Reservoir Geomechanics, Debanjan Guha Roy @DGRtweets: A Day in the GeoLife Series

WNKzAFYb_400x400NAME:  Debanjan Guha Roy

CURRENT TITLE:  Reservoir Geomechanics Ph.D student at the IITB-Monash Research Academy, a joint venture between the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), India and Monash University, Australia.

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Hydraulic fracturing, numerical modeling, rock physics

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: +2 years in research

EDUCATION: I hold a B.Sc degree in Geological Sciences from Jadavpur University (2011) and a M.Sc degree in Applied Geology from IIT Bombay (2013). Both my B.Sc and M.Sc educations were supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) fellowship from the Government of India.


LINKEDIN ARTICLE:  Open source software for Structural Geology analyses and research

What’s your job like?

My work focuses on the experimental and numerical modeling of the hydraulic fracture propagation in the hydrocarbon bearing rocks. This is a multidisciplinary project, so a considerable amount of time was invested in learning new methods and attending several courses on experimental and numerical methods from different departments. After the course work of the first year, my main concentration has been mostly on the experimental fracture mechanics of the rocks. So, last year was spent designing and conducting fracture mechanics experiments. Along with that, some numerical works are also being done and this will be the main focus for the coming years. I am also working as a Teaching Assistant (TA), and I conduct Engineering Geology practical classes for both the Applied Geology and Applied Geophysics master’s degree students.

What’s a typical day like?

I am an early bird, and I wake up at 6 a.m. in the morning. My day starts with checking my emails and Twitter. It is followed by reading a book or writing a part of my ongoing paper. I reach my laboratory by 9.30 a.m. My time in the laboratory is controlled by the project I’m working on. It starts with checking the journal updates and newly published papers in my area. It is followed by preparation of the rock samples for testing and conducting the experiments. Once, the experiments are over, the next few days are spent on data analyses. Along with these works, I do my TA duties, prepare and share project updates with all the stakeholders and have videoconferencing with my overseas collaborators. I normally leave my laboratory around 5:30 – 6:00 p.m. Once back to my room, I mostly spend my time learning programming languages, checking geomechanics resources on the internet or doodling. I go to bed at 11:30 p.m., but before going to bed, I spend 15 minutes preparing my to-do list for the next day.

What’s fun?

The fun part is conducting the experiments. Several of my experiments are conducted in different departments. So, I get to meet different people from diverse backgrounds and always get new perspectives on my work. Such insights from others have proven to be of tremendous help. It also gives me a true sense of the multidisciplinary nature of my project.

What’s challenging?

My Ph.D topic is not only multi-disciplinary but also different from my background. So, I had to learn many subjects and techniques within a very short period of time. I find it quite challenging through today. I need to conduct research in my domain and also learn new topics simultaneously.

What’s your advice to students?

From my experience, I have learned that focus is the ultimate trait a Ph.D candidate needs to have to get things done. One should remember that it is not possible to be best at every possible thing. It is not worthwhile to pursue every feasible idea. It’s better to choose only a few things and try to be best in that. So, it is very much necessary to correctly identify and acquire skills, locating the resources and to be persistent in the effort.

PhD Candidate, Glaciology, Yuzhe Wang: A Day in the GeoLife Series @Wang_Yuzhe

ice core

Yuzhe Wang with ice core. Photo source: Yuzhe Wang

NAME:  Yuzhe Wang


AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Geography/Glaciology/Remote Sensing/Numerical modeling, China


EDUCATION: B.S. Geography; M.S. Physical Geography; PhD candidate

What’s your job like?

I’m a PhD candidate at the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Lanzhou, China. My work focuses on the numerical modeling of mountain glaciers in the Mt.Qilian, northeast of Tibetan Plateau.

Although the numerical modeling could be completed on the computers, we should also carry out laborious field work on glaciers with an altitude more than 4200 m, which may cause an altitude sickness (e.g. headache, dizziness). The regular field work involves measurements of mass balance and glacier velocity, AWS data collection, etc. We also carried out some projects on glaciers, for instance, ice core drilling in the accumulation area and GPR measurements.

What’s a typical day like?

My work day can be divided into two different types—in the office and in the field. When I am in the city, I walk to my office where I will work with my fellows and my supervisor. A new day usually starts with checking emails and QQ  (a popular instant messaging like MSN), where I receive the news about my study area and receive seminar notifications from my research group. In fact, most of my day is spent on paper reading, programming and physics studying. The classical and newest papers in my study area should be read. It is crucial to keep up with the recent research and techniques, such as remote sensing. My main work is to develop a numerical model that can simulate the glacier flow, and predict its future behavior in a changing climate. I spend lots of time on coding and debug programmes, which can bring me a sense of fulfillment. My goal is to build a three-dimensional model to understand the glacier dynamics.


On the glacier. Photo source: Yuzhe Wang

The field work usually begins in May, when it is slightly warmer than the winter. Fortunately, we have a research station built on the old lateral moraines, two kilometers distant from the glacier terminus. However, the station is situated at an altitude about 4200m with a temperature usually below freezing point, and heating would be supplied by coal even in the summer. It is ironic that we study how glaciers respond to the warming climate, and we also emit green house gases in the glacierized region.

A typical field day starts with driving 5 minutes to the glacier terminus. Then we climb the glaciers which usually takes us approximately three hours for one-way. We look for the stakes, which is drilled into glaciers as markers of glacier motion and mass balance. Although the GPS could guide us to their previous positions, we should also climb the complex terrains to find them, especially in the ablation area. The surveyed glacier is about 9 km in length and 20 km2 in area, and the snowmobile could not be used everywhere due to the crevasses, ice and steep terrain. Sometimes I really feel boring and laborious. After the work, we enjoy the run down the glacier, which only takes us 1.5 hours to the terminus. Tasty food and bed are waiting for us in the station.

What’s fun?

It’s very interesting to go to the field with my fellows. From the city to the glacier, different landscapes, for example, Gobi Desert, Mongolian prairie will come out during our journey. I also like the slower pace of life in the field, which means there is no network, no mobile phone signal, and less contacting with the outside. I would have much time to read books and enjoy the sky full of stars.

Coding in the night is also my favorite time. When I find a bug in my programmes, I will be so excited. I like to see the glacier temperature field, velocity field, and terminus change computed by my codes.

As a PhD student, it is my best time when my papers could be received by the journals. We can enjoy a lot of fun from our field work and office work.

What’s challenging?

Life in the field can be very hard. We should conquer altitude sickness symptoms, cold climate, and dangerous terrain. It is not easy to collect data on the glacier. Keeping up with the research progress and updating our knowledge can be also challenging. It is the only way that we could survive and keep advance in our study area.

What’s your advice for students?

I’m a PhD student who also need advice from the professionals. Maybe I could not provide any valuable suggestions. In my view, we should adapt to the field environment and learn to enjoy field time. Reading more papers is also important for us.


PhD Candidate, Structural Geology, Andrew Cross: A Day in the GeoLife Series @TectonoAndy

NAME:  Andrew Cross


AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Structural geology and rock deformation, New Zealand


EDUCATION: MESci Geology with Geophysics (University of Liverpool)


What’s your job like? I am a final year graduate student at the University of Otago in New Zealand. My research focusses on the way rocks deform at a micro-scale, and how those processes affect the deformation and strength of the Earth’s crust, which is an important part of understanding plate tectonics. I am part of the tectonophysics group in the geology department at Otago, and work alongside other grad students and professors who study deformation processes during earthquakes, in mountain belts, the Earth’s mantle, and even in ice. I use a wide variety of techniques in my research, including deformation experiments at high pressures and temperatures, scanning electron microscopy, numerical modelling and fieldwork. A large portion of my time is spend analysing data and writing up results. As an early career researcher, I am encouraged to present my findings at conferences, both locally and internationally, which exposes me to the work going on in other labs and helps me to build a network of contacts for future collaborations.

What’s a typical day like? Upon getting to the office in the morning, the first task of the day is to make a cup of tea and check my email. Sometimes I’ll have received correspondence from one of my colleagues or advisors which will dictate my work for the morning. Generally, my mornings are spent in front of the computer, reading research papers, processing data, writing papers for submission to academic journals, or preparing conference presentations. Some days I will have meetings with my advisor, so I will collate my most recent findings to discuss with him. In the afternoon, my attention span for reading and writing is limited, so I prefer more hands-on work. This might involve preparing microscope thin sections, producing components for deformation experiments, imaging rock samples on the scanning electron microscope (SEM), or running simulations through numerical code. Part of being a graduate student is being prepared to work extra hours. This can be hard to do after a full day of work, so usually I will take a couple of hours off to relax, before settling down to finish off reading and writing tasks from the morning.

Alpine Fault Zone

A team of New Zealand based geoscientists surveying a field site in the Alpine Fault Zone of the Southern Alps, NZ. Photo source: Andrew Cross

What’s fun? The variety of tasks I get to work on! I’m never bored at work because, if I’m struggling on one particular job, I can always switch to something else and take time to think the problem over. I never feel trapped in my office, because I spend a lot of time in the lab, outside on fieldwork, and travelling for research visits or conferences. Being part of a community of researchers is also exciting and something I’ve become more involved with now that I’m the most senior graduate student in my research group is helping other students with problem-solving, which can be very rewarding. Though it may seem like a chore, even writing up results has its perks when all the data come together to tell a story and reveal something new.

What’s challenging?  It can be frustrating when things don’t work as planned. Equipment can break or not work as expected, which sometimes leads to days or weeks of trying to find a fix. New data may contradict everything previously collected which forces you to reassess everything you previously thought right. As a graduate student starting out, there often seems to be an overwhelming amount of literature to read through and it can sometimes be difficult to see how you are making a contribution with your research.

What’s your advice to students?  Get involved in research at an early stage of your undergraduate degree. Often professors will incorporate material from their own research into lectures – if you enjoyed learning about something in particular, approach that professor and ask them if there are opportunities to work with them. In my experience there are a lot of small jobs that researchers don’t have time for, and there may even be grant money to fund someone to do them (not to mention it looks great on your CV). I worked on three different research projects and did one industry internship as an undergraduate before finding my calling in rock deformation. If you’re interested in following the PhD path after graduating you’ll need to be self-motivated and inquisitive. Things can get pretty stressful at times, so it helps to have an easy-going attitude too. At a more informal level, social media is a great tool for connecting with researchers (at all career levels) and fellow students, and for seeing what types of research are out there. Twitter is a good way to get started, with its 140-character limit meaning that information comes in easy-to-digest chunks.