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


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


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