Palaeobiology - Master's Programme in Earth Science 2020/2021

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Are you interested in how life on Earth looked millions or even billions of years ago? Do you want to understand how life has evolved and been influenced by the Earth's chemical and physical changes? Curious about how the climate and environment has changed over time? In the Master's Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, you combine research in geosciences with the biological sciences to recreate and understand the evolutionary changes that have taken place throughout Earth history.

Why this programme?

The specialisation in Palaeobiology, within the Master's Programme in Earth Science, is focused on the evolution of life with courses ranging from palaeobiological principles, through to evolution of organisms to complex vertebrate life forms. This is a mainly research-oriented specialisation, but has applications to careers in geology and the oil industry.

We try to understand how life has evolved over millions of years and how it adapted to constant changes in the environment and climate. We do this by combining traditional fossil studies with modern biological methods. The research includes the evolution of animals in connection with major biological events, especially those of the so-called Cambrian explosion, and how different types of microorganisms have evolved and changed in relation to climate and climate change over a period extending from today until over a billion years ago.

During the programme you can expect to:

  • understand how life has evolved over millions of years and how it adapted to constant changes in the environment and climate
  • combine traditional fossil studies with modern biological methods
  • study of microorganisms to vertebrates
The Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University is one of the most comprehensive academic departments of its kind in Europe. Research in Earth Science focuses on subjects that range from the Earth's core to the atmosphere, on scales from sub-microscopic minerals and fossils to the formation of mountains and oceans, and in time from the formation of the Earth to the processes currently reshaping the planet.

Student profile
You have a strong foundation in Earth Science or Biology and during your Bachelor's education you gained some experience doing field work as well as analysing your data in a laboratory. You probably have taken a methodology course or two and have a naturally analytical that allows you to apply your theoretical knowledge to solve problems.

A future PhD education is a possibility you might have thought about and would value an opportunity to get in closer contact with current research by working in a research group while doing your Master's studies.


The programme leads to a Master of Science (120 credits) with Earth Science as the main field of study.

All specialisations of this programme

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Read the interview
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Name: Shelly Mardhia Faizy
From: Indonesia
Studying: Master’s Programme in Earth Science – Geology

Why did you choose to come and study in Sweden?
– From the very beginning, studying in Europe has been my dream. Sweden is known to be one of the leading countries when it comes to sustainable development, and therefore Sweden caught my attention. In addition, the Swedish Institute offers scholarships for master's degree studies.

Why did you choose this programme?
– The geologist Charles Lyell once said “The present is the key to the past.” As a geoscientist this is my favourite quote. My interest in geoscience has developed since I was an undergraduate student and especially when I did my final research project on carbonate rock. I am aware of the important role geoscientists play in discovering and exploring the secrets of the planet. Therefore, I am eager to learn more in order to sharpen and enhance my knowledge.

What is it like to study at a university in Sweden?
– It is very comfortable. Uppsala University tries their best to make the students enjoy the learning experience. Instead of focusing on grades, they value the learning process.

Does the programme live up to your expectations?
– Yes! When I applied to this program, I was looking forward to the opportunity of working with a project related to geothermal energy. This semester the opportunity came, and I am currently working on my final project about extinct geothermal systems.

What is the best thing about studying at Uppsala University?
–Is is a friendly and supportive educational environment. There is no hierarchy between professors and students, both respect each other. Therefore, learning becomes more fun and less pressured. In addition, Uppsala University has a recruitment programme using so-called “student ambassadors” to inspire others, and I applied and was elected. As an ambassador, my role is to introduce and promote Uppsala University in my home country.

What does a normal day look like for you?
– A normal day is when I wake up early for morning class. I have free time between the classes, which I usually spend in the library doing my homework or with my friends. During the weekend, I spend time with some friends, going on a trip or spending some time at home by myself. As a university student I try to balance the workload from the courses to find time to myself.

What has been the most fun and interesting so far?
– It is the privilege of biking around the city, particularly during spring and summer. However, winter in Uppsala also made a deep impression on me as it was my first winter experience.

What types of courses are offered in your programme?
– My programme is a combination of lectures and hands-on experience through laboratory analysis and field work. The field work has always been the most interesting and fun part since it gives me the opportunity to explore Sweden while gaining knowledge in geoscience.

How was coming to Sweden for the first time?
– It was a great experience! Coming to Sweden was like a dream come true. It was real but didn’t feel real at the time. I kept repeating in my mind that I made it! Uppsala in particular is a lovely city.

How did you meet and get to know new people?
– Besides getting to know friends from the Earth Science department on campus, I also met new friends through the Student Nations, and also through the internship programme.

What do you do when you’re not studying?
– I am involved in some student organisations and student activities. I was the vice president for the Uppsala Student Chapter of the Society of Exploration Geophysicist (an international society of applied geophysicists), and I was also a part of the committee for the International Geoscience Student Conference (IGSC) 2019. Moreover, I am actively involved and connected with my colleagues from the Swedish Institute Study Scholarships. I am active in the Student Nations as well as Indonesian Student Association in Sweden.

Three quick questions:
Favourite place in Uppsala?
– My favourite place in Uppsala is Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala).

Best student tradition at Uppsala University?
– Valborg, last of April (Walpurgis Eve) and the ”Flogsta Scream”.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
– After studying and working abroad I hope I can apply my skills and work in my home country.

Spring 2020

Register your interest


The first semester starts with a choice between courses Dynamics of Earth Systems - Global Change and Applied Geoinformatics. The course Dynamics of Earth Systems - Global Change provides a chance to explore the current research in Earth systems, interactions between Earth systems and how they change with time. The applied GIS course offers case studies relevant to the different areas within Earth Science.

These are followed by a course in presentation and publication that provides training and experience in presentation skills alongside Analytical Methods where you are provided with theoretical background in a wide range of geochemical methods and practical 'hands on' experience of raman spectroscopy and electron microprobe techniques.

The specialisation focuses in the second semester with Principles of Palaeobiology, which looks at basic theoretical concepts such as conservation, phylogeny and evolution with elements of laboratory work and field work. Evolution and development is an advanced course in which biology and palaeontology are combined in a course that includes a lot of laboratory work. Genomic, developmental, morphological and palaeontological data are used to highlight phylogeny and macro-evolutionary issues.

Semester three starts with a course that deals with various key events in the early development of life. The course focuses on microfossil groups. An excursion provides training in field-based, practical palaeobiology. The semester ends with a project-based course focusing on the large vertebrate animals. The origins of important morphological structures and their function are studied to understand macro-revolutionary processes. The programme concludes with a degree project in the form of an independent project.

Courses within the programme

See outline for courses within the specialisation.

Learning experience

The teachers in the Master's Programme in Earth Science are experts in their respective fields, giving you up-to-date contact with front-line research in an open and creative educational atmosphere. The teaching consists of a balanced mix of theoretical and practical work providing experience in both research and industry oriented applications. Excursions, fieldwork and study visits are included in some courses.

Instruction in the Master's programme builds on your experience and knowledge from your previous education. You are expected to actively participate and contribute to the learning environment and take responsibility for your own and others learning. The teachers are responsible for creating opportunities for active learning at the individual and group level. Purposeful and respectful dialogue between teachers and students contributes to constant improvement and development of courses.

Examination generally includes written exams, complemented by seminar presentations/discussions, project work, laboratory work and field reports.


The Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, provides good opportunities for a postgraduate education with subsequent research careers, but provides sufficient overall knowledge to meet society's needs of qualified earth scientists.

The need for Earth scientists in the labour market is increasing, primarily in the areas of environmental and natural resources, which are growing strongly, both nationally and internationally.

Alumni from the Palaeobiology specialisation work largely within the scientific academy worldwide. Our graduates work at, for example, Cyient, Uppsala University and Museum for Natural History, Berlin. Job titles include Research assistant, Analyst and PhD student.

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.



120 credits

Autumn 2020 - 100 % - Campus

Location: Uppsala

Application Deadline: 2020-01-15

Enrolment Code: UU-M1273 Application

Language of Instruction: English

Academic requirements
A Bachelor's degree, equivalent to a Swedish Kandidatexamen, from an internationally recognised university.
Also required is:

  • 90 credits in earth science; or
  • 90 credits in biology.
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
  • Cambridge: CAE, CPE
More information about English language requirements

Selection: Students are selected based on:

  • 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.

Application Fee: SEK 900

Tuition fee, first semester: SEK 72500

Tuition fee, total: SEK 290000

Contact and further resources

Is this programme right for you?


For programme-specific information, please contact: Study Counsellor or Abigail Barker;

+46 18 471 25 07 (study counsellor), +46 18 471 25 52 (Abigail Barker)

For admissions-related or general information, please contact our applicant support team:

Department of Earth Sciences

Geocentrum, Villavägen 16 752 36 Uppsala

Villavägen 16, 752 36 UPPSALA

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