Profile: Lucretia Ashford (Geotechnical Engineer, Kier Group).

photo-for-profile-l-ashford-2Name: Lucretia Ashford

Job Role: Geotechnical Engineer

Organisation: Kier Group

Education Background:

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

At secondary school I loved geography and science and was fascinated by how we as humans influence the landscape around us. When I started college and was considering my A-Level options a teacher suggested I try geology, it took one lesson and I was hooked. I had a fantastic A-level teacher who called himself “Doc Rock” who had worked in the oil industry and conducted research on large scale plate movement. His tales of adventures all over the world inspired me to follow a career in the Geosciences.

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

The path to my current job role has been ever evolving and taken me in directions I never thought I’d go with my career. I don’t regret a single one.

Whilst completing my masters degree I secured a place on a graduate scheme as an exploration geologist in Australia. I flew out the day after I graduated to work in the remote outback as part of a team drilling to find coal and mineral deposits. It was fantastic! I started off recording the type and age of rock, modelling the ground conditions and organising the drilling work. As my skills increased I moved into geotechnical logging, recording how the rock behaved as a material for mining and building purposes. I progressed to modelling the location and size of the coal and mineral resource deposits and assisted in organising the exploration and mining operations to collect the information required and excavate the material.

Working for a consultancy I was moved between projects depending on the client’s needs. I worked on one project as a database geologist, managing the Micromine database used to model the information we were collecting. This presented a lot of new challenges that my degree had not prepared me for. I found myself writing scripts to ensure the database interface made data entry as quick and painless as possible for the staff in remote locations. I was involved in trouble shooting and database queries as well as my basic roll which was data validation and interpreting the ground conditions.

I later changed jobs and worked for a government department within the Geological Survey of Queensland, Australia. This presented further challenges. I found I had to learn about a whole new system of laws, acts and regulations which I used to assist exploration companies in bidding for land licenses, carrying out the correct processes during exploration as well as creating estimates of coal, mineral, oil and gas resources still in the ground.

When I moved back to the UK I was looking for a new challenge and decided to pursue geotechnical engineering as I had really enjoyed the wide variety of work it offered in Australia and hoped the UK would prove equally as interesting. After a short time with a small contracting firm in Gloucester I was hired by Kier as a Geotechnical Engineer as part of their Highways Team in Devon and Cornwall.


3. What does your current job role involve?

I currently work as a Geotechnical Engineer for Kier within the Highways team. I manage the geotechnical assets on behalf of Highways England within Devon and Cornwall (A38 and A30). Geotechnical assets include embankments and slopes at the sides of the roads and anything beneath the road surface. If a new road, bridge or drainage is built we are involved in the design process assuring the ground conditions won’t be a problem for the proposed building works.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the diverse work I carry out as a Geotechnical Engineer. No two days are the same. I can be out on the road network drilling boreholes, completing geophysical surveys and collecting data or in the office creating a model of the ground conditions and problem solving with the construction team. We get involved in environmental issues, preserving the plant diversity, surveying bats and dormice. It’s wonderful to feel that your work makes a real difference, keeping the roads in Devon and Cornwall maintained for the public, whilst ensuring the beautiful environment in this part of the country is preserved.

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

Working in Geosciences is one of the most exciting, interesting and rewarding careers a person can pursue. It provides opportunities all over the world, allows you to work in areas of science barely examined. You can work on varying projects with unique problems to be solved where you expertise matter and can develop skills you had no idea you could. Why should we let the boys have all the fun?

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 hold back! If you have a passion for something go out and do it, never let being a girl hold you back from anything. Working in the Geosciences can take you to so many places, whether than be a remote desert, an oil rig in the ocean, a research laboratory or a corporate office. Being a girl will make no difference in any of these places if you want to be there, want to keep learning and work hard. My advice is take the adventure, you never know where it might take you.

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