Improving Inversions of Regional Outer Core Surface Flow Models through the Application of Spherical Slepian Functions
This PhD was hosted in the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, in partnership with the British Geological Survey which acted as a CASE partner.
I did not think that I would ever do a PhD or become a researcher so my time in Edinburgh has definitely influenced my future. It has given me skills that are relevant to both academia and industry.
What was your research about?
My PhD was about using a mathematical methodology to separate models of the Earth’s magnetic field (and the outer core flow that generates the magnetic field) into regions. We wanted to investigate how features at the very bottom of the Earth’s mantle might be affecting the motion of liquid iron in the core. This has applications for anything related to navigation (including your mobile phone!) as better understanding of the dynamics of the outer core motion would allow us to predict future magnetic field change more accurately.
What made you apply to the E3 DTP?
I initially applied in January for the DTP but was not selected for the programme. However, following the DTP recruitment, some more money was made available for PhD research via the NPIF funds for studentships with a compulsory industry placement. I was really interested in my subject and felt that doing a PhD would give me the chance to continue developing the skills I gained in my Master by Research. The addition of a compulsory 6-month industry placement made the funding more appealing as it would ensure that I gained experience with a company as well as expertise in research.
Go sit in the sunshine with my friends and eat ice cream while chatting about science! Doing the PhD gives you the flexibility to work the hours that suit you and pursue what interests you most.
Tutoring and Demonstrating: I spent a long time developing these skills and creating resources about geophysics equipment for future demonstrators and lecturers to use. I love to give students the freedom to make decisions themselves and find new ways to explain mathematical concepts. It is an amazing feeling when you see that someone grasps a concept they were struggling with.
Go to conferences: you gain so much in such a short space of time and get external input on your science. Through conferences I have been able to connect with other early career researchers around the world and have really in-depth talks about science to deepen my understanding. Conferences can also be in some amazing locations and you get to soak up the food and culture of the place along the way – poutine in Canada, schnitzel in Austria, ceilidh in Aberdeen…
Was your PhD what you expected it to be?
At times my PhD was what I expected it to be but at other times it was not. I had completed a Master by research at the University of Edinburgh so I kept my same desk and supervisor and I was aware of how the office operated. However, no one was expecting the pandemic and completing research when working from home was one of the most challenging aspects of the PhD. I am not a natural writer but was surprised at the improvements I gained in broader skills like writing.
I am not a natural writer but was surprised at the improvements I gained in broader skills like writing.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I would have taken a break during the pandemic sooner rather than later to provide myself with time to organise what was happening.
Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?
All the wonderful friends and colleagues I met along the way! The GeoSciences GradSchool organises events, like ceilidhs or conferences or talks, for GeoSciences PhD students and is run by other GeoSciences PhD students. It is how I became friend with some great people who I expect to be friends with for life.
Which skills did you gain during your PhD?
Scientific skills I gained/improved included: teaching, presentation skills, coding skills (Matlab, Fortran and Python), general computation skills, linear mathematics and inversion, understanding of the subject matter, manuscript writing, proposal writing, literature review.
General skills I gained/improved included: confidence, teamwork, independent working, industry experience, writing skills, cv writing, ability to communicate to all levels of understanding, organisation, problem solving, time management, critical thinking.
Doing the PhD gives you the flexibility to work the hours that suit you and pursue what interests you most.
What would not have been possible without the DTP?
I completed two industry placements during my PhD: one specialising in microwave radiometry for a CubeSat company and one specialising in machine learning to detect roads from satellite data. These were made possible through DTP and NPIF funding and allowed me to gain experience in industry.
Funding through the British Geological Survey (BGS) provided extra training, some extra funding and visits to their research facilities.
How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career pathway?
I have decided to continue in academia as a postdoctoral researcher. I did not think that I would ever do a PhD or become a researcher so my time in Edinburgh has definitely influenced my future. It has given me skills that are relevant to both academia and industry.
I am going to start a 2-year postdoctoral position at ISTerre, Université Grenoble Alpes in October 2022. I applied for a job with the same group in September 2021 but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. After this, I developed a fellowship application idea and submitted that unsuccessfully to Scripps (UCSD, San Diego), before submitting it to CNES (Paris, France) where I have gained funding to complete the post-doctorate at ISTerre from October 2022.