MSc Quaternary Science

At Royal Holloway University of London, we deliver an MSc in Quaternary Science. I am heavily involved in teaching this course so naturally I recommend it whole heartedly!

Our MSc in Quaternary Science provides students with essential skills in using and understanding the time-dependent processes that affect environmental change. We provide technical training in key issues within Quaternary Science, including high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records, high-precision dating and multi-proxy approaches to the investigation of past environmental changes.

Here, you can watch a video about the MSc Quaternary Science:

On completion of the course, graduates will have gained a thorough understanding of some of our most pressing environmental issues. Around 70% of our graduates go on to pursue further research.

Our graduates are highly employable and in recent years, have entered many different Quaternary-related sectors, including:

  • British Antarctic Survey
  • British Geological Survey
  • Archaeology
  • Historic England
  • Natural England
  • Environment Agency
  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Teaching
  • Museum curation
Our MSc Quaternary Science students undertake a 10 day field trip to Glen Roy in Easter

Royal Holloway University of London

Royal Holloway is widely recognised on the world stage as one of the UK’s leading teaching and research universities. One of the larger colleges of the University of London, we are strong across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. As a cosmopolitan university, with students from 130 different countries, we focus on the support and development of the individual. Our friendly and safe campus, west of central London, provides a unique environment for university study.

You would join a strong research culture as one of 130 postgraduate students within the Department of Geography.


Students are expected to have achieved a 2:1 in a relevant undergraduate degree. If your first degree result is close to this but does not quite meet this requirement, please contact us to discuss your case. Consideration will also be given to relevant professional experience and qualifications.

Please visit our website for the latest information about scholarships and fees.

The Lectureship Interview

If you’re preparing for an interview at a university for a lectureship, good luck to you! The UK system tends to involve a presentation, often to the whole department, and then a panel interview with a few senior members of staff. This can be very daunting, but it does get easier with practice.

I’ve attended quite a few job talks, from both sides of the table. Here are some thoughts on how you should prepare for the talk and interview, and some typical questions you might be asked.

Continue reading

Postgraduate Training Opportunities

If you have enjoyed your undergraduate degree, you may feel that you would like to take your studies further. You may feel that you haven’t finished yet, that you have only just scratched the surface, or that you would like to know more. You may be thinking about pursuing a PhD or a career in Glaciology or Quaternary Science.

Masters’ Degrees

If the above statements apply to you, then you may want to consider a Masters’ Degree. There are several options. A Taught Masters (MSc) degree will usually involve a one year programme, with a series of modules and coursework, similar to your undergraduate degree. However, it will take place over 12 months with the summer term and summer holiday devoted to your dissertation, an independent research project.

Other universities may offer Masters’ by Research, which is usually a one-year research project, sometimes with a small taught component. It is like an extra-long dissertation.

PhD Research

Admittance to a PhD programme (usually 3 – 4 years in the UK) will usually require an MSc degree unless you are an exceptional student. In the UK, most PhDs in the field of Glaciology, Environmental Science or Quaternary Science are funded by the NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships. These PhDs come with a stipend to live on, tuition fees, and a small grant to support your research expenses. If you are interested in a PhD, I recommend you look at the NERC DTP website and look through the options available.

The application process for a PhD is usually competitive. You will need a strong academic record, including a good undergraduate and usually a good MSc or MRes degree. It will be helpful to have had some work experience, so ask around in your department and see if any of your lecturers can help. Can you act as a field assistant on a research field trip to existing PhD students perhaps? Trying to write up your MSc Dissertation as an academic paper will be helpful. Getting involved in blogging or science communication may also strengthen your case.

Joining academic societies, such as the Quaternary Research Association, Geologists’ Association and the British Society for Geomorphology will help highlight opportunities, build your network, and strengthen your professional knowledge and skills by providing field trips and conferences. Being a member of these societies will also strengthen your CV.

Combining Academia and Motherhood

There is often a lot of doom and gloom in Academia. People discuss the workload, the work-life balance, and the difficulty in taking maternity leave or having a family. For example, this recent piece in The Guardian highlights one professor’s less-than-positive experience of having children as an academic. The Times Higher Ed writes about the leaky pipeline, often attributed to the difficulty in balancing motherhood and an academic career.

However, I believe that, while there are often difficulties, I think there are also reasons to be positive in Academia. In my opinion, in terms of family life, Academia is no worse than, and in many places better than, most other professional careers. There are advantages and disadvantages in an academic career when it comes to family life, but in many ways they are similar to the challenges faced by many professional women across a spectrum of careers. Many of these are societal, rather than academic, issues. I would hate a young, promising academic to be put off just because they only perceive the negative aspects. Continue reading

The Pregnant Field Scientist

Last autumn, I had two great pieces of news. The first was that I had been awarded a small grant to conduct three weeks’ fieldwork in Chile. The second was that I was pregnant.

I was obviously immediately interested in other people’s stories about fieldwork while pregnant. I could find only a few blogs about it on the internet, so I thought I would write about my own experiences of fieldwork while pregnant.

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Environmental jobs

Are you a recent graduate looking for work or work experience in the environmental sector? Perhaps you’ve finished your MSc and are looking for work before taking up a PhD. Or perhaps you’ve just completed your undergraduate degree and want to get stuck into work straight away. Either way, check out these jobs sites for interesting geographical-related positions in the environmental sector.


Lots of interesting jobs are advertised on Twitter. It really pays to follow people and keep your ear to the ground. If you’re not on Twitter, get involved – even if you want to just passively follow people and have limited interactions. Some useful hashtags and people to follow:

Conferences and networking

Often, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If people know you’re looking for a job and they hear of one being available, they may pass that information on to you.


The email listserv Cryolist often advertises interesting icey and glaciological job and PhD opportunities. Sign up via the link above.

This website has many environmental jobs which may be of interest. Mostly UK-based.


earthworks-jobs_logoEarthWorks has many jobs, ranging from university research jobs to oil and gas jobs in private companies. The place to look if you’re interested in working abroad.

jobs_ac_uk-logo-with-straplineThe go-to site for academic and university jobs. Mostly UK-based, some abroad.


British_Antarctic_Survey_LogoThe British Antarctic Survey frequently have fixed term positions available, ideal for someone looking for a stop-gap between degree/MSc/PhD and for that elusive first job afterwards.

Environment Agency

EA logo_377rgbThe Environment Agency often has good, interesting environmental jobs and it’s worth keeping an eye on their website.

Natural England

Natural-England-LogoYou could have a great, interesting career at Natural England, and there are some lower level, foot-in-the-door type jobs too. You have to apply through the Civil Service website.


nerclogo200transpwhiteWork for one of the NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) institutes (BAS, BGS, CEH, NOC) or for NERC directly in Swindon. The link above is a centralised vacancies resource.


Advertises a range of jobs within the Research Councils UK.

Ordnance Survey

oscm0302The UK’s mapping company has some really interesting opportunities, and has both short-term and long-term graduate opportunities available.

Guardian Environmental Jobs

A broader range of jobs than posted elsewhere. You may well find something of interest here.


logo-2014Environment jobs galore at this website. Also lots of volunteer roles. And it has a dodo logo.


Green Careers

This website has practical information and advice on how to succeed in the green sector.


How to get a funded PhD studentship

A position on a funded PhD studentship in the environmental sciences (including Geography and Geology) has never been easy, but in these days of funding cuts and university and RCUK (Research Council UK) reorganisations, it’s ever more difficult to get PhD funding. It’s competetive and every studentship may have hundreds of applicants. Here’s a guide on how to maximise your chances.

The following advice is most applicable to early career researchers wishing to pursue a PhD in Physical Geography or Geology, but hopefully some of it at least is more widely relevant! Continue reading

Five years post PhD

Career to date

This week (Feb 2014), it’s five years since I had my viva. Rather like finishing my PhD originally, I feel like I’ll celebrate this anniversary several times (five years since submission, since viva, since corrections accepted, since graduation, etc.). I guess this means that I’m no longer an early career researcher, and I’m supposed to know what I’m doing. I feel that this is as good a time as any to reflect on the past five years and my career progression; where I am, and where I want to be. This article contains thoughts on some of the strategies that worked for me – and that I’ll be employing over the next few years as I move on to the next stage in my career. Continue reading

My 2013 year in review

It is a good idea, at the close of one year, to review the past 12 months and to reflect on accomplishments, skills developed and lessons learned. Inspired by similar posts by Jon Tennant and Martin Eve, I thought that I would also write a summary of my activities and achievements in 2013, just for my own benefit. Hopefully others will follow suit and we can all congratulate each other! Continue reading