Investigating the internal structure of glaciers and ice sheets using ice penetrating radar
This PhD was hosted in the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh in partnership with the School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh.
The PhD gave me the opportunity to explore new ideas, and the confidence to be able to stand up at international conferences and talk about and discuss work in detail.
What was your research about?
My PhD aimed to develop new approaches to processing ice-penetrating radar data collected over glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctica. I started with modelling data, before collecting field data in Svalbard. I developed and applied an approach to estimating the internal water-content of glacier ice using a common-offset radar dataset by diffraction focusing, and investigated approaches to automated internal-layer tracking applied to Antarctic airborne radar data.
What made you apply to the E3 DTP?
After my MSc I was really interested in the broader research area – the project gave a great introduction and opportunity to develop my own work. Edinburgh and Scotland is also a great place to live and work (and I’ve stayed post-PhD), so it was all round a great opportunity.
What did you find challenging in your PhD?
My project was very open at the beginning – I found it challenging to focus on just one aspect of work as there were so many possible avenues. The process of applying for funding, planning equipment and logistics, and leading fieldwork in such an extreme environment also took quite some commitment, but the fieldwork was really enjoyable and incredibly rewarding.
It was very nice to find how integral PhD research and PhD students are to the wider research groups – I was able to present work several times informally to the wider glaciology research group for discussion, and this helped mould ideas for the project and focus on particular areas of interest.
It was very nice to find how integral PhD research and PhD students are to the wider research groups in Edinburgh.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Start writing as soon as possible! I read a lot in my first year which helped direct the research, but I didn’t write it all down so I had to revisit it in detail for the thesis. I also would have tried to be more confident in reaching out to other academics in the research field for potential collaborations or help - it can be daunting (and my supervisor helped a great deal in this sense) but during a PhD is a great time to foster links and expand your network beyond Edinburgh. Also, I would have taken more time off for holidays or short breaks- you have more time than you realise and it’s important to reset once in a while!
Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed the fieldwork, and was lucky enough to spend several months in total in the Arctic, both preparing for and doing fieldwork, but also taking and teaching on courses at the University Centre in Svalbard. Spending a month in the Arctic in Springtime at -20c is certainly unique!
- My fieldwork in the Arctic
- 2 months collaborating with the Radioglaciology research group at Stanford University in California. It was a daunting prospect to work at such a prestigious institution, but was hugely enjoyable and California is just one big adventure.
Which skills did you gain during your PhD?
The PhD gave me great experience in planning and undertaking research from start to finish. It gave me the opportunity to explore new ideas (including the ones that didn’t work), and the confidence to be able to stand up at international conferences and talk about and discuss work in detail. I was able to teach on several undergraduate courses, which was great for developing teaching skills and confidence. I was able to take the time to improve my coding skills and develop my knowledge of glaciology and geophysics through courses and having the time to read and understand published work.
What would not have been possible without the DTP?
I took the opportunity in my 3rd year to do a funded PIP with Orbital Micro Systems, working on passive microwave satellite data. This started as a 4-month project but was extended to 8 months, and I have continued to work with them post-PhD. As part of this I was introduced to the wider world of commercial applications of geoscience and remote sensing, and represented the company at the UK Space Agency conference in Wales.
My PhD has helped me pursue a career in the wider geoscience and remote sensing industry, and I hope to retain close links to academic research in the future.
How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career path?
I thoroughly enjoyed the work I was able to undertake in my PhD, and it has helped me pursue a career in the wider geoscience and remote sensing industry, and I hope to retain close links to academic research in the future.
I continue to work for Orbital Micro Systems, following on from the internship I undertook in my 3rd year, as a Remote Sensing Scientist. This entails leading algorithm development for retrieving geophysical products from passive microwave datasets, and contributing to the development of commercial geoscience products.