outstanding health benefits. Our students further benefit from living in Austin, a comparatively affordable U.S. city.

Standard offers of admission guarantee support for established durations, subject to satisfactory work performance and progress toward a graduate degree.

Durations of guaranteed institutional support:

  • Ph.D. Program: 10 semesters (fall and spring).

Guaranteed support takes the forms of fellowships, teaching assistantships (TAs), and graduate research assistantships (GRAs). Students pursuing the M.A. degree are not eligible for this support.

The Jackson School also provides:

  • Professional development support:
    • $3,000 for all Ph.D. students.
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