Eruption dynamics of cyclic vulcanian explosions from Galeras volcano, Colombia
This PhD was hosted in the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, in partnership with the British Geological Survey (BGS).
I initially would go to my supervisor to tell her what I was thinking of doing and to seek her support and guidance, and I slowly transitioned to going to my supervisor to tell her what I had done and what I was going to do.
What was your research about?
I investigated the properties of eruption products (ballistic bombs) from cyclic explosions that occurred at Galeras volcano, Colombia. This style of volcanic activity is common at volcanoes around the Pacific rim, which are known as “arc volcanoes”. Using this volcano as a case study, I linked the micro-textures in the eruption products to changes in the way the magma behaved as it was erupted, which controlled the size and the timing of the explosions.
What made you apply to the E3 DTP?
I applied for the PhD because I knew it was a topic I was interested in and that could sustain my interest for 4 years. I also wanted to pursue an academic career in this area. The DTP funding was appealing as it provided extra training and opportunities to interact with other students in the cohort.
What did you find challenging in your PhD?
The biggest challenge for me was to get into the field to get my samples, as there were some administrative delays that led to me obtaining the samples 9 months after I started. The challenge was then to fit all the research needed for a PhD-level contribution into the remaining time. One observation I remember making that surprised me (in a good way) was that I initially would go to my supervisor to tell her what I was thinking of doing and to seek her support and guidance, and I slowly transitioned to going to my supervisor to tell her what I had done and what I was going to do.
- The fieldwork in Colombia was a highlight, working with the volcano observatory staff there and experiencing the country (and Latin America) for the first time.
- The internship I did at the USGS Cascades volcano observatory was also a very valuable experience.
- I took part in many conferences, in the UK and abroad (Italy and USA), which were stressful but also lots of fun and provided opportunities to see people I hadn’t seen in between.
- Demonstrating was also fun and I learned a lot of new things from the lecturers, and it was useful to earn a bit of extra money during the PhD.
- I published one paper during this time and the second one is in review.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I would have taken a statistics class!
Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed interacting with my supervisors, research group, people in the department and the wider research community. I also enjoyed taking part in science outreach events (open days, public talks, etc.).
Which skills did you gain during your PhD?
I gained a lot of project management skills and had the opportunity to deliver several talks at conferences for the first time. One big transformation has been to realise that my own opinion is as valuable as others in my field, and that I can and should take part in scientific debates as I do have something to offer. I think this is something that many women in science struggle with. I also learned to take critical reviews as an opportunity to become a better scientist. I also managed to keep a good work/life/health balance throughout the PhD, and I think this is very important.
One big transformation has been to realise that my own opinion is as valuable as others in my field, and that I can and should take part in scientific debates as I do have something to offer.
What would not have been possible without the DTP?
I did a PIP with the USGS at the Cascades Volcano observatory thanks to the DTP, which I could not have done otherwise as the DTP provided living expenses for three extra months during this time. That opportunity was very special, as it provided me with a glimpse into the workings of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (which will help me identify impactful lines of research) and professional contacts for the future.
How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career path?
I am still unsure of my career path. I would like to continue on an academic career path but I am filled with doubts because of the challenges of securing post-doctoral positions in volcanology. I will continue to persevere down this path for a few years but I would say the chance of giving up on academia is still high. However, the PhD has given me demonstrably transferable skills (e.g. communication and project management skills) that I’m sure will benefit me if I decide to leave academia.
The PhD has given me demonstrably transferable skills (e.g. communication and project management skills) that I’m sure will benefit me if I decide to leave academia.
I am currently working part-time as a research assistant on a project associated with the Centre for Contemporary Latin American Studies (a project on energy and the environment in Ecuador) at the university. This opportunity arose through a contact given to me by my research supervisor. I have switched to a new school in a new college, and I hope this will help me improve as an inter-disciplinary researcher. I also work part-time as an academic editor (editing academic papers written by researchers for whom English is not the first language).