NAME: Circe Verba
CURRENT TITLE: Research Geologist
AREA OF EXPERTISE: My expertise has fluctuated from my original area of study in planetary geology (2003-2009) to geochemistry of engineered natural systems (2009-current). Both require image analysis and interpretation from a microscale to a macroscale.
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 8
EDUCATION: BS in earth science with emphasis in geology from Oregon State University; MS in geology from Northern Arizona University; PhD geology with focus in civil engineering from University of Oregon.
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/circeverba/en
What’s your job like?
I am a research geologist at the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Projects are to advance science and technology to fulfill DOE’s mission. I specialize in bridging geochemistry and civil engineering relating to research projects that involve: 1) carbon sequestration; 2) well bore integrity (relevant to mitigating climate change); and 3) understanding the interaction of oil-gas shale in unconventional systems.
What’s a typical day like?
My day varies from conducting experiments, analyzing samples in the petrographic/electron microscope laboratory, and writing proposals, manuscripts, and reports. I spend a lot of time answering emails, filling out paperwork, and attending meetings/collaborating with our sister sites in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia and with universities and industry. I also have interns that I meet with that assist in projects.
As the planets mesmerized me, so does looking at unseen, microscopic worlds. Using the scanning electron microscope (SEM) is one of my favorite parts of the job where I can see alien worlds. It becomes an art, really. Here are some photos of the images: Microscopy Images
One thing I do enjoy is that we study hot topics which allows me to work on different projects. One project may relate to carbon storage, examining the adsorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) in shale, whereas another one may require looking at microbes that can precipitate calcite to seal fractured well cement. I get really excited when something unexpected happens and could have potential impacts (both in positive or negative way).
One fun thing outside of my job I’ve been working on is my Lego Ideas – Research Geology set (https://ideas.lego.com/projects/93813) which depicts male and female geologists in both the field and a petrographic laboratory. I grew up with Lego bricks and wanted to highlight geology as both an educational tool and toy.
What is challenging to me is that I miss going into the field. I never wanted to be a field geologist, but I miss hiking and seeing amazing landscapes. I got to visit Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and lots of domestic places during undergraduate/graduate school. Now, I spend more time in the office!
Because technical writing is such a huge part to get funding and get your research out into the community, it can be very challenging for me. It’s like repeating writing my dissertation over and over!
What’s your advice to students?
The best advice I can give to an aspiring geologist is to never stop learning. Take as many science courses as you can to figure out what field interests you, such as geology, engineering, physics, or mathematics. In addition, geography, computer science, environmental science, geographic information system (GIS), and drawing/art courses are also very helpful. Geology is a wide field with many hot topics to explore, including environmental, climate change, energy, geological hazards, mitigation, and mining.