Merapi September 2014

2. How I got to where I am today (the academic journey)

Becoming a PhD researcher in volcanology is not always an easy task, but with enthusiasm and perseverance you can achieve your wildest dreams. This post details my route into volcanology as a young girl growing up in the south of England.

Once my passion for volcanology and planet Earth had been ignited I started to read and study about the world of volcanoes and geology. It wasn’t until I was 12 years old that someone told me that there were people who studied volcanoes for a living. From then on I knew I wanted to be one of those people: a volcanologist.

My route into volcanology wasn’t clear in the beginning, my school did not teach geology, although we did touch on a few aspects in classes of physical geography. It wasn’t until College (at 17 years of age in the UK) that I could finally attend courses in Geology. Alongside geology I studied subjects that could complement my mission to understand and document our dynamic planet: chemistry, environmental sciences and photography. At that point I didn’t have a clear idea of my route into volcanology but over time I decided that a degree in Geology would be my next step.

This was where I had to face some pretty big hurdles. The first hurdle was overcoming the comments and views of my sexist geology teacher. Although I was academically the best in my class and worked incredibly hard to be the best, I was continuously put down or ignored for my achievements while the males in the class were praised. However, this ignorance only pushed me to work even harder to achieve my dreams!

The second most challenging hurdle turned out to be achieving all the grades that I needed to get into university. Even though I put my heart and soul into achieving the grades I just couldn’t quite make it when it came to the exams. It was heart breaking. Eventually I missed the grades (turns out I’m pretty dyslexic and was never going to do particularly well in exams), but my passion for geology shone through enough that I was offered a place at the University of Leicester regardless.

And that’s when my enthusiasm for geology and volcanology accelerated. Alongside an amazing array of lecturers, researchers and like-minded individuals we explored hundreds of aspects of the Earth right from it’s very beginning, through the evolution of life, to the natural creation and destruction of land and civilisations. We began to travel the world and question everything around us.

Suddenly the final year of my undergraduate degree arrived and I had achieved enough to continue as a Masters student. In this final year I researched the chemical compositions of magma within the Cretaceous (>65 million year old) volcanoes of South Korea, and the evolution of the plate tectonics that drive volcanic activity in this region of SE Asia.

Graduating from the University of Leicester as a Master of Geology was a massive achievement. But this was just the start of my path into volcanology. Following this I entered straight into a PhD at the University of Glasgow where I really have travelled the world and achieved many of my wildest dreams…

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