Volcanology, James Hickey @jameshickey77: A Day in the Geolife series

NAME: James Hickey


AREA OF EXPERTISE: Volcanology (& Geophysics). More specifically my research interests are in the processes controlling the dynamics of active and restless volcanoes and the geophysical signals they produce.

YEARS EXPERIENCE: 3.5 years of research

EDUCATION: I started with a 4-year MSci in Environmental Geoscience at the University of Bristol and then decided to stay to do my ongoing PhD (which is now coming to an end).

WEBSITE:  https://jameshickey77.wordpress.com/


Me at an exploding Sakurajima volcano during a conference in Japan. Copyright 2015 James Hickey

What’s your job like?

My job is awesome – I love doing my PhD. Sure, there are hard times, but they are far outweighed by the good. I get to travel quite a bit for fieldwork, conferences and workshops. Then in-between those trips, I work on my research with the data I have picked up. The real beauty of my job though is that it is so flexible. I can work whatever hours suit me as long as I get the work done. I’m also able to work from different locations around the globe as long as I can access my computer.

What’s a typical day like?

A so-called ‘typical’ day is hard to define. It depends whether I’m away from the office and travelling or not. At the moment, I’m coming to the end of my PhD, so a typical day involves me working in the office. I’m simultaneously trying to finish off some research on a volcano called Sakurajima in Japan, write a thesis, write a paper for publication and make a decision on what I want to do when I eventually finish my PhD. Yes, it’s busy, but it keeps me motivated. A friend and I made a short video of what a typical PhD day might look like at the University of Bristol Earth Sciences department:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvkuKiyx9MQ. I also usually start and/or finish my day with some sport or exercise of some kind.


A big Diet Coke and Mentos eruption during some school outreach activities. Copyright 2015 James Hickey

What’s fun?

Travelling is by far the most fun part of my job. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a lot of new places, but there are also a lot of other fun aspects. I get involved with a lot of science outreach and communication projects which is always enjoyable. This new video shows some of the cool stuff we did during a recent secondary school visit to learn about volcanoes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFwV79IN-kc&feature=share. And then there is the science – seeing some exciting, new results, or discovering something previously unknown is very rewarding.

Me in Dominica engaging in some field-based outreach. Copyright 2015 James Hickey

Me in Dominica engaging in some field-based outreach. Copyright 2015 James Hickey

What’s challenging?

At the moment, my biggest challenge is balancing all the tasks I need to get done to finish my PhD in a timely fashion. But over the course of my PhD, the most challenging part has been trying to decide which research avenues to really focus on, meaning some have had to be left behind. Maybe, one day, I’ll be able to come back to them…


Hiking down from Uturuncu volcano with geophysical equipment. Copyright 2015 James Hickey

What’s your advice to students?

Follow your heart – study something that really interests you and that you’re passionate about. That way it will be much easier to stay motivated when things get tough. Then take all the opportunities that come your way – there’s never a better time than at university to try new things, meet new people, travel to new places or learn new skills!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: