Profile: Dr Victoria Sword-Daniels (Social Volcanologist, UCL)

Name: Victoria Sword-DanielsVSDCROP

Job Role: Social Volcanologist

Organisation: University College London

Education Background: BSC Geology, MSC Geophysical Hazards, ENGD Urban Sustainability and Resilience


1. What inspired you to take up a career in the Geosciences?

I really do not know how or why, but I knew when I was fifteen that I wanted to be a volcanologist. I love the outdoors and nature really inspires me. I am interested in finding out how things work and the element of the unknown and still-to-be-discovered about geosciences really sparks my interest.

2. Can you give more detail about your path to your current job role?

I started with an undergraduate degree in geology, then a masters in geophysical hazards before needing a break from education. I wanted to stand on my own two feet and find an interesting job, so I found a job in a natural hazards team within an engineering consultancy. After a couple of years I found myself wanting to really follow my ambition to be a volcanologist, but that my interests had become more focused on the people affected by hazards, rather than the hazards themselves. So I returned to university to study for my doctorate in Urban Sustainability and Resilience, looking at the issues faced by societies living alongside volcanoes.

3. What does your current job role involve?

I work alongside social and physical scientists, policy makers, research funders and risk managers, to try to make research most useful to those who are at risk from volcanic hazards. Following this path I have moved into the more applied side of research, trying to find ways to share knowledge between researchers and end users, so that research is focused on problems faced by societies at risk, and so that those at risk can make use of the research – it’s all about making sure that research makes a difference and helps to solve some of those really challenging and complex real-world problems. My job involves working with lots of different people, some international travel, conferences, meetings, organising workshops, university teaching and doing some research.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy the opportunity to travel and to get to know new parts of the world. I also enjoy the creative side of research; finding out about different challenges and to start thinking about how these can be overcome. Every situation is different, which makes the job constantly challenging and rewarding.

5. Why do you think it’s important to encourage more girls into the Geosciences?

I started out in geology and then worked in engineering – both pretty male-dominated careers. These careers are exciting, challenging and work best when a range of viewpoints are incorporated. In my early career I have seen entrenched and old fashioned views of male dominance become replicated by younger peers in environments where there are few women, or where women feel that they need to become ‘one of the boys’ in order to fit in. I find this saddening. I think that every sector should promote equality for a healthy and inspiring environment; it is in everyone’s interests for men and women to have equal representation, to generate the most intellectually exciting and supportive environment, to advance our knowledge and find solutions to some of the really challenging real-world problems that many people face. It is only by including all perspectives on these problems that good solutions can be found. This includes a variety of different disciplines as well as diverse representation of those working in these sectors.

6. If you could give a piece of advice to girls currently thinking about a career in the Geosciences, what would it be?

Keep doing what you love. If you are inspired by something then follow that interest and it will lead you somewhere new and exciting. There are so many different skills and perspectives required to address some of the very complex and challenging problems facing the world today. Those challenges evolve over time, perspectives on solutions change, and opportunities arise as you go, so if something interests you, then go for it.


Find out more about careers in the Geosciences at our ‘Girls into Gesociences’ event on 4th July.  Book your place today: girlsintogeoscience@plymouth.ac.uk  or Tel (01752) 585975.

You can also follow our event on twitter @girlsingeosci

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