Areas of Research

Earth and Environmental Sciences


The earth sciences study the internal structure and the evolution of our planet, from its origin to the present.



The earth sciences develop the concepts and tools which make it possible to:

  • find new energy, water and mineral resources essential for human existence, and manage our use of them wisely and ecologically;
  • understand the physical, chemical and biological processes that have been modifying the surface of the planet for more than 4 billion years;
  • retrace the history of Earth and predict its evolution for the medium and long term;
  • identify risks and prevent natural disasters;
  • evaluate the environmental impact of human activities and propose solutions to remedy the imbalances these activities cause.

In Geneva, the Section of Earth Sciences, in association with the Faculty of Geosciences and the Environment of Lausanne (ELSTE) and the Federal Polytechnical School in Lausanne (EPFL), offers a comprehensive program (more than 100 different courses) from bachelor’s to doctorate.

Knowledge of our planet and intelligent management of its energy, water and mineral resources

The scientific activities of the Section of Earth Sciences, nationally and internationally recognized, focus on the following themes:

  • The study of existing and fossil sedimentary basins, with a view to localizing and understanding the genesis of porous and permeable rocks which may contain economically significant fluids (hydrocarbons, water) or which may harbor, for the long-term, substances considered dangerous for the environment (CO2 storage, for example).
  • The search for, and promotion of, mineral deposits, and the study of the physicochemical processes that create them.
  • The reconstruction of climate changes and eustatic changes (variations in sea level) which have occurred over the last 400,000 years, through geochemical and paleontological analyses of lake and marine sediments. The study of these sedimentary “archives” furnishes information which is essential for modeling the future climate.
  • The study of recent volcanic systems and of the physicochemical processes at work in magma chambers. Modeling and assessment of the risks associated with volcanic activity and their impact on climate change over various geological periods.
  • The detection of organic or inorganic substances which are dangerous for the environment and the comprehension of the processes of diffusion and transformation of these substances in soils, lakes and rivers.

These research activities, in which students are involved from the master’s level, almost always involve a phase of in-the-field data collection (Europe, North Africa, South America, the Middle East, Australia) prior to laboratory work.

The increase in the global consumption of energy, mineral substances and water, the increasing scarcity of these natural resources, the urgent need for wiser management of them, the proliferation of environmental problems, the need, in the face of demographic and climate changes, to promote new land reserves and to preserve those which are in danger – all of these issues are opening up numerous career possibilities for scientists of the Earth in the coming decades.