PhD Student Sedimentology
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Joanne Venus

Job title: Sedimentology PhD Student

I look at ancient river and dune systems

What exactly does a PhD Student do?

A PhD student is usually based at a University and works on a specific research question or problem. You typically take 3-3.5 years to complete your research and then submit a thesis. The sorts of projects and data collection vary widely depending on the topic. I am a Sedimentologist and my data comes from fieldwork in the UK and Utah: I spend between 7-9 weeks a year camping in the desert measuring geological sections and collecting data that I use back in the office to build models to help us understand how ancient rivers developed in arid areas. I then apply my data to make predictive tools that could be used in reservoir characterization.

Apart from formal qualifications, what other skills or characteristics do you need?

This depends on the topic of your PhD. I do a lot of fieldwork so an ability to ‘rough it’ out in the field and to work (and get along with) with a small field team is essential.

All PhDs, and research, requires a level of commitment and motivation as it is you who will have to drive the research forward and ensure you have enough data to complete a thesis at the end.
A sense of humor is invaluable!

What advice or information do you wish you’d had before starting this career?

I worked between my undergraduate course (BSc Geology) and starting my PhD both in industry and for the British Geological Survey so I had a chance to meet lots of people who had done PhDs before. Several of them gave me lots of good advice like to make sure you choose a topic that you are really interested in (you need to work on it for 3-4 years..), visit the universities and meet other people in the research group, and importantly don’t leave the whole of the PhD to the last year; 3 years goes very quickly!

Most importantly doing a PhD is very rewarding and the perfect opportunity to carry out detailed research in your chosen area. If you choose a PhD make the most of everyone around you and opportunities for training and learning. I finally understand stereo-nets after teaching them to first year undergraduates.