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Researchers in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) are investigating the origin, constitution, and development of the earth and other planets, and are exploring the impact of those planets' environments on life or how life might evolve. GPS research takes advantage of Caltech's strengths in fundamental science and interdisciplinary collaboration, with faculty and students partnering across divisions and with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Research Facilities

Faculty and student researchers in GPS have access to an array of specialized facilities and instruments for probing and revealing the world we live in. These include advanced computing systems, mass spectrometers, and analytical laboratories, as well as the facilities and tools available at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Pasadena office of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Research Programs in GPS

GPS has six departments, each with its own research focus.

  1. In environmental science and engineering, researchers come together in a cross-disciplinary program to further our understanding and awareness of the impact of human and natural processes on the environment. The program includes faculty and students from GPS, the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and JPL.
  2. In geobiology, researchers focus on understanding the history of life in the solar system, and the impact the biosphere has had on the earth during the past 4 billion years.
  3. In geochemistry, researchers study the chemistry of the cosmos, the earth's mantle, and everything in between. They also play an important role in developing new techniques and instruments for studying the chemical reactions involved in geological processes, for dating those processes, and for examining the chemical composition of geologic materials.
  4. In geology, researchers work both in the lab and across the globe on problems of tectonics, petrology, and geological hazards.
  5. In geophysics, researchers in Caltech's Seismological Laboratory study the state, dynamics and evolution of the earth's interior, the motion and causes of plate tectonics, the underlying processes associated with earthquakes, volcanoes and associated hazards, and the flow and mechanics of glaciers. In addition, researchers in the lab develop and improve seismic, geodetic, analytic and computational tools to study these basic phenomena. The Seismological Laboratory also maintains the Southern California Seismic Network and the Southern California Earthquake Data Center.
  6. In planetary science, researchers study and probe planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and interiors, and are a driving force behind the burgeoning field of planetary astronomy.

Research Centers

The goal of the Murray Lab is to develop and implement state-of-the-art image processing, visualization and data integration techniques.

The 3CPE is an interdisciplinary center which merges the fields of astronomy, geology, and biology to answer questions about the origin and evolution of planetary systems and their biospheres.

We know that climate change is poised to reshape our world, but we lack clear enough predictions about precisely how. At CliMA, our mission is to provide the accurate and actionable scientific information needed to face the coming changes—to mitigate what is avoidable, and to adapt to what is not.

GMG is a joint collaboration between GPS and EAS Divisions. GMG is conducting research to advance the understanding of how geomaterials fail in the presence of fluids.

The Linde Center brings together scientists and engineers representing a broad range of research perspectives in order to address the complex issue of global climate change.

The Seismological Laboratory—informally known as the Seismo Lab—is a modern geophysical observatory that emphasizes the acquisition, analysis, and modeling of data pertaining to the structure and dynamics of the earth as well as other planetary bodies.