The Earth Sciences Department at Oxford has an international research reputation, and houses state-of-the-art laboratories and computing facilities within a recently completed building (officially opened in May 2011). The department is a lively place, an active laboratory in fact, where students, teachers and visitors, many from overseas, mix and work together. Offices and teaching labs are close together but with plenty of shared open space, so you will very quickly get a sense of being part of a vibrant community where everyone knows each other. This makes for a very good atmosphere in which a student can not only learn the basics of the subject, but also get some feel for the discoveries emerging from current research.
As an undergraduate you can find yourself on a field trip being taught how to make geological maps by a structural geologist whose other field area is high up in the Himalayas; in a lecture course on ocean circulation given by an oceanographer whose field area is the Arctic; in a lecture course on climate change given by a geochemist who analyses the isotopes of uranium and strontium in stalagmites to measure the annual fluctuations of the climates of the recent past; in a seminar given by an American visiting professor on the imaging of Earth’s interior with seismic waves; having tutorials with a volcanologist whose research involves measuring emissions from active volcanoes; or in a practical class supervised by a palaeobiologist whose research is seeking to understand the explosion in morphological diversity in fishes since the last major mass extinction event, at the end of the Cretaceous period.
Earth Sciences is part of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, which also contains Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Materials, Mathematics, Physics and Statistics. In the first year, it may, in principle, be possible to change to another degree course, subject to the availability of space on the course and to the consent of the college.