PhD Student, Geological Exploration, Joana Cardoso-Fernandes @MicasJoana: A Day in the GeoLife Series

geological exploration
Joana Cardoso-Fernandes in the Pyrenees for one of the mandatory classes of her Ph.D. program. ©2020 Joana Cardoso-Fernandes

NAME: Joana Cardoso-Fernandes

CURRENT TITLE: Ph.D. Student (Geosciences, University of Porto, Portugal)

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Geological exploration, Remote Sensing, Li mineralizations, Petrography, Geochemistry, Machine Learning



2018-10-03 to present | Ph.D. in Geosciences (Universidade do Porto: Faculdade de Ciências)

2016-09-13 to 2018-06-18 | Master degree in Geology (Universidade do Porto: Faculdade de Ciências)

2013-09-12 to 2016-09-19 | Bachelor degree in Geology (Universidade do Porto: Faculdade de Ciências)



What’s your job like?

Currently, my Ph.D. focuses on lithium (Li)-pegmatite exploration in the Iberian Peninsula. My job is usually very multidisciplinary since I apply distinct remote sensing techniques and machine learning algorithms to satellite images in order to target Li-pegmatites. This is accompanied by complementary field and laboratory spectroscopic studies, and by petrographic and geochemical analysis that help to validate the remote sensing results. All this information is compiled and merged using geographic information systems (GIS). 

What’s a typical day like?

For me, a typical day usually means spending some time working on the computer since I apply most of the remote sensing algorithms through Python coding. In addition, I can also work in the laboratory either observing thin sections under the microscope, taking reflectance measurements of Li-minerals using a spectroradiometer, or just preparing some samples for further geochemical analysis. Whenever possible I try to find some time for reading new papers or books related to the work I am doing. 

Joana Cardoso-Fernandes on a field campaign in her study area to collect some samples for geochemical analysis (in the photo, she is taking some notes about the pegmatite dike to her right). ©2020 Joana Cardoso-Fernandes

What’s fun?

The most fun for me is going to the field either to collect samples or to validate the results of the satellite image processing. It is always a good opportunity for team building and enjoying nature. Also, I really enjoy that feeling when I successfully accomplish or finish some of the tasks that I have delineated in my Ph.D. proposal. This is especially true when I had to learn new things or develop new skills (like learning to code) to accomplish those goals. 

What’s challenging?

Like I said before, the topic of my work is very multidisciplinary and, therefore, it was a big challenge to step out of my comfort zone (and my base formation) and learn new things about remote sensing, satellite image processing, and machine learning. But overcoming the challenges is always the most rewarding part of our work. 

What’s your advice to students?

For all the students that may be considering starting a research project, I think it is important to manage the expectations. I speak from personal experience because when I was writing my own Ph.D. proposal, I was very ambitious, and I wanted to accomplish a lot of goals. But I forgot to account for all the unknown difficulties and challenges that are inherent to any research. I think that often people in science don’t talk about their struggles, so it is really important that you don’t let yourself be discouraged by them. With experience, you learn how to better optimize your time and to select your priority tasks: there is no shame if you cannot accomplish all of them!

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