MSc and PhD Opportunities in Applied Mineralogy and Petrology

Myself and colleagues in the Applied Mineral and Petrological Sciences are advertising PhD topics to be filled in 2021. We are also looking for candidates for the two taught MSc programmes in Strategic Earth Resources and Geochemistry. A full list of PhD topics offered by the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of St Andrews, is to be found here, including entrance requirements and IELTS scores for candidates for whom English is not a first language.  Note that applications via the Iapetus2 funding scheme close on the 10th January 2021.

I am always interested to hear of potential PhD or MPhil by research topics from industry.


Volatile element and critical metal cycles beneath the Greenland Craton – Supervisors Adrian Finch, Sami Mikhail, Eva Stueeken, Will Hutchison (St Andrews) and Lydia Hallis (Glasgow). It has been long suspected that the formation of mantle-derived mineral deposits is preceded by subduction of elements into the mantle, fertilising it prior to rift-related melting. This project will use nitrogen isotopes to trace recycling of surface materials into the mantle, complementing recent research by Will Hutchison and the team on sulphur recycling. It will explore the hypothesis that subduction in Ketilidian times primed the mantle to create the enriched mantle that would be access by rifting in Gardar times. By analysing the nature of the sub-Greenland as a function of time, the candidate will constrain the link between Wilson cycles and mineral deposit formation across Earth history,

Giant Dykes & Deep Time Tectonics; the role of Dyke Swarms in shaping the early Earth Dr William McCarthy, Professor Adrian Finch (St Andrews), Dr Craig Magee (Leeds), Dr Madeleine Humphreys (Durham). Magma plumbing systems are commonly dominated by vertical dykes, which deliver magma from depth into shallow-level reservoirs or to be erupted at the surface. In active volcanic settings, we track subsurface dyke intrusions to monitor and assess volcano hazards and analyse the petrology of erupted rocks to shed light on the processes within magma reservoirs that control eruption and processes that drive the formation of economically important ore deposits. Dykes are typically assumed to be relatively simple pathways that link areas of magma storage to eruption sites. However, there is a growing awareness that physical and chemical magma processes within dykes can vary over small-scales in time and space, giving rise to domains within dykes where magma behaves differently. For example, dykes may convect, focus magma ascent in some areas, whereas other parts may stagnate and allow layering to occur. This project will examine the ~1.1 billion year old Tugtutôq Giant Dykes of SE Greenland, which represent a voluminous phase of Proterozoic rift magmatism. Giant dykes often contain zones of mineral layering and form important mineral and metal ore deposits and are an excellent natural laboratory to study magma processes within dykes because they contain discrete domains (e.g., layered pods and areas of presumed flow), where magma behaved differently. The mechanics of dyke injection, the formation of pristine mineral layering, and the interaction between domains within these intrusions remains unresolved.

Dr Will Hutchison – Climate-changing volcanic eruptions from magma source to ice core archives: a sulphur isotope perspective (PDF) 

Dr Will Hutchison – Magmatic degassing at East African Rift volcanoes: evaluating geothermal resources and hazards (PDF) 

Other projects involving colleagues at St Andrews:

Teal Riley (BAS) & Nick Gardiner (St A) – CASE with CASP – The Shackleton Range of East Antarctica: unravelling a complex geological history via an integrated geochronological, geochemical and geophysical approach pdf 

Dr Sami Mikhail – The behaviour of Nitrogen in igneous systems and the how this contributes to the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere (PDF) 

Dr Sami Mikhail – The nature of Earth’s deep and dynamic carbon cycle (PDF) 

Dr Eva Stüeken – Assessing the role of submarine volcanism in driving biogeochemical cycles on the early Earth (PDF) 

Nick Gardiner (St A) CASE with AfriTin– Developing new models for strategic Sn-W-Ta-Li mineralization: an isotopic study from Central Africa pdf 

Simon Tapster (BGS) & Nick Gardiner (St A) – What controls critical metal (Sn-W-Ta) deposit formation in granite batholiths? Unravelling the magmatic-hydrothermal evolution of the Bushveld complex and Cornubian ore-field pdf 

Some Volcanic and Magmatic-Related PhD’s in the UK and Ireland are being advertised via the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group (VMSG).

Taught MSc Programmes at St Andrews involving our Research group include:

MSc Strategic Earth Resources.

MSc Geochemistry.

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