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Dissertation research topics

Dissertation research topics

The central feature of the MPhil in Polar Studies is the up to 20,000 word dissertation, undertaken within the context of the research agenda of one of the Institute's research groups.

The topics listed below are examples of the types of research that could be undertaken for a dissertation. This should not be viewed as an exhaustive list and we will also consider applications from students with their own topic proposals, provided they fit within the research and supervisory interests of Institute staff. Please browse the webpages of Institute staff to find out more about the research interests of a prospective supervisor.

You may also find it useful to browse examples of recent dissertation titles.

In all cases, applicants are very strongly encouraged to discuss their interests with a potential supervisor or the Course Director before applying. You will need to include a 'research proposal' of 500-1000 words with your application, which will elaborate on one of the topics below or on your own topic.

Possible Projects: Social Sciences and Humanities

Histories, Cultures, Environments and Politics

Supervisors: Dr Michael Bravo (MB), Dr Richard Powell (RP), Dr Samantha Saville (SS)

  • Northern Indigenous rights and governance
  • Arctic and Antarctic governance and geopolitics
  • Constructions of region and territory in the polar regions
  • Historiography, orality and traditional knowledge of northern peoples
  • Scientific practice and knowledge production
  • Histories of polar science and exploration
  • Scientific travel and natural history at the poles (c.1500- present)
  • Cultural studies of the polar regions
  • Sovereignty and states in the Arctic
  • 'Nature' and conservation in the polar regions
  • Tourism and travel in the Polar regions"

Possible projects: Physical Sciences

Glaciers, Ice Sheets, Glacial Geology, Snow, Permafrost & Vegetation

Supervisors: Dr Neil Arnold (NA), Dr Poul Christoffersen (PC), Prof Julian Dowdeswell (JD), Dr Sasha Montelli (SM) Dr Gareth Rees (GR), Dr Ian Willis (IW)

  • Satellite-based digital elevation models for cryospheric mass balance and change (NA, PC, IW)
  • Airborne- and satellite-derived properties of cryospheric surfaces (albedo, roughness, temperature) (NA, GR, IW)
  • Satellite remote sensing (optical & radar) of Greenland Ice Sheet surface hydrology (NA, PC, IW)
  • Antarctic ice shelf surface hydrology from optical & radar satellite remote sensing (NA, IW)
  • Modelling energy balance, melt and surface hydrological processes (NA, IW)
  • Subglacial hydrology of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets (NA, PC, IW)
  • Glacier and ice sheet dynamics from satellite feature tracking (PC, NA, IW)
  • Remote sensing of Tundra permafrost (GR, PC)
  • Numerical glacier simulations with the Elmer/ICE finite element package (PC, NA)
  • Synoptic conditions of Arctic or Antarctic climate (PC, IW)
  • Debris-covered glaciers of High Mountain Asia (IW)
  • The geomorphology of glacial landscapes on Mars (NA)
  • Mapping glacial landforms from high resolution digital evolution models (NA, IW)
  • Glacier-influenced sedimentation in Arctic fjords (JD, SM)
  • Ice-stream delivery of sediments to Arctic continental margins (JD, SM)
  • Sedimentary processes and patterns on the Antarctic continental shelf (JD, SM)
  • Geophysical investigations of the continental slope offshore of large ice sheets (JD, SM)
  • Variability and change in circumarctic snow cover (GR)
  • Location, characterisation and dynamics of the arctic treeline (GR)
  • Circumarctic phenology (GR)
  • Snowlab: citizen science meets snow hydrology (GR)
  • Tundra vegetation mapping and dynamics (GR)
  • Hyperspectral observations of high-latitude vegetation (GR)