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Earth Sciences at the University of Fribourg

Bern-Fribourg Master in Earth Sciences


Master Speciality in Geology (GEOL)

Master Speciality in Geology (GEOL)






Career Perspectives:

By specializing in Geology, various fields of professional activity in Earth sciences become available. Industry and government agencies throughout the world have a considerable demand for scientific experts in sectors such as resource supply (oil, natural gas, gravel, sand or water), disposal of waste (both industrial and household), projections concerning the geological behaviour of the subsurface in construction projects or mining operations, assessing risk and ecological compatibility, etc. Many graduates of the institutes of Geological Sciences at the Universities in Bern and Fribourg are currently working in one of these fields in small or large companies, or in the private, public or academic sectors in Switzerland and abroad.



The curriculum of the Specialty in Geology spans the entire realm from unconsolidated soil to solid rock, on both small and large scales with a common theme: the understanding of geological processes and the results thereof in space and time. Due to this breadth, natural overlapping with the specialties “Environmental and Resource Geochemistry”, “Quaternary Geology”, and “Earth and Life Evolution” is inevitable. A careful selection of courses can provide a widely based education, with certain areas of increased expertise, thus preparing the students to tackle the huge variety of problems that are encountered in professional practice.



This specialty aims to equip graduates with the combination of skills required in professions within the sectors of resource supply, waste disposal, civil engineering, mining, natural hazard assessment and ecological compatibility studies. These include a broad understanding of geological processes; an ability to integrate diverse scientific information into concrete problem-solving strategies; hands-on expertise with modern field, analytical and computational methods; and practice in communicating ideas and results in a professional manner, both in written and oral form.


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

Course title (30 courses): ECTS:
Advanced Carbonate Sedimentology 2.5
Basement evolution in orogens 2
Basin Evolution 3
Computer Modeling of 3D Geological Structures 1.5
Excursion Volcanology 2.5
Excursion: From basins to mountain belts (prer) 2
Field Course Rock Deformation Brittle Regime 1.5
Field Logging of Tunnels and Boreholes 2.5
Field Trip: Oceanic Lithosphere and subducted equivalents (Liguria) 2.5
Fossil Lagerstaetten of Southern Germany 2.5
Geo-Information Systems. Lecture and practical 3
Geochronology and Isotope Geochemistry 3
Geology, Sedimentology and Paleontology of the Swiss Jura 3
Geology, Sedimentology, and Paleontology of the Molasse Basin 3
Geostatistics 2
Internship in industry 5
Interpretation of Seismic Profiles around the world 1.5
Interpretation of Seismic Profiles in the Alpine foreland 1.5
Laser-ablation inductively-coupled-plasma mass-spectrometry - LA-ICP-MS. Two days short course 1
Marine Geology 3
Mountain building processes 3
Natural Hazards: Process & Methods 3
Ophiolites: Production and destruction of oceanic crust 2.5
Quaternary Sediments Field Week 3
Reflected-Light Microscopy 1.5
Rock and Paleomagnetism 2
Rock Deformation: Brittle regime (prer) 2.5
Rock Deformation: Ductile regime 4
Surface Processes, Geomorphology (prer) 3
Volcanology 3


Master Speciality in Geology (GEOL)Masters Thesis Project
(60 ECTS in Module D)

Each student writes a research thesis on a topic of on-going investigation at the Universities of Bern or Fribourg, or at a partner institution (university, government, industry). This project may involve any combi­nation of field, laboratory and/or computational work. The thesis work is conducted over the entire 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. The thesis work terminates with a manuscript written according to international standards and an oral presentation at the end of the fourth semester. The MSc thesis may be written in English, French, or German.

Examples of topics in which MSc projects may be conducted include:

  • Crustal structure and deformation in orogens (Alps, Andes)
  • Metamorphic and tectonic evolution in orogenic belts (Alps or other)
  • Growth of the Alps and climatic development
  • Synsedimentary tectonics in the Alps and their foreland
  • Sedimentary processes in the Jura mountains, the Molasse basin or the Alps
  • Active landslides and sediment transport in Alpine valleys and rivers
  • Magnetism during continental break-up: The Atlantic as a case study
  • Correlation between surface types and the occurrence of meteorites

In various cases, a master thesis can be approached from multiple fields:

  • “Geology” or “Quaternary Geology”: Brittle deformation in rockc avalanches: The landslide of Flims as a case study
  • “Geology” or “Earth Materials”: Deformation structures in crustal rock, in mantel rock, in analogue material or in experiments

Available Thesis Topics in Speciality Geology

(this list is updated in December each year)


ELE EM ERG GEOL PAQS Uni. Thesis topic Advisors:
x x BE 3D Evolution of Cockade Structures in the Grimsel Breccia Fault: An Earthquake proxy, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Thomas Pettke
x x BE Alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR) and cracking mechanisms of concrete structures (applied research project), Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
x BE Analogue modeling of geothermal systems along the Grimsel shear zone, Details Prof. Guido Schreurs, Prof. Marco Herwegh
x x x BE Archean mountain building processes in 3D tectonic experiments, Details Dr. Frank Zwaan, Prof. Nicolas Greber, Prof. Guido Schreurs
x x BE Characterization of fluid accompanied deformation along thrust faults , Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
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 Frost weathering of alpine limestone rock faces, Details Dr. David Mair, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, Prof. Marco Herwegh
x x BE Geology, geomorphology, weathering and sediment transport in an Alpine drainage basin, Details Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, PD Dr. Naki Akçar
x x BE Geometries of 3D Flow paths in fault-related hydrothermal systems, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Beda Hofmann
x x BE Himalaya gabbros: magmatic history and polymetamorphic evolution, Details Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Pierre Lanari
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 BE Microstructure and fabric development in a gabbro of the Val Malenco, Details Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x x BE Multiscale 3D Fault Patterns and their Role for Seismic Activity in Switzerland, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh
x x x FR New projects in Carbonate Sedimentology, Details Prof. Anneleen Foubert
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 BE Sr isotopes in different vein types developed in a paleo-accretion wedge, Details Prof. Alfons Berger, Dr. Martin Wille, Prof. Marco Herwegh
x BE Stable Si-isotopes in seismic tectonites, Details Dr. Martin Wille, Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Klaus Mezger
x BE Storm deposits recorded by Molasse sequences, Details Prof. Fritz Schlunegger
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 Clavaniev Zone: A recent seismic fault system?, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
x BE The dynamics of conglomerate deposition in the Molasse Basin, Details Prof. Fritz Schlunegger
x BE The Engadine Line - a neotectonically reactivated large-scale fault?, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. em. Christian Schlüchter
x x BE The fate of ophicarbonates from seafloor to beyond antigorite dehydration and the subduction zone carbon cycle, Details Prof. Thomas Pettke, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x BE The formation and evolution of transfer faults in extensional settings, Details Prof. Guido Schreurs
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 The Schwarzwasser fault system: Where is it? , Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
x x BE The subduction plate interface: Geodynamics, chemical cycling and more, Details Prof. Thomas Pettke
x x BE Topics in meteoritics, Details Prof. Beda Hofmann
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 Geology

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Andersson Nils Mechanical and kinematic modelling along and around the Pontarlier Fault System in the western Jura fold-and-thrust belt and the Molasse Basin. Prof. Jon Mosar
Arnold Tobias Characterization of an alpine cleft in the Bernese Oberland Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Thomas Pettke
Binaghi Mattia Post LGM glazial evolution in the Norden Valais Alps PD Dr. Naki Akçar
Bumann Nicole Effect of geological preconditioning on sediment production in the Illgraben catchment Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger
Flotron Thierry Pierre-André Structural analysis of the exhumation of the gastern granite and the effect of hydrothermal fluid circulation. Prof. Marco Herwegh
Kalberguenova Vera Tectonic and paleotectonic evolution of the northern Greater Caucasus foreland. Prof. Jon Mosar
Leuenberger Vivian Prof. Bernard Grobéty
Lisibach Jonas Bedrock fabric, erosion and hazards of the Rotlaui catchment. Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger
Lonfat Kevin Cartographie et Géologie structurale dans la région des Dents du Midi (Salanfe): de la Science à la didactique. Prof. Jon Mosar
Marro Adeline Kinematics and tectonics of the Central Jura fold and thrust belt: a forward modelling and spaleostress approach. Prof. Jon Mosar
Muñoz Yohualli Reconstruction of fluid pathways in the northern Aiguilles Rouges Massif Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
Prieto Casallas Manuel Alejandro Tectonic and Kinematic viable cross section in the Georgian foreland to the Greater Caucasus: westernmost Kura Basin near Tbilisi. Prof. Jon Mosar
Sturny Janine Structural geology along a north-south section between the TienShan and the Northern Pamir in Kirgyzstan. Prof. Jon Mosar
Zimmermann Alice Basement lenses in sediments overlying the Mont Blanc and Aiguilles Rouges Massifs. Tectonic vs. sedimentological origin. Prof. Jon Mosar


Former master students in Speciality Geology

Student Thesis topic
Bäbler Daniela Geomorphological evolution of a paleosurface of Eocene age (Biella, Piemonte)
Baumberger Roland Brittle reactivated shear zones in granites and their role as waterconducting features
Burn Marco Evolution of the Mont-Emilius Klippe (Val d'Aosta, Italy)
Egli Oppliger Rahel Neotektonik und Sedimentologie am südlichen Ende des Ankaratra Rift Beckens (Title not def. fixed yet)
Ernst Daniel Berns Untergrund: Auf Spurensuche nach der USM-UMM-Grenze und Implikationen für das Potential geothermischer Energie
Fankhauser Adelheid Climate reconstruction from stable isotopes in speleotherms in the eastern mediterranean


Laboratory Facilities

MSc students have access to a wide range of modern analytical facilities at the host institute, including petrographic microscopy, cathode-luminescence, scanning-electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, 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, H, He, Ca, and Mo, and for radiogenic isotopes of the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Nd-Sm, and U-Pb systems. Experimental equipment includes porewater extraction devices, flow-through reaction vessels, exchange columns and hydrothermal autoclaves for high P–T studies. Computational facilities include computer clusters for geochemical modelling and GIS applications. Additional facilities are available at the collaborating research institutes..



Teaching and supervision of MSc thesis projects are carried out by a team with extensive experience in the field, including:


Further Information

Prospective students for the specialty in “Geology” should contact the following instructors for further information:

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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 |
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