News from IEPS

Humanitarian Institute upcoming SDG Conference and Digital Health Masterclass

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 The UCL Humanitarian Institute will continue its Series of Evening Conferences on the Sustainable Development Goals and Masterclasses on 31st May and 21st June, respectively.

Virtual Open Day for IRDR Postgraduate Programmes 30th May 2018

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Student Exercise at Rescue Global

Join us on Wednesday 30 May between 12.00 and 14.00 UK time (British Summer Time) for the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction IRDR VIRTUAL OPEN DAY and ask staff and students anything you want to know about our postgraduate degree programmes.

Kathleen Lonsdale Building Re-Opened by Sir David Attenborough.

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Attenborough Opening K. Lonsdale Building

The Kathleen Lonsdale Building constructed in 1915 has undergone a £27.5 million refurbishment and is now home to Earth Sciences department.

Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet.

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The BBC BluePlanet

A new species of ocean plankton, Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, has been discovered and named by UCL researchers in honour of the critically acclaimed BBC Blue Planet series and its presenter Sir David Attenborough.

Second UCL Humanitarian Summit on 19th June 2018

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second humanitarian summit image

19th June 2018, 09:00 – 17:00

UCL Roberts G06 and Roberts Foyer

We invite the UCL community, our partners, collaborators and others with humanitarian interests to join the UCL Humanitarian Institute for the second UCL Humanitarian Summit.

The Hotel Dos Rios - UCL Core Laboratory.

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UCL Core Laboratory showcases sediment cores from wells that were drilled around Ainsa, the industry consortia-funded project directed by Prof. Kevin Pickering.

New department, new Head of Department

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KLB Supergraphics

Professor Paul Upchurch

I will be taking over as Head of Department from Prof Lars Stixrude in July. While Lars will remain in charge during the next few months, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his efforts on behalf of this department. In particular, Lars and John Bowles (with the support of our Space Committee) have done a fantastic job of guiding this department through the difficult process of building renovation. Some of us moved into the finished west wing of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building last year, but it was not until January this year that the east wing was finished and we essentially came together as a united department in a single building. The east wing is particularly important to us because it contains our new teaching labs, with a combined capacity of around 90 people.

ARIEL selected as ESA’s next medium-class science mission

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Giovanna Tinetti, a member of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck, and her team at UCL are leading a multi-million pound European mission to study newly discovered planets after it was selected today as the next European Space Agency science mission.

News from the UCL Hazard Centre

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2018-03- Hazard Centre

Developing Low-Cost CO2 Sensors for Monitoring Degassing Volcanoes.

Geochemical surveillance is essential for reducing risk at actively degassing volcanoes. Variations in concentration and compositions of gases can be indicators of magma ascent or changes in hydrothermal system dynamics, so monitoring is important for the timely detection of unrest. The gases themselves can also present a major health hazard, with impacts ranging from aggravation of respiratory conditions and skin inflammation, to asphyxiation and death. A key challenge for monitoring is that degassing can occur over large areas and concentrations can change rapidly. In an ideal scenario, networks of instruments capable of providing real-time information would be installed across the degassing area, but conventional methods are usually cost-prohibitive.

Research Highlights - Polar Research.

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2018-03-Research Highlights -Moscow

By Dr Samantha Buzzard on the workshop to facilitate collaborations between UK and Russian researchers in the Russian Arctic.

Past Greenough President returns

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Dr Gordon Knox, the 1967 President of Greenough, currently the committee member at  Malta Water Association returns to UCL for a lecture seminar.

Deep into the Earth: diamonds and surficial carbon down to 800 km depth in the Earth’s lower mantle.

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Nature study Deep Diamond With Perovskite

First evidence in nature of Earth's fourth most abundant mineral, calcium silicate perovskite is reported in Nature paper.

Study shows oxygen loss could be a huge issue for oceans.

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Anoxic Event 2 - uranium isotope study

Uranium isotope evidence for two episodes of deoxygenation during Oceanic Anoxic Event.

A major study from universities including UCL, Birkbeck, Otago, Exeter and Oxford into an ancient climate change event that impacted a significant percentage of Earth’s oceans has brought into sharp focus a lesser-known villain in global warming: oxygen depletion.

Departmental Research Seminars Series.

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The LOGIC group (The London Geochemistry & Isotope Centre).

As an established research grouping hosted by the Departments of Earth Sciences at UCL and Birkbeck college, the LOGIC group (The London Geochemistry & Isotope Centre) has developed its seminar series as an opportunity to bring together researchers interested in the forefront of diverse fields of geochemistry to meet with each other and with colleagues from other institutions for scientific discussions.

Alumni News: James Brachio, Regional Geoscientist at Halliburton

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James, 2011 Alumni writes about his work in oil and gas industry.

I graduated from UCL in 2011 with an Earth Sciences MSci (international program), specialising in Geology. I achieved a first class honours level degree. I spent my third year studying at Arizona State University in Phoenix.

 Since graduating in 2011, I have got a job in the oil and gas industry. For the last six years I’ve been working for Neftex, a small petroleum consultancy based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The company was subsequently bought by Halliburton-Landmark.

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A Geologic Analogue for Future Climate Change

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Thamer Alnasser, MSc Geoscience student reports on practical exercises in Palaeoceanography course.

Dr Dominic Papineau - Geochemist and Astrobiologist. 

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My research revolves around the question  ‘How did complex life evolve with its environment?’.

I am an adventure-seeking geochemist and astrobiologist who enjoys visiting remote places with stinking microbial mats and very old rocks. Yes, I think microbes are awesome… Just not when I get sick! And they get fossilized too, which is something I like to document using many fancy nanotech instruments that look at tiny details. So, to find the best rocks with potential signs of ancient life, I visit remote deserts, sail to uninhabited islands, climb steep mountains, explore deep mines, etc.

UCL IRDR 8th Annual Conference on 20th June 2018

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8th Annual Conference

Wednesday 20th June 2018

Conference theme: New Directions in Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Response

Rehemat Bhatia- Skype a Scientist

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A voluntary scheme to match scientists with school and adult learning classes worldwide.

During January 2018 I took part in an outreach scheme called Skype a Scientist. This scheme was set up in late 2017 by Sarah McNulty, a graduate student in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut (supported by David Jenkins, graduate student at Boston University) with the aim of matching scientists with school and adult learning classes worldwide. The scheme is unfunded and scientists sign up on a voluntary basis. Scientists are matched with classrooms who require expertise from particular fields, and Skype session content is devised between the scientist and the teacher. 

Symposium at Clearwell Caves, one of the country's oldest iron ore mines.

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Cecilia Wang, 3rd Year Geophysicist, reports on "Deep Material Encounters" symposium which brings together researchers and artists from across the arts and science.

Using computational techniques to understand grain boundaries.

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Jac van Driel, PhD student describes his research project.

Grain boundaries represent the most significant inter-connected defect structure on our planet. As a PhD student here at UCL I am using computational techniques such as density functional theory and pair potential molecular dynamics to understand their behaviour at extreme conditions. The study of grain boundaries using computational techniques is impeded due to limitations in the number of atoms we can model, however, in spite of this, we have already found interesting results from both a material science and a geophysical perspective.

Our recent work on MgO Periclase suggests that the process known as shear couple migration is highly pressure dependent with implications for both mantle attenuation and the nucleation of dislocation loops. The mechanism’s sensitivity to pressure is fundamentally governed by the transition in the ground state, and secondly by difference in the free energy of the ground state and the activated state. At low pressures the difference between the ground state, a boundary with large volumes and the activate state is significant. However, at pressures between 40-90Gpa, as ground state forms a denser structure with glide plane symmetry, here the difference between the ground and the activated state is much less, producing this ‘superplastic’ regime. At pressures over 100 GPa, the energy difference increases again, as the ground boundaries starts to form dislocations parallel to the plane causing a significant energy barrier to overcome.

When it all fits together - why I study geology.

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Arjun Anand, 2nd Year MSci Geology student's perspective on studying Earth Sciences.

About a year back, a young and confused student walked out of terminal 5 at Heathrow knowing only that he knew nothing and no one. The point of it all eluded me. Well, I’m glad to say that I’m finally starting to get it. As I stood on a peak in Durness, warding off midges and fighting the cold, a ray of sunshine fell on the valley before me and just for a brief second it all made sense – the lines on my damp tracing paper came to life in the scenery before me and I finally understood the sheer scale of it and why I was there to learn it.

Impact Ejecta Layer At The Base Of Lavas On Skye Contains Unmelted Impactor Fragments.

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Blaven Mountain

Evidence that a meteorite hit the Isle of Skye around 60 million years ago.

In a collaboration between five institutions led by the UCL-Birkbeck Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences*, geologists have discovered a 0.9-metre thick ejecta layer at the base of the Mid-Paleocene lava series, overlying Mesozoic sedimentary rocks at two localities on the Isle of Skye. The layer contains shocked minerals, metals, glasses and a variety of shocked rocks including basement gneiss, with lapilli and glass shards sharing several textural similarities with volcanic ignimbrites.
Metallic iron forms spherules with ferro-silicate glass, and irregular native iron grains with oxidized rims and barringerite (Fe,Ni2P). Rare carbo-nitrides and nitride minerals like osbornite with vanadium (TiVN) are interpreted as unmelted impactor remnants.

Research Highlights

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2017-12-Research Highlight

By Prof John Brodholt.

In November this year Andrew Thomson and John Brodholt visited the European Synchrotron facility in Grenoble (ESRF) to measure the seismic properties of CaSiO3 perovskite at high pressures and temperatures. Although CaSiO3 perovskite only makes up about 5% of the lower mantle as a whole, it makes up as much as 30% of subducting oceanic crust.
We hope, therefore, to be able to use our measured velocities to trace subducted crust into the lower mantle and understand what happens to old ocean crust in the deep Earth. For instance, does oceanic crust just get smeared out and mixed back into the rest of the mantle, or could it separate out and form distinct reservoirs in the mantle?

Making a (Green) Impact.

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By the GreenTeam  member Tania Alim, Earth Sciences student.

As Earth scientists, we are aware of the burden that modern society places on the environment, but as a community, we have perhaps ignored the impact of our department in recent years – not anymore! We are joining the“…UCL-wide environmental competition and accreditation scheme that allows departments and divisions across the university to improve their environmental impact, support UCL's Sustainability Strategy and engage peers and colleagues with these essential issues.” (Green UCL, We want you to get involved!
The impending move into the Kathleen Lonsdale Building makes this the perfect time to get our green hats on. The new KLB (which is due to be completed in January 2018) is perhaps surprisingly, hiding many advanced technologies within its construction that should reduce our environmental impact. There are motion-sensitive lights, CO2 monitored heating and our energy consumption can be monitored from overseas. So, we really have no excuse not to ace this – and we are aiming for a Bronze award by the end of July.

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