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Planetary Science - MSc/PGDip

Course Description

This interdisciplinary MSc offers a wide programme of study related to the physics of planetary and space environments, including planetary interiors, atmospheres and magnetospheres; the impact of the space environment on human physiology; and research project work which provides potential opportunity to work with established planetary researchers at UCL and Birkbeck, some of whom are involved in active or planned space missions.

Degree information

Students develop insights into the techniques used in current projects, and gain in-depth experience of a particular specialised research area through project work as a member of a research team. The programme provides the professional skills necessary to play a meaningful role in industrial or academic life.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of a choice of three core modules (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits), a research essay (30 credits) and a dissertation (60 credits). A Postgraduate Diploma consisting of three core modules (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits) and a research essay (30 credits); full-time nine months is offered.

Optional modules 1 (15 credits each) - students choose three from:
-Deep Earth and Planetary Modelling
-Earth and Planetary Materials
-Planetary Atmospheres
-Space Plasma and Magnetospheric Physics
-Remote Sensing and Planetary Surfaces
-Physics of Exoplanets

Optional modules 2 (15 credits each) - students choose three from the following:
-Earth and Planetary System Science
-Melting and Volcanism
-Solar Physics
-Astronomical Spectroscopy
-Physics of the Earth
-Space Medicine and Extreme Environment Physiology
-Comets, Asteroids and Meteorites
-Advanced Topics in Planetary Science

Alternatively students may also choose a fourth module from the Optional modules 1 list and two from the Optional modules 2 list above.

All students submit a critical research essay and MSc students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a substantial dissertation and oral presentation.

Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, practical classes, computer-based teaching, fieldwork, and tutorials. Student performance is assessed through coursework and written examination. The research project is assessed by literature survey, oral presentation and the dissertation.


Physics-based careers embrace a broad band of areas, e.g. information technology, engineering, finance, research and development, medicine, nanotechnology and photonics. Graduates of MSc programmes at UCL go on to a variety of careers as research associates, postdoctoral fellows, consultants, and systems test engineers.

Top career destinations for this degree:
-Chartered Surveyor, Dunphys
-PhD in Planetary Science, The Open University (OU)

An MSc qualification from UCL is highly regarded by employers. Students engage in a variety of learning activities, including undertaking their own research projects, which encourages the development of problem-solving skills, technical and quantitative analysis, independent critical thinking and good scientific practice. In addition, teamwork, vision and enthusiasm make physics graduates highly desirable members in all dynamic companies.

Why study this degree at UCL?

UCL Physics & Astronomy is among the leading departments in the UK for graduate study. The curriculum of the Planetary Science MSc draws on a variety of other academic departments within UCL including Space & Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory), Earth Sciences, Cell & Developmental Biology and Birkbeck's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The programme thus has a strong interdisciplinary flavour, in line with the ethos of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck.

The combination of taught courses, tutorials and project work allows prospective students to study a wide variety of topics related to planetary and space environments, such as: planetary interiors, atmospheres and magnetospheres; the impact of the space environment on human physiology and life; and the application of current knowledge to investigations of extrasolar planets, i.e. worlds in other stellar systems.

Visit the Planetary Science - MSc/PGDip page on the University College London website for more details!

All Available Videos:

(Student Profile)

Jane MacArthur

"At UCL I took part in four different international summer schools/field schools, and enjoyed UCL hosting the 2013 European Planetary Science Congress, which brought all the top international researchers to London. I also visited UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, the largest university space research group in the UK. Since graduating I am now a PhD research student at the Space Research Centre, University of Leicester, studying martian meteorites."


Brown Family Bursary - Single Award

The bursary will be awarded based on financial need only as determined by the Student Funding Office.Value, Benefits and Duration
- The value of the bursary is £15,000. The payment is to be applied to tuition fees in the first instance, with any remainder being paid to the successful applicant towards maintenance in termly instalments.
- The bursary is tenable for one year only.
- The bursary may not be held alongside other tuition fee only awards.

Value of Scholarship(s)



- prospective full-time UK Master's students who are undertaking a one-year programme of study in the Faculties of the Built Environment, Engineering Sciences or Mathematical & Physical Sciences (BEAMS) in 2015/16
- currently holding a first-class Bachelor's degree; and
- in financial need.

Application Procedure

See http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/scholarships/graduate/UK-EU-Master/uclalumniandfriends

Further Information


Entry Requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline, preferably with substantial physics content, from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

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