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Earth Sciences at the University of Fribourg

Bern-Fribourg Master in Earth Sciences


Master Specialty in Earth Materials (EM)

Master Speciality in Earth Materials (EM)






Career Perspectives:

Main aspect of the Specialty Earth Materials within the master curriculum of Earth Sciences is multidisciplinarity between geology and material sciences. In the past, graduates specialized in this field accepted positions in industry and research institutes dealing with refractories, glass, cement, clays, gem stones, or other crystalline solids of technological importance for multiple applications. In addition to this specialization master students are also encouraged developing fundamentals for general geological tasks.



All fields of profession cited above cover the research areas of general and applied mineralogy and petrology. The spectrum summarized in Earth Materials spans from structure and properties of minerals to genesis of magmatic and metamorphic rocks. Multidisciplinarity within the domains geology-physics-chemistry provides students with skills to deal with technological applications of minerals and rocks.



The intention of this specialty aims to provide skills for investigating and characterizing minerals, rocks, and other crystalline solids, with special emphasis on their properties. This also includes developing models on formation and stability of rocks and minerals, synthesis of corresponding materials under laboratory conditions, and testing possible applications in technology and ecology.


Core courses for the Specialty in Earth Materials (30 ECTS in Module B)

Course title (25 courses): ECTS:
Accessory Minerals 2
Cathodoluminescence Microscopy CL: Practical course (prer) 0.5
Cement and Silicate ceramics 2.5
Contaminated Sites 2
Electron Beam Microanalytics: Theory - EMPA, SEM, TEM CL. Mandatory for practical courses in: EMPA, SEM, TEM, CL 2
Electron Microbeam Techniques, Laboratory (prer) 1
Electron Microprobe Analysis - EMPA: Practical course. Theory course Electron Beam Microanalytics required. (prer) 1
Environmental Mineralogy 2.5
Geochemical Analysis of Rocks. Four-day block course 2
Geological Disposal and Remediation of Non-Radioactive Waste 1.5
Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste 2.5
Geostatistics 2
Internship in industry 5
Laser-ablation inductively-coupled-plasma mass-spectrometry - LA-ICP-MS. Two days short course 1
Low Temperature Isotope Geochemistry 3
Methods of Mass Spectrometry. Short course with practical; introduction to research practical. Upon request. (prer) 2.5
Mineral Resources. Lecture and Practical 2.25
Reflected-Light Microscopy 1.5
Rock Deformation: Brittle regime (prer) 2.5
Rock Deformation: Ductile regime 4
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM): Practical course. (Bern) on request (prer) 1
Technical Mineralogy 3
Volcanology 3
X-Ray Powder Diffraction. Three-day short course. 1.5
X-ray Single Crystals. Short course. Upon request. 1.5



Masters Thesis Project (60 ECTS in Module D)

Each student writes a guided research thesis on a topic of ongoing investigation at the University of Bern or at partner institutions (university, government, industry). This project may involve any combination of field, laboratory and/or computational work. The thesis work is conducted over the entire 20-month period of the MSc curriculum, parallel to coursework, thereby allowing time for in-depth understanding of the research problem and methods. One or more supervisors are drawn from the team of lecturers or from partner institutions. During the first semester the student studies the literature and presents an oral and written research proposal. The remaining three semesters and one intervening summer period (free of coursework) are devoted to fieldwork or industry internship, collecting and analysing data and to writing up the results. The thesis work terminates with oral and written presentations at the end of the fourth semester. The MSc thesis may be written in English or German.

Examples of titles of previous MSc theses:

  • Synthesis and temperature dependent structure characterization of microporous CsAlSi5O12
  • Stepwise dehydration of Cd- and Sr-exchanged heulandite
  • Crystal structure and chemistry of double-ring silicates: osumilite and roedderite
  • Manganese minerals from the Kalahari Manganese Field, South Africa: Nchwaningite, Mn2SiO3(OH)2.H2O, a new pyroxene-related chain silicate

Available Thesis Topics in Speciality Earth Materials (EM)

(this list is updated in December each year)


ELE EM ERG GEOL PAQS Uni. Thesis topic Advisors:
x x BE Absolute calibration of cosmogenic chlorine-36 (36Cl) production rate from Central Andes samples, Details Dr. Romain Delunel, PD Dr. Naki Akçar, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger
x x BE Applying Infrared Spectroscopy on sheet-silicate rich rocks, Details PD Dr. Alfons Berger, Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Marco Herwegh
x x BE Combining chemistry and physics: Geochemical reaction feedback on heat-transport in the vicinity of heat producing radioactive waste repository., Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Distribution and age of monazite in the Ivrea zone granulites , Details Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Jörg Hermann, Dr. Pierre Lanari
x x BE Fieldwork and image blind interpretation using CLUPI, the close-up imager on the 2018 ExoMars rover mission, Details PD Dr. Beda Hofmann, Prof. Larryn W. Diamond
x FR Fractal analysis of volcanic ash particles, Details Prof. Bernard Grobéty
x x BE Himalaya gabbros: magmatic history and polymetamorphic evolution, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Dr. Pierre Lanari
x x BE Improving Heavy Metal Separation from Contaminated Materials, Details Dr. Urs Eggenberger, Dr. Martin Fisch, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Metamorphism and age of the lower crustal section of Finero (Ivrea Zone), Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Dr. Pierre Lanari
x x BE Meteorites from Oman: Statistical and GIS analysis, Details PD Dr. Beda Hofmann, Dr. Urs Eggenberger
x x x BE Microstructural analysis in sedimentary rocks of the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory subjected to high-pressure squeezing experiments, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Martin Mazurek
x x x x BE New isotope geoscience projects, Details Prof. Thomas Nägler, Prof. Igor Villa
x x BE Perovskite in serpentinites, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Dr. Pierre Lanari
x x BE Pore-level Lattice Boltzmann geochemical modelling and experiments of dissolution/precipitation processes, Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Pressure dependence for the compositions of accessory phases in the Bergell tonalite?, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Daniela Rubatto, PD Dr. Alfons Berger
x x BE Raider of the lost arc: Trace element characteristics of volcanic detritus in the Tavayannaz Sandstone, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, PD Dr. Thomas Pettke
x x BE Refining the timing of subduction of oceanic crust: the Zermatt Saas unit., Details Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x x BE Regression analysis of sorption data for evaluation of experimental uncertainties., Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Rückgewinnungspotential wertvoller Metalle in KVA-Flugaschen, Details Dr. Urs Eggenberger
x x BE Simulation of diffusive transport of contaminants in compacted soils., Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x FR Thermal transformation of amphibole asbestos, Details Prof. Bernard Grobéty
x FR Volcanic Aerosols, Details Prof. Bernard Grobéty


Current master students in Speciality Earth Materials (EM)

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Berger Jean Guillaume La cinétique de la synthèse de la pérovskite Prof. Bernard Grobéty
Camesi Lola Natalia Improving Heavy Metal Separation from Contaminated Materials Dr. Urs Eggenberger
Eberhard Lisa The chemistry of minerals and fluids during prograde mineral transformations in the ultramafic Bergell contact aureole PD Dr. Thomas Pettke
Giger Martin Prof. Klaus Mezger
Jaques Victory Analysis and comparison of the materials used for the Middle Age paintings found in the Cordeliers church, Fribourg, Switzerland Prof. V. Serneels
Perrenoud Joaquim Sintering of doped potassium sodium niobate (KNL-NTS) fibers. Prof. Bernard Grobéty


Former master students in Speciality Earth Materials (EM)

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Bretscher Annette Beschreibung eines Meteoriten (Mesosiderit) im Detail PD Beda Hofmann, Dr. Urs Eggenberger
Fisch Martin Prof. Thomas Armbruster
Gfeller Frank Prof. Thomas Armbruster, PD Marco Herwegh, Prof. Klaus Mezger
Greminger Andrea Microstructure and Mechanical Stability of Mortars PD Marco Herwegh, Prof. Thomas Armbruster, Prof. Adrian Pfiffner
Munoz-Helfenberger Andre Liberation of Pore Water using HV Pulsed Power Equipment of selFrag Dr. Urs Eggenberger, Prof. Larryn Diamond
Opitz Christoph Oman Meteorites PD Beda Hofmann, Dr. Urs Eggenberger
Zurfluh Florian Meteorites in the Sultanate of Oman Prof. Martin Engi, PD Dr. Beda Hofmann


Laboratory Facilities

MSc students have access to a wide range of modern analytical facilities at the host institute, including state of the art single-crystal X-ray equipment enabling structural characterization at high and low temperature (100 to 850 K), powder X-ray diffraction equipment for structural characterization up to 1400 K, petrographic microscopy, cathode-luminescence, scanning-electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe, Laser-Raman and FTIR spectroscopy, Laser-ablation-ICP-MS, fluid inclusion microthermometry, rock porosity and permeability apparatus, wet-chemical laboratories with atomic-absorption and ion-chromatography, mass-spectrometers for stable isotopes of C, O and H, and for radiogenic isotopes of the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Nd-Sm, U-Pb, Ca, Mo and He systems. Experimental equipment includes porewater extraction devices, flow-through reaction vessels, exchange columns, hydrothermal autoclaves for high P–T studies and special high temperature furnaces for crystal growth and solid state reactions. Computational facilities include computer clusters for geochemical modelling and GIS applications. Additional facilities are available at BeNeFri partner universities and at collaborating research institutes.



Teaching of the specialised courses on Earth Materials and supervision of MSc thesis projects is carried out by a team with extensive experience in applied and general mineralogy and petrology (all lecturers of the Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of Bern and Prof. Bernard Grobety of the Department of Geosciences at the University of Fribourg).


Further Information

Prospective students for the specialty in “Earth Materials” should contact the following professors for further information: , , or


University of Bern | Institute of Geological Sciences | Baltzerstrasse 1+3 | CH-3012 Bern |
Tel.: +41 (0)31 631 87 61|

University of Fribourg | Dépt. Géosciences ; Ch. du Musée 6 - Pérolles ; CH-1700 Fribourg |
Tel:  +41 (0)26 300 89 70 ; Fax: +41 (0)26 300 97 42 |
© University of Bern 10.12.2015