Associate Professor in Geology, Graham Andrews @WVURockDoc: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Associate Professor
Associate Professor in Geology, Graham Andrews ©2020 Graham Andrews

NAME: Graham Andrews

CURRENT TITLE: Associate Professor of Geology

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Volcanology, Structural Geology


EDUCATION: Master of Geology – University of Leicester, UK 1996-2000
PhD – University of Leicester, UK 2001-2006



What’s your job like?

As a professor at West Virginia University (WVU), I do a mix of teaching, research, and administration. I mainly teach Geology undergraduate classes; my main class is Introduction to Minerals and Rocks that is required for all new Geology majors. I also teach at WVU’s field camp and a study abroad class in Iceland. 

Research takes up about half my time, and that is split between my own studies and working with my undergraduate and graduate research students. We research a broad range of topics in volcanology, geomorphology, and tectonics, rather than focusing on one specialty – this keeps life interesting and allows students a lot of freedom to do what they want to. I usually go into the field in the summer, usually to a nice sunny volcano in the western US. My favorite field areas right now are in Sardinia, Italy, and the Sierra Madre Occidental highlands of northwest Mexico; I can’t wait to go back!

What’s a typical day like?

Most of my days are split between teaching (preparation, lecturing, and grading) and research work. I like to teach early in the morning to free up the rest of the day and get the class while they are still fresh and alert. On teaching days I follow class with time for meeting with students and office hours, followed by grading and preparations for the next class. On non-teaching days I focus on research and working with my research students.

Associate Professor in Geology, Graham Andrews ©2020 Graham Andrews

What’s fun?

I like to do my work at home or in the lab, and I appreciate having a very flexible schedule. Because of that, I like to give my research students a lot of freedom to work to their own schedules and to treat the lab as a space where they can work and hang-out – students probably more from each other than they do from me, especially about how to be a successful student. I get a real sense of accomplishment from motivating and advising students whether it be recruiting prospective research students in my classes, writing reference letters, or helping my graduate students with getting funding and publishing their science.

What’s challenging?

Keeping the whole research machine running is a constant challenge – it’s like running a small business. I am responsible for mentoring, fund-raising, keeping the equipment running, logistics, finances, recruitment, you-name-it. All research takes longer than you think it will, and I am constantly trying to smooth out all the kinks so the students can get on with their research. Like most scientists, I am better at starting new projects than finishing old ones.

What’s your advice to students?

It’s a cliche but do what you enjoy and are interested in – it’s the best way to get through the challenging times like exams, writing a thesis, applying for jobs, etc. There is a huge range of options in the geosciences so don’t get fixated on one path too early before you have tried out a few others, and don’t feel like you are stuck on one path – you could do a Bachelor’s thesis on fossils, a Master’s in hydrogeology, and a PhD in volcanic gas emissions, and then get a job as a geothermal energy scientist. Finally, don’t be afraid of computers and a little math – I have never felt very mathematically gifted but being able to do some very simple math and statistics is essential and very useful.

Associate Professor in Geology, Graham Andrews ©2020 Graham Andrews

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