| Contact | Map | DE
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 (37 courses): ECTS:
Accessory Minerals 2.5
Advanced Computer Programming for Geosciences 2
Applied geochemistry and thermodynamic modelling of cement hydration 1.5
Atomistic simulations of fluids and solids 2.5
Basic Computer Programming for Geosciences 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 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
Excursion Volcanology 2.5
From Waste to Resources - and the Challenges in between (Excursion) 1
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
Mineral Surface Characterization by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) 1.5
Natural Zeolites 2
Ophiolites: Production and destruction of oceanic crust 2.5
Reflected-Light Microscopy 1.5
Rock and Paleomagnetism 2
Rock Deformation: Brittle regime (prer) 2.5
Rock Deformation: Ductile regime 4
Scanning Electron Microscopy -SEM: Practical course. (Fribourg). (prer) 1
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM): Practical course. (Bern) on request (prer) 1
Single Crystal X-ray Diffraction. Short course. Upon request. (prer) 1.5
Technical Mineralogy 3
Volcanology 3
Waste Materials & Circular Economy 1.5
X-Ray Powder Diffraction. Three-day short course. 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 Advanced pore scale geochemical modelling using machine learning algorithm, Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Characterization of a sustainable building material made of raw earth and hemp, Details Dr. Guilhem Amin Douillet
x x BE Classification of chondritic meteorites from Oman using X-ray diffractometry., Details Prof. Beda Hofmann, Dr. Urs Eggenberger
x x BE Crystal anisotropy, Details Prof. Andrea Biedermann, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Himalaya gabbros: magmatic history and polymetamorphic evolution, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Pierre Lanari
x BE Internally consistent thermodynamic databases, Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x FR Iron distribution and behaviour in the HP-LT volcanoclastic rocks of the Ile de Groix, Details PD Dr. Afifé El Korh
x x x BE Magnetic properties of iron oxide exsolutions in silicates, Details Prof. Andrea Biedermann
x x BE Magnetic signatures of serpentinization, Details Prof. Andrea Biedermann, Prof. Jörg Hermann
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 BE Mineral surface speciation at an atomic scale, Details Dr. Konstantinos Karalis, 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, Prof. Alfons Berger
x x BE Quantitative computational tomography applied to metamorphic rocks, Details Prof. Pierre Lanari, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x x BE Regression analysis of sorption data for evaluation of experimental uncertainties., Details PD Dr. Georg Kosakowski, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Structural investigation of layered- and framework-structures phosphates, Details Dr. Georgia Cametti, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Subduction zone history of an oceanic slab unit in the tectonic accretionary channel of the Alps, Details Prof. Thomas Pettke, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x x BE The reaction between tonalite and serpentinite in the Bergell contact aureole, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Thomas Pettke, Prof. Daniela Rubatto
x x BE Topics in meteoritics, Details Prof. Beda Hofmann
x x BE Trace element distribution in garnet: growth and diffusion, Details Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Pierre Lanari, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x x x BE Tracking the nature of the continental crust with modern analytical techniques, Details Prof. Nicolas Greber, Prof. Klaus Mezger
x x x BE Tracking the source and mineralization mechanism of Mo-deposits with in-situ Mo isotope measurements of molybdenite using Femtosecond-Laser Mass-Spectrometry, Details Prof. Nicolas Greber
x x BE When lightning strikes: fulgurites in the Malenco serpentinite, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Thomas Pettke, Prof. Daniela Rubatto


Current master students in Speciality Earth Materials (EM)

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Berger Jean Guillaume La cinétique de la synthèse de la pérovskite
Bonazzi Omar Les meules en lave volcanique de Suisse Prof. Vincent Serneels
Dietrich Julia Petrology and geochemistry of the eclogite facies Allalin gabbro: Hydration or dehydration during subduction? Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Thomas Pettke
Elabsawy Alaa Prof. Bernard Grobéty
Hutter Aaron CO2 in Subduktionsfluiden, die Ophikarbonate von Zermatt Prof. Jörg Hermann, Dr. Francesca Piccoli
Krattiger Nicolas Chemo-mechanical couplings at mineral interfaces Prof. Sergey Churakov
Lachat Florian Ash volcanic Prof. Bernard Grobéty
Lemke Kim The Adula Eclogites Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Jörg Hermann
Lujic Josip Les céramiques du nord de Madagascar! Prof. Vincent Serneels
Semmler Julia chemical composition of epidote in high pressure metasediments as monitor of fluid-rock interaction Prof. Daniela Rubatto
Zappatini Anna The Antrona Ophiolite - the rocks are always greener on the other side Prof. Jörg Hermann


Former master students in Speciality Earth Materials (EM)

Student Thesis topic
Bretscher Annette Beschreibung eines Meteoriten (Mesosiderit) im Detail
Fisch Martin


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)31 684 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 08.11.2021