Rock into the exciting study world of tectonics
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Rock into the exciting study world of tectonics

Does geology rock your world? Are you passionate to learn more about mountains, plate boundaries, the Pacific ring of fire volcanoes, and earthquakes in China, Nepal and New Zealand?

One of Australia’s leading universities, The University of Queensland (UQ), has a strong teaching and research focus on tectonics; powerful processes that control the structure and properties of the Earth’s crust and its evolution through time.

Head of UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Professor Jonathan Aitchison, is proud of UQ’s globally-known position among the world’s Top 50 universities. UQ also recently moved higher in the influential QS World University Rankings, coming in at 47th globally, and placing the university well inside the top one percent of the world’s 26,000 universities.

As a global top-tier research university, UQ is committed to providing students with a world-class education, housing some of the most advanced analytical research laboratories in the southern hemisphere as part of the Brisbane geochronology alliance.

The multimillion-dollar equipment is important in supporting a new generation of rising research stars and postgraduate students, making Brisbane a global hub for isotope geochemistry and geochronology.


“In 2017 the Geological Society of London celebrated 50 years of plate tectonics, arguably the one ‘big idea’ in Earth science that just about everyone knows something about,” Professor Aitchison explains.

“Most school students who learn about this concept probably have no idea its origins are within living memory, and researchers whose work to underpin it remain active.”

UQ’s staff and students examine many aspects of plate tectonics, including continental collisions and mountain building, magma generation and ocean formation.

“For example, Dr Teresa Ubide is studying the triggers of volcanic eruptions at Mt Etna, and is extending this work to the South Pacific, Vanuatu and New Zealand,” Professor Aitchison says.

Dr Annie Lau, formerly of the National University of Singapore, is studying tsunamis and coastal surges, important because of rising sea levels and increased coastal development.”

Professor Aitchison has studied large-scale plate tectonics collisions, particularly between China and India, for more than 20-years; while Associate Professor Gideon Rosenbaum’s group studies complex patterns of folding rocks from Eastern Australian plate boundaries.

One of the School’s trailblazing earth science researchers, Professor Dorothy Hill (1907-1997) was a giant of Australian science, and was also the first female president of the Australian Academy of Science.


Professor Aitchison says UQ’s undergraduate and postgraduate studies look at the evolution of landforms and the formation of natural resources, and students can undertake field trips to both Australian and international destinations.

“In 2017 we studied plate tectonics in New Zealand and we will soon announce our exciting field trip destinations for 2018,” he notes.

For Professor Aitchison, plate tectonics is an exciting and relevant discipline. No other planet in the solar system except Earth experiences this phenomenon, so it’s incredibly important to boost our understanding of how these phenomena work.

“Staff here love to share the joy of geology with everyone, and we welcome international students wishing to increase their knowledge of tectonics in PhD and Master of Philosophy studies,” the Professor concludes.

Click here for information about application procedures for studying at UQ.

More information about UQ for international students, including the study environment, links to estimated living costs, refund policies, support services, information for students with families, and your legal rights as an international student can be found here.

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