2002-2003 UAF Catalog

Research Institutes and Centers


Geophysical Institute

Founded in 1948, primaryly to study aurora interference with high frequency telecommunication, the Geophysical Institute (GI) has become a world-renowned center for the study of a wide range of physical phenomena from the sun to the center of the Earth.

The institute's proximity to the Arctic makes it ideal for the study of high-latitude science. In support of the university's general research objectives, the GI has major research programs in these main areas: tectonics and sedimentation, volcanology, seismology, cryophysics (snow, ice and permafrost), atmospheric science and space physics. Serving the science objectives of these programs, the GI operates two satellite ground stations with data processing and user services, a rocket range for space research, a volcano observatory, an earthquake information center, a climate research center and a geochronology laboratory.

Faculty and students working at the GI are integrated with university endeavors through the coupled activities of education and research. Undergraduate and graduate students find exciting work in GI research programs while gaining academic credit toward their degree. Many GI faculty have joint appointments through which they teach courses at the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics along with their research at the GI. In this way, students and faculty are linked through the stimulus of learning while collaborating in research.

In addition to academic pursuits, faculty and students participate in projects that serve the needs of the state and nation in a direct way. These are activities in which the GI processes geophysical data into decision-making information. One example is the University Partnership in Operational Support program through which the knowledge of GI professors and their students is applied to the needs of the U.S. Army and Air Force. Another example is the continuous watch for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions through which the GI alerts state and federal agencies of hazards to Alaskans in the air and on the ground. The GI also provides an annual six-week lecture series, "Science for Alaska," to high school students and the general public. Distinguished scientists in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau present these popular lectures.

Supporting the faculty, students and staff in these activities, the GI operates the 42,000-volume Keith B. Mather Library as a special provision for its research needs. In addition, the GI operates a geodata center, information office, and machine, electronics, computer service and digital design shops.

Permanent field sites are operated throughout Alaska in support of GI programs. Many of these are associated with the Poker Flat Research Range, a rocket range that has launched more than 1,800 rockets since it was founded in 1969. Some of the rocket payloads have been built by students as part of their engineering studies. Other remote sites are located in Antarctica, Canada and Norway.