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Part IA Earth Sciences

What is Earth made of? What processes shape and change it? What has happened to it during the past 4.5 billion years, and how do we know? What will happen to Earth in the future? These are the big questions that the IA Earth Sciences course seeks to answer. We take an overview of the whole subject in this first year course, enough to provide a firm basis for Geological Sciences courses in future years or to inform your work in other courses within NST.


Some students come to Cambridge specifically to study the Earth Sciences, others come wanting a broad, but full scientific education, and many others come aiming to specialise in another science, often physics. Taking the Part IA Earth Sciences Course in first year allows you to progress into the Earth Sciences further should you want, or if you decide to specialise elsewhere it broadens your scientific understanding, in learning a new and wonderful subject.

Earth Scientists are a pretty convivial lot. It is hard to have much distance between Professor and undergraduate when both are out in the field, and we think this communal spirit shows in our teaching and the way in which undergraduates are accepted into our Department and subject. It is one with far to go, at a youthful stage in its development. We look forward to having you join us on the way.

The Part IA Earth Sciences course is designed to introduce the science of the Earth to a broad range of students, most of whom are untutored in geology and many who do not intend to become geologists. It is a general introduction to the planet, an overview of what we know and of what we think we do not understand, and is a fully interdisciplinary field with ample room for geologists, biologists, climatologists, chemists, mathematicians and many others.

Investigating the Earth is important, not only for those who hope to practise it as a profession, but for all who wish to be educated in the natural sciences and understand that this is a vast and essentially indivisible subject. Essential knowledge in today's changing world, you will emerge at the end of your first year with an appreciation of the science behind climate change, a broad understanding of the history of life, a feel for all the major events that have gone on over the past four-and-a-half billion years, and a basic knowledge of the Earth as a system: a series of interlinked biogeochemical cycles and physical phenomena.

Ed Tipper, Part IA Course Coordinator