Geophysics is the study of the Earth from the near-surface to the deep interior through the use of quantitative physical methods. On this programme, you study forces such as gravity and magnetism and learn about how these forces act on the Earth’s interior, crust, oceans and the atmosphere.
This programme is studied on campus.
On this programme, you will learn to combine a deep knowledge of geology and physics and apply practical field-based skills to areas ranging from hydrocarbon exploration to plate tectonics and from environmental services to archaeological excavations.
This unique programme is designed to expose students to the theory and practice of modern geophysics, with an emphasis on cutting edge techniques for understanding the structure, dynamics and composition of the Earth from the near-surface to the deep interior. The content is broad-based and integrative with a strong focus on the quantitative aspects of geophysical data analysis and interpretation.
This programme specifically addresses the recognised need for qualified geophysicists within the hydrocarbons industry, by equipping students with the particular skills for careers in the hydrocarbon, minerals exploration or associated service industries. While traditionally, graduates from the University of Aberdeen have been attracted to careers in the oil and gas industry, many others have gone on to work in to other diverse areas including mineral exploration, environmental geophysics or associated service industries.
The teaching of physics at Aberdeen has a long and illustrious history, with notable great physicists such as James Clerk Maxwell and G.P. Thomson counted amongst its former staff.
Key Programme Information
At a Glance
- Learning Mode
- On Campus Learning
- Degree Qualification
- 36 months
- Study Mode
- Full Time
- Start Month
- UCAS Code
What You'll Study
- Year 1
- Professional Skills Part 1 (PD1001)
This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.
This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students and above, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.
- The Earth Through Geological Time (GL1005) - 15 Credit Points
For 4,500 million years the Earth has been, and still is, a continually evolving Dynamic Planet. The record is held in the rocks and fossils of the present continental landmasses and ocean basins. To deduce the history of the planet geologists must apply a large range of scientific principles and disciplines. These disciplines encompass the biological, chemical and physical sciences. The course provides a basic understanding of how the structure and evolution of the planet are deduced and how this information can be used to discover and extract natural resources such as fossil fuels and ores.
- The Physical Universe A (PX1015) - 15 Credit Points
Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, and if we wish to better understand the nature and behaviour of the Universe, it is perhaps the best place to start. This course introduces the basic topics of Physics, from the sub-microscopic scale of electrons and atoms, to the orbits of the planets and stars, to the celestial mechanics of galaxies. It encompasses the work of Physicists like Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Jocelyn Bell Burnell. If you’ve ever been curious about how the world works, you will hopefully find this course, typically well-regarded by students, interesting.
- Calculus i (MA1005) - 15 Credit Points
Calculus is the mathematical study of change, and is used in many areas of mathematics, science, and the commercial world. This course covers differentiation, limits, finding maximum and minimum values, and continuity. There may well be some overlap with school mathematics, but the course is brisk and will go a long way quickly.
- Earth's Materials (GL1505) - 15 Credit Points
Following on from GL1005 this course is an introduction to the petrogenesis of three major rock groups; igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. Practical classes will centre around the use of polarizing microscope in the identification of the common rock-forming minerals. The relationship between plate tectonics and the petrogenesis of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, including types and styles of volcanic eruptions will be addressed.
- Calculus II (MA1508) - 15 Credit Points
The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to Integral Calculus and the theory of sequences and series, to discuss their applications to the theory of functions, and to give an introduction to the theory of functions of several variables.
This provides the necessary mathematical background for further study in mathematics, physics, computing science, chemistry and engineering.
- The Physical Universe B (PX1513) - 15 Credit Points
Understanding electric and magnetic forces is of paramount importance for understanding the physical world. They are eventually responsible for the matter around us to self-organize (in solid, liquid and gas phases), with given structures, density, elastic properties, and so on. Furthermore, they are responsible for light emission and propagation across the space.
Already the first rudiments of electricity and magnetism will help to appreciate that they are two difference faces of the same coin: electromagnetism. This relationship is the first evidence of the possibility to build a unified description of the microscopic laws of the physical universe.
In addition to the courses above, students must choose 15 credit points from courses of choice.
(NOTE: From the list below, students must pick either Option A: MA1006 Algebra or Option B: CS1022 - Computer Programming and Principles, in addition to the prescribed courses above.)
- Algebra (MA1006) - 15 Credit Points
This course introduces the concepts of complex numbers, matrices and other basic notions of linear algebra over the real and complex numbers. This provides the necessary mathematical background for further study in mathematics, physics, computing science, chemistry and engineering.
- Computer Programming and Principles (CS1022) - 15 Credit Points
Students will be exposed to the basic principles of computer programming, e.g. fundamental programming concepts, algorithms, and maths (e.g. logic, set theory, graphs). The course consists of lectures where the principles are systematically developed; as the course does not presuppose knowledge of these principles, we start from basic intuitions. In addition to the lectures, there will be weekly practicals to work with the concepts. Understanding the principles behind computer programming gives one the framework to learn new programming concepts, adapt to changing circumstances, and engage in theoretical research in Computing Science.
- Year 2
- Petrology & Mineralogy (GL2015) - 15 Credit Points
Petrology and mineralogy is a compulsory course for geology students. It covers igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary petrology. The course has a strong practical component and involves the preparation of workbooks based on individual study and practical exercises that use hand specimens, microscope work and chemical data.
- Light Science (PX2013) - 15 Credit Points
For most of us, our perceptions are governed most strongly by our vision. We see because of light, but what is light? It’s been considered a particle, a wave, and in modern physics is somehow both. This course explores the fascinating physics of this phenomenon, at an elementary mathematical level suitable for non-science students. We’ll cover petrological microscopy, of interest to geologists, interference and diffraction, how colour works, see how polarisation can be applied in both scientific fields and every day life, and see how the photon can be used in devices in the increasing prevalent field known as photonics.
- Dynamical Phenomena (PX2015) - 15 Credit Points
Understanding oscillatory and wavelike behaviour is of huge importance in comprehending how our natural world works. It seems that everything in nature has its own cycle, rhythm or oscillation. From planets revolving around the sun to waves on the sea, even fundamental particles are treated as waves in modern physics. Accessible to students with some knowledge of calculus, this course will explain the mathematics of this fascinating and important subject. Methods of solving the differential equations that describe waves and oscillatory phenomena will be explored, including numerical techniques.
- Introduction to Field Geology (GL2510) - 15 Credit Points
Field-based observation is an essential skill for understanding the origin of rocks, and is a vital reality-check for understanding how Geological Science is practised and developed. This course gives students experience with techniques for investigating rocks in their natural habitat, studying the crucial relationships between different units, and developing good habits for observing and recording data in the field. Students learn how to perceive geology in 3D, and to develop working hypotheses from incomplete evidence. This is achieved through a five-day residential field trip (takes place in the Easter break) which is preceded by wide-ranging practical classes and explanatory lectures.
- Geophysics (GL2511) - 15 Credit Points
This course establishes the fundamental principles underlying the main methods of geophysical exploration data and their interpretation as applied to Earth Sciences. This includes some basic principles of continuum mechanics and stress and strain as used in structural geology as well some basic principles of geophysical fluid dynamics as relevant to sediment transport and deposition in sedimentology.
- Practical Optics and Electronics (PX2505) - 15 Credit Points
This 100% continuously assessed course explores two fundamental areas of physics. In electronics you will go from building simple circuits to designing complex logical architectures, using both real components and simulation software.
The optics half of the course explores various fascinating optical phenomena, some of which are practically applicable for geologists and many other scientific disciplines. The practicals elegantly demonstrate the fundamental properties of light.
NOTE: From the list below, in the first half session, students must pick either Option A: GL2014 Stratigraphical Principles or Option B: MA2010 - Probability, in addition to the other prescribed courses listed above.
In the second half session, students must pick either Option A: GL2510 Mapping and Monitoring the Environment OR Option B: CS2510 - Modern Programming Languages, in addition to the other prescribed courses listed.
- Stratigraphical Principles (GL2014) - 15 Credit Points
This course is concerned with absolute and relative time-scales as used by geologists to date geological events and processes. Absolute dating using isotopic techniques, including the treatment of raw data, forms the cornerstone of the course. The use of the fossil record in relative and absolute dating is integrated with geological maps and absolute dating techniques to give a broad overview of the methods used by geologists to determine sequences of events in Earth’s history.
- Probability (MA2010) - 15 Credit Points
Probability theory is concerned with the analysis of random phenomena by providing an abstract mathematical framework to study them within the language of set theory. This is done by the concepts of "probability spaces" and "random variables". The theory began in the 16th century in attempts to analyze games of chance; In 1812 Pierre Simon Laplace wrote: "It is remarkable that a science which began with the consideration of games of chance should have become the most important object of human knowledge."
The course is recommended to anyone interested in the foundations and applications of mathematics.
- Mapping and Monitoring the Environment (GG2510) - 15 Credit Points
In a digital era of GPS navigators and many online map tools (e.g. Google Maps), there is an increase demand for professionals able to understand and manipulate geographical data and use these to monitor processes at various scales. The course provides a solid background in the acquisition of geographical data, both onshore and offshore with classic field-based and remote sensing techniques. It covers the creation and interpretation of maps and looks at the history of remote sensing and its science as well as providing the essential basis to understanding what a Geographical Information System is.
- Modern Programming Languages (CS2510) - 15 Credit Points
This course will introduce the fundamental features of modern programming languages and to equip students with necessary skills for the critical evaluation of existing and future programming languages. Additionally, students study the formal representation of syntax and semantics of programming languages, as well as mechanisms for the lexical and syntactic analysis of programs. Students will be exposed to programming languages from three specific paradigms, namely, object-oriented, functional and logic programming.
- Year 3
- Introduction to the Solid State (PX3016) - 15 Credit Points
The course is based on modern views on the structure of solids, how that structure is determined by X-ray crystallography and the basics of structure-property relationships. This involves learning the language of the basic shapes and symmetry displayed by crystals, then using that within the interdisciplinary subject of X-ray crystallography, source of many Nobel prizes and great advance in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Biology and Medicine. The course then briefly examines some key topics including semiconductors, defects and amorphous materials.
- Energy and Matter (PX3014) - 15 Credit Points
Our world is made of three types of matter, Solids, Liquids and Gases. The first part of this course will explore the physical properties of these forms of matter and investigate important technological phenomena such as the flow of liquids and the causes of catastrophic failure in mechanical components. In the second half of the course, the nature of heat energy in matter will be explored. Thermodynamic behaviour will be understood in terms of Entropy and the operation of engines and their theoretical efficiency limitations will be explained.
- Structural Geology & Tectonics (GL3027) - 15 Credit Points
This course covers all main aspects of structural geology and tectonics and entails 1 hour lectures and 3 hour practicals each week, together with a field excursion to relatively local geology. The significant practical component allows 'hands on' learning with worked examples being provided by staff. The field excursion allows students to directly apply skills and techniques that have been covered in preceding lectures and practicals. with worked examples then provided in follow-up sessions. The course covers a spectrum of brittle and ductile structures that are developed across a range of scales from microscopic to mountain belt.
- Interpretation of Seismic Reflection Data (GP3501) - 15 Credit Points
The main aims of the course are:
1. to understand the principles of interpreting seismic reflection data, including its limitations and potential pitfalls, with specific attention to migration and depth-conversion concepts and techniques, which are the frontier for both academic and industrial geophysical applications; and
2. to practice interpreting seismic reflection data in a geological and structural context on paper sections and in a seismic interpretation workstation environment; and
3. to practice interpreting seismic reflection data in a sequence-stratigraphic context on paper sections and in a seismic interpretation workstation environment.
The course provides Core Knowledge for a career as Geophysicist or Geologist in the industry. It also provides critical understanding of results derived by the practical applications of standard software to real dataset through practicals.
The course topics are:
1. review of seismic reflection acquisition procedures
2. synthetic seismograms and wavelet extraction
3. borehole-to-surface seismic tying
4. picking events and phase correlation
6. identifying faults
7. identifying salt structures and halokinesis
8. recognising seismic facies
9. digitising and contouring
10. learning how to use seismic interpretation workstation/software
11. 3D interpretation principles
12. depth conversion and migration
Thereafter there will be extensive student-led mini-project activity with students using software to build and interrogate geological models.
- Physics of Waves (PX3513) - 15 Credit Points
- Igneous & Metamorphic Petrology (GL3520) - 15 Credit Points
This course is in 2 parts. In part 1, the students explore the links between tectonic setting and magma genesis, with particular reference to geochemical signatures recorded in the rocks. In part 2, students look at how different bulk protolith compositions control the metamorphic mineral paragenesis, with an emphasis on observing and recording evidence from textures in thin sections. In a world of post-peak oil, exploration for new reserves is now moving to igneous and metamorphic rocks, and a thorough understanding of these rocks is essential for the practising geologist.
NOTE: From the list below, in the first half session, students must pick either Option A: GL3030 Volcanology OR Option B: PX3017 Research and Computing Skills, in addition to the other prescribed courses listed above.
In the second half session, students must pick either Option A: GL3521 Sedimentology OR Option B: PX3512 - Electricity and Magnetism, in addition to the other prescribed courses listed above.
- Volcanology (GL3030) - 15 Credit Points
Volcanology is the study of the physical processes that drive volcanic eruptions, and the products of those eruptions, in relationship to both present-day eruptions and the signatures of those preserved in geological record. Present-day volcanism is a major natural hazard that can cause catastrophic effects on the environment and humankind. Understanding of the physical processes which lead to volcanic eruptions and the dispersion of the products of volcanism are the key to monitoring, mitigation and management of volcanic hazards globally. This course will build on basic geological and geographical principles and knowledge to provide a detailed insight into recent developments in our understanding of volcanism on Earth. Geophysical and other remote sensing methods of volcano monitoring will form an integral part of the course. The mitigation and management of volcanic hazards requires communication between scientists and the general public who are at risk, and consequently emphasis will be placed on providing technical and non-technical reports to guide the population at large.
- Research and Computing Skills (PX3017) - 15 Credit Points
This course introduces mathematical and computational methods. One half is an introduction to programming starting at basics such as variables, loops and conditional statements. This course part is taught in Python, with an emphasis on modern programming concepts and data analysis skills. The other half, taught concurrently, consists of advanced mathematical methods using examples from Physics; for example multivariable calculus and Maxwell's equations, or ODE and partial differential equations in classical and quantum mechanics. There will be a one week career strategies module at the end of the course.
- Sedimentology (GL3521) - 15 Credit Points
Sedimentology is fundamental to interpreting past climate and geography from the evidence in the rock record of the environment in which sediment was deposited. This course develops the skills needed to make such interpretations by cultivating proficiency at description and process-based interpretation of sedimentary successions, and showing how study of modern environments is used to decipher sedimentary processes. We review the controls on the preservation of sediments to make the rock record, including an introduction to the concepts of genetic (sequence) stratigraphy, and see how this can improve discovery and recovery of water and hydrocarbon resources in the subsurface.
- Electricity and Magnetism (PX3512) - 15 Credit Points
We are surrounded by electromagnetic phenomena; it is not possible to understand the physical world without them. In this course we will discuss the link between electricity and magnetism, noticing that changing electric magnetic fields generate electric fields and the other way around. This will lead to the introduction of Faraday’s law, hugely relevant to understand how we generate electricity, and to the introduction of Maxwell’s correction to Ampere’s law, which will lead to the astounding result that light is an electromagnetic wave! We will finish the course by exploring how electromagnetic waves propagate and how they are originated.
- Year 4
- Statistical Physics and Stochastic Systems (PX4012) - 15 Credit Points
Statistical physics derives the phenomenological laws of thermodynamics from the probabilistic treatment of the underlying microscopic system. Statistical physics, together with quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, is a cornerstone in our modern understanding of the physical world.
Through this course, you will gain a better understanding of fundamental physical concepts such as entropy and thermodynamic irreversibility, and you will learn how derive some simple thermodynamic properties of gases and solids.
The final part of the course is devoted to an introduction to stochastic systems, which are widely used in many different fields such as physics, biology and economics.
- Case Studies in the Physical Sciences (PX4007) - 15 Credit Points
Whatever career you end up in, group working skills will be critical, and this course is designed to develop them. It is 100% continuously assessed and consists of some initial teamwork training, followed by two very different projects. One explores PET scanning and is taught by Professor Andy Welch, who is in charge of the medical imaging unit at Foresterhill. The other is about fibre optics communications and is taught by Dr. Ross Macpherson. These open-ended projects will give you some less prescriptive assessment in your final year.
- Surface and Subsurface Digital Imaging (GL4529) - 15 Credit Points
The subsurface course module will cover the input, storage, management, mapping and image process of seismic dataset. The module will be taught through laboratory practicals supported by short introductory lectures to the seismic acquisition, processing and interpretation and that will cover general theories, methodologies and applications. The laboratory exercises will be based on using and implementing Petrel and Midland Valley’s Move software to solve a range of issues and to highlight their use for seismic interpretation and test.
- Modelling Theory (PX4514) - 15 Credit Points
This course was designed to show you what you can do with everything you learnt in your degree. We will use mathematical techniques to describe a fast variety of “real-world” systems: spreading of infectious diseases, onset of war, opinion formation, social systems, reliability of a space craft, patterns on the fur of animals (morphogenesis), formation of galaxies, traffic jams and others. This course will boost your employability and it will be exciting to see how everything you learnt comes together.
Plus 15 credit points from courses of choice.
We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.
How You'll Study
Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:
- coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course;
- practical assessments of the skills and competencies learnt on the course; and
- written examinations at the end of each course.
The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, year of study and individual courses.
Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.
Why Study Geophysics?
- Fieldwork is an important element of this degree, we make the best use of our location in Scotland – close to many great areas for fieldwork.
- Aberdeen is geographically perfect for the study of Earth Sciences, having some world-class field sites close at hand which can be conveniently visited on day courses. Many of the UK’s top 100 geological sites are within easy reach from Aberdeen and are visited by our students and staff alike.
- Many past graduates continue to work in the city and links with industry are therefore very strong with employability being second to none.
- Our department of Physics has a long and illustrious history, and former staff include great physicists such as James Clerk Maxwell and G.P. Thomson.
- We offer a modern, modular degree structure with a broad syllabus and a wide range of degree choices.
- We place emphasis on teaching employability and the development of generic skills, useful in a wide range of careers.
- You will be well equipped to pursue careers across the breadth of Geoscience sub-disciplines.
The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.
General Entry Requirements
- 2020 Entry
Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.
Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.
Applicants who have achieved BB, and who meet one of the widening participation criteria are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.
* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.
* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.
32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL*.
* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.
Irish Leaving Certificate
5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 OR AAABB*, obtained in a single sitting. (B must be at B2 or above)
Entry from College
Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see www.abdn.ac.uk/study/articulation for more details.
The information displayed in this section shows a shortened summary of our entry requirements. For more information, or for full entry requirements for Sciences degrees, see our detailed entry requirements section.
English Language Requirements
To study for an Undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:
OVERALL - 6.0 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0
OVERALL - 78 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21
OVERALL - 54 with: Listening - 51; Reading - 51; Speaking - 51; Writing - 54
Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:
OVERALL - 169 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169
Fees and Funding
You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.
Most RUK students (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on a four year honours degree will be eligible for a full-fees waiver in their final year. Scholarships and other sources of funding are also available.
|Home / EU||£1,820|
|Students Admitted in 2019/20|
|Students Admitted in 2019/20|
International non-EU Applicants
- In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
- For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.
Our Funding Database
View all funding options in our Funding Database.
There are many opportunities at the University of Aberdeen to develop your knowledge, gain experience and build a competitive set of skills to enhance your employability. This is essential for your future career success. The Careers Service can help you to plan your career and support your choices throughout your time with us, from first to final year – and beyond.
Information About Staff Changes
You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.
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