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Earth Sciences - Postgraduate research

Earth Sciences - Postgraduate research

Postgraduate Research

The Department of Earth Sciences is one of the leading centres of research and teaching in the UK. 94% of our research has been classified as world-leading and internationally excellent in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF, 2014). We maintain vital links with industrial and commercial partners providing research support, industry experience and employment for our graduates.

Department research activity spans diverse topics designed to investigate the past, present and future of planet earth and its resources. Our research work ranges from groundbreaking blue-sky research, to very applied projects with high societal impact deliverables for industrial and government sponsors.

Prospective students are invited to contact individual members of staff in the department in the first instance to discuss potential research projects.

The following five proposed studentships to be awarded as part of the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. Closing date for ARIESDTP applications 12th January 2021.

Title Supervisor   Download 

Understanding the effects of thermal metamorphism on the water and organic contents of primitive carbonaceous chondrites

Queenie Chan (RHUL) aries-master PDF ⬇︎

Methane in and above the polar oceans: how much is there, where is it coming from, and is it changing?

Anna Jones (BAS) aries-master PDF ⬇︎

Does the oxidation of organic material on atmospheric mineral aerosol change the solar radiative forcing of mineral aerosol?

Martin King (RHUL) aries-master PDF ⬇︎

Imaging the multi-scale landscape of Earth’s core-mantle boundary

Paula Koelemeijer (RHUL) aries-master PDF ⬇︎

The effects of engineered water transport systems on earthquake-triggered landslide potential

Ian Watkinson (RHUL) aries-master PDF ⬇︎
  • These projects have been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2021, and the closing date for applications is the 12th January 2021.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 17th, 18th February 2021.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Applications should be made via the Royal Holloway Direct website



The following project proposals have been selected for funding by the Doctoral Training Centre in “Geoscience and the Low Carbon Energy Transition - GeoNetZero".

Two studentships will be awarded following the interview of shortlisted PhD candidates. 

Closing date for applications is 1st February 2021.

Interviews will be held on 24th February 2021.

UK nationals are eligible for a full award. For EU nationals starting a degree in 2021/22, the UK Government has confirmed that you will not be eligible to pay the same fees as UK students. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2021, we will award an automatic fee reduction which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by UK students. This will apply for the duration of your course.

For further information on a specific project, please contact the supervisor.


Title Supervisor Download

Minimising environmental impact of low-carbon nuclear energy: Accurate prediction of uranium mobility in nature using U isotope ratio

Anirban Basu (RHUL)

PDF ⬇︎

Mixed siliciclastic-carbonate deposits of the Upper Miocene Betic Corridor (Guadix Basin, Spain): outcrop analogue of subsurface reservoirs

Domenico Chiarella (RHUL)

PDF ⬇︎

Subsurface reservoirs for chemical storage of electricity

Dave Waltham (RHUL)

PDF ⬇︎

Compressed Air & Hydrogen Subsurface Energy Storage Potential in Salt Structures in the Silver-Pit High and Sole-Pit Basin, UK Sector, Southern North Sea

Jürgen Adam (RHUL)

PDF ⬇︎


Applications should be made via the Royal Holloway Direct website

For information regarding the GeoNetZero CDT please see here



PhD research studies are supported by Research Council, industrial and College studentships, and projects cover the wide range of departmental research interests. Our postgraduate teaching and research activities strengthen links with a wide range of industrial and commercial partners within the oil, mineral, extraction, waste management and water industries. These links provide support for research, employment for graduates and work experience for undergraduates.

We offer a range of full-time MPhil & PhD research projects. If you are interested in a project, prefer to study part-time, or wish to discuss potential projects of your own design, please contact the lead supervisor, and submit a CV.

The department aims to fund up to two PhD scholarships (maintenance & home fees).

Title Supervisor Download

Investigating local noise sources and background seismicity in London

Paula Koelemeijer and Richard Ghail PDF ⬇︎

Tectonic evolution and sedimentological characterisation of normal fault- controlled deposits

**Industry funded**

Closing date 21st Dcember 2020

Domenico Chiarelle(RHUL), Christopher Jackson(UoM) & Nicola Scarselli(RHUL) PDF ⬇︎
The relationship between the uplifting Indo-Myanmar Ranges and sedimentation in the Central Myanmar Basin

**competitive department studentship**

Amy Gough (RHUL), Max Webb (RHUL), & Tom Dodd (BGS) PDF ⬇︎

Topographic and structural evolution of central Sulawesi

Dr Ian Watkinson PDF ⬇︎ 

Tectonostratigraphic evolution of the Inle pull-apart basin, eastern Myanmar

Dr Ian Watkinson PDF ⬇︎ 

Energy_Critical_Elements  –  British Isles

Dr Giulio Solferino PDF ⬇︎

Core formation in Terrestrial Planets: Experiments, Digital Image Analysis, and Numerical Modelling combined impact 

Dr Giulio Solferino PDF ⬇︎


  • Prof Jürgen Adam (email)  – Coupled tectonic, climate and surface processes; Geodynamic modelling of thrust belts, accretive and non-accretive convergent margins; Salt Tectonics in passive margin sedimentary basins; Physical simulation of rock deformation from basin to fracture scale; Fault & fracture mechanics, Tectonic modelling of structurally complex basins and reservoirs; Neotectonics and geohazards at continental margins and intracontinental strike-slip faults.
  • Dr Anirban Basu (email) Isotope geochemistry, bio-geochemical metal cycling contaminant transport and remediation, environmental geochemistry and microbiology, Redox-sensitive isotopic tracers.
  • Dr Queenie Hoi Shan Chan (email) - Meteorites, Planetary Science, Space Exploration Missions, Cosmochemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Origin of Life and  Astrobiology
  • Dr Domenico Chiarella (email) Sedimentology. Tidal deposits, mixed siliclastic-bioclastic sediments, sedimentary petrography and provenance analysis, tectonic and sedimentation of coarse-grained deltas, seismic interpretation and attribute analysis, reservoir characterisation. 
  • Dr Kevin (Clem) Clemitshaw (email)Sources, sinks and trends of gaseous air pollutants that impact on health and climate. Tropospheric chemistry and measurements of nitrous acid. Atmospheric chemistry, transport and impacts of organic nitrates.
  • Prof Margaret Collinson (email) Tertiary floras, vegetation and climate; floras of the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary event; evolution of wetland communities; fossil history of mammal plant interactions; megaspore ultrastructure and the evolution of heterosporous plants; palynofacies; organic geochemistry and chemical composition of plant fossils and their role in kerogen formation.  
  • Dr Alex Dickson (email)Trace metal geochemistry and isotope geochemistry of marine sedimentary deposits, palaeoclimate and palaeocenaography, environmental change during the Cenozoic and Mesozoic climate events. 
  • Prof Howard Falcon-Lang (email)The evolution of terrestrial ecosystems and palaeoclimates. Current projects include the origin and early evolution of reptiles in mid-carboniferous, the collapse of the first rainforests in Late Pennsylvanian times and the explosive appearance of flowering plants in Cretaceous Period.
  • Dr Rebecca Fisher (email)Modern climate change, measurement of greenhouse gases in atmosphere, emissions calculations, stable isotope analysis of methane for source identification. 
  • Dr Richard Ghail (email)Radar investigations of tectonic processes on Venus and Earth's continental areas, especially the London platform, applied to Civil Engineering activities. Lead Scientist on EnVision, an ESA/NASA mission to use radar to determine rates of geological activity on Venus and learn why it has evolved so differently to Earth.
  • Dr Amy Gough (email)Understanding the evolution of sedimentary basins and basin full using applied clastic sedimentology and provenance studies. Southeast Asian Geology, specifically looking at sedimentary source identification and routing pathways in terrestrial to deltaic systems through petrographic and single grain analysis. 
  • Dr Nathalie Grassineau (email)Early life and the rise of oxygen in the Archaean, be determining microbial activity using carbon and sulphur isotopes. Volcanic activity and hydrothermal vents in spreading ridges, using stable isotopes. Director of the Wet Geochemistry laboratory, analyzing geological, environmental and archaeological materials for major and trace elements. 
  • Prof Agust Gudmundsson (email) Volcanotectonics, dyke emplacement and caldera formation: Seismotectonics, development of seismogenic faults; Reservoirs of oil, gas, ground water and geothermal water; Rock Fractures in geological processes.
  • Prof Robert Hall (email) Geology of the Alpine-Himalayan chain (E Mediterranean and M East). Development of island arcs and marginal basins. Ophiolites: emplacement, origin and significance. Relationships between sedimentation, deformation, ophiolites, metamorphism and volcanic development in SE Asia and W Pacific: implications for climate and biogeography.
  • Dr Javier Hernandez-Molina (email) Deep-water sedimentary depositional systems, diagenetic processes, hydrocarbon exploration, syn-sedimentary tectonics, submarine geohazards and sea-floor morphologic analysis and mapping. 
  • Dr Saswata Hier-Majumder (email) Computational geophysics, including microgeodynamics, magma ocean crystallization, detection of partial melting atop the coremantle boundary and the mantle transition zone and migration and storage of partial melt in the earth. Numerical modeling of multiphase flow and analyzing seismic and electrical conductivity data from various sources. 
  • Prof Martin King (email) Snow and atmospheric chemistry and physics; radiation transfer; identity, sources and quantity of organic atmospheric aerosol; computational ab-initio studies of silica-organic molecule complexes. 
  • Dr Paula Koelemeijer (email) - Global seismology, including seismic observations, seismic tomography, normal modes and uncertainty characterisation. Focus on the deep Earth, lower mantle structure and dynamics, topography on the core-mantle boundary and planetary evolution. Linking seismology with geodynamic modelling and mineral physics insights.
  • Dr Dave Lowry (email) Use of stable isotopes to understand geological, environmental and atmospheric problems, including sources of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, formation of mineral deposits and intrusions and development of the Neoproterozoic rocks of Scotland. Development of new instrumentation for greenhouse gas analysis. 
  • Dr Christina Manning (email)Application of whole rock and mineral geochemistry to better understand open system processes occurring in shallow level magma storage systems and they effect eruptive behaviour.
  • Prof David Mattey (email)Application of stable isotope geochemistry to solving geological and environmental problems. Development of instrumentation and techniques for stable isotope microanalysis. Chemical climate proxies and their use in palaeoclimate reconstruction. The role of cave and karst processes on climate recording by speleothem in different environments.  Links and teleconnections between precipitation and atmospheric circulation in NW Europe. Mediterranean and Asia. 
  • Prof Euan Nisbet (email) Komatiites and mantle evolution; the global carbon cycle both past and present; global environmental change. 
  • Dr Nicola Scarselli (email) Seismic geomorphology, structural geology and petroleum geology.
  • Dr Giulio Solferino (email) Georesoruces, specifically Energy Critical Elements ores, focus on cobalt resources in the English Lake District, the Asturias (northern Spain), and Italy. Additional research interests: Pallasite meteorites, planetary formation, and experimental petrology.
  • Prof Matthew Thirlwall (email)Geochemistry, particularly combined chemical Sr-Nd-Pb isotope studies of subduction related magmas, crustal contamination processes and ocean island magmatism. Geochronology and magmatism of the Caledonian Orogen. High precision analytical techniques including thermal ionization mass spectrometry, isotope dilution and XRF. 
  • Prof David Waltham (email) Numerical modeling of seismic data, hanging wall and footwall deformation; carbonate platforms; evaporites; simple clastic systems. 
  • Dr Ian Watkinson (email) Structural geology, particularly active tectonics, ductile shear zones, exhumation of metamorphic rocks and the major strike-slip faults of SE Asia. Geohazards and urban seismic vulnerability.


This programme is offered to prospective students who wish to pursue research in a selected field of the Earth Sciences for a period of one calendar year full time or two calendar years part time and be awarded a Masters degree.

The main focus of the degree programme is an independent research project, chosen by the student, developed into a project proposal through discussion with a chosen supervisor at Royal Holloway. It may be possible to arrange co-supervisors from other Universities, Research Institutes or Industry, to benefit from their specialist expertise. Students will receive training in research skills, including data collection, data handling and analytical techniques as well as transferable and presentation skills.

During your studies you may attend taught courses if they are relevant to your training needs. Students will have access to the wide range of other training opportunities available in the college including the Researcher Development Programme (RDP).

Students may be employed as postgraduate demonstrators if there are opportunities available. In this situation they may attend the course 'Skills of Teaching to Inspire Learning' (inSTIL) which, on successful completion, results in accreditation as an Associate of the Higher Education Academy.

The main outcome of the degree programme is a piece of independent research presented in the form of a dissertation. Upon completion of the programme students will have gained experience of research and presentation of material in the earth sciences which equips them to publish work in international scientific journals.

Prospective students should contact individual members of staff in the department in the first instance to discuss potential research projects.

General questions may be directed to the Doctoral School -

Find out more about fees and funding.

It should be noted that there are no funded places available for this degree programme but prospective students resident in England, and EU, EAA and Swiss students, may be eligible for a government loan.

Find out more about loans.

The cost of your research needs should be discussed in advance with your supervisor and appropriate sources for this funding should be identified.
For more information please email the project supervisor.

Applications will require 2 letters of reference, plus a cover letter and CV. The departmental policy is to offer all available studentships to the best applicants across the range of PhD topics on offer.

Applicants are requested to send an additional copy of their CV directly to the lead supervisor of the project in which they are interested. Please also contact the supervisor if you have any questions about the project itself.
Applicants for Royal Holloway funding will be invited for interview usually in late February and offers are made soon after.

Other applications are welcome at any time.

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