The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonOur alumni

Urval Patel MSci Geology, 2008

Urval Patel's Photo

I initially joined Southampton University as a student enrolled onto the Geology with Physical Geography degree. However, having seen the full facilities and module options available to me, as well as the friendly and helpful nature of staff at OES, I successfully transferred onto the Geology Master of Science programme.

Due to the National Oceanography Centre’s and the university’s reputation as a world-renowned research institution and centre of excellence in teaching, many projects involve work which is completed in close collaboration with and are part- or fully-funded by industry.


The first and second years of the degree are focused on developing your geological skills through conventional lectures, lab practicals and workshops. These “class-room” taught concepts were further illustrated in the field through a number of day and residential trips to the Jurassic Coast, Pembrokeshire, Brittany, Ingleton, Spain and Anglesey. The emphasis the department places on fieldwork is one of the main reasons why I chose to study at OES. Not only does this fieldwork provide you with the necessary skills to help you in your future career, but they also provide you with an opportunity to visit wonderful and exotic places, meet new people, and to immerse yourself in new experiences.

At the beginning of your third year you undertake a 5-week independent mapping project (my year had a choice of Isle of Skye, SE France, Spain, and Bulgaria) where you put to use all the field skills you have developed over the previous two years. Upon your return to the University for your 3rd year, most of your time will be dedicated to completing your mapping project. You also have the option, unlike in previous years, to choose certain modules according to your preference/future career direction.

The main difference I found between the first two years and the third year is the increased emphasis on working more independently from your lectures/tutors, which means your learning is much more self-motivated. However, I found that if I ever needed help, the staff would always find the time to help me or point me in the right direction.

The fourth and final year of the Geology MSci course, in my opinion, is all about deciding on your future career direction. The variety of modules and projects on offer (field and/or lab-based) allows you to pursue a wide range of careers including mineral exploration, environmental remediation, geophysical surveying, and petroleum production and exploration to name a few. For me, it was not a difficult decision to tailor my degree towards the petroleum exploration sector of geology, by choosing modules related to petroleum geology and a project investigating the hydrocarbon potential of the clastic sediments of onshore Northern Tunisia. My Advanced Independent Research Project involved extensive fieldwork in Northern Tunisia, followed by lab-based processing of samples collected during the trip. The project allowed me to gain access to the NOC’s excellent laboratory facilities including the use of the organic carbon analyser, and the X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence labs. Furthermore, due to the NOC’s and the university’s reputation as a world-renowned research institution and centre of excellence in teaching, many projects involve work which is completed in close collaboration with and are part- or fully-funded by industry. My research project was part-funded by the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

After graduating in 2008 with a First Class degree I was employed by Core Laboratories’ Integrated Reservoir Solutions Division, a medium-size oil and gas consultancy specialising in optimising reservoir performance and hydrocarbon recovery. I was employed as a Reservoir Geologist involved in multi-well regional studies evaluating major reservoir and seal rocks. The theoretical, lab and field-based skills developed during my time at the NOC were absolutely essential in performing my everyday duties at Core Laboratories. Since the summer of 2011, I have returned to university as a postgraduate research (PhD) student at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. My PhD topic is, broadly speaking, a continuation of my MSci Advanced Independent Research Project, and I will be investigating the nature and 3D architecture of deep-water massive sands (thickly deposited gravity flows) in channelized systems from outcrop and subsurface data. No doubt I will be using and building upon the sound geological skills/knowledge I developed at the NOC!

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