PhD Candidate, Volcanology, Tom Pering: A Day in the GeoLife Series @Volcanoblog

NAME:  Tom Pering

CURRENT TITLE:  PhD Candidate

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Volcanology (Remote Sensing and Modelling)

YEARS EXPERIENCE:  4

EDUCATION: BSc Physical Geography at the University of Reading and MSc Volcanology and Geological Hazards at Lancaster University

WEBSITE:  http://www.volcano-blog.com/

What’s your job like?

Studying volcanology is fantastic, but of course hard work at this early stage in my career. I am currently coming towards the end of my second year, with one year remaining. I am lucky enough to be funded by a NERC studentship in combination with the University of Sheffield which allows me to concentrate fully on work and study. I have a lot of freedom to explore and investigate my own ideas which all helps to keep the day-to-day schedule as varied as possible. I am also getting teaching experience as a teaching assistant during field courses and lab work.

What’s a typical day like? 

A typical day is very difficult to pin down as what I do can vary drastically. If I am running some models (usually in Ansys Fluent), my first hour(ish) is usually devoted to checking that these are operating correctly. If I have any model runs that have finished I then start to process these in additional software such as Matlab. Matlab is a program which has become essential to my PhD work, I certainly couldn’t do much without it! I use it to produce figures, graphs and process other forms of data.

After I come back from the field I usually have a large amount of data to process which can include remote sensing data from ultra-violet cameras or even geophysical (e.g. seismic) data. So a lot of my time is devoted to signal processing as well.

I have regular meetings with my supervisor to discuss my work, which is really helpful to keep my work on track and discuss any interesting findings!

What’s fun?

Being in the field and working with colleagues is fantastic fun. Getting to travel to fantastic locations to climb up volcanoes and take measurements really is thoroughly enjoyable, especially as the majority of my target volcanoes are in Italy! It is also great to travel abroad to conferences and discuss your own and others research.

What’s challenging? 

Coming up with solutions to problems. This is very generic I know, but it is part of doing a PhD. Hurdles are often thrown in the way regularly. These often manifest in the form of data processing or incompatibility of data files. Working out a quick and efficient way to process data is essential! On one occasion, I found a bug in an application code I had written whilst in the field, which, I had to fix before the next day to be able to produce and collect data!

What’s your advice to students? 

Enjoying what you’re doing or studying is essential. If you want to succeed then you have to be willing to work hard and put in the hours. Listen to the advice that supervisors/lecturers give you and don’t be afraid of asking challenging questions!

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