St. Mary’s Senior High School (Canada), University of Calgary (Canada), University of York (UK), Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium)
BSc in Biology (2010), MSc in Environmental Science and Management (2012), PhD in Geochemistry (2016)
My first ever job was babysitting the kids in my neighbourhood. In high school and for a few years at uni I worked part-time at a supermarket making pizzas – I think I still make the best pizzas of anyone I know! Later I worked part-time as the check-in receptionist at an urgent care center – it was very hectic and I saw many shocking things. After I finished my (nine years!) of university education, my first ‘postdoctoral’ research job involved laboratory experiments on soot from a smelter factory in Dunkirk (France). I most recently completed a two-year project on ice formation by volcanic ash in Leeds.
University of Cambridge
I’m a volcanologist who loves Earth and space science, travelling and experiencing new cultures, baking cakes and cookies, and binge-watching a good Netflix series!
I like to try different things which is probably why I took such a curvy path to get where I am now – studying biology in Canada, environmental science in the UK, volcanology/geochemistry in Belgium, and atmospheric science in France and the UK! I recently moved to Cambridge for a three-year research project on volcanic ash and sulphur in the atmosphere. When I’m not working I like a chill day just watching films or reading a good book, accompanied by tea and biscuits or a curry and cider. I often travel to visit friends and family in different cities and countries, since I mostly grew up in Canada but I also lived throughout Europe during my university studies. I love spending time in nature walking in forests, hiking up mountains (especially volcanoes!), and exploring caves, especially when I want to clear my mind.
I study how volcanoes affect our environment. An eruption can send tiny particles of 'ash' into the sky. My job is to understand how and why they influence chemistry and clouds in the atmosphere.
Most of my work involves using laboratory experiments to test how volcanic ash behaves under conditions similar to those it might face while in the air. My current focus is trying to understand how ash particles play a role in chemical reactions in the atmosphere and ice formation in clouds. I do experiments with ash samples that have been collected from volcanic eruptions all around the world. This allows us to get an idea of how the impacts of an eruption on the environment might change depending on the volcano. Once I have enough experimental data, I try to understand the results and make a conclusion, which I eventually write about in the form of a scientific article. Articles are a key way for researchers to share their findings with the wider scientific community. About once a year I present my findings at a scientific conference, which brings hundreds to thousands of international researchers together to share and discuss, and usually lasts for a few days. I can certainly say I’m never bored at work!
My Typical Day:
No day is typical – it depends on how I want to spend it. I might perform experiments with volcanic ash in the laboratory, other times I think and write about my results while sitting at my desk, and occasionally I travel to talk about my work with other scientists around the world. I also sometimes visit other universities (like Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany) to use special laboratory instruments that are not available at my home university.
On a day in the lab, I might expose ash to gases like sulphur dioxide, and then measure how much of the gas attaches to the ash surface. On another day, I might cool down droplets of ash in water to below zero degrees Celsius, and record how many of the droplets freeze at which temperatures. I’m the image of a scientist while wearing my white lab coat and plastic safety goggles! Outside of the lab, I work at my desk planning my experiments, organising and interpreting my results, and reading and writing scientific articles. I share an office with PhD students and other postdoctoral researchers like myself (who have finished their PhD and earned the ‘doctor’ title). This makes it easy to share knowledge and ideas about our work, which are all unique but also overlap in interesting ways.
My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:
A dinosaur being hit by an asteroid
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Adventurous, organised, and thoughtful :-)
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
What: my love of science and the Earth, Who: a volcanologist I met with incredible enthusiasm (who then became my PhD supervisor)
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Marine biologist - I admit 'Free Willy' affected this!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really - I was too scared of being told off!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I like all sorts of music - can't choose a favourite
What's your favourite food?
Chocolate, cupcakes, brownies...anything sweet really
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Going to Disney World with my parents and sister when I was 16. I can ride roller coasters and listen to princess songs all day!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To be happy, healthy, and helpful in some way to the world
Tell us a joke.
What kind of dessert comes out of a musical volcano? Bach Lava