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Unit information: Frontiers in Earth Science in 2021/22

Unit name Frontiers in Earth Science
Unit code EASCM0061
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Rich Pancost
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of years 1-3 of the relevant degree programme.

Volcanology MSc students who wish to take this unit must discuss it with the unit director before choosing it as an option.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Critical examination of key topics in the Earth Sciences, especially those that represent new (past five years) advances, paradigm shifts or controversies. The aims are to explore some of the most important current topics, thereby providing an understanding of the recent evolution of the discipline and its relevance to global challenges. In doing so, its wider aims are to develop critical skills in reading and interpreting the scientific literature, critiquing papers and presentations (both scientific content as well as style and effectiveness of delivery) and writing skills.

The unit comprises one introductory week (three lectures and a practical session to refine writing, narrative and presentation skills), followed by five weeks of topical study (lectures and practical discussion sessions). Seminar engagement (TB1) is required.

The study of each topic comprises an introductory lecture by a relevant academic expert, time for reading and a forum with students discussing different aspects of the topic as well as the effectiveness of the paper’s presentation of that information. The seminar engagement comprises attending at least 5 School Seminars and delivering a concise presentation inspired by them in week 11.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will have the ability to:

  • Describe the main ideas relating to important research fields in the Earth Sciences and describe their relevance to the wider discipline and, where relevant, wider societal challenges.
  • Read, assimilate and make critical judgement on the scientific content of recently published research articles.
  • Make critical judgement on the structure and style of such articles and the associated presentations, as well as the presentations of seminar speakers, including the effectiveness of figures.
  • Extract pertinent points from these papers in order to participate effectively in a mature discussion concerning the main aims and findings of the work being examined.
  • Participate in such a discussion effectively, making points simply and coherently with the aim of producing a balanced analysis of the theme under discussion.
  • Write a well-structured summary of two of the topics discussed that is accessible to a general Earth Science audience, written in a style similar to a News and Views piece in the journal Nature.
  • Construct compelling figures that effectively convey complex information to a general audience.
  • Concisely summarise and present complex scientific ideas (i.e. from seminars)

Teaching Information

Content will be delivered through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials and, if subsequently possible, synchronous face-to-face lectures
  • synchronous office hours
  • discussion groups

Assessment Information

Coursework 100%

Summative assessment – a written essay (ca 1500 words and two figures) at the conclusion of the unit

Formative assessment – a short written essay (ca 1000 words) during the unit and participation in weekly discussion sessions and/or online discussion sessions.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. EASCM0061).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.