UCL Earth Sciences


Doctoral Studies

Available PhD topics, current PhD projects, open projects, NERC and other funding bodies

Although many people do a PhD in order to go into academia, it can also be very beneficial for careers in industry and the private sector. A PhD is hard work and takes at least 3 years to complete, so you need to find a suitable topic, which will engage your enthusiasm and interest for the long-haul.


Funded projects open for applications

If you are interested in applying to do a specific PhD project in our Department (self-initiated, self-funded or through a non-DTP studentship), you should direct your initial enquiry to the named supervisor (or co-supervisor) who can guide you further. In cases of uncertainty, you may also direct your enquiry to the Graduate Tutor. Once a supervisor has agreed in principle to supervise your project, or if you are applying for a specific funded studentship, you must complete a formal UCL PhD application.

Earth Sciences Open/Funded Projects

Using past archives to constrain baselines in avian biodiversity. 

Supervisors: Dr Phil Mannion, Dr James Hansford, Dr Ryan Felice

Fully Funded The Royal Society PhD studentship The ideal candidate will have a good degree in the biological, ecological, or geological sciences. Although not a prerequisite, experience with programming and statistical languages, such as R or Python, is desirable. During the course of this project, the PhD student will receive training in: the collection and management of data from fossils, published literature, and archives; vertebrate anatomy and systematics; programming, statistical analysis, and diversity reconstruction; and the oral and written presentation of scientific results. There will also be the possibility of developing a taxonomic/anatomical side project. involve theoretical calculations of planetary forming materials with the opportunity to undertake some high pressure/high temperature experiments. Full project details(pdf)

Deadline for application: 23rd January 2023
How to apply: Application through UCL graduate school portal
Start date: No later than the 1st October 2023

The London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).

The PhD topics shown here are representative examples of projects offered by our department that are eligible for funding through the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). The London DTP offers studentships  covering all aspects of earth and environmental science, hosted by different London-based academic institutions including UCL.

Past Life and Environments
Project TitleSupervisor(s):
Tracing siderite oxidation on the early Earth with Copper isotopes. DetailsDr Susan Little; Prof Graham Shields
Using the Past to Improve Predictions of the Future of Vertebrate Biodiversity. DetailsDr Phil Mannion; Dr Alex Pigot
Signs of life in Paleoarchean chemical sedimentary rocks: a strategy to search for extra-terrestrial life. DetailsDr Dominic Papineau; Dr Matthew Powner
The Cambrian explosion: causes and consequences. DetailsProf Graham Shields; Dr Nick Lane
The Evolutionary and biogeographic impact of the break up of Gondwana during the Cretaceous and Cenozoic DetailsProf Paul Upchurch; Dr Julia Day
Size control on extinction dynamics in Cenozoic planktonic foraminifera. DetailsProf Bridget Wade; Dr Andy Purvis
Quantifying temperature changes in the Oligocene icehouse. DetailsProf Bridget Wade


Solid Earth Dynamics
Project Title:Supervisor(s):
The initial condition for the long-term evolution of terrestrial planets. DetailsDr Maxim Ballmer; Prof John Brodholt
The seismic signals of the heterogeneous Earth mantle. DetailsDr Maxim Ballmer; Dr Paula Koelemeijer
The dynamics of mantle plumes, and their geophysical and geochemical expressions. DetailsDr Maxim Ballmer; Prof Ana Ferreira
Role of fluids during faulting. DetailsDr Nicolas Brantut; Prof Phil Meredith
The deep nitrogen cycle – nitrogen storage in the subduction system. DetailsProf John Brodholt;  Dr Andrew Thomson
Glacial erosion in the tropics: The Santa Marta Range, southern Caribbean. Details Dr Matthew Fox; Prof Andrew Carter
Rates of drainage network evolution measured with detrital data and inverse methods. Details.Dr Matthew Fox; Prof Pieter Vermeesch
Illuminate intra-crustal magma/gas transport beneath active volcanoes with very long-period tremors (VLP). DetailsDr Teh-Ru Alex Song; Prof Chris Kilburn
Mapping Core-mantle boundary anisotropy with core-reflected P waves. DetailsDr Teh-Ru Alex Song
The viscosity of the Earth’s inner core. DetailsProf Lidunka Vočadlo; Prof John Brodholt
Understanding the Earth’s cores: benchmarking the ELASTIC toolkit for core-forming materials. DetailsProf Lidunka Vočadlo; Prof John Brodholt
The structure, dynamics and composition of the Earth’s core. DetailsProf Lidunka Vočadlo; Prof Ian Wood


Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes
Project Title:Supervisor(s):
The aridity, drought and biodiversity impacts of Solar Geoengineering. DetailsDr Peter Irvine
Could high-latitude solar geoengineering refreeze the Arctic? DetailsDr Peter Irvine; Dr Michel Tsamados
The importance of micronutrient cycling in glaciated environments for the global carbon cycle – a case study from Greenland. DetailsDr Susan Little; Dr Philip Pogge Von Strandmann
Defining the source parameters for operational models of ash resuspension. DetailsDr Emma Liu; Prof Tom Mitchell 
Data fusion of 20 years of polar remote sensing data: emerging climate trends? DetailsDr Michel Tsamados; Prof Julienne Stroeve
Deep Learning for radar altimetry echo classification and sea ice surface image recognition. DetailsDr Michel Tsamados; Prof Julienne Stroeve
Testing Earth’s thermostat with novel isotope tracers. DetailsDr David Wilson; Dr Susan Little
Ice sheet-ocean-climate interactions during the Pleistocene Ice Ages. Details Dr David Wilson; Dr Heather Ford


If you are interested in any of these topics, please contact the named supervisor for more information in the first instance. To apply for a DTP studentship, please do not apply to UCL directly but instead follow the DTP instructions. Whilst the topics illustrate a cross-section of active research within our Department, the list is not exhaustive and we also welcome enquiries from students who wish to formulate their own topics.