The Department of Earth Sciences is an interdisciplinary applied science department housed in state of the art facilities. Part of the University of Oxford’s Maths, Physics and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division, the department is home to around 120 undergraduate students, 80 graduate students, 30 lecturers, 60 researchers and 30 administrative and technical support staff. Laboratories and offices are complemented by spacious social zones, lecture and conference rooms, a library and a stunning entrance atrium.
Faculty and researchers demonstrate expertise across many areas of the Earth Sciences. Our aim is to conceive and conduct world-leading research into the processes that shape the formation and history of the solid earth, its oceans and atmosphere, and examine their mutual interactions and effect on the earth’s environment and biosphere. Much of this work is interdisciplinary, and is driven by interaction with collaborators across the physical and increasingly the social sciences.
With 94% of its research activity classified as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, the department is one of the leading centres of geological research in the UK, topping the ranking for research quality in the 2014 Research Excellent Framework with a score of 3.4. Its external research grant income in 2014/15 was £8.5m.
The Department’s airy and innovative new building was one of the priorities of Oxford Thinking: The Campaign for the University of Oxford. Occupied in September 2010, the building was officially opened by Lord Rees of Ludlow on May 5 2011.
This £38M project was designed by Wilkinson Eyre and built by Laing Rourke, and took just under two years to construct. Architecturally striking, the atrium features a ‘narrative wall’ of Clipsham stone, a popular choice in Oxford through the ages, ensuring this modern building sits comfortably among its older neighbours. Beige and gold Jura limestone are laid in horizontal bands with ticks of Purbeck feather, designed to replicate the belted formation of rock strata. Labs are on one wing with offices for academics and research students on the other.
The building was paid for in part by a generous gift from alumnus Gareth Roberts, who studied geology at St Edmund Hall in 1971. A generous donation from the Wolfson Foundation helped provide for a suite of geochemistry labs containing a range of mass spectrometers. As a flagship building for the university’s science area, the building helps us attract excellent students and staff, and ensures that the department is now the largest, most vibrant we have ever been.
Heating and ventilation is provided by a ground source energy system, saving 200 tonnes of CO2 per year compared with equivalent use of air conditioning and gas boilers. Rainwater from the roof, and waste water within the system, is channelled through the building to underground aquifers, which slowly release water at seepage rate to ensure zero run-off. Construction itself was designed to be energy efficient, with the use of concrete reduced and several parts of the building pre-cast elsewhere, to minimise waste.
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