A Day in the Life of an Earth Science Student

Being an MSci Earth Science student, no two days are the same! After 3 years of attending lectures and practicals, with roughly 17 hours of teaching a week, this year is completely different. I am conducting my own Research Project on a volcano in Iran called Mount Damavand, and the other modules I am doing mainly consist of group projects with other students. We organise our timetable, our work and our goals ourselves with very little teaching time – however, our lecturers are always there to help us out when we need it!  

That’s me with a big volcano in the background!

A typical day for me would begin with a meeting with my Supervisor in the morning. She directs and advises me on my Research Project and also acts as a general fountain of knowledge for everything Volcanological. We usually discuss what work I have done the past week. This may involve reading papers, microscope work in the petrology lab or analysing data on special software. I can also ask about any problems or issues I’m having with the project and hopefully get them fixed soon after. After setting my work for a following week, and having lunch, it’s on to the Department Seminar.

These seminars happen once a week, where a speaker from another university is invited to come and talk about their research. These seminars are compulsory for Fourth Year students taking the ‘Communicating Science’ module. The topics discussed so far this year have been really varied, from ‘Did Dinosaurs get Cancer?’ to CO2 storage in the Southern Antarctic Ocean. It’s fascinating to see how broad the field of Earth Science really is and how it could take you in so many different directions. After the presentation there is always a Q&A section. Most of the time the undergraduates don’t have many questions to ask (as they’re still trying to process all the new information from the cutting-edge research!), but it is always interesting to see what other lectures have to say and how they critic the research.

Earth Science field trip

After the seminar, I usually either have a workshop on either scientific writing or presentation skills. At the end of our Fourth Year, we present our research project at the Department Conference – in front of around 200 people! Thankfully, to prepare us for this, we have to practice giving our presentation to our year group. Sometimes these are recorded so we can watch ourselves back, so we know what to improve on. This is often quite a cringy experience, especially when I realised how much I move my hands about when talking! Nonetheless, it has proved to be a valuable exercise.

To finish off my day, I might meet with my project group for the Earth Science into Industry module. For this module, we are working with a real company to assess the potential for mining Rare Earth Elements in Wales. We often have Skype meetings with our company contact and meet as a group regularly to delegate tasks and work on parts of the project together.

After a busy day in the department, my evenings can often be just as hectic. I play table tennis for the university, and so my evenings often involve training at Maiden Castle or the sports hall at Hild Bede. I also like to keep myself busy meeting up with friends – hopefully not going to bed too late as I’ve got to get up the next day and do it all again!

We have another blog from Earth Science student Lucy who is in her first year – take a look here

Erin Thompson

Hey! My name is Erin Thompson, and I’m a fourth year at Durham University, studying an MSci in Earth Sciences. I love all things geology and science in general – but this year I’ve decided to specialise in Volcanology! I’m also passionate about sport and just having a good time in general! Here’s me with a big volcano in the background.
Erin Thompson

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