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Earth Sciences - Postgraduate research

Earth Sciences - Postgraduate research

Postgraduate Research

The Department of Earth Sciences is one of the leading centres of research and teaching in the UK. 94% of our research has been classified as world-leading and internationally excellent in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF, 2014). Our postgraduate research activities strengthen our vital links with a wide range of industrial and commercial partners within the oil, mineral, extraction, waste management and water industries. These links provide support for research, employment for graduates and work experience opportunities in industry.

Department research activity spans diverse topics designed to investigate the past, present and future of planet Earth and its resources. Our work ranges from ground-breaking blue-sky research, to very applied projects with high societal impact deliverables for industrial and government sponsors. PhD research opportunities span this range of activities and are supported by UKRI, the GeoNetZero CDT, industrial and College studentships.

Prospective students are invited to contact individual members of staff in the department in the first instance to discuss potential research projects.

PhD research studies are supported by Research Council, industrial and College studentships, and projects cover the wide range of departmental research interests. Our postgraduate teaching and research activities strengthen links with a wide range of industrial and commercial partners within the oil, mineral, extraction, waste management and water industries. These links provide support for research, employment for graduates and work experience for undergraduates.

One Earth Sciences PhD studentship is funded by Royal Holloway and is an open competition for all projects advertised below.

The funding is the equivalent of the UKRI stipend and fees for 3.5 years.
In 2021-2022 this will be stipend £17,609 and fees £4,500.
Research costs or bench fees are not included.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their prospective supervisor to discuss the project, including the research costs.

Application deadline - Friday May 21st  2021 at 23:59
Interview date - Friday May 28th 2021
Start date - September 20th 2021


Title Supervisor Download

Sedimentary Provenance of the Sumatran Forearc

Amy Gough, Max Webb, and Paola Vannucchi (UNIFI) PDF ⬇︎

Harnessing groundwater resources for sustainable development in east Africa

Jonathan Paul

PDF ⬇︎

Imaging the multi-scale landscape of Earth’s core-mantle boundary

Paula Koelemeijer, David Waltham, Christophe Zaroli (Strasbourg),  Sophie Lambotte (Strasbourg)

PDF ⬇︎

Investigating local noise sources and background seismicity in London

Paula Koelemeijer and Richard Ghail PDF ⬇︎

Topographic and structural evolution of central Sulawesi

Dr Ian Watkinson PDF ⬇︎ 

Tectonostratigraphic evolution of the Inle pull-apart basin, eastern Myanmar

Dr Ian Watkinson PDF ⬇︎ 


PhD research studies are supported by Research Council, industrial and College studentships, and projects cover the wide range of departmental research interests. Our postgraduate teaching and research activities strengthen links with a wide range of industrial and commercial partners within the oil, mineral, extraction, waste management and water industries. These links provide support for research, employment for graduates and work experience for undergraduates.

The following is fully funded

Title Supervisor Download

Does the oxidation of organic material on atmospheric mineral aerosol change the solar radiative forcing of mineral aerosol?

Martin King (RHUL),  Rebecca Welbourn (Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory)


PDF ⬇︎

Application deadline - Wednesday 16th June 2021


  • Prof Jürgen Adam (email)  – Coupled tectonic, climate and surface processes; Geodynamic modelling of thrust belts, accretive and non-accretive convergent margins; Salt Tectonics in passive margin sedimentary basins; Physical simulation of rock deformation from basin to fracture scale; Fault & fracture mechanics, Tectonic modelling of structurally complex basins and reservoirs; Neotectonics and geohazards at continental margins and intracontinental strike-slip faults.
  • Dr Anirban Basu (email) Isotope geochemistry, bio-geochemical metal cycling contaminant transport and remediation, environmental geochemistry and microbiology, Redox-sensitive isotopic tracers.
  • Dr Queenie Hoi Shan Chan (email) - Meteorites, Planetary Science, Space Exploration Missions, Cosmochemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Origin of Life and  Astrobiology
  • Dr Domenico Chiarella (email) Sedimentology. Tidal deposits, mixed siliclastic-bioclastic sediments, sedimentary petrography and provenance analysis, tectonic and sedimentation of coarse-grained deltas, seismic interpretation and attribute analysis, reservoir characterisation. 
  • Dr Kevin (Clem) Clemitshaw (email)Sources, sinks and trends of gaseous air pollutants that impact on health and climate. Tropospheric chemistry and measurements of nitrous acid. Atmospheric chemistry, transport and impacts of organic nitrates.
  • Prof Margaret Collinson (email) Tertiary floras, vegetation and climate; floras of the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary event; evolution of wetland communities; fossil history of mammal plant interactions; megaspore ultrastructure and the evolution of heterosporous plants; palynofacies; organic geochemistry and chemical composition of plant fossils and their role in kerogen formation.  
  • Dr Alex Dickson (email)Trace metal geochemistry and isotope geochemistry of marine sedimentary deposits, palaeoclimate and palaeocenaography, environmental change during the Cenozoic and Mesozoic climate events. 
  • Prof Howard Falcon-Lang (email)The evolution of terrestrial ecosystems and palaeoclimates. Current projects include the origin and early evolution of reptiles in mid-carboniferous, the collapse of the first rainforests in Late Pennsylvanian times and the explosive appearance of flowering plants in Cretaceous Period.
  • Dr Rebecca Fisher (email)Modern climate change, measurement of greenhouse gases in atmosphere, emissions calculations, stable isotope analysis of methane for source identification. 
  • Dr Richard Ghail (email)Radar investigations of tectonic processes on Venus and Earth's continental areas, especially the London platform, applied to Civil Engineering activities. Lead Scientist on EnVision, an ESA/NASA mission to use radar to determine rates of geological activity on Venus and learn why it has evolved so differently to Earth.
  • Dr Amy Gough (email)Understanding the evolution of sedimentary basins and basin full using applied clastic sedimentology and provenance studies. Southeast Asian Geology, specifically looking at sedimentary source identification and routing pathways in terrestrial to deltaic systems through petrographic and single grain analysis. 
  • Dr Nathalie Grassineau (email)Early life and the rise of oxygen in the Archaean, be determining microbial activity using carbon and sulphur isotopes. Volcanic activity and hydrothermal vents in spreading ridges, using stable isotopes. Director of the Wet Geochemistry laboratory, analyzing geological, environmental and archaeological materials for major and trace elements. 
  • Prof Agust Gudmundsson (email) Volcanotectonics, dyke emplacement and caldera formation: Seismotectonics, development of seismogenic faults; Reservoirs of oil, gas, ground water and geothermal water; Rock Fractures in geological processes.
  • Dr Javier Hernandez-Molina (email) Deep-water sedimentary depositional systems, diagenetic processes, hydrocarbon exploration, syn-sedimentary tectonics, submarine geohazards and sea-floor morphologic analysis and mapping. 
  • Prof Martin King (email) Snow and atmospheric chemistry and physics; radiation transfer; identity, sources and quantity of organic atmospheric aerosol; computational ab-initio studies of silica-organic molecule complexes. 
  • Dr Paula Koelemeijer (email) - Global seismology, including seismic observations, seismic tomography, normal modes and uncertainty characterisation. Focus on the deep Earth, lower mantle structure and dynamics, topography on the core-mantle boundary and planetary evolution. Linking seismology with geodynamic modelling and mineral physics insights.
  • Dr Dave Lowry (email) Use of stable isotopes to understand geological, environmental and atmospheric problems, including sources of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, formation of mineral deposits and intrusions and development of the Neoproterozoic rocks of Scotland. Development of new instrumentation for greenhouse gas analysis. 
  • Dr Christina Manning (email)Application of whole rock and mineral geochemistry to better understand open system processes occurring in shallow level magma storage systems and they effect eruptive behaviour.
  • Prof David Mattey (email)Application of stable isotope geochemistry to solving geological and environmental problems. Development of instrumentation and techniques for stable isotope microanalysis. Chemical climate proxies and their use in palaeoclimate reconstruction. The role of cave and karst processes on climate recording by speleothem in different environments.  Links and teleconnections between precipitation and atmospheric circulation in NW Europe. Mediterranean and Asia. 
  • Prof Euan Nisbet (email) Komatiites and mantle evolution; the global carbon cycle both past and present; global environmental change. 
  • Dr Nicola Scarselli (email) Seismic geomorphology, structural geology and petroleum geology.
  • Prof Matthew Thirlwall (email)Geochemistry, particularly combined chemical Sr-Nd-Pb isotope studies of subduction related magmas, crustal contamination processes and ocean island magmatism. Geochronology and magmatism of the Caledonian Orogen. High precision analytical techniques including thermal ionization mass spectrometry, isotope dilution and XRF. 
  • Prof David Waltham (email) Numerical modeling of seismic data, hanging wall and footwall deformation; carbonate platforms; evaporites; simple clastic systems. 
  • Dr Ian Watkinson (email) Structural geology, particularly active tectonics, ductile shear zones, exhumation of metamorphic rocks and the major strike-slip faults of SE Asia. Geohazards and urban seismic vulnerability.


This programme is offered to prospective students who wish to pursue research in a selected field of the Earth Sciences for a period of one calendar year full time or two calendar years part time and be awarded a Masters degree.

The main focus of the degree programme is an independent research project, chosen by the student, developed into a project proposal through discussion with a chosen supervisor at Royal Holloway. It may be possible to arrange co-supervisors from other Universities, Research Institutes or Industry, to benefit from their specialist expertise. Students will receive training in research skills, including data collection, data handling and analytical techniques as well as transferable and presentation skills.

During your studies you may attend taught courses if they are relevant to your training needs. Students will have access to the wide range of other training opportunities available in the college including the Researcher Development Programme (RDP).

Students may be employed as postgraduate demonstrators if there are opportunities available. In this situation they may attend the course 'Skills of Teaching to Inspire Learning' (inSTIL) which, on successful completion, results in accreditation as an Associate of the Higher Education Academy.

The main outcome of the degree programme is a piece of independent research presented in the form of a dissertation. Upon completion of the programme students will have gained experience of research and presentation of material in the earth sciences which equips them to publish work in international scientific journals.

Prospective students should contact individual members of staff in the department in the first instance to discuss potential research projects.

General questions may be directed to the Doctoral School -

Find out more about fees and funding.

It should be noted that there are no funded places available for this degree programme but prospective students resident in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and International (including EU) students, may be eligible for a government loan.

Find out more about loans.

The cost of your research needs should be discussed in advance with your supervisor and appropriate sources for this funding should be identified.
For more information please email the project supervisor.

Applications will require you to give the name and contact details of one referee, plus a cover letter and CV. The departmental policy is to offer all available studentships to the best applicants across the range of PhD topics on offer.

Applicants are requested to send an additional copy of their CV directly to the lead supervisor of the project in which they are interested. Please also contact the supervisor if you have any questions about the project itself.

Applications are welcome at any time from students with sources of sponsorship.

Applications should be made via the Royal Holloway Direct website




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