Welcome to the Department of Earth Science and Engineering. If you can make it to one of our open days or taster days we will make sure you get a tour of the Department and campus while you are with us. For those who can't visit, we've put together a walkthrough tour of some of the key areas in the Department so that you can get a real feel of what it would be like to study at the Royal School of Mines (RSM).

the approach

Our Department captured in photos

A big welcome to our Department

When you enter the Department you will see our main reception area which is always busy, especially between 8.45am and 9am when our students make their way in for their morning lectures. We have a central staircase which takes you up through the floors of the RSM and is an impressive sight when you first see it but we also have a central lift and a small side lift which stop at every floor of the Department.


We will first explore the lower basement level, before making our way up through the different floors of the Department and introducing you to the main areas you might visit as a student here at the Royal School of Mines.

A peek into the labs: the basement

If you enrol for a four year undergraduate masters course, during your final year in the Department you will get to undertake a masters research project.  Depending upon where your interests lie and your choice of specialism you may well get to use some of our state of the art laboratories to help you complete your chosen project. Some of our students also apply to take part in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) where students get the chance to work alongside an academic on a research project in one of the laboratories during their vacation.  We’ve therefore added a few sneaky images of some of the labs you may get the opportunity to work in.

rock preparation

Examining a rock core

The Rock Preparation Laboratory is used by numerous research groups who each use the various instruments available to prepare samples for further experimentation and research.  This includes preparing samples for carbon capture and storage experiments and trimming specimens for establishing Earth's past magnetic field strength to name only two. Above, Dr Sarah Dodd and Lab technician Graham Nash can be seen preparing rock cores using two of the rock drills available.

Rio Tinto Laboratory



Above we have several images of Dr Pablo Brito-Parada and Dr Gareth Morris working in Imperial's Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Recovery. In this lab academics are working to develop a range of new mining technologies that use less energy to mine more minerals from hard to reach places deep underground.

Mark Sephton Organic Geochemistry


Above, our Head of Department Professor Mark Sephton works with Dr Zita Martin and students in the Organic Geochemistry Laboratory where research focuses on the recognition and interpretation of organic records in planetary settings, including current research into life on Mars.




In the Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory research focuses on developing a qualitative and quantitive understanding of the geochemical processes that control the fate of trace elements, for example studying the levels of Arsenic in ground water.  Here we see some undergraduate students hard at work in the laboratory over summer while participating in the UROP scheme.

palaeomagnetic lab

In the Palaeomagnetic Laboratory researchers can be studying very different fields of Earth Sciences. Rock magnetic properties are used to study a variety of geological processes including large-scale volcanism, cataclysmic events and investigating the fluctuations in Earth's magnetic field. Here we see PhD students Aike Supakulopas and Sope Badejo working on a variety of instruments available for use in this basement laboratory.

Rock Mechanics Matt Jackson


In the Rock Mechanics Laboratory researchers in the Petroleum Engineering and Rock Mechanics Research Group (PERM) perform research in all areas of petroleum engineering. They focus predominantly on the subsurface upstream end of the industry, including flow in porous media, reservoir simulation, reservoir characterisation, hydrocarbon thermodynamics and rock mechanics. Here we see Professor Matt Jackson and Dr Marina Lomberg working in the lab.

Dr Domink

Above we see Professor Dominik Weiss and his PhD student working in the Mass Spectrometry and Isotope Geochemistry (MAGIC) facility at Imperial College London. Current research focuses on understanding global atmospheric metal cycling, processes in the plant-soil environment and the aquous geochemistry of oxyanions, including arsenic, antimony and actinides.

Each student in the Department is also assigned a locker for use throughout their undergraduate degree. These are found here in the basement corridor which is always busy with the constant flow of academics moving between laboratories and students swapping one folder for another between lectures. If you come in early enough you will also find our keen athletes getting ready for the day ahead and leaving their gym kits behind.


Ground floor: teaching and support

Heading back up to the ground floor you will find the Undergraduate Administration Office. During your time as an Earth Science and Engineering student you will get to know the staff in this office and see their faces a lot. This is especially true around the time of your fieldtrips as they are responsible for organising your flights, accommodation and logistics and will get hold of any special equipment you might need such as that all important geological hammer.



Many of our PhD students and staff gather in one of the ground floor rooms every morning at 11am for coffee.  It is always busy, even between terms, and the discussions that occur here have often lead to collaborations.

morning coffee

The undergraduate common room is always one of the busiest rooms in the Department both during and outside of term time. Our undergraduates come here to socialise but also to work. The Department is reasonably small with 70-80 undergraduates in each year. This means you will get to know the students in the other years very well and there is very much a family vibe running through the Department. Students in the younger years will therefore often work in the undergraduate common room so they can ask students in other years for study tips and if you find your study mentor here, it can also be a great place to run through questions you may have with them.

UG common room

Moving along the ground floor we come to one of the main undergraduate lecture rooms (G.41). As an undergraduate you will spend a lot of time in this classroom and it is where many of your first year lectures and practicals will be held. After year 1, many of your classes are split into smaller sizes depending on your chosen degree topic.

G.41 Undergraduate Lecture room 3

Microscopes, maps and research: the first and second floors

Moving upstairs to the first floor we can venture into another of the rooms where you will spend a lot of time, room 1.51. This is where most microscope or map focused teaching takes place and where most of our lunch time drop in sessions are held.


The first floor corridor is also where many of our Teaching Fellows are based.  You will get to know them well throughout your time here, both for their teaching and for their additional roles within the Department: Dr Lizzie Day (Teaching Fellow in Geophysics and Admissions Tutor Tutor), Dr Emma Passmore (Senior Teaching Fellow) and Dr Philippa Mason (Senior Teaching Fellow). Our other Teaching Fellows have offices dotted around the Department including Dr Valentin Laurent and Dr Alan Spencer but alongside our Teaching staff the Department is also home to a large number of academics and they are mainly to be found along the corridors on the first and second floor, between the main staircase and the lecture rooms.



The student run RSM office on the first floor is a treasure trove of goodies. It is looked after by the RSM committee who are voted into their posts annually by our students and is where you can buy your RSM hoodies and shirts. The committee also run a number of social events and fieldtrips across the year, helping to cultivate a close knit community.


The Department, as well as being full of undergraduates, is also home to a large cohort of PhD students, some of whom were once undergraduates in the Department themselves and many of which our undergraduates will come to know and often socialise with during their degrees. The PhD students are based across three open plan offices in the Department and many will assist during the undergraduate practical classes to provide extra feedback and support to our undergraduates.

PhD Floor

The third floor: computers and the coffee shop

The geophysical aspects of  our courses often require the use of specialised software and so students will spend a lot of time in our state of the art third floor computer rooms, many of which have dual screen displays making analysis much easier.

computer room

Walking along the third floor we also have display cabinets and rock collections that are constantly in use by our students, lecturers and researchers.

3rd floor corridor

We will end our tour in the RSM café.  This is where our students can come to buy lunch, work, grab a coffee, heat up home cooked food or just sit inside if the weather is miserable. During term time it is always a hive of activity especially just after the start of term when everyone is meeting back up after the break.


Photo credit - Thomas Angus, Dave Guttridge, Alexander Norori-McCormac and Sarah Dodd.