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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Postgraduate Study


We are living through a time of unprecedented change on Earth. Scientific understanding of geological hazards, sustainability, infrastructure, climate change, energy and natural resources has never been so important, and Earth Sciences sit at the heart of the debate. We aspire to help shape the future by providing the highest quality education for our students and by undertaking research that is both intrinsically excellent and relevant to society.


Research Programmes

The Department offers three levels of postgraduate research degrees and we welcome enquiries from suitably qualified applicants in all of these research areas:

  • PhD in Geology, Geophysics, or Geological Sciences (3 years full-time study)
  • MPhil in Geology, Geophysics, or Geological Sciences (2 years full-time study)
  • MSc by Research (1-year full-time study)

Part-time degree programmes are normally twice the length of the equivalent full-time programme.

Please note that the Department of Earth Sciences does not currently offer a taught Masters programme.


Training and Research Environment

Postgraduate students are at the heart of the Department's research activities. Most students are members of an internationally-recognised research group, and all students are encouraged to present their research at international conferences and in leading scientific journals. In recent years, our postgraduate students have been notably successful in winning independently assessed national (e.g. Geological Society of London) and international (e.g. American Geophysical Union) awards that recognise the quality of their research. These awards are tangible evidence of the quality of postgraduate research students within the Department, and of our commitment to fostering up-coming talent.

Each student is supervised by at least two members of academic staff and will participate in Departmental and University induction programmes soon after arriving at Durham. Students receive specialised research training from their supervisors or other members of the Department and are strongly encouraged to enhance their transferable skills (e.g. public speaking and report writing) by taking courses from the Graduate School's postgraduate training programme.

All postgraduate students have the opportunity to participate in regular seminars, workshops and field trips presented by visiting experts from industry and academica.


Available facilities include:

  • DGC (Durham Geochemistry Centre) analytical geochemistry laboratories, comprising the stable isotope laboratory, ICP-OES, PIMMS, TIMS and ICP-MS facilities
  • Environmental Geochemistry Laboratories, including ion and gas chromatographs, IR gas analysers, DOC analysis and field-based equipment
  • OBIF (Ocean Bottom Instrumentation Facility), the national seabed geophysical equipment pool
  • Seismic data processing, interpretation and visualisation facilities in the Earth Visualisation Laboratory
  • Microscopy and textural analysis, including the faculty electron microscopy facility (SEM, TEM)
  • Terrestrial laser scanner, hosted by the Centre for Terrestrial Laser Scanning (CeTLS)
  • Micropalaeontology and sedimentology laboratories
  • Volcanological Fluid Dynamics Laboratory with extensive facilities for analogue experimental investigations
  • GeoRheo facility for rheometry of geological materials up to 1600C and 1000 bar