Laura – PhD student in Geology

If you have an interest in geology and earth science, and are looking for a career which combines experimental work in a lab with field work then read on – maybe this is the job for you!

What attracted you to this job?

I have always been interested in how the Earth works. A Degree in geology was therefore, the obvious route for me. There are many unanswered questions about how the Earth works and how it did in the past. My degree highlighted this and made me want to know more. I choose to do research and applied to do a PhD in understanding the magnetic field from some of the oldest rocks in the World.

What does your typical day involve?

No two days are the same for me. I am coming to the end of the 1st year of my degree. In the first few months, I spent most of my time reading around my subject (I had a lot to learn). Now I still read a lot, but I get to run all sorts of experiments on rocks to tease out the information about the Earth’s magnetic field locked inside them. I also get to go on field trips, recently I spent 3 weeks in South Africa collecting samples. If you want to know more about that trip and my work in general click here.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Getting good results after weeks of work in the lab! I like inspiring kids to become scientists and teaching them unknown facts about the Earth.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

They are all proud of me for pursuing a job that makes me happy and that I am very passionate about, not everyone can say that! I think they also see the value of my research and that is not always easy to get across.

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance

The balance is good. A PhD is hard work, but your time is relatively flexible and so you can work when suits you best, so long as you get all your work done. When experiments are running you might have to give up a few of your evenings, for example, but you can take a day or two off in return! I have plenty of time to do the things I enjoy.

How did you get to where you are today?

I got four A-levels (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Spanish). I then studied Geology at University. My final year was a masters research year, which proved to me that I really enjoyed doing research and that it was a career option for me. Once I graduated I worked for three years as an environmental consultant. I did this to gain some experience of how geology and what I learnt at university could be applied to industry. However, I was determined to work in research and so a PhD was an obvious route. I applied for PhDs across the country and got my current position.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?

Hard work is very rewarding and will often take you anywhere you want to go. There are many career paths after a geology degree, so if you are interested in it, it is definitely worth giving it a go!

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

As a PhD student I get paid £13,000 a year (tax free), plus my tuition fees, field and experimental expenses paid for. Professors can earn up to £70,000 a year.

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I like being outdoors and regularly go walking, particularly with my dog. I like to travel and get to know new places. Reading, going to the cinema and the theater, dancing… the list is endless!

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

Plenty! On field trip with my supervisor (essentially, my boss), we spent a good half hour building an impromptu bridge out of rocks across a small stream, so I could get over without getting wet… for me to fall in as soon as I stepped on the first rock!