Hello, my name is Ben. I have just started as a PhD student in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen. I will be looking at the vitrification of Iron Age hillforts across Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Europe. We will mainly be looking at how and why they were built, specifically using the SEM and Raman Spectroscopy to analyse composition and work out burning temperatures.

I was born and raised in rural North-Yorkshire, England. Because I grew up in a rural setting surrounded by farming communities, I developed an enjoyment and appreciation for the outdoors. I attended the local schools, and on weekends would volunteer with the rangers in the Howardian Hills AONB. I also participated in rewilding and community projects.

Planting deciduous woodland on the west coast of Scotland with Trees for Life, a charity focused of restoring the Caledonian forest. I am on the far left. (Photo Credits: Stephen Couling)

In 2019 I chose to undertake a BSc in Geology and Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen. My main reasons for this were that I had studied physical geography, specifically volcanology, at school and wanted to take the further. Furthermore, the course had a huge emphasis on fieldwork, which meant that I could have my office outdoors!

While at university I joined the student led Sub-Aqua Club and learnt to scuba dive. This amazing opportunity allowed me to develop a whole new skill set and enter a whole new world underwater. While some of my dive buddies were interested in the marine life they could see, I was interested in the rocky outcrops that I could access in this new dimension.

In the summer of 2021, midway through my degree, I participated in an internship with Serica Energy. I worked alongside the sub-surface team helping organise and reformat data for use in dashboards. I also worked on a panel review for several wells in the North Sea. The team was great and I learned a lot about what it was like working in the energy sector and if that was a career choice that I would want to pursue.

Geological fieldwork on the west coast of Scotland, near Gairloch, as part of my undergrad. The compression trousers under the shorts was more for function rather than fashion, as ticks are a thing in Scotland during the summer. (Photo credits: Rachel Gibson)
Dissertation field work on Skye. The Blàbheinn mountain range in the background was my area of study. With an office like that, who would want to choose to study anything else!

Fieldwork was a huge component to my studies; I spent many weeks out in the field looking at rocks. My dissertation was on the geological history of the Blàbheinn mountain range on Skye. I really enjoyed piecing together my observations to tell a coherent story on the formation of the mountain range, including the evolution of depositional environments in the Jurassic to the opening of the Atlantic and mantle plume under Skye in the Palaeogene. The fieldwork taught me a lot in terms of self-management, working against and with the elements and data gathering and manipulation.

I have a keen interest in archaeology, I took as many archaeological modules as possible that I could get my hands on during the first couple of years of my undergrad, I specifically find archaeology of the North fascinating, and I feel really lucky to be able to have this multi-disciplinary opportunity during this PhD project.

I look forward to taking my knowledge and skills onto the next level!