Our Mission

The mission of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to:

  • Understand basic geophysical processes governing the planet Earth, especially as they occur in or are relevant to Alaska;
  • Train graduates and undergraduates to play leading scientific roles in tomorrow's society;
  • Solve applied geophysical problems and develop related technologies of importance to the state and the nation;
  • Satisfy the intellectual and technological needs of fellow Alaskans through public service.


Scientists at the Geophysical Institute study geophysical processes in action from the center of the Earth to the surface of the sun and beyond. The institute turns data and observations into information useful for state and national needs.

An act of Congress established the Geophysical Institute in 1946. Since that time, the institute has earned an international reputation for studying Earth and its physical environments at high latitudes. The institute now consists of seven major research units and many research support facilities. The research units include space physics and aeronomy; atmospheric sciences; snow, ice, and permafrost; seismology; volcanology; remote sensing; and tectonics and sedimentation.

The institute is also home to numerous facilities related to our research focus. The Alaska Satellite Facility processes and archives satellite data for various federal, local and private entities. Radar images produced at ASF enable all-weather study of sea ice, earthquakes, volcanoes and aid in hazard management. The Poker Flat Research Range, the only university-owned rocket range in the world, is a NASA-supported launch site for suborbital space flight and auroral research. The Alaska Earthquake Center and its partners operate over 400 seismometers across the state that locate and provide information on more than 30,000 earthquakes annually. The Alaska Volcano Observatory maintains a continual watch for eruptions and ash clouds in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey to provide warnings to aircraft. The Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration is active in developments related to unmanned aircraft, including membership in the Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites for unmanned aircraft regulation and testing. The Geographic Information Network of Alaska is the University of Alaska’s mechanism for organizing and sharing its diverse data and technological capabilities among the Alaska, Arctic, and world communities. The Alaska Climate Research Center archives climate records and conducts research in climatology and meteorology.

Design Services, Instrument Development Services, Research Computing Systems and the Mather Library complement the research facilities, as do the talented support staff with their expert services in human resources, proposal preparation, business, outreach and public information.

Institute faculty and research staff serve on a number of state and federal advisory boards, providing scientific evaluation and ideas for a wide range of concerns.

At the Geophysical Institute, research and education proceed hand-in-hand. Opportunities abound for undergraduate and graduate research with our renowned scientists. Graduate assistantships in collaboration with departments in the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Engineering and Mines and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics are available, as well as for post-doctoral research.

Today there are 257 affiliated faculty and staff and 83 graduate and undergraduate students working at the Geophysical Institute. The institute operates with an annual budget of roughly $43.5 million: $32 million in restricted funds (grant funding) and $11.5 million in unrestricted funds.