Profile: Thorbjörg Ágústsdóttir (PhD Student, University of Cambridge)

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Name: Thorbjörg Ágústsdóttir

Job Role: PhD student

Organisation: University of Cambridge, UK

Education Background:

  • BSc in Geophysics, University of Iceland.
  • MSc in Geophysics, University of Iceland.
  • Currently PhD student in Volcano Seismology at University of Cambridge.

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

Growing up in Iceland, I have always been fascinated by earthquakes and volcanoes. I am the kind of a person that needs quite a lot of variety in my life. I love the outdoors, the excitement and activities of geophysics. My work has taken me to many exciting places.

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

My path is slightly unusual. I have done a lot of sport in my life. I did my studies and work part-time until coming to Cambridge for my PhD in 2013. My sport took me all over the world competing for Iceland in World Cups, World- and European Championships. I hope my unusual path can encourage others that don’t go the traditional route.

3. What does your current job role involve?

On a daily basis I sit in front of a computer and do raw data processing, scripting, plotting data, picking earthquakes and reading scientific papers. In the summer we do fieldwork in Iceland that requires a lot of preparation. I also have to go to conferences and do public outreach. July 4-10th 2016, my research group is taking part in the Royal Society Summer Science exhibition in London. We have been preparing this for the last six months and are very excited. Our exhibition is called Explosive Earth: Earthquakes and Eruptions in Iceland and we are presenting work on the 2014-15 Bárðarbunga-Holuhraun eruption and the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption that closed European airspace. My group is the Cambridge Volcano Seismology group that explores the many applications of volcano seismology, from what we can learn about movement of magma in the earth’s crust and rift zone dynamics, to the very structure of the earth itself. Our current research focus is central Iceland where we operate an extensive seismic array.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the excitement of the fieldwork – using snow scooters, helicopters and super jeeps. I also like the public outreach a lot and seeing all the hard work coming together in a talk or a paper.

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

It is exciting! It is cool and takes you to incredible places. So anyone interested in geosciences should definitely go for it! Geosciences need to have a broader variety of people in the field. It has endless options and opportunities and is very exciting. I have been on many volcanoes, ice caps and witnessed an eruption first hand.

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

I would encourage girls to do what they want, to think about what kind of an environment they would like to be in and work in and the opportunities it offers. Geoscience is a great choice, it’s interesting and brings you to exceptional places. It is good to be a curious person and have a background in maths, physics, geology, engineering – coding and scripting is becoming more and more important to the daily work of a geophysicist. Social skills and decent English proficiency are important too for outreach.

The ‘Explosive Earth’ exhibition is a free public event being held by the University of Cambridge at the Royal Society, London between 4th-10th July. Find out more: @ExplosiveEarth or #ExplosiveEarth 

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