Postgraduate research opportunities 

Earth Sciences PhD/MLitt/MSc (Research)

Cracked soil in water

Geographical & Earth Sciences scholarships

Self funded opportunities

Life and its Interactions with Dynamic Environments

Fugitive methane in Scotland: Plume mapping and isotopic characterisation using Cavity Ring-down Spectrometry

Supervisor: Dr Adrian Bass

Proposal:

Methane (CH4) has a global warming potential 28-36 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus, its formation, distribution, stocks and fluxes require our understanding. Atmospheric methane concentration has increased significantly since the industrial revolution, but our knowledge of local and regional production processes is still limited. Where it is, where it comes from and how did it get there are questions still needing exploration at the finer scales.

Utilising the stable isotopes of carbon we can begin to elucidate the origin of a methane source, allowing for the separation of anthropogenic and natural sources to the atmosphere on small spatial scales. To assess the contributions from anthropogenic activities such as mining (active and retired), agriculture, and natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracture we use high resolution measurements of methane isotopic composition. Specifically in this project we will use Cavity Ring-down Spectrometry to map and characterise methane plume distribution across Scotland’s central belt, quantifying the significance of anthropogenic and natural methane sources on a regional scale.

Specific and transferrable skills

The student will gain expertise in carbon isotope analysis via Cavity Ring-down Spectrometry and isotope ration mass spectrometry as well as general laboratory practice. Stable isotope analysis and use are widely used in numerous fields of study and training in their application will be a valuable asset. Unique to this project, the student will become versed in the relatively new technology of Cavity Ring-down Spectrometry, a rapidly expanding methodology in biogeochemistry. This will include extensive utilisation during field campaigns.

Required background

The student will likely have a background in chemistry, geology or environmental geoscience, with an interest in developing this into a comprehensive biogeochemical framework. Laboratory experience is desirable though not essential, as is experience with field work. A willingness to learn techniques not already possessed is essential. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained during an undergraduate dissertation, is expected.

Energy-efficient alteration of natural algal products for use in biofuel technology

Supervisor: Dr. Jaime L. Toney, Dr. Ian Watson (School of Engineering, University of Glasgow), Dr. David France (School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow)

Proposal

The main objective of this project is to determine which processes are the most energy-efficient for converting the natural algal molecules into biofuels.

Dependence on fossil fuels is one of the most critical challenges facing modern society and research into renewable and sustainable sources of fuel are essential as society moves forward. One of several “Green” solutions to the looming global energy crisis is the generation of biofuels from plants. Producing ethanol from corn is one potential strategy, although this process currently has a finely balanced energy requirement (i.e. about the same amount of energy goes into producing the ethanol as comes out). An attractive alternative would be to use aquatic plants like algae, which can be “farmed” much more efficiently and do not carry concerns of soil nutrient depletion. Algae have recently been discovered from lakes with unusual water chemistries that produce high concentrations of high molecular weight ketones of varying saturation states.

This project will isolate these molecules from lake sediments using known organic geochemical techniques and investigate the experimental conditions needed to break these compounds into smaller, usable molecules for the biofuel industry. This project provides a key opportunity to work in a growing, interdisciplinary field with colleagues across the Schools of Geographical and Earth Science, Engineering, and Chemistry.

Specific and transferrable skills

Data analysis and problem solving, experimental design, leadership, mentoring, project management, oral presentation, expertise in organic geochemistry, effective proposal and report writing

Required background

Highly motivated student from Earth Science, Geography, Engineering or Chemistry backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will have, or be about to receive, a Bachelor degree (at least 2:1 or equivalent).

Interested applicants should contact Dr. Jaime Toney at: Jaime.toney@glasgow.ac.uk

The physical and chemical interaction between legacy steel slag and lake water

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald

Aim

This project will investigate the physical and chemical interaction between legacy steel slag and lake water, where the slag has been dumped into a lake.

Rationale of the project

Worldwide, it is estimated that steelmaking produces up to 250 million tonnes of waste slag per year. Slag was, until the last few decades, dumped in heaps with little or no subsequent remediation.  Previous research has shown that interaction of rainwater with these subaerially exposed legacy slag heaps facilitates release of ecotoxic metals (such as Cr, As, V and Pb) into surrounding streams. However, in some instances, steel slag has been dumped directly into standing water (lakes). The degree of physical and chemical interaction between slag and the water was dumped into has not been studied and will control the extent of ecotoxic metal release into the lake.

Methods

At the former Glengarnock Steelworks in North Ayrshire, Scotland, steel slag was dumped into Kilbirnie Loch between the 1850s and 1980s. During this period, the size of the loch decreased by around a quarter. In order to investigate the interaction of slag and lake water, samples of water will be taken from the lake surface as well as sediment from lake shore and slag from the slag heap which is exposed above the lake level. A range of petrographic and geochemical analytical techniques will be applied to the samples in this project, including optical and SEM petrography, XRD, ICP-OES and ICP-MS.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or environmental chemistry background with an interest in pollution. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in a range of analytical techniques and familiarity with aspects of pollution science. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in environmental monitoring and management.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

Figure 1. Kilbirnie Loch (left) and slag on the lake shore (right).

How is atmospheric CO2 captured by steel slag?

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald (john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk), Dr. Luke Daly

Aim:

This project will investigate the crystallinity and crystallography of calcite which has precipitated during sequestration of atmospheric CO2 by steel slag.

Rationale of the project

Steel slag is the waste product from steel manufacturing. It is usually dumped in heaps open to the atmosphere. Similar to ultramafic rocks, steel slag is dominated by minerals with divalent metals cations and is highly reactive. This results in carbonation of the slag – the divalent metal cations in the slag minerals react with atmospheric carbon dioxide and precipitate carbonate minerals such as calcite on the surface of the slag pieces or in the pore spaces. As this chemical reaction captures CO2 from the atmosphere, it has attracted attention as a possible method for sequestering atmospheric CO2 and therefore potentially mitigate the effects of climate change.

Methods

Samples of carbonated steel slag will be collected and cut into polished blocks and polished thin sections. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis will be conducted to determine the crystallinity of the precipitated calcite, and to quantify the crystal size, shape and structure as well as any crystallographic orientation relationships with other minerals within the slag. The EBSD data will then be compared with µCT analysis and crystallographic modelling to investigate the way the calcite crystals have grown through the reaction between the slag and atmospheric CO2.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or chemistry background with a strong interest in climate change and its mitigation. Laboratory experience is desirable - particularly use of SEM - and a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in advanced SEM techniques and familiarity with industrial residues and the opportunities they present. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in a discipline relevant to climate change.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

Figure 1. Carbonated slag (left); micro-computed tomography model of calcite in a piece of slag (right).

Cement Waste Carbonation for Carbon Capture

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald (john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk)

Aim

This project will investigate the natural capture of carbon dioxide by a legacy cement waste heap.

Rationale of the project

Cement manufacture involves smelting raw materials (predominantly limestone and clay) in a furnace at ~2000 °C which produces gravel- to cobble-sized cement clinker, which is subsequently ground up to become cement powder. Some clinker may be discarded for quality-control reasons and has historically been dumped in heaps around cement works. The clinker is composed of highly reactive minerals (this is what gives cement its desired properties), which are far from equilibrium in the natural environment and, similar to other industrial smelting products like steel slag, react with atmospheric CO2 to precipitate calcium carbonate (calcite). This reaction, which draws down atmospheric CO2, merits further investigation as it may present an opportunity to limit or reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations which are increasing global temperatures. In order to address the feasibility of this, various questions need to be addressed such as how much CO2 could waste cement clinker sequester, and what are the mechanics of the calcite precipitation.

Methods

Samples of cement clinker have been collected from a former cement works near Wishaw in Scotland. A small cliff section through a bank of partially ground discarded clinker shows irregular layering and a range of textures. Photography and logging of this cliff will provide context to subsequent petrographic and XRD analysis to determine the mineralogy. µCT analysis will be conducted on samples to determine the spatial distribution and volume of calcite which has precipitated on the clinker.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or chemistry background with a strong interest in climate change and its mitigation. Laboratory experience is desirable and a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in advanced SEM techniques and familiarity with industrial residues and the opportunities they present. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in a discipline relevant to climate change or environmental management.

Figure 1. Section through a waste cement deposit (left) and a close-up of calcite precipitated on the cement clinker (right).

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

The effect of crystallinity on the distribution and release of ecotoxic metals from steel slag

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald (john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk), Dr. Luke Daly

Aim

This project will investigate the degree of crystallinity in steel slag, and its spatial variation within lumps of slag relative to ecotoxic metal distribution.

Rationale of the project

Worldwide, it is estimated that steelmaking produces up to 250 million tonnes of waste slag per year. Slag was, until the last few decades, dumped in heaps with little or no subsequent remediation.  Previous research has shown that interaction of rainwater with these subaerially exposed legacy slag heaps facilitates release of ecotoxic metals (such as Cr, As, V and Pb) into surrounding streams. Slag is generated in a furnace at >1000 °C and is rapidly quenched when dumped in a heap. The effect of this quenching on the crystallinity of the minerals that make up the slag, and the ecotoxic trace elements they contain, is not known. Low-crystallinity or amorphous areas are more likely to undergo rapid dissolution and therefore release ecotoxic metals into the environment more rapidly than more crystalline areas. In crystalline regions, the host phase of these elements will determine their susceptibility to weathering. This project may inform quenching protocols for slags to promote sequestration in environmentally robust mineral phases.

Methods

Samples of steel slag from legacy slag heaps at various locations in Scotland and/or Northern England will be collected. Thin sections will be prepared for electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis on a scanning electron microscope; this will determine crystalline and amorphous domains within the slag. Solution inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) of these different domains will determine whether ecotoxic metals are concentrated in low crystallinity or amorphous areas, and which specific mineral phases ecotoxic metals are sequestered into in more crystalline regions.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or environmental chemistry background with an interest in pollution. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in a range of analytical techniques and familiarity with aspects of pollution science. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in environmental monitoring and management.

Figure 1. Hand specimen (left) and thin section (right) of steel slag.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

In the top 40 of the 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject, for Geography. A 5 star + rating.

Overview

Research themes

Life & its Interactions with Dynamic Environments

Understanding how critical thresholds in changing environments affect fundamental interactions with the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere on land and in aqueous systems.

Dynamic Earth & Planetary Evolution

Quantitative understanding of Earth and planetary materials to elucidate mechanisms, drivers, and timescales of dynamic processes within our Solar System.

Global Landscapes & Climate Change

Understanding and modeling how Earth’s surface evolves spatially and temporally through interactions with the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere to influence processes that sustain life.

 

Susan Waldron

Professor Susan Waldron discusses research opportunities within Earth Sciences

Study options

  full-time
(years)
part-time
(years)
Phd 3-4 6-8
MSc (Res) 1-2 2-3
MPhil 2-3 3-4

Entry requirements

2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Required documentation

Applicants should submit:

  • Transcripts/degree certificate 
  • Two references
  • A one-page research proposal
  • CV
  • Name of potential Supervisor

Research proposal

Candidates are required to provide a single page outline of the research subject proposed (approximately 1000 words). This need not be a final thesis proposal but should include:

  • a straightforward, descriptive, and informative title
  • the question that your research will address
  • an account of why this question is important and worth investigating
  • an assessment of how your own research will engage with recent study in the subject
  • a brief account of the methodology and approach you will take
  • a discussion of the primary sources that your research will draw upon, including printed books, manuscripts, archives, libraries, or museums
  • an indicative bibliography of secondary sources that you have already consulted and/or are planning to consult

English Language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English.

Fees and funding

Fees

2019/20

  • £4,327 home/EU
  • £21,020 international

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £500
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,250
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £320
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £730
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period) £300

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Funding for EU students

The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals will remain eligible to apply for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions for 2019/20 to help cover costs for the duration of their study.

2018/19 fees

  • £4,260 home/EU
  • £20,150 international

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Submission by a research student £480
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,200
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £300
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period) £270

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Funding

Support

The vibrancy of our research environment derives from our large body of postgraduate students.

We take an integrated approach to study of Geography and Earth Sciences at Glasgow, bringing together internationally leading expertise in physical and human geography, Earth Sciences and geomatics.

Our postgraduate students benefit from many fieldwork opportunities, ranging from short day excursions close to Glasgow to longer residential field trips, which may involved overseas travel.

The School has close links with industry. We arrange many guest speakers and there are also informal opportunities to meet people from industry at open events. Projects may be carried out in conjunction with industry.

You will be part of a Graduate School which provides the highest level of support to its students.

The overall aim of our Graduate School is to provide a world-leading environment for students which is intellectually stimulating, encourages them to contribute to culture, society and the economy and enables them to become leaders in a global environment.

We have a diverse community of over 750 students from more than 50 countries who work in innovative and transformative disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. An important part of our work is to bring our students together and to ensure they consider themselves an important part of the University’s academic community.

Being part of our Graduate School community will be of huge advantage to you in your studies and beyond and we offer students a number of benefits in addition to exceptional teaching and supervision, including:

  • A wide-ranging and responsive research student training programme which enables you to enhance your skills and successfully complete your studies.
  • Mobility scholarships of up to £4000 to enable you to undertake work in collaboration with an international partner.
  • A diverse programme of activities which will ensure you feel part of the wider-research community (including our biannual science slam event).
  • A residential trip for all new research students.
  • The opportunity to engage with industry-partners through training, placements and events.
  • Professionally accredited programmes.
  • Unique Masters programmes run in collaboration with other organisations.
  • State-of-the-art facilities including the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre and the Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre.
  • Highly-rated support for international students.

Over the last five years, we have helped over 600 students to complete their research studies and our students have gone on to take up prestigious posts in industries across the world.

Email: scieng-gradschool@glasgow.ac.uk

How to apply

Identify potential supervisors

All Postgraduate Research Students are allocated a supervisor who will act as the main source of academic support and research mentoring. You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply. Please note, even if you have spoken to an academic staff member about your proposal you still need to submit an online application form.

You can find relevant academic staff members with our staff research interests search.


Gather your documents

Before applying please make sure you gather the following supporting documentation:

  1. Final or current degree transcripts including grades (and an official translation, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original document
  2. Degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed): scanned copy in colour of the original document
  3. Two references on headed paper (academic and/or professional).
  4. Research proposal, CV, samples of written work as per requirements for each subject area.

Submitting References

To complete your application we will need two references (one must be academic the other can be academic or professional).

There are two options for you to submit references as part of your application.  You can upload a document as part of your application or you can enter in your referee’s contact details and we will contact them to request a reference.

Option 1 – Uploading as part of the application form

Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee. You can then upload these via theOnline Application form with the rest your documents to complete the application process.

Please be aware that documents must not exceed 5MB in size and therefore you may have to upload your documents separately. The online system allow you to upload supporting documents only in PDF format. For a free PDF writer go to www.pdfforge.org.

Option 2 - Entering contact details as part of the application form

If you enter your referees contact details including email on the application form we will email them requesting they submit a reference once you have submitted the application form.  When the referee responds and sends a reference you will be sent an email to confirm the university has received this.

After submitting your application form

Use our Applicant Self Service uploading documents function to submit a new reference. We can also accept confidential references direct to rio-researchadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk, from the referee’s university or business email account.  


Apply now

I've applied. What next?

If you have any other trouble accessing Applicant Self-Service, please see Application Troubleshooting/FAQs.

If you are requested to upload further documents

Log into the Applicant Self Service and scroll down to the Admissions Section. The screenshot below indicates the section on the page, and the specific area you should go to, highlighted in red:

Applicant self service

Documents must be uploaded in .jpg, .jpeg or .pdf format and must not exceed 5MB in size.  There is a maximum 10MB upload size for all documents with the application.

Decisions

Once a decision has been made regarding your application the Research Admissions Office will contact you by email.

If you are made an unconditional offer

You can accept your offer through the Applicant-Self-Service by clicking on the ‘Accept/Decline link’ for your chosen programme under the ‘Admissions Section’ at the bottom of the Applicant Self Service screen.  You can access the Applicant Self Service by using the link, username and password you used to apply and selecting the “Self Service” button below your application.

Please make sure you accept your unconditional offer within 4 weeks of receiving your offer. If you are an international student your CAS will not be issued until you have accepted an unconditional offer.

If you are made a conditional offer

If you accept a conditional offer then the offer status on Applicant-Self-Service will change to ‘incomplete’ to indicate that the application is incomplete until such time as all the conditions are met.

Your offer letter will list all the conditions that apply to your offer and you can upload the required document(s) through Applicant Self Service. If you have met the conditions satisfactorily, you will automatically be sent an unconditional offer.

If your application is unsuccessful

If your application is unsuccessful then we will send you an email to inform you of this which will outline the reason why we have been unable to offer you a place on this particular programme. Please note that your application status will be updated to 'Cancelled' on Applicant Self Service if the offer is rejected.

Deferring your offer

If you want to defer your start date, please contact us directly at rio-researchadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk. We need authorisation from your supervisor before we confirm your request to defer. Once we have this we will contact you by email to confirm.

How to register

After you have accepted an unconditional offer you will receive an email nearer to the start of your studies to tell you how to register online using the University's MyCampus website, the University’s student information system. That email will provide you with your personal login details and the website address. Please ensure that your email address is kept up to date as all correspondence is sent via email. You can update your email address through the Applicant Self Service Portal under the Personal Information section.


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