​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​earth science and engineering program - academics:

In the Earth Science and Engineering (ErSE) program at KAUST, faculty and their students engage in interdisciplinary research to understand and model geophysical processes due to the complex and changing nature of our planet. The ErSE curriculum provides a sound graduate-level education in geophysical sciences and their applications in two distinct specializations represented by two tracks: 

Fluid Earth Systems; 

Solid Earth Systems. ​

The program is rich with opportunities, for both M.S. and Ph.D. students, with a focus on modern computational and advanced data-analysis methods to study geophysical problems associated with atmospheric processes and ocean circulation, oil exploration and reservoir modelling, earthquake processes and crustal deformation. Students in this program receive broad training in numerical methods, mathematical modelling and geophysics. M.S. students have an option to participate in scientific research activities that include computational and mathematical modelling or field-study projects (M.S. with thesis). Ph.D. candidates in the program conduct original research. 

ErSE students must specify one of the available tracks as their major. Students in the Fluid Earth Systems track study flow and transport processes both beneath and above the Earth's surface, including subsurface, surface and atmospheric flows. Students in the Solid Earth Systems track focus on seismology, geophysics, geodynamics and geomechanics. 

summary of M.S. and Ph.D. ​requirements:


View Online Program GuideSee MoreCourse List & Syllabi 2017See More

​M​.S. degree requirements:

Master's Assessment Test

  • ​ErSE Assessment Test Subjects

    ErSE students will be tested on the following subjects:

    • Basic Principles of Mechanics
    • Basic Principles of Physics 
    • Engineering Mathematics
    • Linear Algebra
    • Ordinary Differential Equations

    ​1. Basic Principles of Mechanics

    List of Topics:

    • Solid Mechanics
    • Fundamental Concepts: Units, Scalar & Vector
    • Adding/resolving forces, moments, types of load/support
    • Equilibrium of rigid bodies. Free body diagrams. Static determinacy
    • Trusses: static determinacy, method of joints and method of sections
    • Stress, strain, elastic constants, Hooke's law
    • Beams: shear force and bending moment diagrams
    • Engineer's Bending Theory. First and second moments of area
    • Beam deflection due to bending, moment-curvature relationship
    • Differential equation of the deflection curve. Solution by integration
    • Shear stress in beams. Shear formula
    • Torsion of circular section shafts, polar second moment of area
    • Buckling of elastic struts. Concept of instability. Euler formula
    • Stress, strain, elastic constants, thermal strain, Hooke's law (2D/3D)
    • Stresses in thin-walled cylinders subject to internal pressure
    • Two-dimensional analysis of stress
    • Stress transformation using Mohr circles
    • Principle stresses and strains
    • Friction
    • Stress-strain relationships of common structural materials
    • Materials in Engineering: Metals, ceramics, polymers and composites

    Recommended References:

    Mechanics of Solids and Structures" by Roger T. Fenner and J.N. Reddy – CRC Press – ISBN 9781439858141

    Basic Principles of Mechanics: Sample Question

    2. Basic Principles of Physics

    List of Topics:

    • Newtonian Physics
    • Magnetism and Magnetic Induction
    • Electrodynamics
    • Optics
    • Quantum Physics
    • Thermodynamics 
    • Molecular Gas Theory
    • Oscillations and Waves 
    • Photoelectric Effect

    Recommended References:

    Online reference book http://www.lightandmatter.com/lm/
    Any undergraduate level basic Physics textbook

    Basic Principles of Physics: Sample Question

    3. Engineering Mathematics 

    List of Topics:

    • Limits
    • Derivatives
    • Anti-derivatives and definite integrals.
    • The classes of functions used to develop these concepts are: polynomial, rational, trigonometric exponential and logarithmic.
    • Integration (by parts, substitutions, partial fractions, approximation of integrals and improper integrals)
    • Infinite sequences and series
    • Convergence tests
    • Power series
    • Taylor polynomials and series
    • Taylor's Remainder Theorem

    Recommended References:

    http://www.math.odu.edu/~jhh/Volume-1.PDF

    Engineering Mathematics: Sample Questions

    4. Linear Algebra

    List of Topics:

    • Vector spaces and linear mappings between such spaces 
    • Introduction to vector spaces 
    • Basis and dimension 
    • Rank of a matrix
    • Determinants
    • Inverse of a matrix 
    • Eigenvalues and diagonalization
    • Similarity
    • Positive definite matrices
    • Orthogonal and unitary matrices and transformations 
    • Orthogonal projections
    • Gram-Schmidt procedure 
    • Solving systems of linear equations
    • Cramer's rule
    • Linear transformations
    • Isomorphism
    • Parallelepipeds

    Recommended References:

    Linear Algebra and Its Applications, David C. Lay, Addison-Wesley/Pearson, ISBN: 978-0321385178

    Linear Algebra: Concepts and Methods, Martin Anthony & Michele Harvey, Cambridge University Press, ISBN:978-0-521-27948-2

    Linear Algebra: Sample Questions

    5. Ordinary Differential Equations 

    List of Topics:

    • Solving simple ordinary differential equations
    • Classification by order
    • Linearity and homogeneity
    • Autonomous differential equations
    • Asymptotic behavior
    • Equilibrium points and stability
    • Solutions by numerical schemes
    • Euler's method

    Recommended References:

    An Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations, J. Robinson, Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 978-0521533911

    Differential Equations with Boundary Value Problems, J. Polking, A. Boggess, D. Arnold, Pearson, ISBN: 978-0131862364

    Ordinary Differential Equations, M. Tenenbaum, H. Pollard, Dover Publications, ISBN:  978-0486649405

    Differential Equations, J. Robinson, Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 978-0521533911

    Ordinary Differential Equations: Sample Questions​​

Masters Non-Thesis

  • Students wishing to pursue the non-thesis option must complete a minimum of six credits of Directed Research (299). Summer internship credits may be used to fulfill the research requirements provided that the Summer internship is research-based. Summer internships are subject to approval by the student's academic advisor. 

    Students must complete the remaining credits through one or a combination of the options listed below: 

    • Broadening Experience Courses: Courses that broaden a student's M.S. experience. 
    • Internship: Research-based Summer Internship (295). Students are only allowed to take one internship. 
    • PhD Courses : Courses numbered at the 300 level. ​

    It should be noted that a student may also combine courses to satisfy the six credit requirement. For example, a student could take one Ph.D.-level course and one graduate-level course in another program. A student may not enroll in two Summer internships. 

Masters with Thesis

  • It is the sole responsibility of the student to plan her/his graduate program in consultation with her/his advisor. Students are required to meet all deadlines. Students should be aware that most core courses are offered only once per year. 

    The Master's Degree (M.S.) is awarded upon successful completion of a minimum of 36 credit hours. A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be achieved to graduate. Individual courses require a minimum of a 'B-' for course credit. Students are expected to complete the M.S. degree in three semesters and one Summer Session. 

    M.S. Degree requirements:

    • Core Curriculum;
    • Elective Curriculum; and
    • Research/Capstone Experience

    Graduate Seminar 298 (non-credit): All students are required to register and receive a satisfactory grade for every semester the program requires they attend.  The M.S. degree is awarded upon successful completion of a minimum of 36 credit hours.  A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be achieved to graduate. Individual courses require a minimum of a B- for course credit.

    CORE COURSES (Twelve credits) - Choose at least four courses

    This portion of the degree is designed to provide a student with the background needed to establish a solid foundation in the program area.  In the Earth Science and Engineering Program,students' select four (4) track related courses from the core courses. Choose at least 4, one (1) AMCS course is mandatory: 

    ErSE 204/304 - Geophysical Continuum Mechanics
    ErSE 211 - Global Geophysics
    ErSE 213 - Inverse Problems
    ErSE 253 - Data Analysis in Geosciences
    AMCS 206 - Applied Numerical Methods
    AMCS 231 - Applied Partial Differential Equations I
    AMCS 251 - Numerical Linear Algebra

    AMCS 252 - Numerical Analysis of Differential Equations 

    ELECTIVE COURSES (Twelve credits) - choose four courses
    This portion of the degree is designed to allow each student to tailor his/her educational experience to meet individual research and educational objectives, with the permission of the student's academic advisor. In the Earth Science and Engineering Program, students select four (4) courses, chosen upon recommendation of the student's advisor. 

    Fluid Earth Systems Courses 

    ErSE 201 - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I
    ErSE 202 - Computational Groundwater Hydrology
    ErSE 209/309 - Thermodynamics of Subsurface Reservoirs
    ErSE 301 - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics II
    ErSE 303 - Numerical Methods of Geophysics
    ErSE 305 - Multiphase Flows in Porous Media
    ErSE 306 - Ocean Physics and Modelling
    ErSE 307 - Atmospheric Chemistry and Transport
    ErSE 353 - Data Assimilation
    ErSE 280/380 - Pore-Scale Modelling of Subsurface Flow
    ErSE 390 - Special Topics in Earth Science 

    Fluid Earth Systems Courses from other programs 

    CBE 202 - Transport Phenomena
    ME 200a - Fluid Mechanics
    ME 305 - Computational Fluid Dynamics 

    Solid Earth Systems Courses 

    ErSE 210 - Seismology I
    ErSE 212 - Geophysical Geodesy and Geodynamics
    ErSE 214 - Seismic Exploration
    ErSE 215 - Geomechanics I
    ErSE 217 - Seismotectonics
    ErSE 218 - Geophysical Field Methods
    ErSE 225 - Physical Fields Methods in Geophysics l
    ErSE 260 - Seismic Imaging
    ErSE 370 - Full waveform inversion
    ErSE 310 - Seismology II
    ErSE 315 - Geomechanics II
    ErSE 325 - Physical Fields Methods in Geophysics ll
    ErSE 328 - Advanced Seismic Inversion I
    ErSE 329 - Advanced Seismic Inversion II
    ErSE 345 - Seismic Interferometry
    ErSE 360 - Mathematical methods for seismic imaging
    ErSE 390 - Special Topics in Earth Science 

    RESEARCH/CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE (Twelve credits): 

    The details of this portion of the degree are uniquely determined by the student with the permission of the student's academic advisor and will involve a combination of research and other capstone experiences. A student is expected to work weekly a minimum of 3 hours weekly per each research credit he/she is registered for. 

    ErSE 295 - Internship (M.S)
    ErSE 297 - Thesis Research
    ErSE 299 - Directed Research (M.S. students) 

    Winter Enrichment Program 

    Students are required to satisfactory complete at least one (1) full Winter Enrichment Program (WEP).

    M.S. Thesis

    Students must apply by the ninth week of their second semester for a thesis. 

    Students wishing to pursue the thesis option must apply by the ninth week of their second semester for a thesis and must have at least a 3.2 cumulative GPA. 

    A minimum of 12 credits of Thesis Research (297) is required. Students are permitted to register for more than 12 credits of M.S. Thesis Research as necessary and with the permission of the thesis advisor. The selected thesis advisor must be a fulltime program-affiliated Assistant, Associate or Full Professor at KAUST. This advisor can only become project-affiliated for the specific thesis project upon program level approval. Project-affiliation approval must be completed prior to commencing research.

    M.S. Thesis Defense Requirements

    An oral defense of the M.S. Thesis is required, although it may be waived by the Dean's Office under exceptional circumstances. A requirement of a public presentation and all other details are left to the discretion of the thesis committee. A written thesis is required. It is advisable that the student submits a final copy of the thesis to the Thesis Committee Members at least two weeks prior to the defense date. Students are required to comply with the university formatting guidelines provided by the library CLICK HERE.  Students are responsible for scheduling the thesis defense date with his/her thesis committee.   A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote, otherwise the student fails. The final approval must be submitted at the latest two weeks before the end of the semester. 

    M.S. Thesis Defense Committee

    The M.S. Thesis Defense committee, which must be approved by the student's Dean, must consist of at least three members and typically includes no more than four members. At least two of the required members must be KAUST faculty. The Chair plus one additional faculty member must be affiliated with the student's program. This membership can be summarized as:

    ​MEMBER

    ​ROLE

    ​PROGRAM STATUS

    ​1

    ​Chair

    ​Within Program

    ​2

    ​Faculty

    ​Within Program

    ​3

    ​Faculty or Approved Research Scientist

    ​Outside Program

    ​4

    ​Additional Faculty


    ​Inside or Outside KAUST​​

    ​​​Notes:

    • ​​Members 1 – 3 are required. Member 4 is optional.
    • Co-chairs may serve as Member 2, 3 or 4, but may not be a Research Scientist.
    • Adjunct Professors and Professor Emeriti may retain their roles on current committees, but may not serve as chair on any new committees
    • Professors of Practice and Research Professors may serve as Members 2, 3 or 4 depending upon their affiliation with the student's program. They may also serve as co-chairs.
    • Visiting Professors may serve as Member 4.

    View a list of faculty and their affiliations: HERE 

    Submitting the Thesis 

    The division recommends that the student submit the Thesis to the examining committee no later than two weeks prior to the defense. However, the committee chair sets the final requirement for the submission timeline.  ​

    Thesis Defense Date

    The deadline to defend the Thesis is no later than two weeks before the last day of the semester. The student must set the date of the Thesis Defense inline with the committee member’s schedules. At the time the student submits the Thesis Committee Formation form, the defense has to be scheduled. 

    Booking a Venue of the Thesis Defense

    It is the student’s responsibility to book a room and make the necessary IT arrangements for the Thesis Defense. Room booking is done thru the student portal under Service Request Management. 

    Thesis Defense Announcement

    The student must submit to their GPC the title and abstract of his/her Thesis a week before defense date. The GPC will announce the Thesis defense to program members. The time and location of the defense must be included in the email.  The student is required to check their program guides for further instructions related to their defense format.

    An oral defense is required however the Dean can waive this requirement. The requirement of a public or private defense is left to the discretion of the committee.
    ​As a general guideline the defense is expected to be a 45-minute presentation followed by 15 minutes of general Q&A then a closed-door Q&A session with the committee. 

    Thesis Defense Evaluation

    A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote otherwise the student fails. The final approval must be submitted no more than three days after the defense.
    After examination/defense, you will receive one of the following outcomes:

    • ​Pass: The student will be given one week to apply any corrections required by the committee members. During the following week, the student is required to upload the final draft of Thesis document to Blackboard for format check and to start the submission process
    • ​Fail: The student must notify the program GPC immediately of the committee decision.  The student is required to submit MS Thesis Approval form within two days after the Thesis defense regardless of the outcome.

    Thesis Submission

    Once the post-examination corrections are made, the student must do the following:

    1. ​​Upload the final draft of the Thesis document to Turnitin through Blackboard under the course titled (“Year”_”Semester”_THES) available on the list of Courses: Quick View.
    2. Inform your GPC when this has been done.
    3. Submit the M.S. Thesis Final Approval form to GPC.
    4. Submit the Copyright form available on KAUST Library website to GPC.

    The GPC will check for format errors and plagiarism

    1. ​A Turnitin Plagiarism report will be sent to the Thesis Supervisor to confirm the authenticity of the Thesis document. If citation corrections need to be made, the supervisor will let you know and you must re-upload the Thesis after corrections are made.
    2. The GPC will inform the student of any format corrections required in accordance with KAUST Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.
    3. If there are no formatting or plagiarism errors, the GPC will submit the final draft of the Thesis, the M.S. Final Approval form, and the Copyright form to the Library Archive.
    4. The library will send the tracking number of the Thesis document to GPC.
    5. GPC will add the tracking number to the M.S. Thesis Final Approval form.
    6. GPC will send the M.S. Thesis Final Approval form to officially notify the Registrar Office and confirm the completion of the M.S. Thesis degree requirements. A copy of the email will be sent to the student.
    7. ​The registrar office will start the graduation and exit processes at this stage.​ ​​

Program Courses and Descriptions

  • ErSE 201 - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 204 or consent of instructor. 

    Introductory description of the Earth's climate system, governing equations of mass and momentum conservation, equation of state, thermodynamic equation, wave kinematics, dispersion, group velocity, sound waves, gravity waves, effect of rotation, equations of motion in spherical coordinates, primitive equations, Business approximation, changing vertical coordinate, asymptotic analysis and scaling, geostrophic balance, thermal wind, static instability, boundary layers in atmosphere and ocean. 

    ErSE 202 - Computational Groundwater Hydrology (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: Basic programming skill in MATLAB or consent of instructor; ErSE 204. 

    The course covers derivation of mathematical models for porous media flow and the development and application of mass-conservative simulator models of single phase, miscible fluids in porous media. Solutions of the pressure equation and numerical methods for convection and diffusion equations are presented as well. 

    ErSE 204/304 - Geophysical Continuum Mechanics (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: AMCS 231 or consent of Instructor. 

    The course provides physical background foundation and overview of mathematical continuum models of geophysics. The goal of the course is to allow students to learn modelling ideas and utilize them in simulation. Topics discussed include: brief introduction to Cartesian tensors, their calculus and algebra; deformations and strain measures; balance laws and equations of motion; thermo-dynamical relations and constraints; mixture theory and phase change. 

    ErSE 209/309 - Thermodynamics of Subsurface Reservoirs (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    This course covers the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and their applications to subsurface reservoirs especially to hydrocarbon reservoirs. Bulk phase equilibrium thermodynamics is a focus of this course, which prepares students the required thermodynamic skill for compositional petroleum reservoir simulation. Cubic equations of state and their strengths are discussed for pure components and mixtures. In particular, Peng-Robinson equation of state and its modelling parameters are addressed. Detailed calculation procedures are given to predict volumetric properties, gas and liquid phase compositions, thermal properties and sonic velocities of reservoir fluids. Algorithms on flash calculation and stability analysis are considered. We study bisection and successive substitution techniques based on the Rachford-Rice equation as well as Newton's method. Optional advanced topics in this course include 1) statistical thermodynamics and molecular simulation for phase behaviors of fluids, 2) nonequilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics, especially as applied to reservoir grading, and 3) interfacial thermodynamics and its application to micro-pores and nano-particles for oil reservoirs. 

    ErSE 210 - Seismology I (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 204 or consent of instructor. 

    The course presents introductory and advanced concepts of seismic wave propagation, including vectors and tensors, Hooke's law, elastic coefficient tensors, Christoffel equation, group and phase velocities and Green's theorem. The following concepts will also be covered: reflection and transmission coefficient formulas for a layered medium, attenuation, Snell's law, Fermat's principles, Fresnel zone, finite-difference solutions to the wave equation and eikonal equation, migration and traveltime tomography. 

    ErSE 211 - Global Geophysics (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 204 or consent of instructor. 

    The course provides introductory descriptions of the Earth solid and fluid natural systems and their interaction. In the first part of the course, focused on fluid earth systems, it discusses the history of earth climate, formation of oceans and atmosphere, biological history, energy balance climate model, general circulation of ocean and atmosphere, climate change, coupled ocean-atmosphere-biosphere climate models. The second part of the course discussed the solid earth system, in particular the earth early geological history, plate motions, magnetism and sea floor spreading, earthquakes and earth structure, gravity, geochronology, heat flow, mantle convection and earth's magnetic field. 

    ErSE 212 - Geophysical Geodesy and Geodynamics (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 211 or consent of instructor. 

    This course provides an introduction to commonly used geodetic methods in geophysics, such as triangulation, leveling, borehole strain monitoring, GPS, Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), radar altimetry, optical image correlation and gravimetry. Several applications of these methods are discussed, e.g. for studying plate motions, plate-boundary deformation, seismic cycle processes, basin subsidence, plate-flexure, post-glacial rebound, geoid variations, gravity anomalies, sea-level changes, tides, earth rotational variations and volcanic processes. 

    ErSE 213 - Inverse Problems (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: Linear algebra, multivariable calculus, probability theory, MATLAB programming. 

    This course introduces the principles of Inverse theory and Data Assimilation with applications to geophysics and other sciences. Both deterministic and stochastic viewpoints will be covered. Topics covered include least squares, generalized inverses, regularization, Kalman filter, adjoint method, etc. Techniques for solving nonlinear inverse and data assimilation problems will be also covered (200-level for Master students, 300-level for Ph.D. students with more home and project work). 

    ErSE 214 - Seismic Exploration (2-1-3) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    An introductory course on Seismic exploration covering the basics of seismic waves, seismic data, seismic acquisition, data processing, filters, seismic velocities and stacking. The course includes an introduction to seismic imaging. 

    ErSE 215 - Geomechanics I (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Concepts of linear elastic fracture mechanics as applied to the classification, origin and evolution of all types of rock fractures; continuum theory in rock mechanics; rock strength and failure criteria; rock mechanics testing; stress tensors; elastic theory; poroelasticity and thermoelasticity; inelastic behaviour; stress regimes; geological applications. 

    ErSE 217 - Seismotectonics (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 204 or consent of instructor. 

    The topics of this course include stress and strain, tensor analysis, rheology, brittle vs. ductile deformation, fracture and friction, friction, stable and unstable sliding, fault mechanics, earthquake moment tensors, stress drop, Kostrov's summation, earthquake cycle, postseismic processes, interseismic  strain accumulation, Coulomb failure stress changes, earthquake triggering, earthquake geology, paleoseismology, earthquake statistics, seismic hazard assessments and comparative seismotectonics. 

    ErSE 218 - Geophysical Field Methods (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: Knowledge of basic physics, linear algebra, advanced calculus, and a programming language (e.g. MATLAB); it is recommended that students have taken a basic seismology course, are currently enrolled in one; otherwise, consent of instructor. 

    Theory and practice of seismic refraction, gravity, electromagnetic and resistivity surveys will be presented. Lectures will cover both geophysical theory and field method procedures, accompanied by either a geophysical field exercise or data processing lab. The final grade is based on homework grades, a project report and the related presentation. Field projects cover applications in environmental engineering, exploration and earthquake hazards. Instruments to be used include the 64-node Syscal multi-node resisitvity system, the Geonics EM-34 frequency domain loop antennae system, the Geonics microgravimeter and the Geometrics 624-channel seismic recording system. Commercial codes will be used for processing the data. 

    ErSE 225 - Physical Fields Methods in Geophysics l (2-1-3) 
    Prerequisite: Partial-differential equations; basic knowledge of electro-magnetic physics. 

    Measurement and theory of gravity and magnetic fields of the earth; small to large- scale gravity and magnetic anomalies in exploration and global geophysics; reduction of gravity and magnetic data and forward modelling; applications to exploration, tectonics, and environmental problems. Thermal properties, temperatures and heat transfer within the context of global geological and geophysical processes, such as plate tectonics and sedimentary basin evolution. 

    ErSE 253 - Data Analysis in Geosciences (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: Background in linear algebra, probability theory, statistics; programming in MATLAB. 

    Time Series (filtering, correlation, deconvolution, spectral analysis, regression), processing of multidimensional data, spatial statistics including variogram, covariance analysis and modelling, multipoint estimation, spatial interpolation including statistical methods (kriging) and dynamical methods (Kalman filter), uncertainty assessment, cross validation, multivariate analysis including principal component analysis and canonical analysis. 

    ErSE 260 - Seismic Imaging (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 210 or ErSE 213 or consent of instructor. 

    This course is devoted to studying the concept of seismic imaging for exploration purposes. We introduce seismic imaging in the framework of Green's functions and wavefield extrapolation and discuss the various imaging conditions. We look at the various migration methods including Kirchhoff, phase-shift migration, downward continuation methods, reverse time migration and others. We discuss the role that velocity plays in the seismic imaging process. 

    ErSE 290A – Reservoir Engineering Fundamentals and Applications (3-0-3) 

    This course addresses key fundamentals of reservoir engineering and reservoir simulation. Realistic hydrocarbon field cases will be considered. Students will get exposed to industry adopted workflows in reservoir modeling and management and will get familiarized with a commercial reservoir simulator. The course includes the following topics : 10 Basic concepts: hydrocarbon PVT/thermodynamics, material balance, uncertainty analysis, drive mechanisms, vertical equilibrium, capillarity and J-functions; 2) Primary depletion: recovery mechanism, performance evaluation; 3) Secondary depletion: displacement efficiency, Buckly-Leverett theory, mobility ratio, sweep efficiency, well placement, water flood evaluation, tracer concept; 4) Reservoir simulation governing equations, linear/nonlinear solvers, IMPES/FI/AIM formulations, well model/control, numerical error, history-match concept, prediction uncertainties; 5) Enhanced oil recovery (EOR): hydrocarbon trapping mechanisms, concepts of miscible/immiscible gas flood, chemical EOR, thermal EOR, EOR screening; 6) Field management workflow, economics and decision analysis.

    ErSE 290G – Modeling Naturally Fractured Reservoirs (3-0-3) 

    Modeling naturally fractured reservoirs (NFR) is regaining interest in the industry and academia thanks to the revolution in unconventional hydrocarbon and EOR in carbonate fractured reservoirs. This course provides an overview of naturally fractured reservoirs (NFR) and focuses on traditional and advanced methods to model NFR. The course includes: 1) Introduction on NFR: definitions, importance, detection methods, characterization; 2) Single porosity model: multiphase flow, matrix-fracture interaction (diffuson, imbibition, infiltration), gridding, limitations; 3) Dual porosity/dual permeability models; derivations, shape factor, transfer functions, limitations; 4) Discrete fractured models; 2D/3D gridding simplications; 5) Advanced methods; Finitie Element (FE), Control Volume FE, Mixed FE; 6) DFN upscaling; static/dynamic upscaling, single phase/multi- phase upscaling. Note: Students are expected to have at least basic familiarity with: Multi-phase flow in porous media and programming in Matlab or Python. 

    ErSE 295 - Internship (6 Credits) 
    Prerequisite: Approval of Academic Advisor. 

    Master's-level summer internship. 

    ErSE 296 - Special Seminar (non-credit) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Master's-level seminar focusing on special topics within the field. 

    ErSE 297 - Thesis Research (Variable Credits) 
    Prerequisite: Approval of Thesis Advisor. Master's-level thesis research. 

    ErSE 298 - Graduate Seminar (non-Credit) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Master's-level seminar focusing on special topics within the field. 

    ErSE 299 - Directed Research (Variable Credits) 
    Prerequisite: Approval of Academic Advisor. 

    Master's-level supervised research. 

    ErSE 301 - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics II (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 201 or consent of instructor. 

    Climate and climate change, large-scale atmospheric and oceanic motions, fine-scale processes, shallow water equations, conservation properties of shallow water equations, geostrophic adjustment, vorticity and circulation, circulation theorems, potential vorticity conservation, quasi-geostrophic equations, energetics of quasi-geostrophic equations, Rossby waves, barotropic and baroclinic instabilities. 

    ErSE 303 - Numerical Models of Geophysics (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 204/304 or consent of instructor. 

    Built on the modelling foundation developed in ErSE 204/304, this specialized course will discuss advanced ideas of multi-scale modelling, linear and non-linear finite element methods, investigate modern approaches to numerical simulations of hydrodynamic and geophysical turbulence, problems of geodynamical modelling as well as theoretical glaciology and material science of ice for the prediction of ice sheet evolution and wave propagation in linear and non-linear media. 

    ErSE 305 - Multiphase Flows in Porous Media (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: One (1) of AMCS 206 or 231 or consent of instructor. 

    This course covers the thermodynamics of pressure, volume, temperature and composition relationships in water, oil or non-aqueous phase liquids and gas mixtures. In addition, modelling compositional and thermal fluids, including streamline flow, fractional flow and both immiscible and miscible flow will be taught. Page 15 

    ErSE 306 - Ocean Physics and Modelling (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisites: ErSE 201, ErSE 204, or consent of instructor. 

    This course introduces the theory and numerical modelling of ocean circulation. This includes the theory of steady and time-dependent large-scale circulation, effects of earth's curvature, wind-driven Sverdrup circulation, western boundary currents, eastern boundary upwelling, effects of buoyancy forcing, wind-and buoyancy-forced circulation in the thermocline. The course also reviews theoretical models of ocean circulation, including shallow water, barotropic, quasigeostrophic and primitive equation models; adjustment times, internal length and time scales; the role of advection, bathymetry and coastlines; global models, basin models and regional models. 

    ErSE 307 - Atmospheric Chemistry and Transport (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 201, ErSE 204 or consent of instructor. 

    The course provides an introduction in atmospheric chemical processes and their role in climate system. It covers fundamentals of reactions kinetics, photochemical processes, chemistry of troposphere and stratosphere, tropospheric ozone and air-pollution, stratospheric ozone and ozone hole, atmospheric aerosols, chemistry of clouds, atmospheric transport, chemistry transport models, chemistry climate models. 

    ErSE 308 - Atmospheric Physics and Modelling (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 201, ErSE 204, AMCS 252 or consent of instructor. 

    The course discusses main physical processes in the Earth's atmosphere and their role in the formation of weather and climate including atmospheric dynamics and general circulation, sub-grid fine-scale processes and their parameterizations, atmospheric convection, cloud and precipitation formation, atmospheric turbulence and the planetary boundary layer, air-sea interaction, energy balance, radiative-convective equilibrium, general circulation models, coupled ocean-atmosphere models. 

    ErSE 309 - Thermodynamics of Subsurface Reservoirs (3-0-3) 

    This course covers the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and their applications to subsurface reservoirs especially to hydrocarbon reservoirs. Bulkphase equilibrium thermodynamics is a focus of this course, which prepares students the required thermodynamic skill for compositional petroleum reservoir simulation. Cubic equations of state and their strengths are discussed for pure components and mixtures. In particular, Peng-Robinson equation of state and its modeling parameters are addressed. Detailed calculation procedures are given to predict volumetric properties, gas and liquid phase compositions, thermal properties and sonic velocities of reservoir fluids. Algorithms on flash calculation and stability analysis are considered. We study bisection and successive substitution techniques based on the Rachford-Rice equation as well as Newton's method. Optional advanced topics in this course include 1) statistical thermodynamics and molecular simulation for phase behaviors of fluids, 2) nonequilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics, especially as applied to reservoir grading, and 3) interfacial thermodynamics and its application to micro-pores and nano-particles for oil reservoirs. 

    ErSE 310 - Seismology II (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 253 and any of ErSE 210, ErSE 211, ErSE 213. 

    The course provides an introduction to global seismology and earthquake physics, and consists of two (2) parts. Part I: Whole Earth wave propagation (body waves, surface waves, normal modes); imaging Earth 3D structure with ray-based methods; introduction to methods beyond ray-theory; attenuation and scattering of seismic waves. Part II: Earthquake source mechanics; earthquake kinematics and scaling laws; earthquake dynamics, fracture modes and crack propagation; introduction to probabilistic seismic hazard assessment. Throughout the semester, students work in teams towards a term project, with intermediate discussion sessions and short reports leading up to a final project report and presentation. 

    ErSE 315 - Geomechanics ll (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 215, ErSE 204 or consent of instructor. 

    Application of Geomechanics I to reservoir characterization; borehole imaging and borehole stresses; borehole failure analysis; pore pressure prediction and effective stress concepts; sand production and sand failure modelling; effects of water on sand production; wellbore stability; drilling practice. 

    ErSE 325 - Physical Fields Methods in Geophysics ll (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: PDEs and course in basic EM physics. 

    General concepts of electromagnetic field behavior. Electromagnetic properties of rocks. Direct current methods, natural- field electromagnetic methods, magnetotelluric field, numerical modelling, magnetotelluric survey methods. Controlled source electromagnetic methods, electromagnetic sounding and profiling. Computer simulation and interpretation of electromagnetic geophysical data. 

    ErSE 328 - Advanced Seismic Inversion I (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: Include courses in linear algebra and partial differential equations. Knowledge of linear inversion and exploration seismology is helpful. Consent of instructor is required. 

    Overview of non-linear seismic inversion methods that invert for earth parameters from seismic data. The inversion procedure is a multiscale iterative method (typically, non-linear conjugate gradient) that employs preconditioning and regularization. Solution sensitivity is analyzed by model covariance matrices, the slice-projection theorem and the generalized Radon transform. Methods for waveform inversion, wave path traveltime tomography and least squares migration are presented. 

    ErSE 329 - Advanced Seismic Inversion II (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 328. 

    Codes for waveform tomography, wavepath traveltime tomography, traveltime tomography, least squares migration, and skeletalized inversion are used to help student evaluate limits and benefits of these methods, image domain inversion and extend the frontier of seismic inversion. A term project is required that will be written as a paper and possibly submitted to a relevant scientific journal. 

    ErSE 345 - Seismic Interferometry (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Main objective is to present the key ideas of seismic interferometry and illustrate them with seismic examples from marine data, land data, and synthetic data. MATLAB exercises will be presented that educate the user about the benefits and pitfalls of interferometric imaging. Examples will be presented that use interferometry for 2D deconvolution, data extrapolation, data interpolation, super-stacking, passive seismology, surface-wave interferometry and super-illumination. 

    ErSE 353 - Data Assimilation (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE 253. 

    Data assimilation (DA) is the process of optimally combining observations with the predictions of numerical models to make the best possible estimate of the time-varying state of the phenomenon under study. In particular, DA forms a basis for the forecast of the future and re-analysis of the past. In the last 20 years, DA has gained center stage in many computational disciplines at both universities and research centers starting with geoscience applications. DA is a subject that requires a balanced understanding of statistics and applied mathematics as well as the relevant geophysical systems. This course introduces the concepts of data assimilation derived in the context of the statistical estimation theory and the deterministic inverse theory. The course covers a variety of assimilation methods for numerical weather prediction, ocean forecasting, reservoir history matching, 4D seismic inversion and hydrology assimilation. These include, but not limited to, optimal interpolation and three (3) dimensional variational (3D VAR) methods, Kalman filtering, smoothing and four (4) dimensional variational (4D VAR) methods, low rank Kalman filtering, ensemble Kalman filtering and ensemble square-root filters. Advanced topics based on the fully non-linear Bayesian estimation theory, such as the particle filter and the Gaussian Mixture filters and the state of art data assimilation systems will also be discussed. 

    ErSE 360 - Mathematical Methods for Seismic Imaging (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE260. 

    This course will be devoted to mathematical algorithms and methods for seismic imaging. We will learn how to extrapolate wavefields efficiently and accurately. Distribution, sampling and representation theorems are among the mathematical concepts covered in the course. We will also look at scattering and inverse scattering theory and relate them to the imaging process. To simplify the understanding of these concepts, we will look at them as well under the high frequency asymptotic assumption as we focus on solutions to the eikonal and dynamic ray tracing problems. 

    ErSE 390 - Special Topics in Earth Science (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Specialized Ph.D.-level courses that cover subjects of particular interest, augment 200- or 300-level courses with in-depth coverage of the foundations, or provide computational applications and extended projects. Special Topics may also introduce new scientific fields and research areas, or broaden and challenge the students experience and expertise in other ways. 

    ErSE 390A - Full waveform inversion (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: ErSE260, or ErSE260 taken simultaneously. 

    Full waveform inversion (FWI) has recently emerged as a comprehensive tool to achieve the seismic exploration objective of discovering the Earth. In this course, we will extensively learn the concept behind FWI, including all components necessary to implement FWI, from modelling to developing an objective function to evaluating the Frechet derivative as well as understanding the role of the Hessian. We utilize the Lagrangian formulation to develop the adjoint state variables for an effect calculation of the gradient and the Hessian. 

    ErSE 390F - Pore-scale Modelling of Subsurface Flow (3-0-3) 
    Prerequisite: Basic numerical PDE courses, basic programming skills in MATLAB, fluid mechanics, or consent of instructor. 

    This course will be divided into two (2) parts. In the first part, the students will be exposed to the basic equations governing isothermal and non-isothermal single-phase flows. In the second part, the students will learn about the basic principle of multiphase flow at a pore scale. The course as a whole will thus cover the fundamental basics of complex fluid motion. First, the complete derivations of the governing equations pertinent to fluid flow will be presented and discussed. In particular, the three (3) conservation laws (conservation of mass, momentum, and energy) will be derived in detail. Subsequently, the basic features of these equations, how to solve them numerically and related challenges, will be taught. Detailed description of the different numerical techniques used to solving these equations will be presented with emphasis on staggered-grid finite-difference methods. Various examples of fluid motion in different systems will be described. After laying out the fundamentals of single-phase flow, we will move into multiphase flow theories. In particular, sharp-interface models, phase field models, gradient theories and diffuse interface models will be presented. Furthermore, a recently proposed thermodynamically consistent approach based on equations of state will be presented. Different numerical challenges obstructing the solution of the governing equations of multiphase systems will be described, which in particular include various energy-stable splitting techniques. If time allows, we will also briefly introduce a number of important finite volume and finite element approaches for numerical modelling of the above-mentioned processes. Implementation of numerical simulators, especially of finite-difference simulators, is an additional focus of this course. Students will have opportunities to obtain hands-on experiences of developing their own numerical simulators for pore-scale flow and transport using MATLAB (or any programming language of choice, with consent of instructor. 

    ErSE 395 - Internship (6 Credits) 
    Prerequisite: Approval of Academic Advisor. 

    Doctoral-level summer internship. 

    ErSE 396 - Special Seminar (non-Credit) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Doctoral-level seminar focusing on special topics within the field. 

    ErSE 397 - Ph.D. Dissertation Research (Variable Credits) 
    Prerequisite: Approval of Dissertation Advisor. 

    Doctoral-level dissertation research. 

    ErSE 398 - Graduate Seminar (non-Credit) 
    Prerequisite: None. 

    Doctoral-level ErSE program seminar. 

    ErSE 399 - Directed Research (Variable Credits) 
    Prerequisite: Approval of Dissertation Advisor. Doctoral-level supervised research 

P​H.D. DEGREE REQUIREMENTS:

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is designed to prepare students for research careers in academia and industry. 
It is offered exclusively as a full-time program.

There is a minimum residency requirement at KAUST of 3.5 years for students entering with a B.S. degree and 2.5 years for students entering with an M.S. degree. A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be achieved on all Doctoral coursework. Individual courses require a minimum of a B- to earn course credit.

​Students pursuing Ph.D. degree are required to complete the following degree requirements to earn the degree: ​

​PH.D. DEGREE TIMELINE:





Designation of Dissertation Advisor

  • ​The selected Dissertation Advisor must be a full time program-affiliated assistant, associate or full professor at KAUST. To view the list of Earth Science and Engineering faculty members and faculty members affiliated with ErSE click here. and scroll down the page to faculty members.

    The student may also select an advisor from another program at KAUST. This advisor can only become project-affiliated for the specific dissertation project with program level approval. Project affiliation approval must be completed prior to commencing research.​

    To select a non-affiliated faculty members for a project base affiliation the following documents must be submitted to the program's GPC for the program approval: Change of Advisor form.

    Research proposal submitted by the supervisor providing an over-all research project summary and explaining how the project relates to the student's home program.

    This application is subject to approval by the student's home project faculty members. The student and supervisor will be informed of the decision by the GPC. ​​​

Ph.D. Course Requirements

  • Students entering the Ph.D. Degree with a relevant M.S. Degree must complete the requirements below, though additional courses may be required by the Dissertation Advisor.

    Ph.D. Courses

    • At least two 300-level courses
    • Graduate Seminar 398 (non-credit): All students are required to register and receive a Satisfactory grade for every semester the program requires they attend.
    • Winter Enrichment Program: Students are required to satisfactorily complete at least one full Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) as part of the degree requirements. Students who completed WEP requirements while earning the M.S. Degree are not required to enroll in a full WEP for a second time in the Ph.D. Degree.

    Students entering the program with an M.S. Degree from KAUST may transfer unused coursework toward the Ph.D. program requirements subject to program level approval. Students transferring from another university's Ph.D. program may receive some Dissertation Research and Coursework credit on a case-by-case basis for related work performed at the original Institution upon approval by the Dean. However, such students must still satisfy the Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Proposal Defense requirements at KAUST.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

  • ​The purpose of the Subject-based Qualifying Exam is to test the student's knowledge of the subject matter within the field of study. All students entering the Ph.D. program with a B.S. degree must take this examination within two years of their admission. Students admitted to the program with an M.S. degree must take this exam within one year. 

    The qualifying exam will cover the content of the core courses. 

    • ErSE 203/304: Geophysical Continuum Mechanics
    • ErSE 211 - Global Geophysics
    • ErSE 213 - Inverse Problems
    • ErSE 253 - Data Analysis in Geosciences
    • AMCS 206 - Applied Numerical Methods
    • AMCS 231 - Applied Partial Differential Equations
    • AMCS 251 - Numerical Linear Algebra
    • AMCS 252 - Numerical Analysis of Differential Equations ​

    The examination in all three subjects will be held on the same day. 

    Only PhD and MS/PhD students will be allowed to take the qualifying exam.

    Registration for the Qualifying Exam: 

    The qualifying exam is schduled twice per year, January and June. A call for registration will be sent via email to Ph.D. students eight (8) weeks before the exam date. The email will include the exam date and instructions to register for the exam.

    Evaluation of Ph.D. Qualifying Exam:

    The exams will be evaluated within the next 72 hours.

    ErSE faculty members will discuss and approve the results before sending the results to students.

    Results will be sent to students via email.

    Students who fail the qualifying exam are required to re-take the exam the following time the exam is offered. ​

    Students who fail the Subject-based Qualifying Exam with no retake or fail the retake will be dismissed from the university.​​​

Dissertation Committee Formation

  • ​The Dissertation Committee must include the following members:

    • First member: Dissertation Advisor who acts as committee chair
    • Second member: Program or Program-affiliated faculty member
    • Third member: KAUST faculty member from another program

    The Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Program Chair and the Dean.  Once constituted, the composition of the committee can only be changed with the approval of both the Dissertation Advisor and the Dean.

    The Dissertation Committee form must be completed and submitted to GPC for approval two weeks prior to the Ph.D. proposal defense

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense

  • ​The Dissertation Proposal Defense is the second part of the qualification milestones that must be completed to become a Ph.D. Candidate. The purpose of the Dissertation Proposal Defense is to demonstrate that the student has the ability and is adequately prepared to undertake Ph.D. level research in the proposed area. This preparation includes necessary knowledge of the chosen subject, a review of the literature and preparatory theory or experiment as applicable.

    Ph.D. students are required to complete the Dissertation Proposal Defense within one (1) year after passing the qualifying exam. The proposal defense date will be determined by student and his/her advisor. Ph.D. students must request to present the Dissertation Proposal Defense to the Proposal Dissertation Committee by submitting the Dissertation Committee Formation Form two weeks prior to the Ph.D. proposal defense date. 

    The Dissertation Proposal Defense includes two aspects: a written research proposal and an oral research proposal defense. 

    • The written research proposal document should be 3000 words (+/- 10%).
    • The oral defense should be 1.5 hours long (30 min presentation, 60 min questions)

    Ph.D. Proposal Defense Evaluation

    There are four possible outcomes from this Dissertation Proposal Defense:

    • Pass: A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote, otherwise the student fails.
    • Pass with conditions: In the instance of a Pass with conditions, the entire committee must agree on the required conditions and if they cannot, the Dean decides. The deadline to complete the conditions is one month after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to change it.
    • Fail with retake: The deadline to complete the retake is six months after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to reduce it.
    • Fail without retake: In the instance of a Fail without Retake, the decision of the committee must be unanimous. Students who fail the Dissertation Proposal Defense, or who fail the retake, will be dismissed from the University.

    The Dissertation Proposal Evaluation form  must be submitted within 48 hours after presenting the dissertation proposal.

    Upon passing the Proposal Defense, student must submit the change to Ph.D. candidate status form.​

Dissertation Defense & Submission

  • Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

    The Dissertation Defense is the final milestone of the degree. This part requires acceptance of the Dissertation and the passing of the final defense. The final defense is a public presentation that consists of an oral defense followed by questions.

    To complete this part Ph.D. student is required to complete the following:

    • Form Ph.D. Dissertation Committee and petition for Ph.D. dissertation Defense examination.
    • Defend the dissertation and submit the results.
    • Submit Ph.D. Dissertation and the Final Approval form.

    ​Fall 2017 Submission Deadlines

    Deadline to submit the Ph.D. Petition for Dissertation Defense Examination form is August 31, 2017.

    Deadline to submit the Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Examination Result form is November 9, 2017.

    Deadline to submit the Ph.D. Dissertation and Final Approval form is December 3, 2017.​

    Note:

    Students must follow the KAUST Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines available on the library website when they write their dissertation.​​

​freque​ntly used forms:

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