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Thinking of studying earth sciences?
Hear what our students say…
George is in the third year of his studies. He accepted place to study MSc Petroleum Geoscience (2013-2014) at Imperial College London. George was awarded the BP scholarship to study this course. His interest focuses on he sequence stratigraphy of sedimentary basins, and their implications for the Petroleum Industry. He is the recipient of the Edith Goodyear Award (2011) - given to the first year student who is 'considered to have produced the best work'.
The degree programme encompasses three central sciences in a context which has long interested me, largely due to its analytical and problem-solving components. I believe that the balance between lectures, field work, laboratory work, tutorials and seminars provides a challenging and transferable education and experience. I placed high value on UCL’s acceptance of students from a diverse range of backgrounds. A location in central London positions students on the doorsteps of the bases for national geological societies, plus the headquarters of many prospective employers.
Field work has provided a number of highlights. The department places great importance on the number of field work hours, with three or four field trips in your first year! In the later years there are trips to Marche (Italy), the Pyrenees, and Betics (Spain), Germany, plus an independent mapping project.
My choice to study in London was not taken lightly; however, the volume and diversity of resources and services that are so freely available make living and studying a rewarding experience. London’s set-up allows for a successful degree plus an entertaining and rich social life.
Rebecca, the Social Secretary of the Greenough Society is in her 2nd year of study.
Although initially drawn away from London when making the choice of where to study, due to living on the outskirts of London for my whole life, I am so glad I made the decision to attend UCL. Living in central London is an experience I feel everyone should experience, and as a student seems the best time in your life to do that, with all the discounts that are offered to you, as well as affordable living. From a studying point of view as well, you cannot beat London in the UK due to all the museums, societies and academic institutions on offer here. As soon as I attended the Earth Sciences open day at UCL it felt like an excellent learning environment and it has lived up to this. Lecturers and the PhD staff who will aid your learning are extremely helpful and are involved in an amazing range of research projects, as well as being very happy to help you on a one-to-one basis if you cannot understand anything on the course.
I did not take Maths, Physics or Chemistry at A-level, but whilst not having the perfect entry to a geology degree have caught up through catch-up modules run by the department, mentoring sessions in first year and personal tutor meetings. The social aspects UCL Earth Sciences offer are too great to fit in here, but between the Greenough Society, the small department and the fact that due to fieldtrips you get to know your whole year extremely well, time spent at UCL is not only amazing academically, but also really fun!
William is in his second year of studies and is planning to spend his exchange year in USA.
I have chosen to study Earth Sciences because I am fascinated by the natural world and the way in which it challenges and impacts society. UCL is providing me with the means to pursue this interest in an academically demanding and socially diverse environment. In my first year I have particularly enjoyed studying environmental hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis but in future years I plan to focus more on how society responds to their impact.
Field trips are a special part of the degree in my opinion. They provide a great chance for students to get to know each other through group work and also enable us to develop a good relationship with the staff. UCL staff are among the best lecturers in the world and are passionate, helpful and friendly. The course, while challenging, offers many opportunities through a flexible and modular curriculum allowing us to study exactly what we choose and also to participate in other aspects of university life. For those studying on the MSci programme there is the potential for a year abroad study at a partner university and next year I plan to go to the United States. An international year is not offered by many universities and is something that will set you apart from other candidates when it comes to applying for a first job.
The department itself was happy to accept me without any background in Geology and even now in my second year I am not limited in what I can study whether inside or outside the Earth Sciences degree programme. I think this flexibility helps people such as myself who still have an open mind about what they want to do after graduating.
I am so pleased I chose to come to London. Last year was the best year of my life and I am sure the coming year will be just as amazing
Poppy writes this after completing her 1st year with our department.
"The Earth Sciences department offers students a learning environment that is both supportive and flexible. The tutors and lecturers are helpful and knowledgeable, and include some of the leading researchers in the subject. My first year has been a wonderful learning experience, and very enjoyable - the department’s acceptance of my non-standard academic background (a Foundation Certificate in place of A-levels) is testament to their understanding and welcoming attitude. The learning curve is steep but definitely manageable, helped by field trips (paid for by UCL), which provide practical experience and, alongside lab work, are an excellent learning tool. Student views and opinions are highly valued, and students are encouraged to express their views on the course structure and department.
The flexibility of the Earth Sciences course is second to none. The versatility of paths allowed within the Earth Sciences degree even allowed me to change the ‘flavour’ of my degree halfway through the first year, from Geology to Palaeobiology. Earth Sciences is a broad subject, combining all elements of scientific knowledge, and many of the degrees offered are run alongside other relevant departments (some more so than others), allowing students a wide breadth of sources from which to learn. The opportunity of learning abroad in your third year is available to those choosing the MSci courses, which are available for each programme. The foundation is well laid in the first year for students to continue on in their chosen specialisation with a solid grounding in Earth Sciences, with catch-up courses in Maths and Chemistry for those who don’t have these subjects at A-level, which is invaluable."
Michaela just completed her 2nd year and is heading for her year abroad at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
"I am studying MSci Planetary Science (International Programme) in the Earth Sciences Department at UCL. At UCL, studying Planetary Science allows me to study Astronomy, Astrophysics and Geology at the same time, almost like a Natural Sciences degree. It is very enjoyable, since I get to go to the University of London Observatory, be trained to handle and operate large and complicated telescopes, as well as do Geology fieldwork.
The field trips are great fun. You get to spend all you time in nice places by the sea: Dorset, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk or even go to Italy and Spain! These trips are a good bonding experience. In the Earth Sciences everyone is well acquainted, which makes it much easier to hold strong friendships and later to do group work. Fieldtrips are the fun bonus of doing an Earth Sciences related degree, you get to go on trips instead of just sitting behind books.
I enjoy the fact that all of my professors are experts in their fields and thus have a great passion for what they teach, making everything so much more interesting. The professors are also very helpful and friendly, I never feel helpless if I have any problems. Finally, being on the International Programmes means that I get to spend my third year at a university abroad. This year, I'm going to study in California at Caltech. I believe that it's going to be a great experience and I can't wait!"
Edd completed his 3rd year and gained an entry into the 4th Year Palaeobiology MSci.
"Studying in London is a choice I will never regret. The facilities of UCL and the city enable you to fulfill any of your ambitions, be they academic, cultural, social or athletic. I found it easy to get carried away and do all four.
Not only was I impressed with the department and campus at the start of my degree, but it has gotten better every year. Not being sure what to study when choosing university courses I was instantly attracted by Earth Sciences. The courses offered are wide enough that there was no problem finding ones I loved, and furthermore studying a multi-disciplinary degree gave me choices in a wide range of departments. Field work was the highlight of each year, and as we were provided with accommodation and travel expenses we actually saved money whilst traveling and learning.
The department is a great size and you get to know everyone, even those studying at opposite ends of the earth science spectrum. The enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff are enough alone to keep you going through your studies and gave me no trouble finding a niche to research for my fourth year project. By choosing an Earth Sciences degree you also quickly learn that, despite economic troubles, you are entering a sector with plenty of exciting research and job opportunities, and one that you won't want to leave in a hurry."
After completing her undergraduate degree Vicky enrolled in the MSc Geophysical Hazards graduate course.
"London is an exciting place to study and UCL offers an intimate learning environment central to the city. It combines excellent resources with a high standard of teaching, within an informal and interactive framework. The Department of Earth Sciences is friendly and welcoming, encouraging students to follow their own ambitions through a diverse network of course options and specialisations. You will be taught by leading researchers who are happy to lend their expertise and their support to any project large or small. Some fantastic field trip opportunities are offered both abroad and in the UK, providing the opportunity to learn and apply new skills. UCL understands the importance of active learning and provides free travel and accommodation to all students on field trips.
The unique atmosphere in Earth Sciences allowed me to explore a wide range of disciplines within the subject with the freedom to decide which direction my career was headed. I chose to follow my interests into the growing field of natural hazards by taking the MSc in Geophysical Hazards. The course covers a wide range of disciplines providing a good level of knowledge for moving into the insurance industry or for working with an NGO. A geological background has been invaluable for further study; the steep learning curve and transferable skills gained during the course provide a good base for working within any career. My time in the department has been thoroughly enjoyable. I benefited from the support that a smaller department can give; where independent thought and individuality are encouraged and valued."
and studied for a PhD at Stanford University, California. Dominic graduated in March 2009. Thesis Title: "High-resolution architectural evolution of depositional elements in deep-marine slope systems: Quaternary Niger Delta Slope and Canadian Scotian Slope, and Upper Cretaceous Tres Pasos Formation, Chile"
"The discipline of Earth Sciences is undoubtedly one of the most diverse and involved topics available for undergraduates. It combines both physical and life sciences incorporating lab work and numerous fieldtrips to hone the student's skills and put knowledge into practice. There is also the chance to specialize in preferred subjects in the later years and also the opportunity to conduct independent research, which in my case lead to some groundbreaking results.
While the learning curve in this discipline is steep and the workload heavy, my time in the department was both enjoyable and rewarding. To me it was the appeal of learning cutting edge issues such as space exploration and climate change through to the last 4.5 billion years of Earth history and to put the skills and knowledge learnt into practice on field trips. I found the tuition excellent and supportive and appreciated the ability for a small department to work together on the extremely enjoyable field trips. The fourth year (if chosen) is an excellent experience to research real projects that produce real results while having the opportunity to be introduced to new research techniques and equipment. If you also choose (like me) there is the chance to travel abroad for your research which is also a bonus!"
Click here to see Dominic's prize-winning poster, which he produced as part of his 4th year work.
Dominic's advice to prospective students:
"If the idea of Earth Sciences at UCL appeals it would be worthwhile researching the course as much as possible by using the website and the prospectus. Find out about the fieldtrips and what you want to gain from the department. Look at the individual courses offered to see if they are suited to you and don't hesitate to contact the staff directly if you want more information. If possible ask current or graduate students for advice. If you are considering embarking on the courses offered by the department it is beneficial to choose the four year course as one can always choose to do three years if there is a change of mind at the last minute. It is also worthwhile when in the department to look at alternative postgraduate degrees offered to see if they are more suited to your aspirations."
She continued her studies as a graduate student at the USC in Los Angeles researching for a PhD in structural geology. Frances completed her PhD in 2008 and is now working as a postdoctoral research associate at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.
"London is easily one of the most beautiful, exciting and cultural cities in the world. However, as a London native, I was naturally curious to move somewhere new when I began university. That was until I attended a "Women in Earth Sciences day" at UCL back in 1997 when I was just beginning to look into my undergraduate options. I was immediately impressed by the UCL Department of Earth Sciences, which had a very welcoming atmosphere as well as a serious attitude to teaching science. I was also pleased to see the effort being made to attract female earth scientists, still a commodity lacking in the global earth science community, from undergraduate up to professorial level. From this starting point I investigated what else the department and the university had to offer. I knew that the course included a number of field trips, but wasn't sure how these were to be paid for. I found out that the department covered all costs. Wasn't London a rather expensive place to live as an undergraduate? Yes it is, but certainly manageable and this is not something that should put you off.
I spent four years at UCL, attaining an MSci in Geology. During these four years I took virtually every course available, from classic geology subjects like mineralogy, igneous petrology, and sedimentology to more specialised ones like planetary geology and hydrogeology. The faculty at UCL encompass a wide variety of fields making it possible to explore all aspects of the subject. I found the programme of study scientifically rigorous, but thoroughly enjoyable at the same time. When it comes to socialising, UCL geology students know no bounds! For my MSci project I worked on a structural problem in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece. This was a fantastic opportunity to work abroad and independently. This final year can seem a little daunting as you are conducting your own piece of research, but I received a great deal of support, and was inspired to continue on to a PhD in structural geology."
After working for 3 years in the petroleum industry she is now working in clinical research and development.
"During my four years at UCL, I gained a great insight into geoscience as a whole and was given the opportunity to study a vast array of subjects. Courses on offer included subjects such as geology, hydrogeology, climate systems, mineralogy and geohazards, to name but a few. All these made my degree as well rounded as possible and opened many doors to my future career. The courses were not just theory; 50% were lab based and included many field trips around the UK and abroad. I surveyed an ice sheet (Lonjökull) in Iceland (see the image to the left) with ground penetrating radar as well as mapping large parts of northern and southern Spain. All of which provided great in-the-field experience as well as increasing my confidence working in other countries.
After graduating, I joined a geophysical consultancy company based in south-west London. I
started in the production group and worked on processing seismic survey lines for oil
companies and research centres. I then worked with the GIS (Geographic Information Systems)
team producing databases to link oil reservoir field and well survey data to reservoir
modelling, analysis and map displays. After 3 years of working in a geophysical industry I
wanted to experience other areas of scientific research and development. I now work for a
pharmaceutical company in clinical trials. I found that a lot of the skills gained in my
degree and in the petroleum industry were transferable and applicable to many aspects of my
current role. I believe that my degree at UCL provided me a strong foundation to build upon
and has given me the choice of any industry to focus my career on."