MSci Geology – School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences – University of Birmingham


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. 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 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 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.

Comments 1

  • Hi Madeleine, I loved watching your video. Congratulations on your successful geology career at Birmingham! I graduated in BSC Geology & Geography at Bham Uni in 1996 – yes that seems a long time ago but it's gone by v quickly! I did not continue my geological studies, but have moved onto a succesful career at Bham Airport as well as running my own business. Well done for being so committed and confident! Good luck in whatever you decide to do. Janette

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