Most modules for geology have a fairly similar format – you go to lectures, take part in practicals and are assessed by a combination of coursework and exams. However, 1 module which I’ve had this year is a bit different. Hot Topics is a module for fourth years which is all about discussing various questions in geology which have wide-reaching implications, both for geologists and for the public.
Everyone takes part in 4 Hot Topics sessions throughout the year. Each session starts with presentations on either side of the argument, followed by a debate where everyone is assessed for their participation. The presenters also have to research and write a magazine-style article on their allocated topic. At the start of the year we were given a list of topics to choose from and then were allocated 3 topics to be in the debate for and 1 to present and write an article about.
The topics I have been in the debates for were life on Mars, earthquake prediction and communicating science with the public. For my presentation, I was arguing that we can’t safely store nuclear waste for long periods of time. Other topics have included periodicity of mass extinctions, the role of oxygen in driving evolution, sustainable development in mining and the use of geothermal energy. The debates always bring up some interesting points of view and there’s often more questions than answers at the end of them. Whilst it can be challenging at times, it’s nice to have a module which is a bit different and helps to develop some new skills.