Geochemistry is at the heart of earth sciences, and provides the techniques and knowledge that allow scientists to answer such fundamental questions as: how has the mantle evolved through time, was there ever life on Mars, what was the chemistry of Earth’s and Mars’ ancient atmospheres, and what are the rates and drivers of past and current climate change on Earth? Geochemistry has widespread applications to understanding and solving contemporary problems in Earth surface chemistry, such as pollution of soils and water or rates of ocean acidification. It is a forensic part of Earth science and is used to address questions that are both diverse and profound.
The St Andrews MSc in Geochemistry delivers postgraduate level knowledge and skills training in geochemistry and modern geochemical methods, involving extensive hands-on laboratory training and experience with state-of-the-art equipment. This comprehensive and rigorous course is relevant preparation for pursuing a PhD in geochemistry by incorporating a lab-based research dissertation, as well as employment in industry through incorporation of economic and environmental geochemistry modules. Staff in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and the School of Chemistry contribute to the core laboratory training and teaching within subject modules.
The Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences has 20 full-time academics, 8 research fellows and 4 technical staff members, with a student population of about 170. We have a wide range of expertise in the field of geochemistry underpinned by new state-of-the-art laboratory facilities developed as a result of the recent appointment of early career academics over the past five years. Geochemistry research spans investigations into the origins of life, evolution of the Earth and other terrestrial planets, composition of oceans, rivers and atmospheres, and the pulse of past and current climate change.
A dynamic and research-intensive atmosphere is encouraged and supportive of all students. The size of our Department engenders cohesive and friendly collaborations between staff, postdoctoral research fellows and postgraduate students, and co-authored papers are routinely published in the top journals for geochemistry, such as Nature, Nature Geoscience, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta and Science. We are part of the ‘IAPETUS’ NERC Doctoral Training programme, along with the universities of Durham, Glasgow, Newcastle and Stirling, and the British Geological Survey.
The Department houses state-of-the-art stable and radiogenic isotope geochemistry and geobiology laboratories, including culturing facilities for corals and microbes. Our research equipment includes five high-precision isotope mass spectrometers (two MAT 253s, two Nu Plasma, and one Neptune Plus installed in 2015), two Class 100 clean labs, an XSeries quadropole ICP-MS, ICP-OES, and a Finnegan Delta Plus XP gas source mass spectrometer. All materials, and particularly gases, liquids, minerals, rocks, organisms, and soils, can be analysed for isotopes and major and trace elements within research projects that cover the breadth of earth and environmental science. We host an experimental petrology facility capable of simulating conditions from the mid-crust to upper mantle (pressures of between 0.5-4.5 GPa and 300- 2000°C). A range of spectroscopic, SEM, electron microprobe and X-ray diffraction and fluorescence techniques are also part of our analytical facilities.
The range of research areas and applications of geochemistry is so broad that career opportunities span the whole of earth and environmental sciences. Geochemists are employed in the energy sector (hydrocarbon industries, petrochemicals, nuclear and renewables), in mining and mineral exploration, extraction and processing, and in environmental industries and agencies focused on pollution monitoring and environmental remediation. Masters-level training in geochemistry would provide a suitable platform for a career in materials science outside of earth and environmental sciences specifically. MSc Geochemistry graduates are also in demand as specialised research technicians in academic institutes worldwide and as PhD students in geochemistry-focused research.
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