People in Geoscience- Callum Graham



Callum Graham

Job description/title:

Postgraduate Researcher


University of Glasgow

What do you get up to on a typical work day?:

A typical day may consist of me reading and looking for relevant papers (then going off on a tangent and by-passing the original topic I had started looking for), replying to emails, continuing tests on my samples, updating data, writing up results/different sections of work, organising the rest of the weeks work and future experiments, constant stream of questioning myself and what I’ve already done, chatting to work colleagues and usual procrastination.

How did you get into your field?:

I guess my pathway into academia and my PhD isn’t the usual story. I studied my undergraduate Earth Science degree at Glasgow University and during 4th year you get the fantastic opportunity to undertake and experience on-going research in the department as part of your 4th Year Lab Project. My lab Project involved quantifying the decay of The Glasgow University masonry sandstone by Terrestrial Laser Scanning. After a successful project and gaining a good grade I was notified on Facebook of all places by one of the lecturers asking for my email to be passed onto my L4 lab project supervisor. He’d been approached by Historic Scotland to organise a 1 year Masters by Research course on sandstone decay. One thing leads to another and after 5-6 months of my masters I was asked if I wanted to extend my research into a PhD. The rest is History I guess! 

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into your field?:

From my own experience and having applied for a few jobs and other courses since graduating, you really need to set yourself apart from everyone else. This is more than just gaining good grades, you need to get your name out there – make yourself known to University staff, take advantage of any out-of-department/ University conferences/talks etc. Talk to the lecturers, let them know what you want to do and ask for any advice/contacts etc – “networking” is vital. From my own experience, I managed to leave an impression during my 4th year lab project. I chose an area of research that I found interesting and embraced the research side of academia that we hadn’t yet experienced. 

Best/most exotic field location you have visited?:

Unfortunately my exciting list is rather limited to……stone yards in Berwick, Livingston and Edinburgh, a Quarry in Elgin and Edinburgh and Stirling Castles! Oh and the University Tower! Most exotic indeed! Having said that, I’ve had the great opportunity to undertake work at the Diamond Synchrotron in Oxfordshire and presented at an international conference in New York…..which wasn’t too shabby!

Quick Questions

Hammer or Hand lens?:

I suppose for not being out in the field much I’ve been doing a lot more microscopic investigations on my samples so I’d choose the hand lens. (Although I have accidentally misplaced it!).

Armageddon or Jurassic Park?:

I’d have to vote for Jurassic Park (The Original). My sister and I were a little obsessed with dinosaurs when we were younger!

Lab or Field?:

I guess as a geologist I should be saying the field, however I have been stuck in the lab recently and it’s treating me well. You can never over emphasize the importance of being out in the field and seeing the rocks you’re working on in-situ however!

Best/Worst thing about your job?:

Best: Having the freedom of my own hours and having a self-structured schedule. Worst: The lack of cross-disciplinary communication– it could make finding suitable equipment a lot easier!