Doctoral Student, Petrology and Tectonics, Aidan Taylor @geologist_aidan: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Aidan Taylor, Doctoral Student ©2020 Aidan Taylor

NAME: Aidan Taylor

CURRENT TITLE: Doctoral Student in Petrology and Tectonics

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Petrology, Tectonics, Resources, Geohazards

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: In addition to academia, I have 3 years of experience in geological exploration, engineering and training; as well as a stint in accounting.

EDUCATION: Royal Holloway, University of London – BSc (Hons), Geology 
University of Exeter – MSc MCSM, Mining Engineering
Rutgers University – PhD, Geology


TWITTER NAME: @geologist_aidan

What’s your job like?

The life of a PhD student is a mixture of high-intensity work and a good work-life balance. I get to travel a fair bit and enjoy the perks of living in a different country, while doing some cool research! I am currently employing a broad range of techniques to research on volcanics in Antarctica and structural problems in the Newark Basin. 

I teach introductory geology to STEM and geology majors. We explore a wide range of topics, including my favorite area due to my research; earthquakes and volcanoes! I like teaching, especially to the public and schools. I give talks via Skype a Scientist as well as guest lectures. Not only is it rewarding, but it also helps me understand geology better; being able to explain a concept to someone truly determines if you know a subject!

I spend a lot of my time interacting with faculty and students and enjoy working at Rutgers; I enjoy the campus atmosphere. I also get to go out into the field with friends and colleagues for research and teaching to areas like the Bushveld Complex in South Africa and Yellowstone National Park, USA.

What’s a typical day like?

I research igneous intrusions and rift tectonics, specifically the Dufek Intrusion in Antarctica and Newark Basin in the USA. Therefore, I do a lot of chemistry, field work and clay modeling, as well as reading and writing! I also spend my time teaching and working with other institutions. PhD students in the USA have to take classes too, so sometimes I’m doing coursework or studying for exams. I like to get involved in outreach, like skype a scientist and day-to-day department activities like meetings. 

It’s all very chilled most of the time, but coffee consumption does go up during busy periods! I like to run and spend time with friends too, so as soon as my working day is over, I still have time to do these things on most days.

What’s fun?

There’s a lot of unknowns that could be answered by my research – which is very exciting! There’s always great field trips to go on too! I also love teaching and inspiring the next generation of geologists. I guess the most fun part of my job though is doing something I love and with people who are also extremely passionate about what they do. To work in an environment like that is really fun.

What’s challenging?

Nearly all PhD students will tell you they have bad days. I guess this is the most challenging. When things don’t happen or something doesn’t work and it was/is out of your control, it can be very frustrating. Getting over these moments requires you to remember your research pursuits are a marathon not a sprint, and as a runner, I know putting in the miles when you really don’t want to go out in the hail or you’re just too tired that day, requires dedication. 

Having feelings of frustration or feeling you can’t do it is common I think for PhD students, but every day is a new day, and eventually you’re reminded how rewarding and enjoyable your job is.

What’s your advice to students?

1) Travel. Get a job where you’re not sat down all the time and you’re learning something new. Not all geologists like the field, but it’s where I enjoy being the most. 2) Do NOT let salary affect your choices, of course we all need to pay bills, but don’t take one job over the other because it pays more. 3) Enjoy yourself! If you’re not, seek a new challenge! You have a short life and you’re never too old to change career paths. If you think you might like something – give it a go!

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