Profile: Sarah Devriese (PhD Student, University of British Columbia)

sarah devriese.jpgName: Sarah Devriese

Job Role: PhD Student

Organisation: Geophysical Inversion Facility, University of British Columbia

Education Background:

  • BSc in Geophysical Engineering (2010), Colorado School of Mines
  • PhD in Geophysics (currently on-going), University of British Columbia

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

I went to university with my major declared as chemical engineering but really didn’t enjoy chemistry the first year. First-year students at the Colorado School of Mines were required to attend departmental info session and events to learn more about the different disciplines and that’s where I first learned about geophysics. Discovering that it involved math, physics, and the outdoors pretty much clenched the deal for me. I loved the close-knit department, the small class sizes, and the hands-on learning. I started working as an undergraduate research assistant after my second year and knew then I wanted to stay in research and pursue a PhD.

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

I started working as a research assistant for one of my professors after my second year in university and really enjoyed it. It gave me a chance to present at conferences and the work became my first publication too. When the final year came along, I applied to grad school as I wanted to continue doing research. I chose to attend UBC as the work done here really interests me: inverse techniques for electromagnetic methods. In hindsight, it was a bit of blind leap since I had never been to Vancouver nor did I know anyone. It turns out I cannot image a better place to live and learn! I started as a master’s student but upgraded to PhD in 2012. I’m getting close to finishing the PhD and plan to stay in Vancouver afterwards.

3. What does your current job role involve?

I’m working full-time on my PhD thesis. Day-to-day, that means I’m sitting at my computer and numerically modelling data based on 3D earth models and trying to understand the responses. I write a lot of scripts to plot data and understand outcomes. I’m also doing a fair bit of thesis writing lately and drafting presentations for a conference in the fall. I also contribute to group-wide research projects, so write code and material for those.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

There’s always uncharted territory and discovering things. Sometimes the results I get are exactly what I expect but other times, they’re not. I enjoy these challenges as well as discussing them and other problems with my labmates.

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

It’s quite a male-dominated field! I believe things are better when balanced. It doesn’t faze me much now to be in a room full of men and present my research or share ideas but not too long ago, I spoke to a room of 100 women about mountain biking (that and skiing are my favourite pastimes), and my first thought was “wow, I’ve never spoken to so many women before” and it made me a little nervous actually. And it shouldn’t be like that. The best part of the geosciences is that it combines science with creativity, math and physics with interpretations, equations with writing papers and theses. It has something for everyone, and everyone should include both men and women.

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

It doesn’t have to be just about rocks. There are so many options with a career in the geosciences, whether it is in exploration, environmental, or even planetary studies. And each of those can be in industry, academia, or government, so in terms of job prospects, I believe there are always opportunities. For someone interested in geosciences, I would suggest taking courses in as many of the disciplines as you can and experience what each has to offer. It’ll help you learn what you like and want to do and it’ll give you a great background of the field.

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