Master thesis projects offered by CEED

CEED has several thesis projects within the centre’s research topics:

Deep Earth, Dynamic Earth, Earth Crises, Earth and Beyond, Earth Modelling and the Earth Laboratory, see presentations of the topics on our research pages.

The thesis projects are available to MSc students of the master programme in Geosciences. This programme is offered by the Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo. To become a MSc student at CEED you will need to apply through the regular 2-year MSc programme options of the Geosciences master programme.

All Master projects offered by the Department of Geosciences

If you are interested in pursuing one of the listed projects (see below) or have your own ideas along those lines, please approach the relevant contact person for advice on programme options and recommended courses, as early as possible.

Interested candidates are required to discuss and document their qualifications with the potential supervisor(s) and to write a short project proposal (max. 3 pages), subject to approval by CEED Director.


Master thesis project theme: Deep Earth materials and dynamics

Mineralogy and geochemistry of the lower mantle and core by atomistic simulationsrojects

Contact: Reidar Trønnes or Chris Mohn,  emails: r,g.tronnes (at); c.,e.mohn (at)

Understanding the evolution and dynamics of the deep Earth and other planets requires data on minerals, melts and fluids at very high pressures. Because experiments at very high pressure and temperature conditions are difficult, an alternative and invaluable route for obtaining such data is through atomistic simulations. For instance, atomistic calculations have been essential for insights into the core-mantle boundary region with pressure and temperature ranges of 100-140 GPa and 2500- 4000 K.  Atomistic computations have also provided constraints on the composition of the core, the mineralogy and phase relations in the mantle, the properties of melts and their evolution from a magma ocean until today, as well as the properties of exoplanets.   The access to large computational resources and appropriate molecular dynamics software, has made ab initio theoretical studies a very attractive approach during the last ten years. The computing power has increased to the point at which studies of phases with complex solid solutions are feasible.   Read more

Master thesis project theme: Earth & Beyond

Project 1: Photo-geological mapping of water and ice related landforms

Contact: Stephanie C. Werner, email: stephanie.werner (at)

Mars and Earth are similar with respect to their seasonal variations and the presence of water (at least in the Martian past). Plenty of landforms witness the action of water and water ice on both planets. We offer the opportunity to study fluvial, glacial or periglacial morphology on Mars and Earth in comparison.

This project will be based on building GIS data bases and satellite image interpretation.

Project 2: Photo-geological mapping of volcanic activity on terrestrial planets

Contact: Stephanie C. Werner, email: stephanie.werner (at)

For example Moon is considered to have preserved surfaces from the earliest period of planetary formation, but 17% of the surface experienced episodes of extensive volcanism. Work here can be related to evaluate the distribution and extent of such activity for Mercury.  Some mineralogical information is available as well. Temporal constraints can be gathered based on crater count statistics.

We offer a project which will be based on building GIS data bases and satellite image interpretation.

Project 3: Geophysical interpretation of terrestrial planets

Contact: Stephanie C. Werner and Tobias Rolf, email: stephanie.werner (at) / tobias.rolf (at)

Several options of projects related to mantle dynamic processes. These can be inferred from observations of the gravity field of a planet, but also crustal thickness and topography-gravity ratios, and can be used to study the upper layers of a planetary body. Especially, the moon was recently measured by the GRAIL mission and the resolution of this data set is increased so that detailed interpretation of topography and gravity field are possible. In this project, deviation of the predicted gravity-topography ratio will indicate subsurface density anomalies, which could be induced by material differences due to volcanic intrusions or “hidden” impact craters.

These projects will be based on building GIS data bases and image interpretation or can focus on numerical simulations.

Project 4: Numerical simulations of crater formation processes

Contact: Stephanie C. Werner, email: stephanie.werner (at)

Craters form on all planetary surfaces and are used to estimate the age of these surfaces. Many aspects including the crater formation process and crater-projectile scaling relations are unexplored, but are important to properly transfer the lunar chronology to other terrestrial planets (including the Earth). Target properties play a major role for the final size of small craters (diameter range 1 m to several 100 m). The task is to evaluate target structure and material properties for this crater range.

These projects will include numerical simulations, but also building GIS data bases and remote sensing image interpretation.


Master thesis project theme: Earth Crises

Project 2: A new way to estimate volcanic eruption magnitudes from tephra deposits?

Contacts: Morgan Jones, email: m.t.jones (at) and Lars Augland, email: larseau23 (at)

This aim is to test an influential theory of volcanic eruptions by Carey and Sparks (1986) using volcanic ash from a huge eruption from Hekla, Iceland in 3000 BP. Their theoretical model links maximum clast sizes found in tephra deposits with the size of the eruption plume. The project would explore whether this theory also works for individual crystals, using an extensive dataset from a Hekla eruption and other key ashes from the North Atlantic Igneous Province. Activities will include: Field work to Iceland; Laboratory separations of crystals; mineral geochemistry (e.g. Hf isotopic analysis); application of theoretical physics.

Project 3: 3D seismic imaging and nature of Seaward Dipping Reflections (SDRs) on rifted margins

Contact: Sverre Planke, Dougal Jerram, Henrik Svensen, email: henrik.svensen (at)

Aim: New understanding of the geometry and nature of the main phase of volcanism offshore Norway 56 million years ago.

The main volume of breakup-related volcanic rocks are present in SDRs. However, only the upper part has been drilled (Vøring, SE Greenland) and thus the geology is not well constrained. New 3D seismic data can help us understand the volcanology better.

Methods and tasks include: Map and characterize SDRs in 3D volume(s) on the Vøring Margin, tie to wells (642, NPD, and others), volcanological interpretation, synthetic seismogram modeling, and global comparison of Inner and Outer SDRs.

Background needed: Seismic interpretation. Seismic wave theory. Computer usage.


Project 4: Formation of enigmatic degassing pipes in the Siberian Traps, East Siberia

Contact: Henrik Svensen, email: henrik.svensen (at)

The Tunguska Basin in East Siberia was affected by the Siberian Traps Large igneous province. In the upper parts of the basin stratigraphy, enigmatic pipes filled with garnets and other minerals are found in some areas. The pipes are sometimes referred to as ‘skarn pipes’. We have a sample collection in Oslo from one of these pipes, and this project aims at constraining the mineralogy of the samples in order to understand the pipe formation. This is relevant for: 1. Metamorphism, 2. Paleoclimate , 3. Geochemistry.

Project 5: Origin of volcanic ash in the Siberian Traps lava pile

Contact: Henrik Svensen, email: henrik.svensen (at)

In the Siberian Traps Large igneous province, several kilometers of lava stratigraphy is preserved. In general, there is little volcanic ash between the lava flows. However, locally we find thick deposits of ash. We have borehole samples of ash from the lava pile near Norilsk and this project will aim at characterizing one of the thickest ash layers. The overall question is to find out what type of eruption the ash came from. This is relevant for: 1. Volcanism, 2. Paleoclimate , 3. Sedimentary basins. Activities: 1. Volcanological interpretations,  2. Mineralogy and petrography, 3. Geochemistry.

Project 6: Characterising the Lusi eruption plumbing system based on erupted clasts

Contact: Adriano Mazzini, email: adriano.mazzinil (at)

The spectacular Lusi mud-eruption started in northeast Java on May the 29th 2006 following a 6.3 M earthquake. Since then it never stopped spewing boiling mud, water and gas. Despite extensive research, the origin of the erupted solid material remains elusive and poorly constrained. The project will focus on the petrographic and geochemical characterization of a large collection of mud breccia clasts collected from the crater zone. This will constrain the anatomy of the Lusi plumbing system and its roots.


Master thesis project theme: Earth Modelling

Note, for all Earth Modelling projects, some experience in linux/unix/programming is desirable

Project 1: Impact of mineral grain size and anisotropy on tectonic plate motions

Contact: Clinton P. Conrad. e-mail: c.p.conrad at)

The asthenosphere is a low-viscosity layer that lies beneath the tectonic plates; its presence facilitates plate motions. The viscosity of the asthenosphere depends on the rheological properties of the individual mineral grains that compose its rocks – and these mineral grains can change orientation, and grow or shrink in size, depending on the ambient stresses and the deformation history of the asthenosphere. This project will combine numerical models with observations from rock deformation experiments to understand the dynamical link between plate motions and asthenospheric rheology.

Learning outcomes: Students can expect to gain an understanding of ductile deformation of rocks and experience with numerical modelling techniques, and should expect to publish their results in a scientific journal.

Project 2: Water cycling between Earth’s surface and mantle over supercontinental timescales

Contact: Clinton P. Conrad. e-mail: c.p.conrad at)

Subduction of hydrated minerals is thought to transfer enough water into Earth’s interior to lower sea level by up to 1 meter per million years. Much of this water loss is balanced by mantle degassing along mid-ocean ridges, but the rate of degassing may change with time during the supercontinental cycle. Thus, the rate of water exchange between Earth’s surface environment and its deep interior may change as supercontinents form and disperse, which affects the distribution of water within Earth’s interior and the convective patterns that occur there. This project will use analytical and numerical models of large-scale mantle flow to understand the impact of water cycling on the supercontinental cycle and the long-term history of our planet.

Learning outcomes: Students can expect to gain an understanding of the fluid dynamics of mantle convection and experience with numerical modelling techniques, and should expect to publish their results in a scientific journal.


Master thesis project theme: Earth Laboratory

Currently there are no specific projects designed, however, in case you are interested in working with rock magnetic of paleomagnetic data, or you are interested in learning advanced techniques of rock and mineral magnetism, get hands-on experience with state-of-the-art magnetometry instruments at the Ivar Giæver Geomagnetic Laboratory at CEED, want to be able to interpret magnetic data in the context of paleogeography and rock-forming processes, and become familiar with useful techniques of directional statistics, take contact with Pavel V. Doubrovine, email: paveld (at)


Master thesis project theme: Dynamic Earth

Project 4: Lithosphere dynamics in the North Atlantic region constrained by satellite gravity gradient data

Contact: Alexander Minakov, email: alexander.minakov (at)

The master student will work with recently acquired GOCE satellite gravity gradient data and GRACE gravity data. The project will include processing, modelling, and data interpretation. The interpretation will help better understand present-day mantle dynamics in the North Atlantic region and processes related to glacial isostatic adjustment following the last glaciation. The student will work on implementation of forward and inverse modeling of gravity and gravity gradient data in spherical coordinates. It is expected that the master student is motivated/enjoys MATLAB/Python Programming.

Project 7: Analysis of seismic profile shots at permanent seismic stations to investigate the crustal structure in and around the Barents Sea

Contact: Johannes Schweitzer,  email: johannes.schweitzer (at)

A large number of commercial and scientific seismic reflection and refraction profiles have been shot in and around the Barents Sea during the last decades. Many of the airgun-shots along these profiles were also observed with permanent seismic stations and arrays in the region. A systematic analysis of such observations with data stacking techniques (source and receiver beams, slant-stack) and forward modelling will result in new knowledge about the velocity structure of the lower crust, Moho and upper mantle in the whole region.

Learning outcome: experience in digital signal processing, seismogram interpretation and theoretical seismology, deepened knowledge about the 3D structure of the Barents Sea

Project 8: S-receiver function analysis for seismic stations in the Arctic and Antarctica

Contact: Johannes Schweitzer,  email: johannes.schweitzer (at)

Analysis of receiver functions is a well-established method to investigate seismic velocities and seismic discontinuities below and nearby seismic stations. In particular S-receiver functions can be used to map the LAB (Lithosphere-Asthenosphere-Boundary), which is an important parameter for understanding geodynamics and plate tectonics. This study will focus on selected seismic stations in the Polar Regions. Depending on interest and work progress, the study can be extended by analysis of P-receiver functions or the investigation of other discontinuities in the upper mantle transition zone.

Learning outcome: experience in seismogram interpretation, digital signal processing and theoretical seismology, better knowledge about the structure of lithosphere and upper mantle in the Polar Regions

Project 10: A catalogue of the North Atlantic seamounts based on geophysical and geochemical data

Contact: Carmen Gaina, email: Carmen.gaina (at),

The ocean floor is littered with volcanoes. Their topography and volcanic activity contribute to the local and regional ocean habitat. Seamount volcanism is attributed to magmatic processes connected to the formation of new ocean floor/oceanic crust (seafloor spreading), or to the modification of this crust by subsequent intra-plate volcanism. This project aims to build a detailed catalogue of the North Atlantic seamounts based on geophysical and geochemical data. The student will become familiar with various geophysical data and techniques to derive the age and possibly the formation mechanisms of seamounts.


Welcome to apply for doing a CEED-project master thesis!

Published Oct. 16, 2015 3:17 PM - Last modified Oct. 29, 2019 9:47 AM