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Geoscience

MSci
  • UCAS code F601
  • Option 4 years full time
  • Year of entry 2021

The course

As far as we know, planet Earth and the plants and animals on it represent a single oasis of life in an otherwise barren universe. Geoscience at Royal Holloway, University of London helps to develop a holistic understanding of the formation and evolution of Earth and the life on it.

This comprehensive four-year course brings together elements of physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics to give you a thorough understanding of the complex systems that govern our planet and its neighbours. You’ll graduate with a Masters degree in Earth Sciences, making you a highly employable candidate in a range of scientific and technical fields and putting you in a strong position to progress to further postgraduate study.

You’ll study in a prestigious department consistently ranked among the top 10 in the country (The Complete University Guide and The Times Good University Guide 2018) – and contribute to our renowned research culture with your year 4 Independent Geoscience Project.

Pursue your passion for Geoscience and unlock some of our planet’s most compelling secrets. This exciting course has seen previous graduates progress to careers in the hydrocarbon and environmental industries, among others, and is ideal for those who wish to pursue research degrees in further postgraduate study.

Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more

Core Modules

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the evolution of major features of current and past tectonic activity of the Earth. You will look at the current understanding of the Earth’s interior, considering its importance for both the kinematic and tectonic evolution of the planet. You will also explore how plate boundaries have formed, the dynamic processes involved, the types of data used to investigate these regions both onshore and offshore, and the importance of these processes to society.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the surface processes and the mechanisms of weathering, transport and deposition. You will look at the classification of sediments and sedimentary rocks, and consider depositional facies analysis and interpretation of the paleoenvironment. You will also examine the use and interpretation of sedimentary logs, triangular diagrams, vector scales and granylometric data in analysing sedimentary rocks.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of crystallography, rock-forming minerals, their occurrence and textures in igneous and metamorphic rocks. You will look at igneous and metamorphic geology, volcanic and plutonic rocks, mineral identification, crystallisation, silicates, metamorphic rocks and textures. You will also examine the origin of chemical variation in volcanic rocks, metamorphic rocks and textures, and ore minerals.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of basic concepts in chemistry and physics and how to apply these to geological processes. You will look at atoms and atomic structure, the periodic table of elements, reactions, equations, geochemical analysis, the composition of the earth, interpretation of phase diagrams, solubility of minerals, weathering and the hydrological cycle. You will also consider Newton’s Laws, kinematics, circular motion, planetary orbits, gravity, magnetism, electricity, resistivity, stress, strain, seismicity, isostasy, radioactivity, and geochronology.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of structural geology and the interpretation of geological maps. You will look at large scale geological structures and learn how to recognise them on geological maps. You will consider how to interpret maps, recognise outcrop patterns, geological structures and geological relationships on maps, and how to draw cross sections. You will also examine smaller scale structures in hand specimen and outcrop, and analyse structural data in order to understand larger scale structural relationships.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of palaeobiology and palaeoecology. You will look at the diagnostic characters of the major groups of fossils in the laboratory and field, and compare and contrast examples from the main categories of fossils, learning to differentiate between them. You will also examine the diversity of fossils and see how this can be applied in both stratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental analysis.

  • In this module you develop an understanding of the skills required to practice geology in the field, carrying out a series of activities in South Devon and Pembrokeshire. You will learn to describe and interpret the origin of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks and how to prepare a geological map and cross-section using standard symbols. You will examine stereographic projections, sedimentary logging, the construction of stratigraphic columns for the identification of rocks, and the analysis of structural features using sterenets.

Year 2
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the key events in the history of life and their environmental impact using the fossil and sedimentary record. You will analyse fossil assemblages using stratigraphic principles such as absolute dating, lithostratigraphy, biostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy. You will consider how to interpret sedimentary rocks, and examine the importance of fossil assemblages in the interpretation of events in earth history.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the geological evolution of the British Isles, interpreting regional geological history from geological maps. You will learn to describe rock specimens and examine how palaeoenvironments can be reconstructed using case studies. You will also consider the application of stratigraphic techniques and use evidence from several different fields of geology to evaluate competing hypotheses for geological evolution.

  • In this module you will further develop your understanding of igneous and metamorphic geology. You will look at the characteristics and origins of alkaline igneous rocks, the nature and controls on metamorphic reactions, and the links between metamorphism and tectonic processes. You will consider hand specimen and thin section techniques for study of minerals and igneous and metamorphic rocks, and examine analytical approaches to the interpretation of metamorphic rocks, including the quantification of metamorphic rates and processes.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of advanced chemical concepts relevant to the Earth Sciences. You will focus on isotope geochemistry and consider techniques that are directly applicable in most geological contexts. You will attend practical classes and conduct a small project involving the analysis and interpretation of a real geochemical dataset.

  • In this module you will develop advanced geological field skills. You will carry out a series of activities in an area of igneous and metamorphic rocks, and in an area of sedimentary rocks. You will learn to describe and interpret the origin of the rock types in the field and will prepare a geological map and cross-section using standard symbols. You will analyse structural features using stereonets, and infer the geological history of a region through the construction of scaled cross-sections through structurally complex terrains.

Year 3
  • Independent Field Mapping
  • The module aims to teach students advanced level key geological and transferable skills. Data Handling - a lecture and practical course on retrieval and handling of geological data which revises and extends numerical skills introduced in years 1 and 2. Presentation skills – presentation exercise to improve spoken, visual and other aspects of communication in geology. Advanced Field Skills - includes data collection, teamwork and site investigations.

     

  • A course including both advanced topics integrating knowledge across the Earth Sciences and also providing key geological and transferable skills for advanced-level students. Frontiers in Geology lectures - Philosophy of Geology, Physical Origins, the plate system and thermal controls. Biological controls. Environment. Integrated practicals - a range of diverse geological materials are analysed in a series of integrated map-linked practicals.

     

Year 4
  • Formation and Evolution of the continents
  • Evolution of the Modern Earth
  • Field and Research Skills
  • Research Proposal and Critical Review

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the fundamentals of environmental geology, including the connection between ecology and geology, the rates of geological processes, and the structure of the Earth. You will look at natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanism, tsunamis, landslides and flooding. You will also consider the origin and usage of water and energy resources and examine the geological tools available to study climate change. You will learn how to manipulate algebraic equations and expressions, gaining familiarity with several types of charts, diagrams, and projections commonly used in geological sciences, such as log-log plots and stereonets.

  • Petroleum Geology with Maths
Year 2
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to classify sedimentary basins according to their tectonic mode of formation. You will learn to explain and illustrate the basic processes of subsidence and uplift in basins formed by extension, and flexural loading of, the lithosphere. You will also consider how characteristic patterns of sedimentary facies and stratigraphic architecture relate to different basin types and the tectonic processes that formed them, examining the tectonosedimentary history of stratigraphic successions in outcrop and subsurface data.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the hazards associated with geological activity, their causes, and approaches to risk management. You will look at volcanoes, earthquakes, and radon, and the hazards associated with the exploitation of geological resources and associated anthropogenic activity, including asbestos, the mining industry, and contaminated land. You will examine a variety of geological and geochemical data, and learn to interpret and analyse these in order to make scientifically justified decisions as to the level of risk.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the theory and practice of seismic, gravity, magnetic and resistivity surveying. You will consider the methods used to manipulate, analyse, and display geophysical data to solve geological exploration problems, and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the different data types.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how computation tools are used to read, create, analyse, and visualise digital earth science data. You will learn to use python, a popular scripting language, to read and manipulate data from digital files, and look at digital mapping techniques, using data to plot 2D and 3D maps. You will consider how to fit linear data and analyse the goodness of fit using statistical analysis tools, and examine how to produce simple models of geological processes using algebraic expression, such as generating models for seismic travel time curves, major element concentration during magma crystallization, sedimentary basin thickness, and other similar geological phenomena.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to analyse geological structures in terms of the deformational mechanisms and tectonic stresses that have produced them. You will look at brittle failure in rocks, fracture types and propagation, and consider the relationship between principal stresses and geologic structures on small and regional scales. You will examine remotely sensed continental and marine data sets, and use imagery available in Google Earth for tectonic analysis.

Year 3
  • Marine Geology
  • Advanced Topics in Sedimentology
  • Aqueous Geology
  • Volcanology
  • Planetary Geology and Geophysics
  • Advanced Techniques in Tectonic and Structural Interpretation
  • Modern Climate Change
  • Mineral Resources
  • Advanced Palaeontology
Year 4
  • All modules are core

The course has a modular structure, whereby students take sixteen course units at the rate of four per year. Some course units are compulsory while others are elective, thereby offering flexibility and choice.

Assessment is by a mixture of coursework and end-of-year examination in varying proportions, depending on the course units you choose to take.

The first year is foundational and marks do not count towards your final degree. Second year, third year and final year marks do count, with more importance being given to the final year marks in order to reward progress and achievement.

92% overall student satisfaction

Source: NSS, 2019

9th in the UK for Earth Sciences

Source: Times Good University Guide 2020

93% of our Earth Sciences graduates are employed or in further study within 6 months of graduating

Source: DLHE, 2018

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