UPDATED! PhD Student, Glacial Lakes, Laura Eddey @poorlysorted: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Laura Eddey, Ph.D Candidate, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom


(Laura has updated this guest blog post to reflect the changes during her second year as a PhD candidate.  To see the progression of Laura’s career, start with her original post below dated August 27, 2014)

NAME:  Laura Eddey

CURRENT TITLE:  Ph.D candidate at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

THESIS TITLE:  Late Pleistocene proglacial lacustrine environments within the Vale of Pickering 

AREAS OF INTEREST:  Paleolakes, lake coring, sedimentology, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), Milutin Milanković, optically simulated luminescence (OSL) dating, glacial geomorphology, geochronology, geographic information system (GIS), and boreholes

MS Physical Geography – University of Wisconsin, Madison
BS Environmental Geography and Geology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

WEBSITE: http://prlysrtd.blogspot.co.uk/

What’s your job like?

I’m in the second year of my Ph.D and it’s all about the data. I spent the first year reading, writing, and trying to define the focus of my research. This was followed by four months of field work in the Vale of Pickering that included drilling six boreholes with the help of the drilling team from the British Geological Survey (BGS) who used a Dando drilling rig, shallow augering, OSL sampling, and ground-truthing LiDAR data. Now I’m processing cores and the OSL samples, as well as trying to input a ton of borehole data into a BGS open-source programme called GroundHog. Data from GroundHog will be the source of my 3D map complied in another BGS modeling program me called GSi3D. The results will be presented at this year’s Geological Society meeting held in June.

What’s a typical day like?

At the moment, it’s all data entry and lab work. Although fieldwork is definitely my favorite part of physical geography, the laboratory work is exciting, as it deepens the understanding of observations from fieldwork. The initial hypotheses I make whilst walking the landscape are either confirmed or force me to re-evaluate what I’m looking at. It can be very frustrating but very rewarding. The Vale of Pickering is a large area and feels overwhelmingly so at times, but I know my results so far and the observations I’m making are going to eventually lead to a piece of work that will help redefine the Late Glacial history of the area. ©


PhD candidate, Laura Eddey with Carl Horabin from the BGS drilling team during summer 2015. ©2016 Laura Eddey


What’s fun?

You probably won’t believe me, but everything is fun. The overall sense of achievement I get from finding a long-lost borehole record or a long-forgotten source that adds to my research ideas keeps me going. I have a ton of enthusiasm for my work because it’s my first love and favourite thing to do. Even when I don’t feel like doing it, I force myself to because after a few minutes, I forget why I didn’t feel like working and I’m sucked back in.

What’s challenging?

Again, everything is also challenging. The most challenging aspect, for me, is to keep my focus to the questions I have outlined for my Ph.D. Often I find small side stories tempting me to go and investigate what they might have to offer, but I have to keep on track so that I finish. I try and keep the ideas I have to the side and will hopefully get to those another day. 

What’s your advice to students?

Try to do something every day even if you don’t feel like it: read something, write down an idea, even just think about your project. It needs to be there in the front of your mind so that the ideas don’t go cold. I talk about my thoughts to my boyfriend, to my family, and the cat. Even though they don’t know what I’m going on about half the time, I find it helps just to bounce ideas off someone. 

The other thing is to have confidence. Don’t take academic criticism personally. It’s not personal, even if it feels that way. For the most part, people are trying to help you, and if critiques come back saying everything is wrong, try and figure out why that might be the case. Look at everything from as many angles as you can, and rule out what isn’t possible.

Lastly, enjoy it.

If you have any questions for Laura, please fill out the comment section below.



NAME:  Laura Hayes

CURRENT TITLE:  Geology tutor and PhD Student

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Glacial geology/geomorphology.  Geology tutor at Anglo Skills College in Nottingham and PhD student at the University of Sheffield.

EDUCATION:  Six years of education down (BS University of Minnesota; MS University of Wisconsin), three (PhD University of Sheffield) to go!

What’s your job like?

At the moment, it’s quiet. I’ve just returned from living in the Midwest of the United States. I had been teaching large (~80 students) introductory earth sciences, but now I am teaching one ESL student from Libya as part of a test course on introductory geology that the college is developing for ESL students from the Middle East who are going back to work in the oil industry. Things are about to get hectic as I start my PhD in October, and I am about to embark as a field work assistant (another side job of mine – I love fieldwork!) in Corsica with the University of Edinburgh. I also organise a monthly meeting in Sheffield called Nerd Nite where intellectuals, academics, the general public, and a few drunks get together to listen to talks on just about anything. It’s like the discovery channel, but with beer.

What’s a typical day like?  

I don’t think I have a typical day, which is why I love whatever I am doing. One day, I might be teaching – which is a great job for me, as I get to talk about all the processes and not be told to shut up (although I do still see a few eyes glaze over haha), and there is nothing like showing people the cool earth processes and have them understand why it’s so cool. I might be on a fieldwork expedition looking at rocks or landforms, exploring new places, and getting new research ideas. I might be at a conference, which are important because sometimes you need a, what I call, REB: research enthusiasm boost – you may love your projects, but they can get to feel a bit familiar, so you need a reminder of why you do all this work and talking to others in your field can lead to new and fresh ideas.

What’s fun?

For me, anything involving geoscience, but most of all, fieldwork. I love being outside, exploring, going to new places – down the road or abroad. I like learning the answers to things; staring at rocks for hours; and trolling Google Earth just to look at different places. Before I entered education and decided to pursue what I love, I just wasn’t happy and felt something was missing from my life.

What’s challenging?

My organisational skills! I’m getting better at sorting myself out, though. So, partly, that’s where the name ‘poorlysorted’ came from: my love of glacial till, but I am also quite disorganised.

What’s your advice to students?

Do what you love. Honestly, everyone says it, but it’s hard to force yourself into a discipline that your heart’s not in, especially long-term. Often, we get other people influencing our choices – parents, spouses, partners, children, etc – but it’s often at the risk of dulling a part of you. Even if, sometimes, you feel like you can’t do it, you can! I’m proof of that. I doubted myself for years until I actually got up and tried. Yes, it’s hard, it takes practice, you will fail – a lot – and you will spend a lot of time feeling alone with your work unrecognised, but sometimes I look at the landforms or the rocks that I love, and I think, I don’t care about the (lack of) money, the recognition, that my master’s degree made me cry, or that people keep asking when I’ll get a real job because I love what I do more than anything. I’m where I supposed to be and life’s too short to be anywhere else.

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