Tim Armitage - MCR Research Award Report

Being awarded the Hatfield Trust MCR Research Award allowed me to attend the Tectonic Studies Group conference in Bergen, Norway, and to travel to the University of Gothenburg in Sweden to meet a potential collaborator. It was a spectacular adventure with many inspiring presentations, interesting discussions and as much snow as you could wish for!

Outline of my experience

On Sunday, I attended a highly relevant short-course titled “Seismic interpretation; application to structural geology and potential pitfalls” hosted by the critically acclaimed Professor Christopher Jackson (Imperial College, London) and Dr. Clare Bond (University of Aberdeen). This short curse provided excellent training in methodologies I have not previously considered and identified potential unconscious biases of interpreting geological data.

From Monday to Wednesday, I presented my poster entitled “Complex Shear Fabrics in the Shetland Caledonides” (co-authored by Robert Holdsworth and Robin Strachan) at the University of Bergen’s Natural History Museum. The poster received a lot of interest and I was kept in various discussions throughout the three days, which was highly encouraging and provided excellent feedback for future research. Furthermore, the keynote speaker Dr Grace Shepherd provided a fantastic presentation of her latest research of the geological history of the Arctic Circle and formation of the Atlantic Ocean. In this presentation, she demonstrated the tectonic influence of far-field events and the danger neglecting such impacts in tectonic models; a warning that I shall certainly heed! The ice-breaker reception hosted at the university further provided opportunity for discussion and networking with other high-profile geologists from both academic and industrial backgrounds. I managed to meet many interested researchers in my work, including the Finnish Geological Survey who remarked of the relevance of my methodologies to many other contemporary industries, including disposal of nuclear waste large scale infrastructure projects. To round off my excellent experience in Bergen, myself and another postgraduate student went for a morning jog on the final day of conference up Fløyen, a mountain on the outskirts of Bergen. Although we were battered by wind, rain and snow, we managed to ascend for worthwhile views of the Norwegian Fjords in the early morning sunrise.

Wednesday night, I caught the overnight train from Bergen to Gothenburg on the world famous Flåm railway. Although I couldn’t see the scenery through the darkness outside, waking up in a different city is a great feeling. On the Thursday and Friday I met Professor Thomas Zach to discuss a potential collaboration of research and access to his laboratories in the University of Gothenburg. The next logical step for my research is to geologically date the age of metamorphism in Shetland by using the innovative and novel technique of measuring in situ Rb-Sr isotopes. Professor Thomas Zach is a world-leading expert in this method and was keen to cooperate with my research, suggesting that I return to Gothenburg in September to start our work together.

How the award helped your personal development

The research I presented showed that Shetland is a unique and exciting frontier of geological exploration, with a long and complex geological history that links Scottish, Norweigian and Greenland terranes. The geological processes active during the metamorphism of Shetland 410 million years ago are furthermore unique examples of the inner workings of mountain belt, with implications on the formation of other contemporary mountain belts presently active.  During my presentation and throughout the conference I relished in discussing my research with many outstanding scientists in tectonics, metamorphism and geochemistry; their feedback on my work and ideas was invaluable and much appreciated. I was furthermore able to improve my presentation techniques by demonstrating my research to world-leading experts who were able to give critical feedback and praise on both my science and communication skills. As I have now started my second year of PhD studies these discussions were also aptly timed, as I was able to meet both new and existing collaborators to discuss possible future project ideas by networking with world-leading industrial and academic geologists.

What this award has helped you achieve

As a second year PhD student with limited research funds, the Hatfield Trust MCR Research Award was invaluable, as without it my attendance at TSG 2019 Bergen and meeting Professor Thomas Zach would not have been possible. By presenting my research at TSG 2019 and meeting Professor Thomas Zach, I can pursue decisive methodologies that will improve my research and help me publish my work in high impact journals. I am highly appreciative of the Hatfield Trust in giving me the opportunity to attend Bergen and Gothenburg and recommend all postgraduate researchers to network and present at conferences.

For more photos and posts about TSG, Bergen and Gothenburg (amongst other things!), please check out my Twitter: @TimArmitage2

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