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Earth Sciences

Head of Department: Prof Lars Stixrude

The Department of Earth Sciences covers a range of disciplines related to the physical conditions on our planet, and through the Centre for Planetary Science, on other planets. The department studies the Earth’s crust, planetary evolution, mineral physics, palaeobiology and palaeoclimatology, polar observation and modelling, natural hazards, environmental geochemistry and sedimentology. 

The department hosts the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, an interdisciplinary research centre for the study of disaster risk reduction; the AON Benfield Hazard Research Centre, which studies risk; and participates in the Centre for Planetary Science (with UCL Physics and Astronomy, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory and Birkbeck, University of London).

Teaching of geology dates back to the foundation of UCL in the 1820s, and the college’s first professor of geology was appointed in 1841. Since then, the department has substantially expanded, absorbing Queen Mary College’s department of geology in 1983, and forming a joint research school with Birkbeck College’s in 1990. The department now has 180 students enrolled on courses.

The department hosts a number of unique facilities. The geochronology laboratories, shared with Birkbeck, University of London are a major facility used by researchers from UCL and beyond to study the ages of rocks and minerals, revealing fascinating facts about the history of the world. 

The NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility, an archive of planetary science data from the US space agency, is the only collection of its kind in the UK.

UCL’s geology collections, featuring over 100,000 speciments, are an important teaching resource as well as being open to the public.

The department offers a range of undergraduate degree programmes, ranging from geology to geophysics. Earth Sciences is also a component of the cross-disciplinary natural sciences degree. At postgraduate level, the department has a degree in geoscience, as well as three more specialised programmes.

UCL’s expertise in risk, hazards and disaster reduction is leveraged into MSc programmes in geophysical hazards; natural hazards for insurers; and risk and disaster reduction.

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