MSci Geology at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Madeleine - a fourth year MSci geology student at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences - talks about her time on the course, her experiences of field work and life at the University of Birmingham.

TitleMSci Geology Toxicology at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Duration: 6.56 mins

Speaker Names (if given): S1 Madeleine Ralph, MSci Geology student

S1 My name's Madeleine Ralph. I'm in fourth year and I've done a four year geology course which is the MSci course.

I've always enjoyed being outside and I've always enjoyed physical geography so I chose to do geology at A level. I've found out that everything seems to have a geological connection, which I found quite interesting. So I chose to do a geology degree, and I chose the University of Birmingham for a number of reasons. I really loved the campus, it's very, very green, it's very picturesque with the red buildings and when I came for an open day here I walked round the department. It's very friendly and they have an open-door policy which is really nice, easy to approach lecturers. Also , because it's a small department you get to know everyone which is really nice. In terms of the University of Birmingham itself, it doesn't feel like you're in a big city. It's nice because it's on a campus. They also have a train station which to me was quite a feature because it’s the only university in the country [with a station]. So it means I can go home or visit friends very easily.

The geology course at Birmingham stands out for me a lot because it's very field-based. I love being outside, love seeing different parts of the country. So because it's very field-based they do a lot fieldwork, they do a lot of training. That stood out for the course for me. What's also good about the course is that there are a lot of varied modules so you can focus on what you want to do. I didn't know what I wanted to focus on when I was in ‘A’ level geology but people can focus on palaeontology, on sedimentology, on igneous and volcanoes and everything and anything basically. Field trips here as part of the course have been fantastic; they've been a real experience. It's been an opportunity to get to know all my course mates and the lecturers. So they've been a big highlight. We've been able to explore Britain quite a lot. We've gone up to the very northwest of Scotland, we've gone to the south of Wales, we've gone to the south of England as well as exploring around Birmingham which I didn't think there'd be much geology but there is quite a lot of interesting geology around Birmingham itself. We've also been to Spain which is a really fantastic trip in our second year. We got to see a lot of interesting geology when we went into the desert. There’s things that I never thought we'd see. A massive clast which is over 200 metres wide and 50 metres tall which is quite an impressive feature and we also got to see a western film site which was quite a highlight.

At the University of Birmingham we're very lucky because we've got the Lapworth Museum. It’s attached to the department and is a fantastic resource for learning about fossils and other aspects of geology. Also within the department we have the Earth Imaging Lab. it's been really, really helpful for me learning. We’ve had lectures in there with multiple projectors that have been attached to microscopes so we can zoom in on fossils and different thin sections, so we can really see the detail as well as seeing maps at the same time of where they come from. There are also lots of computers within the room so we are able to train to use industrial software which has been a really good part of the course.

The undergraduate mapping project is a massive project which makes up a large part of your degree and I was quite daunted thinking “I'm going away for six weeks, what's it going to be like? I'm going to be in the field on my own completely”. Because that's what it is, it is testing your knowledge of what you've learnt from the first few years in university. I found it an incredible experience really. I went to a beautiful part of the country in Coniston in the Lake District. I spent six weeks mapping there and, as a result, in my third year I wrote a dissertation report. It was a 10,000 word report and I created a geological map. It was professionally done on the computer and then I also produced a detailed geological history of the area. It was hard work but it's really worthwhile. The mapping project was probably one of my fondest memories of the course and it goes to show that putting in a lot of work actually pays off. The University of Birmingham have an internal mapping prize for the best geological mapping project, called the Panton Prize, and I was lucky enough to win that last year. And every year the University submits one of their maps for a national prize called the Dave Johnston Mapping Prize which is judged for universities from the UK and Ireland and the university of Birmingham have won that four out of seven times in the last seven years and this year I was able to win it, which is really credit to the University of Birmingham and their field training courses.

After I leave university I'd very much like to stay in the geological industry. Ideally I'd like to do something with oil and gas but because I've been able to do a lot of different things in my course, I've been able to look at different aspects of geology I wouldn't limit myself to oil and gas. I think from the course I’d be able to go into other industries as well. The skills learnt from this course would enable me to do almost anything I think which is nice, so my options are open at the moment. But doing a geological course there are lots of opportunities to go abroad so perhaps that'll be something that I'll do in the future.

Living in Birmingham was something, when I thought I'd come to Birmingham, that was a bit daunting because I come from a small town, it's going into a bigger city and it's a very big city, Birmingham. But I've actually found it really, really enjoyable and in terms of the actual living in halls, it's a 20-minute walk from campus through University grounds so it's a lovely walk through very green areas. And in private halls from second and third and my fourth year I've lived about five minutes from the department so it's been really easy access. In terms of the nightlife, Birmingham, as it's so big, there's lots of opportunities, loads of different places to go to and because there's a train station on campus it's very easy. It's a ten minute train journey into Birmingham New Street which is where the Bullring shopping centre is so, for me, it's been fantastic, there's fantastic shopping around as well.

I really recommend for students who are thinking of coming to the University of Birmingham not to be put off by Birmingham and the fact that it's a big city. The campus and the University itself are very beautiful, you don’t feel like you're in a city and I've really enjoyed my time here. I've been able to get a lot out of it. I'd also recommend that when you go to university throw yourself in, join as many societies as you can and just go for it! Don't be scared to put your opinions or thoughts forward.

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