James is a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in the field of Volcanology and is based at the University of Bristol. He was also the winner of the I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of here! competition and Bloggs regularly about his fieldwork.
How would you describe your work in ten words?
“Studying volcanoes to better forecast when eruptions might happen.”
What does a day-in-the-life of a geophysicist look like?
Well, that’s a tricky question. A lot of time is spent in an office, manipulating data, running numerical models and interpreting results. This would probably be the most ‘typical’ day. However, you can also spend days in the field deploying equipment and acquiring the data you need. These are my favourite days, in my favourite type of ‘office’.
How did you become interested in geophysics?
During my undergraduate degree I enjoyed my second and third year geophysics units. Learning how we can process data acquired in the field to interpret what’s underground really interested me. We also had a cool field trip – fieldwork during the day and some data interpretation then beers in the evening – perfect! I really took off with geophysics when doing my fourth year research project though, and investigating geophysical data from a volcano in Bolivia. This led into my PhD, and now my Postdoc position.
What is your most memorable experience in your career as a geophysicist?
Fieldwork! I’ve been lucky enough to carry out fieldwork in some incredible places – Bolivia, Ecuador, the Caribbean, and more. The best of these was probably on Montserrat in the Caribbean. We did some helicopter-based fieldwork as the active volcano (Soufrière Hills) we were surveying was showing the potential to erupt and we were going relatively close to the vent!
What do you think are the big challenges in geophysics in the next decade?
Big data is going to pose an increasingly difficult problem, with improvements needed in the way we process, manipulate and interpret the huge volumes of data now being generated. We are also likely to see challenges with the on-going search for economically viable hydrocarbon deposits as environmental and economic pressures grow.
What advice would you give someone that would like a career in geophysics?
Go for it, it’s awesome! If you’re naturally curious about how the world works and want to know more, you’ll love geophysics. You also might want to consider spending some time on your maths and physics.
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