Profile: Lara Mani (PhD Research Student, Plymouth University)

LM-001

Name: Lara Mani

Job Role: PhD Research Student (Geo-communications)

Organisation: Plymouth University, UK

Education Background:

  • BSc (Hons) Geological Hazards – Portsmouth University
  • Masters (M1R) Magmas and Volcanoes – Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
  • PhD Geological Sciences – “3D visualisations of volcanic hazards” Plymouth University.

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

As a child I always loved being outdoors and was always wondering about the world around me. I was fascinated with the natural world and I also loved Geography at school and particularly the lessons on volcanoes and earthquakes. So, eventually when I applied for University and saw the Geological Hazards degree course at Portsmouth, I knew this was the perfect course for me!

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

During my second and third year of my degree, I worked as a lab technician at an environmental testing laboratory (ACS Testing Ltd.) over the summer. I was then offered a weekend job thoughout my final year studies at Portsmouth until, upon graduation, I began to work for the same company as a Geo-Environmental Engineer. My job was incredibly diverse and involved undertaking remediation projects of contaminated land sites which would involve the design and undertaking of site investigations (drilling etc.) and monitoring of landfill sites. I really enjoyed my job for a while but always had slightly itchy feet… After working at this for a few years, I decided to refocus my career on my biggest passion – volcanoes – and decided to undertake a Master in France in Volcanology. The course was difficult but really great and living in the Massif Central was incredible! Although Masters in France are actually 2 years, after my first year I applied and was accepted at Plymouth University for my PhD, where I still am today.

3. What does your current job role involve?

My PhD is all about how we can use video games to educate about volcanoes with at-risk communities. For my project, I’ve designed and overseen the development of a bespoke video game and then trialed it with over 600 secondary school students on St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean. I’m now in the final stage of my PhD so my day-to-day is a bit more office based with paper writing and thesis writing! It’s not as bad as it sounds though, writing about something you’re passionate about is fun! During term-time, I also help demonstrating for undergraduate practical classes and even get to go on fieldwork, including to Mt. Etna in Sicily. I also involve myself, as much as I can, with schools outreach and do this both at the University and the Plymouth City Museum. I think it’s really important to inspire the next generation to love science and expose them to things they may not otherwise experience!

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

One of the best parts of my job is the travel! I was always determined to not have a job where I sat in an office all day, and although this is sometimes the case, I also get to visit incredible places. The study location for my PhD was the Caribbean island of St. Vincent where I spent 6 weeks last year and have visited on two further occasions. During my visit in 2015, I joined in with their annual ‘volcano awareness week’ education programme for which we visited over 600 students and took 100 students on a hike up to the La Soufriere volcano crater. Working closely with organisations on the island and within schools and community groups was a very special experience. I feel so lucky to have been involved with this fantastic programme and really feel like what we do makes a difference. On top of that, I also get to meet incredible people and make some very good friends from all over the world with similar passions and motivations as me.

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

The traditional image of a geologist as a man with a big bushy beard and a tweed jacket has to go! A new generation of strong-minded and capable women are entering the industry and the more that continue to pursue careers in the geosciences, the more we can push the boundaries and challenge for the top jobs. 

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

If you know what you want to do, keep pursuing it until you reach your goal. Your career may have many twists and turns but eventually you’ll reach your end goal. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and feedback and keep pushing.  I highly recommend getting a work placement and really seeing what life working in the geosciences is really like. You need to make the opportunities happen for you; they won’t come and find you, you need to find them!


Our ‘Girls into Geosciences’ event is being held at Plymouth University on 3rd and 4th July.

Follow the event on our Twitter page: @girlsingeosci or #GIG16

Profile: Dr Laura Roberts Artal (Communications Officer, the European Geosciences Union (EGU))

LR_photoName: Laura Roberts Artal

Job Role: Communications Officer

Organisation: the European Geosciences Union (EGU)

Education Background: 

MSci Geology, Liverpool University

Geophysics PhD from the University of Liverpool


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

I suppose I was interested in rocks, much to the amusement of my parents, since I was a toddler when I could often be found picking up interesting stones and pebbles on beaches in South Africa (where I was born). Later, as an early teenager, I discovered volcanoes and researched what I’d have to train to be in order to study them. I decided there and then I wanted to be a geologist.

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

The path to my current role has been winding. While everything I’ve studied and worked at has been linked to geology and the Earth Sciences, it took me quite a while to really figure out what I’m best at and what I enjoy doing the most.

At school I was better at ‘the arts’ and encouraged to study history and English literature at A-Level, but despite knowing I’d find A-Levels in the sciences harder, stuck to my decision to study geology at university and studied pure sciences (chemistry, biology and physics, as well as Spanish).

I got a place on the undergraduate geology research Masters at Liverpool University. My final year had a strong research focus and gave me my first taste of academic life, but I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to peruse it as a career. I applied for PhDs and industry positions alike and once I graduated joined environmental consultancy ARCADIS.

I enjoyed the role, but always had the niggle that I wanted to give the academic route a shot, so following three years in industry, I went back to university to pursue a PhD. My research took me to stunning places, including two field seasons in South Africa, and allowed me to work with a vast range of people, some of whom have become close friends.

My three years at ARCADIS triggered a desire to communicate to the wider public and school aged kids the awesome career opportunities studying Earth Sciences offered, so I became a STEM Ambassador. While doing my PhD I felt this was increasingly important. I actively engage with the public, who was ultimately funding my research! I wanted to give something back and communicate the value of my work to those who were helping me peruse it! And so I started getting hooked on science communication and realise that this is where my strengths lied. So I decided to make it my career after I finished my PhD. In 2014 I joined the EGU at the Executive Office in Munich as the organisations Communications Officer.

3. What does your current job role involve?

The EGU is a non-profit international union of scientists with over 12,500 members from all over the world, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary,

and space sciences. The main aim of my job is to communicate all thing geoscience to the wider public and to our members. I do this a number in a lot of different ways.

Every morning I spend a fair amount of time on social media, sharing content about our activities, upcoming events and newsworthy Earth Science news. Additionally, I manage the EGU Blogs. That involves writing about research published in the EGU journals in a way that is accessible to the general public, as well as commissioning scientists and science writers to write about interesting geoscience, educational and policy related subjects.

Because early career researchers are so important to the future of science, the EGU also invests a lot of effort into providing activities and resources, as well as promoting the work of budding scientist. It is also part of my job to coordinate all the activities and initiatives for early career researches.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

My current role is mainly office based, but I do get to attend a number of scientific conferences and meetings (around the world) throughout the year too! The best part is that I still keep a close link to all the ground-breaking research taking place at universities, and get to work with brilliant minds, while at the same time doing what I enjoy most, talking (and writing) about science!

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

Precisely for the reason I mention above! There is no doubt that girls can be excellent geoscientists, the majority of my geology heroes are women! Not only that, some of the best Earth scientists I know are women too. For that reason, I’d like to see more make it to the top of the management chain – girls can bring a lot to the table too!

More than that though, it offers excellent career opportunities. Training to be a geologist gives you a whole host of skills which can be applied to a career as a geoscientist (which in itself is hugely diverse and caters to a lot of different interests and strengths), or as in my case, to peruse new avenues of work too.

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

Don’t let anything, including gender, hold you back from doing anything you want to do! It certainly shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a career in the geosciences. It is a rewarding, exciting, challenging and interesting career path, which opens a lot of doors! It can also take you to all four corners of the Earth, so if you’ve got the wanderlust bug (like me), it’s certainly a career which is likely to fuel that!


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

Profile: Natasha Dowey (Team Leader, Oil & Gas Industry).

Natasha Downey crop.jpgName: Natasha Dowey

Job Role: Team Lead, Regional Geoscience

Organisation: Oil and Gas Industry

Education Background: PhD in Volcanology at the University of Liverpool, MPhil in Geochemistry and BSc in Environmental Earth Science at Aberystwyth University


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

I grew up in Cornwall, where I spent a lot of time wondering how the cliffs and coves around me had formed, and how the tin mining industry worked. I had a really inspirational geography teacher at GCSE and A-Level, who gave me a passion for volcanoes and dynamic earth processes and made me realise that I could study Earth Sciences at University. When I started at uni, I soon realised that a career in geoscience meant fieldtrips, and exploring new places, and understanding earth’s history… and I was hooked!

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

My path to the oil and gas industry was a bit unusual. Many people study sedimentary rocks, structural geology or engineering to get into petroleum, but my passion was for volcanoes. I mapped part of the volcanic island of Santorini in Greece for my undergraduate dissertation, and then analysed the chemistry of Santorini volcanic deposits for a one-year Masters research degree. I took a year out and did a lot of travelling, before deciding to do a PhD that involved fieldwork studying Tenerife volcanics. I loved scientific research, travel and fieldwork, so it seemed like the obvious next step. During my PhD, I came to realise that there was a clear choice between working in academia and industry- I had been at university for a long time, so I decided to try something different. I applied for a job at a geological consultancy, and have worked in industry for four years now. I had a lot of great training on the job to learn about petroleum geology, and now I get to use my knowledge of igneous geology to teach others in my company how volcanics affect oil and gas deposits.

3. What does your current job role involve?

My current job involves managing a team of geoscientists who carry out research on ‘frontier’ parts of the world (areas that are relatively poorly understood geologically). We consider tectonics and sea level change to investigate what kind of rocks have been deposited throughout geological time, and whether or not they may have potential for oil and gas exploration.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the variety of my job- one day I am studying Central America, the next I may be looking at Asia, the next I may be teaching a course, or attending a fieldtrip. I also love the teamwork aspect of industry- you often work on projects with other scientists, and get to brainstorm ideas and learn from each other. The applied nature of the job is also great- a client may put your research to use straight away.

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

Because women can scale volcanoes with scientific equipment, hike across deserts mapping outcrops, and run geochemical laboratories just as well as men. We can analyse data, attend conferences and present findings just as well as men. We enjoy geology just as much as men. Too many people associate geology with grizzly old guys with beards and hammers. Modern geoscientific analysis is far from this image, and we need to ensure that we have a modern demographic to match. We need more women geoscientists to be role models to the next generation.

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

Get as much fieldwork under your belt as possible- go with other lovers of geology and get debating how the different rocks got there. It’s a great way to better understand geological concepts, and to build confidence in voicing scientific ideas… a strong background in field geology will stand you in good stead, whether you choose academia or industry as a career.


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

Profile: Prof Melanie Leng (Director, Stable Isotope Facility (British Geological Survey); Professor of Isotope Geoscience, University of Nottingham)

Mel LengName: Melanie Leng

Job Role: Director for the Stable Isotope Facility (British Geological Survey); Director of the Centre of Environmental Geochemistry (British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham); Professor of Isotope Geoscience at the University of Nottingham

Organisation: British Geological Survey and University of Nottingham

Education Background: BSc and PhD in Earth Sciences, University of Aberystwyth


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

I was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire’s Jurassic Park, and as a child me and my siblings had free reign of the cliffs and beaches. I spent the school holidays collecting fragments of dinosaurs and plants from the Lower Jurassic as well as beautiful rounded semi-precious clasts from the glacial boulder clay that drapes the landscape and gently falls into the sea in many coves.  As my bedroom floor groaned under the rock collection I decided to take O level (GCSE) Geology and then A level Geology (although equally inspired by physics, chemistry and maths) as I liked clambering around the cliffs! The moment I was truly “hooked“ by geology was on a field trip to a cove called Ravenscar with my A level teacher Mr Clarke. I picked up a cobble with the hint of an ammonite on one surface. Mr Clarke cracked it open and there before me was a beautiful, ribbed, spiral-form ammonite that had lived in the ocean around 200 million years ago. I knew from that moment that I wanted to collect fossils and understand Earth’s history.

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

After a degree and PhD in Earth Science I got a post-doctoral position working in the geochemistry labs at the British Geology Survey. From there I worked my way up through a variety of laboratory roles from junior technician to senior technician to eventually being in change of the labs! I have always undertaken a mixture of research and laboratory experiments, all the while seizing the opportunity to inspire and train the next generation of geoscientists. Today I mainly work with PhD students and early career scientists. The variety of science that we support in the geochemistry at the BGS means I am never bored!

3. What does your current job role involve?

I divide my time between being Science Director for the Stable Isotope Facility, which mainly involves working with PhD students and researchers solving problems in environmental geoscience. We can use the geochemistry of water, soils, rocks and fossils to understand the present and past environments. My other role is Director of the Centre of Environmental Geochemistry which focusses on collaborative research between the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham. The Centre’s research focusses on the use of geochemistry in research, training and teaching around understanding man’s impact on the Earth and climate change, as well as biogeochemical cycling (of elements from rocks, through soils and waters) including pollution typing. I am also Professor of Isotope Geoscience at University of Nottingham. All these roles mean I travel a lot and have been lucky enough to work on environmental problems around the world from the Antarctic to Greenland and lots of places in between like East Africa, Australia, and South America.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

Juggling these three roles involves extreme multitasking, which I am ideally suited to. All my roles involve working with others and the enthusiasm of all the researchers I work with is inspiring and keeps me going.

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

Research is all about teamwork with people of varying experience. Having a diverse range of collaborators brings different perspectives which solve problems quicker and in a very enjoyable way. Geoscience is not a “boys” subject; equal numbers of girls are now undertaking degrees and PhDs in geology, geoscience, environmental science and going on to fascinating and rewarding careers.

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

Geoscience is understanding the world around us; if you are inspired by the world or want to make it better, then go for it. The world is huge and amazing place and you can learn a lot more about it by studying the environment, geoscience or geology.


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

Profile: Amy Stewart (Marine Resource Geologist, Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd).

AmyStewart_Geology1Name: Amy Stewart

Job Role: Marine Resource Geologist

Organisation: Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd.

Education Background: 

BA (Hons) Natural sciences; Geology – Trinity College, University of Dublin, 2008

MRes Marine Geology & Geophysics – University of Southampton, 2010


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

After experiencing a small earthquake in Greece on a family holiday when I was roughly 8, my interest was piqued. I’d always been looking at & collecting rocks on beaches and when I realised that all my favourite bits of Geography (the exciting stuff!) was Geology and that I could do it for A-level, I was hooked.

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

After doing Science A-levels, I started the 4 year Natural Sciences degree at Trinity College, University of Dublin. The broad scope of the degree means that you study varying scientific disciplines for two years providing a very sturdy knowledge base, before specialising for the final two years. I choose Geology as my speciality as it was the most interesting and relatable for me. Who wouldn’t want to know how our world works?

After that I undertook a Research Masters in Marine Geology & Geophysics. Part of the Masters involved planning and interpreting a seismic survey, which led to my first industry position working as an Offshore Geophysicist in the North Sea. That experience meant I had the survey skills relevant for my current position.

I interned in Seismology at DIAS (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) in the School of Geophysics working on the Irish National Seismic Network. This gave me valuable working experience whilst I was still at University and helped focus me to where my strengths lay.

3. What does your current job role involve?

I currently work as the Marine Resource Geologist for Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd, who are a dredging company. We effectively operate large-scale shallow marine open-cast mines, and I am responsible for all the geological work on our 15 active sites, as well as our 6 application sites. I organise and manage all of our sub-bottom geophysics and geotechnical surveys, and then interpret and analyse the data to calculate how much mineral reserve is available, what the quality is and how exactly the reserves are situated so that we can extract them safely for use in the construction industry.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy how varied it can be. One day I could be focusing on reserve modelling, the next I could be on site at a wharf getting my hands dirty and discussing quality or managing an offshore survey or writing a technical report. Managing offshore sites always presents differing challenges such as wrecks, unexploded WW2 ordinance and Palaeolithic archaeology.

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

In my previous job, there were very few girls working in the offshore industry although that is beginning to change. Attitudes are changing, and some of the most influential people in the industry are now women. In fact, the last four winners of the Early Career Geologist award from the Geological Society have all been female, myself included!

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

Never sell yourself short, and know no fear! If something feels right, go for it but don’t be afraid to walk away from something either or to make mistakes. Everything is a worthy experience, and you’ll always learn something. Internships are a fantastic way of getting your name known, and university professors and The Geological Society are veritable goldmines of information.

If you enjoy the outdoors, have a healthy dose of inquisitiveness and most importantly feel that you love the parts of this that you’re already studied, then go for it! It only gets better, more amazing and more fascinating, and there’s always more to discover. Just love what you do, and you’ll never be bored or unhappy.


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