Lecturer, Geochemistry, Dr. Marc K. Reichow @marcreichow: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Dr. Marc K. Reichow on Tenerife Island. Las Canadas caldera and Teide volcano are in the background. ©2020 Dr Marc K. Reichow

NAME: Dr. Marc K. Reichow

CURRENT TITLE: Lecturer in Igneous and Metamorphic Geochemistry (it’s a long one and doesn’t fit on any form)

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Petrology, Geochemistry, Volcanology, Geochronology – my general interests focuses on the petrogenesis of large scale volcanism


EDUCATION: I graduated with a degree in mineralogy, moved to the UK and started a PhD whilst working in London which was tough (I admire anyone who completes a PhD whilst working full time). I moved to full-time PhD work a year later and graduated from the University of Leicester submitting my work on the Siberian Traps LIP in 2004. Posts as IODP Logging staff scientist and as researcher on two large grants to investigate Siberian Traps and Yellowstone volcanism followed. I finally got a permanent post at the University of Leicester in 2015 where I currently teach and undertake research. 

WEBSITE: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/geology/people/reichow-mk

TWITTER NAME: @marcreichow

What’s your job like?

I am teaching-focused which means I spend most of my time preparing and delivering sessions in the classroom but also in the field. I also supervise several PhD and master’s students. This pretty much occupies most of my time. Keeping the attention of a large group of students for extended periods of time is challenging but I love it. Nevertheless, I undertake research and look into the formation of large-scale volcanism and also undertake pedagogical research. That’s great fun and I travelled a fair bit working with colleagues and several Universities worldwide including USA, China, Russia, Germany, and New Zealand.

How do you research?

The chemical composition of each rock or mineral is a powerful piece of information that can be used to unravel its history. The challenge is to work backward from its current state to where it originated from, its source. Many processes could have occurred and transformed the magma since it was formed. I collect major and trace element, and radio-isotopic data on whole-rock powders and on tiny minerals using laser and other cool equipment. I find it fascinating that we can analyse on micron scales and that I can get lost in an area that is a fraction of the size of my smallest fingernail. Best moment ever? Collecting age data in the middle of the night and realising that I just doubled the size of the Siberian Traps large igneous province. I’ll never forget that! 

What’s a typical day like?

I don’t really have very typical days and that’s what I love about my job. This varies greatly whether I do fieldwork or am at University. I usually get up early to bring the kids to school and cycle to work. My current post is teaching-focused and I oversee and lead four modules, supervise masters and PhD projects. I love teaching and spend a long time preparing my material, including material that sometimes just happened the day before. I don’t give lectures as such and my students learn in workshops, where I introduce concepts briefly, set tasks, work out potential answers together, and summarise our findings at the end. This is far more fun for all than the typical lecture. I also do outreach activities travelling to schools talking about Geology to students.

What’s fun?

I love the contact with the students and discussing their projects and work. Being able to inspire students to follow geology as a career path. When I am out and about in the field working, I truly feel free. When you find new things no one else discovered before you. That’s a great feeling which is hard to describe. Sitting in the evening sun overlooking great rocks and landscapes …

What’s challenging?

Finding the time to do all the things I’d love to do and the ones I have to do… 

What’s your advice to students?

Follow your dream, don’t give up, and believe in yourself! Ask for help and don’t feel you have to solve all by yourself. The career path is not always straight forward. It’s challenging to be a scientist but hugely rewarding! Talk to people and be proactive. Contact places if you want to work there and don’t wait for an advert to appear.

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