In Master's Programme in Physics, specialising in Geophysics, you explore how planet Earth works on the inside. Earth is a lively planet, where active processes shape Earth as we know it today. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are both examples of how these dynamic processes affect both the earth's surface as well as everything living on it. In geophysics we use physics in various ways to image the inside of Earth and to build models that help us understand this dynamic Earth.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University is ranked among the top 50 physics institutions in the world according to the recent Shanghai ranking, which makes it the highest ranked physics department in all of Scandinavia.
Physics at Uppsala University covers the entire length scale from subatomic strings to the whole universe, with forefront research across all sub-branches of physics - from research on elementary particles and materials, the structure of the earth and its atmosphere, to space and the properties of the universe.
Why this programme?
This specialisation in Geophysics, within the Master's Programme in Physics, allows you to combine your physics knowledge with field data and laboratory experiments to get a deeper understanding of the solid Earth. Our students and faculty form a diverse, international group in close collaboration with researchers around the world. We explore how the earth works and try to figure out more about the processes that shape our planet.
Geophysics is used to reduce risks of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides. It is used to find natural resources such as water, minerals, geothermal energy and fossil fuels, and to monitor environmental problems such as groundwater pollution. The job-market for a geophysicist is thus very broad and international, including in academia, industry, government authorities, and international agencies.
During the programme you can expect to:
explore how the Earth works and find out more about the processes that shape our planet
help reduce risks of earthquakes or find natural resources such as water, geothermal energy and minerals
tailor your programme according to your interest and career plan, by substituting courses from other disciplines such as programming, geology, physics, and mathematics.
In geophysics, we study tools that are used to investigate the structure and dynamics of Earth on scales from thousands of kilometres to a few meters. These tools are a variety of methods that analyse seismic waves, electromagnetic waves, gravity and magnetic fields, the physics of rocks and which include advanced numerical modelling. Data is collected using satellites, aircraft, boats, surface and borehole measurements. Geophysical methods are applied to understand the present-day structure of Earth, its previous and current evolution (plate tectonics), earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and geological evolution in general.
Student profile You are naturally curious about how the world works and realise that formulating a question can be just as important as finding the answer. You have a good theoretical foundation in both physics and mathematics. Furthermore, you have experience in using the foundation to analyse data or create computer-based tools to solve problems.
A PhD education is a distinct possibility in your future so you would value coming in close contact with current research and prominent researchers in the field. So, if you are searching for the answer, a Master's degree in physics from Uppsala University might be exactly what takes you there.
The programme leads to a Master of Science (120 credits) with Physics as the main field of study. After one year of study it may also be possible to obtain a Master of Science (60 credits).
How did you choose the Master’s Programme in Physics?
– I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Turin in Italy. During my third year of Bachelor’s studies, in 2018, I spent a semester in Uppsala as an exchange student, both for attending courses and doing research for my thesis. Through this experience, I discovered the vibrant and international environment at the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Uppsala University in general, encouraging me to continue my studies here.
What is it like to be an international student?
All courses at the Master’s level are taught in English and the university environment and student life are very international, making me feel welcomed from the very beginning. The possibility to meet students and teachers from every corner of the globe is one of the main reasons that made my experience in Uppsala so enriching. On the other hand, while the average English proficiency is extremely high in Sweden, I have also learnt some Swedish through the courses offered by the University. I believe that the language is a key to better understand a new culture and establish deeper connections.
What is the best thing about studying at Uppsala University?
The combination of top-level research and a very dynamic and international student life is the distinctive feature of Uppsala. The city itself and the University cannot really be considered as separate entities, since the university buildings and the student nations are everywhere in the city and it is very easy to bike between them. Thus, overall, it feels like living in a corner of the world that is meant for students to meet, exchange ideas and start building their future.
How did you experience your first few days in Sweden?
Every semester, the student nations organise a one-week welcome reception before the official start of the semester, with several events intended for the new students to create a community. I participated in many of the events and also explored the city as much as possible during some very pleasant late-summer days.
What’s a normal day like for you
Currently, my classes are given online due to the coronavirus pandemic, so I am studying from home and collaborating with classmates via Zoom. However, under normal circumstances, I spend most of my time on campus, where I attend two or four hours of lectures per day, have lunch with my classmates and study in the library. In the evening, I often bike downtown, where I have dance classes or choir rehearsals. I live in a student accommodation and spend time with my partner Elias, who also studies physics. We often have long walks together in a nearby natural reserve or meet friends at a student nation during weekends.
What’s unique about your programme?
While I am officially enrolled in the theoretical physics track, I can build my own study path by taking courses from the other specialisations in physics or even other fields, such as mathematics and computer science. The programme coordinator and course counsellor are extremely helpful and flexible about this. This unique freedom allowed me to explore different areas of physics and to perform two research projects already before my Master’s thesis, one in Uppsala and one abroad, which I could carry out in parallel to my studies and be granted credits for. This continuous contact with research provided a very enriching learning experience and gave me a clearer idea about future working perspectives.
How would you describe the relationship between you and your teachers at the university?
It is often very easy to communicate with lecturers and ask questions if something is unclear during a course. The number of students in my programme is not too large, so it is common for the teacher to get to know each student quite well and provide useful feedback. Moreover, all the teachers I met have always been glad to tell about their work and give advice regarding the choice of a course or a research project. I was also very lucky to find a supervisor who guided me along my studies since my Bachelor’s thesis and with whom I could create a valuable intellectual connection.
How is your student life and what is your best experience so far?
The 13 student nations offer an infinite range of activities, from sport clubs, to choirs, fancy balls and pub evenings. They also give the opportunity to meet students from different programmes and collaborate by taking part in the organisation. I am currently involved at the Gästrike-Hälsinge Nation and responsible for equal opportunities and environmental issues. This provides an enriching complementary experience to my education.
What is your reason for studying and your ultimate goal?
I would like to become a researcher and specialise in cosmology, connecting theoretical models with observations. My main drive is curiosity and I wish to give my own small contribution in the never-ending quest for a suitable description of the Universe. At the same time, I would like to give back what I learnt by becoming a teacher and engaging in science communication. The coronavirus pandemic has once more underlined the need for a better dialogue between the scientific community and society and I wish to invest my education for the benefit of this cause too.
During the two-year programme you will apply your background in physics to study Earth. The suggested course outline guides you through how the different physical properties of Earth can be investigated with different types of methods. Some courses focus more on the physics of Earth itself, others are more on the geophysical methods used to probe Earth's interior. We also offer courses in numerical modelling, time series analysis and inversion of geophysical data.
Year 1 The first year gives you a solid theoretical geophysical background. The first semester is partly utilised to level out the differences in knowledge between students with different backgrounds and partly to provide non-introductory courses in classical physics.
The first course covers the main geophysical methods that we use to describe the near-surface in terms of its physical properties. We also make geophysical measurements in the field. Some of these methods may also be used to address much larger scale structures, such as crustal-scale features like mountain chains.
This is followed by a course in Global Geophysics that describes some of the physics of the dynamic process that is shaping Earth, but also on how the global-scale features of Earth are manifested in geophysical data. A course in Time Series Analysis of Geophysical Data is also given in this semester that is tailored to provide you some of the most important tools we use in geophysical methods. Continuum Mechanics in Geophysics focuses on the physics that is used to describe the mechanical processes of Earth.
The second semester starts with a course in Seismology that describes the generation and propagation of seismic waves in Earth, as well as how seismology may be used to describe Earth's structure. During this semester you also study the Physical Properties of Rocks, as well as Earth's Potential Fields. The course Inversion of Geophysical Data teaches you how to obtain models of Earth based on available geophysical data, and how to estimate the robustness of these models.
Year 2 In the second year, the courses are closely connected to present-day research.
It starts with a course in Electromagnetic Geophysics. It addresses how Earth's electric and magnetic properties may be utilised to reveal structures with electric and electromagnetic methods. The course Applications of Geodynamics teaches you how to obtain numerical solutions to solve different geodynamic problems.
The in-depth course Earthquake Sources contains the physical description of how an earthquake occurs and how we can model that. You also study Reflection Seismology, which provides the theoretical foundation for some of the most powerful processing steps in the reflection seismic method, that is one of the most important of all geophysical methods for providing detailed information of the subsurface.
The obligatory independent project work (degree project) is performed either during the last semester or during the whole last year in parallel with other courses. It usually takes 5 months full-time. This can be done in one of our research groups, focusing on different aspects of geophysics. Another possibility is to seek degree projects outside the university, e.g. at a company or governmental agency. It all depends on your interest and career plan.
During the two-year programme you will apply your background in physics to the cosmos. No prior knowledge in astronomy is required and you choose from a wide range of courses according to your interests and career plan. Several Löfberg scholarships are awarded to students of this specialisation every year.
Our teachers are active researchers and the courses closely follow current developments in astrophysics.
During a typical week you will have about 8-10 hours of scheduled classroom time. The majority of time is thus spent studying on your own or in a study group outside the classroom. You can also choose to conduct research projects. They are a lot like thesis work, only shorter in duration, and are an excellent way into a new research field and research group.
Classes are typically small, ranging from a few students up to about 20. This gives you close contact with the teachers as well as your fellow students. Our teaching is in English as the student group is international.
Instruction consists of lectures, teacher-supervised tuition, and guidance in conjunction with laboratory work. The forms of examination vary depending on the course content and design. Final exams are more common for theoretical courses, although many tutors have continuous examination during the course, such as group discussions and hand-in exercises.
With a Master's degree from the programme in Geophysics, you will be qualified for PhD studies in physics. Many of our physics Master's students continue as PhD students, at Uppsala University or elsewhere in the world. You will also have the opportunity to work with research and development (R&D) at various companies and public authorities.
Our previous graduates work at, for example, various exploration companies (e.g. Equinor, Saudi Aramco), geotechnical companies (Tyréns AB in Sweden), mining companies (LKAB in Sweden), and governmental institutions (Swedish Geological Survey).
Your mathematical competence and analytical problem-solving skills trained during your studies will make you an attractive recruit. Depending on the courses you take and the specialisation you choose, there are many other career opportunities in special areas, both within and outside the field of physics. For example, you may find employment as a company consultant, project manager in R&D, or as a specialist in banking, insurance or research organisations.
Career support During your whole time as a student UU Careers offers you support and guidance. You have the opportunity to partake in a variety of career activities and events, as well as receive individual career counselling. This service is free of charge for all students at Uppsala University. Read more about UU Careers.
Below you will find the details about eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and tuition fee. For information on how to apply and what documents you need to submit, check the application guide. For this programme, besides the general supporting documents, you also need to submit one programme-specific document: a statement of purpose.
Requirements: Academic requirements A Bachelor's degree, equivalent to a Swedish Kandidatexamen, from an internationally recognised university. Also required is 75 credits in physics.
Language requirements All applicants need to verify English language proficiency that corresponds to English studies at upper secondary (high school) level in Sweden ("English 6"). This can be done in a number of ways, including through an internationally recognised test such as TOEFL or IELTS, or through previous upper secondary (high school) or university studies. The minimum test scores are:
IELTS: an overall mark of 6.5 and no section below 5.5
TOEFL: Paper-based: Score of 4.5 (scale 1–6) in written test and a total score of 575. Internet-based: Score of 20 (scale 0–30) in written test and a total score of 90
a total appraisal of quantity and quality of previous university studies; and
a statement of purpose (1 page).
If you are not a citizen of a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland, you are required to pay application and tuition fees. Fees cover application and tuition only and do not cover accommodation, academic literature or the general cost of living. Read more about fees.
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