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Course content

A comprehensive training in the theory and practice of groundwater science and engineering, providing an excellent basis for careers in scientific, engineering and environmental consultancies, water companies, major industries, research, and government scientific and regulatory services in the UK and abroad.

Modules encompass the full range of groundwater studies and are supported by practical field sessions and computing and hydrogeological modelling based on industry standard software.

Course details

This is a vocational programme relevant to graduates with good Honours degrees in appropriate subjects (for example, Geosciences, Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biosciences, and Environmental Sciences). It is important to have a good knowledge of mathematics.

The lecture component of the programme encompasses the full range of hydrogeology. Modules cover drilling, well design, aquifer test analysis, laboratory test analysis, groundwater flow, hydrogeophysics, inorganic chemistry of groundwaters, organic contamination of groundwater, contaminated land and remediation, groundwater modelling, contaminant transport, hydrology, and groundwater resources assessment. 

These lecture modules are supported by practical field sessions, and by computing and hydrogeological modelling based on industry standard software. Integration of concepts developed in the taught programmes is facilitated through student-centred investigations of current issues linked to a diverse range of hydrogeological environments. 

Examinations are held in January and April. From May onwards, you undertake a project, a report on which is submitted in September. 

Projects may be field-, laboratory-, or modelling- based, and are usually of an applied nature, although a few are research-orientated. Our chemical (inorganic and organic), rock testing, computing, geophysical and borehole-logging equipment is available for you to use during this period. 

Career openings include those with consulting engineering and environmental firms, government scientific services and regional water companies, both in this country and abroad. Demand for hydrogeologists is substantial and students from the course are highly regarded by employers.

Learning and teaching

Hydrogeology is the study of groundwater; an essential component of the world’s water supply. More than 2 billion people depend on groundwater for their daily needs (approximately 30% of water supplied in the UK is groundwater). 

The aim of our Hydrogeology MSc Course is to provide students who have a good scientific or engineering background with a comprehensive training in the fundamentals of groundwater science and engineering, together with considerable practical experience.

The School is well supported and you will have the use of all equipment and facilities appropriate to your work: 

Computing

You will have access to the multiple clusters of PCs in the University Learning Centre and Library, and the School-based Earth Imaging Laboratory. The MSc course also has its own dedicated room for teaching and study with six PCs for convenient access to email, web and on-line learning resources.

The University based computers have an extensive range of software installed that covers the needs of students of all disciplines, but in common with the School-based PCs, specialist software packages used routinely by professional hydrogeologists are installed for our MSc students. These include industry standard groundwater flow modelling, contaminant transport modelling, geochemical modelling, geophysical interpretation and field and laboratory hydraulic test analysis packages. You can also register for more specialist software on the University high speed BlueBEAR computing facility if your individual project requires it. Research software developed within the Water Sciences research group is also available.

Laboratories

The School is well equipped for inorganic and organic chemical analysis of field and laboratory samples. Facilities include: Total Organic Carbon analysis, Gas Chromatography, ICP Mass Spectrometry, Ion Chromatography, Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry and Luminescence and UV/visible spectroscopy. These facilities have been used in a wide range of MSc projects, for both standard geochemical analysis of groundwater samples and for more specific purposes including studies of persistent organic pollutants and toxic heavy metals in the environment, and denitrification in river beds. 

The School also has a dedicated microbiology laboratory equipped with an autoclave for sterilizing media and equipment, a class II safety cabinet for handing microbial samples, and incubators. 

Facilities are also available within the School and elsewhere for geological material analysis, including thin section preparation and microscopy, a wide range of electron microscopy techniques, XRD, pore size distribution determination, and surface area measurement.

Fieldwork

The School has two field sites on campus for use by MSc students and research staff. Both consist of arrays of boreholes drilled into the underlying sandstone aquifer to depths of up to 60m.

The groundwater group is well stocked with field equipment, which is used extensively in research projects, for teaching, and particularly on individual MSc projects. This equipment includes pumping test equipment (submersible pumps, generators, packers, digital pressure transducers, data loggers, divers, dip meters, pipe-work and installation frames); chemical sampling and tracer transport equipment (depth samplers, sampling pumps, tracer test equipment and field fluorimeter, hand held EC, pH and EH probes, portable chemical lab kit); geophysical equipment (resistivity imaging, electromagnetic surveying, ground penetrating radar, and borehole logging); and a secure, towable, mobile laboratory for off-site testing.

Fieldwork and projects transform theory into practice and form a large part of the course. They are supported by extensive field, laboratory and technical facilities.

A weeklong course of practical work and site visits is held in Week 7 of the Autumn Term. The content varies from year to year, but typically includes pumping tests, small-scale field tests, chemical sampling, and geophysics using the research boreholes on campus. Visits to landfill sites, water resources schemes, wetlands, and drilling sites are also arranged in collaboration with the Environment Agency, consultants and landfill operators. During the Spring Term, field demonstrations are provided by chemical sampling equipment distributors and manufacturers. You will gain further field experience either during your own 4.5 month project or when helping your colleagues on other projects.


Visit the Hydrogeology - MSc page on the University of Birmingham website for more details!

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