graduate study

I am always open to taking on graduate students who might be a good fit in my group. What personal qualities might constitute a good fit, in my opinion? Research interests that align with mine, a skill set that is useful for the sorts of research that I do, curiosity and a demonstrated ability to work independently.

What are my research interests?

Obviously there are examples of projects that my students, collaborators and I have worked on recently on my research page. The sorts of topics I hope to work on with graduate students to work on include:

  • Using InSAR-derived earthquake locations (and other independent means of locating earthquakes) to improve surface wave tomography models of the Earth

  • Using geodetic data and repeating earthquake data to improve models of fault creep and locking

  • Developing improved methodologies for modeling geodetic data of earthquakes (e.g. including realistic topography and material properties, identifying the appropriate level of detail that a model can support)

  • Joint inverse modeling of geodetic and seismic data to maximize our understanding of earthquake kinematics

  • Using GNSS data to constrain all phases of the earthquake cycle

  • Making use of new similarity search methods developed by computer scientists for detection and characterization of earthquakes

  • Using InSAR models of earthquakes to develop improved earthquake scaling relationships

  • Developing robust time series methods for InSAR data, including techniques to optimally combine multiple tracks of InSAR time series and/or to combine them with GNSS time series

  • Developing low-cost GNSS instrumentation, and strategies to make use of it

  • Improving our understanding of nontectonic sources of deformation and atmospheric noise that are captured by InSAR data sets

I am, however open to motivated prospective students pitching their own project ideas!

What skills do I think are useful?

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but these are the sorts of skills that students who work in my group make use of frequently in their research projects:

  • Coding, in any language. At the 'research front' there almost never is a code that is already written that can do the thing that you want to do, so you will have to write it yourself. I use Matlab, but am learning Python. (My philosophy is that if you know one programming language well, you can figure out other ones.)

  • Use of the Unix/Linux command line. You will spend a lot of time manipulating files from here, as it is more efficient than using a GUI

  • Shell scripting and GMT (a set of scriptable routines for plotting data and making maps). I use these all the time and expect my students to use them too.

  • Technical, scientific writing. You will end up doing a lot of it!

  • Knowledge of GIS software. This is very useful for visualization of data.

  • Understanding of InSAR and GNSS data, how to interpret them, how to process them

  • Knowing how to download, pre-process and analyze seismic waveform data (e.g. locate earthquakes, perform tomography)

  • Understanding of inverse theory, optimization, numerical computing methods and statistics

  • Understanding of active tectonics, friction and rheology, seismic hazard assessment and earthquake seismology

Note: I would say that none of my past graduate students came in knowing all of these things (and none of them had a strong background in geophysics). And that's OK! I can teach you! Besides, not every project requires knowing every single thing. But knowing how to do some of these things coming in will be a great advantage.

What personal traits do I value?

In graduate students I value curiosity and the ability to work independently most of all. Curiosity is a motivator, and also a driver of new discoveries (what is that feature in my data that doesn't quite fit the model? Is there a repeated pattern in the time series?) Students who can work independently, making decisions about how to solve problems, trying things out on their own, and figuring out what to do next, generally make progress more quickly (versus those who wait to be told what to do next, for example) and develop the tools to succeed in their future careers. It is always exciting to be shown things that students have discovered on their own! It's one of the reasons why I wanted to advise students!

How does one apply?

Interested in working with me at UCR?

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences makes admissions decisions in the Winter quarter (January-March) of each academic year. Most students apply in the Fall (September-December); the usual deadline is January 15th. All accepted PhD applicants and domestic (US-based) MS applicants qualify for multi-year financial support (a tuition waiver and guarantees of a stipend through teaching assistant positions). Well-qualified applicants may also qualify for fellowship support. This is how I would advise you do this:

1) Consider your qualifications

Generally speaking, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA (based on the last two years of classes in your major) is necessary for admittance. We can make allowances for a lower score in some circumstances (strong letters of recommendation, overcoming personal struggles, prior research experience, Master's degree), but 3.0 is the rule of thumb. If your GPA is 3.5 or higher, you likely qualify for a fellowship (usually three quarters of stipend without having to teach). I have heard the GRE requirement will be abolished soon. Certainly I do not use it as a guide of application quality.

Note that these requirements are necessary, but not sufficient. In order to be admitted, a professor in the Department needs to support your application. To get that support, you need to contact them (me) ahead of time. Which brings me to:

2) Contact me via e-mail first

  • E-mail me expressing your interest, and attach your CV. Explain why you are interested in working with me, and why you think you will be a good fit in my group. (Bonus points if you've actually read this page...)

  • Do not send a form letter, with my name and titles of papers pasted in. I get several such spam e-mails, and they are not regarded favorably, shall I say.

  • Honorifics like 'Esteemed Professor' and the like are ridiculous, so don't use them! Just use my name. 'Dr Funning' is fine. If we've met, then you can call me 'Gareth'.

  • Do not apply without e-mailing me first. There is a fairly hefty fee for applying, especially for international applicants, and if I am not going to support your application, that's wasted money.

3) Also good to know

UCR is a Minority Serving Institution, and we are always looking for ways to increase the diversity of our graduate student body. We hope to be welcoming to students from all backgrounds, and our long term goal is for our graduate students to truly represent the population that we serve.