MPhil and PhD Opportunities

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Postgraduate Research in Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Star Overview

Research overview

The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) is committed to active and developing research programmes in a wide range of subjects within the Earth and Environmental fields. Our research strengths include crustal evolution, environmental modelling and monitoring, marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems, palaeontology, applied geoscience and applied physics.

Research within the field of Earth and Environmental Sciences may also be closely linked to Biology and Geography and we collaborate with colleagues in those areas within the university, including co-supervision of PhD students. Visit Biological Sciences and Geography PhD webpages to view related PhD projects on offer.

We have many international links and a strong cohort of PhD students (over 30) and post-docs. There is also an active and well-attended weekly seminar series and a suite of state-of-the-art analytical facilities with dedicated technical support.

Research Centres and Groups

Applied Physics
Research into advanced materials focuses on the preparation of multi-functional materials and the development of novel materials characterization metrologies. Other research areas include the foundations of quantum theory, and there are strong links with the University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.

Biodiversity and Evolution
We offer supervision in the fields of vertebrate palaeontology, Silurian biostratigraphy using graptolites and palynological techniques, high resolution integrated stratigraphy, particularly for the Cretaceous, micropalaeontology, and ichnofacies and palaeobiological aspects of palaeoichnology.

Centre for Applied Geoscience
Our researchers specialise in the investigation and management of natural and man-made hazards and the conservation of our geo-heritage. Current research themes include lava flow behaviour and hazards, structural constraints on the eruptive behaviour of volcanoes, prevention and mitigation of volcanic risk, and emergency planning.

Crustal Evolution Research Group
Our researchers undertake research projects and supervise research students in various fields, including: evolution of the continental crust through Earth history, the onset of subduction and plate tectonics, accessory mineral insights into global geodynamics and palaeo ice sheets, mineralization processes, and igneous and metamorphic petrogenesis.

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Monitoring Group
Our researchers offer supervision in specialisms such as environmental impacts of ionising radiation, modelling nutrient transport in rivers and their catchments, and elemental and isotopic fingerprinting methods of dust source attribution. Research projects in the marine area include nutrient and trace metal phytoplankton interactions, sediment-water interactions and mesoscale structure, and the dynamics of fronts and eddies.

Rock Mechanics Laboratory
Our research focuses on how and why rocks deform under different conditions of pressure and temperature, using the latest technology in high pressure rock deformation machines, equipped with systems for controlling stress, strain, temperature and fluid flow, and instrumented with advanced Acoustic Emission recording technology – the laboratory analogue of a natural earthquake.


How to apply 

To apply for a postgraduate research degree with us, you'll need a good first degree from an internationally-recognised university or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. We'll also consider outstanding applicants with exceptional equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications.

We're currently rebuilding our website, so to explore the 3 different routes you can take into a postgrad research degree at Portsmouth, visit our new 'How to Apply' pages.

My Supervisor has been extremely enthusiastic in assisting me in the various aspects that make up a PhD, from writing abstracts to throwing around theories and new ideas to help me.

Emily Roberts, PhD student in palaeobotany

Self-funded PhD opportunities

Key Facts


MPhil: 2 years full-time, 4 years part-time
PhD: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time
By Publication: 1 year part-time
Start date: October/February


A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. All applicants are subject to interview.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.  

MPhil/PhD Fees*

MPhil full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the Government Postgraduate Loan

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the Government Doctoral Loan


Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,260 p/a*
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,130 p/a*
International full-time students: £15,100 p/a*
International part-time students: £7,550 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase


By Publication Fees*


Members of staff: £1,550 p/a*
External candidates: £4,260 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase.

View tuition fee terms and conditions



School of Earth and Environmental Science

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Light bulb Research Areas

Applied Physics

  • Applied advanced materials research
  • Cosmology and gravitation
  • Quantum theory
  • Particle physics
  • Physics education
  • Environmental radiation

Applied Geoscience

  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Environmental monitoring and modelling
  • Geoconservation and heritage science
  • Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunami

Biodiversity and Evolution

  • Taxonomy and evolution
  • Stratigraphy
  • Sedimentology

Crustal Evolution

  • Evolution of the continental crust through earth history
  • The onset of subduction and plate tectonics
  • Accessory mineral insights into global geodynamics and palaeo-ice sheets
  • Igneous and Metamorphic petrogenesis
  • Volcano geodynamics and palaeo-seismology
  • Rock physics and deformation

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Modelling

  • Environmental chemistry
  • Marine biogeochemistry and Ecosystem research
  • Ecotoxicology and pollution
  • Climate change

Rock Mechanics

  • Rock mechanics
  • Rock physics
  • Volcano tectonics
  • Physical properties of rocks and minerals

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Monitor Facilities & Features

Flexible Learning

You will benefit from web, email or phone access to many of our facilities and services. Our student website will be your one-stop shop for all news, information and links to other services, and 24/7 online access to the University Library’s vast electronic book, journal and database collections will help you find the right resources for your research.


We offer fully equipped physical geography, GIS and photogrammetry labs. We have a large number of analytical facilities including: Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICPMS), Multi-Collector Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICPMS), Inductively-Coupled Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES), Excimer and solid-state laser ablation systems, X-Ray Fluroescence Spectrometer (XRF) and many more.

Graduate School

From the moment you join us, you will be supported by the University's Graduate School, alongside your assigned supervisory team. You will be invited to a two-day induction, helping you to get the most from our facilities and be part of our thriving research community. You can also extend your skills as a researcher through the Graduate School Development Programme, which offers training, workshops and events.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Supervising research students for PhD and MRes degrees is the most stimulating aspect of working at the University. What could be nicer than working with a group of intelligent, self-motivated and hard working people who are forever kicking around new ideas about evolution and the history of life on Earth.

David Martill, PhD Palaeobiology Supervisor

Mortarboard Careers & Opportunities

Career Planning

One of the benefits of studying at Portsmouth is the comprehensive support we provide in career planning. Our careers and recruitment service  can assist you in career research and finding employment opportunities. 

The Graduate School Development Programme offers a series of dedicated workshops on career planning, specifically for research degree students. You will also have access to consultations with careers advisers or online support. This service is available for five years after graduation.


Doctoral graduates are highly-skilled researchers that make an impact in a range of sectors. They benefit from high employment rates and, on average, earn more than holders of undergraduate and Masters degrees. A doctorate demonstrates to employers that you are intelligent, capable and motivated, and that you have advanced technical and research skills.

In addition to supervision from experts in the field, you will be supported to become an internationally employable doctoral graduate. You will also develop skills that are desirable to employers including critical thinking, problem-solving, project management, communication, leadership and creativity.

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