As I am from Southern Germany, I went to Primary School in my home village St. Ilgen, then attended secondary school in the neighbour village Sandhausen. I finished school in 1998, then studied Geology at Heidelberg University (beautiful town!) until my graduation in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, I did my PhD at Bremen University in Northern Germany.
After my PhD in Bremen, I moved to the nearby University of Oldenburg to work as a scientist (we call it “Postdoc”) for around 3 years. I then decided that I wanted to spend some time abroad and worked for 2 years at Newcastle University. Because my girlfriend and I liked the place, we decided to stay, and I was very lucky to get a permanent job as Lecturer in March 2013!
I am a Lecturer in Geoscience.
I am working at the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, which is part of Newcastle University.
Favourite thing to do in my job: I think most Earth Scientists first started studying Geology because they like being outside (“in the field”, as we like to say) and collect rock samples. 15 years down the line, this hasn’t changed at all! I still love collecting rock samples in the mountains, although I am now a marine geoscientist, which means I usually collect my samples from ships. Right now, for example, I am on a research expedition in the Pacific Ocean where we will drill more than 1000 meters into the sea floor to collect so-called sediment cores (basically plastic pipes filled with grey and green mud). That’s what I like most! But I also have great fun analysing the samples I get to learn what they are telling me. What I really don’t like is computer work, but it’s unavoidable…
I am a marine geoscientist trying to reconstruct past environmental and climate conditions from marine mud.
My Typical Day
Get up at 6:30am, have breakfast, cycle to work, check emails, make coffee, various meetings with colleagues and students, maybe some teaching, maybe some lab work, have lunch check emails again, work on a publication, have another coffee, cycle home, have dinner, do some sports
I guess for most parts, my job is not very different from most office jobs – which means I spend many hours per day in front of a computer. Not my favourite thing to do, but it is necessary to communicate with students and other scientists, especially as they are working at many places around the world so we communicate by email.
If I have new samples to work on, I spend a lot of time in my laboratory where I extract chemical elements out of dried mud from the sea floor. That’s much more fun than computer work, as it involves doing something with your hands, and it includes nasty and dangerous acids, so you have to work very focused.
In autum this year, I will start teaching students at Newcastle University, and for some months this will take a big amount of my time.
Meetings with students and colleagues at Newcastle are also really important to discuss the students’ research or new ideas for projects.
And, very important, I need a decent lunch! So usually I walk with a colleague to a sandwich shop, sometimes we even get some warm food, and we usually have it in a common room in our building.
What I'd do with the prize money
Donate it to the Hancock Great North Museum
I thought about this long and hard, and also had a look at the great ideas the other Earth Zone people had. As I am not really experienced with outreach activities, I thought I should donate it to people that know how to do it best.
I would therefore donate the money to the Hancock Great North Museum in Newcastle, just across the road from where my office is (http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/great-north-museum.html). Whenever I go to get a coffee at their cafeteria, I see loads of kids looking at the exhibits with great excitement. They also offer tours, courses and workshops for people of all ages that want to know about various aspects of biology, history, geology, you name it. I also like this museum because it exhibits from around the world, but also has a very strong desire to inform people about nature and history in the Northeast of England.
So I think those Great North Museum people really know what they are doing, and donating the money to them will definitely support science outreach in my local community!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Science-crazy sporty geologist.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Probably my 10-week expedition with the icebreaker Polarstern to the Arctic Ocean.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
There was this one guy, Uwe George, who wrote articles for a German magazine called GEO. He was travelling around the world, especially to the Sahara, and found out great things about nature and ancient civilisations!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Well, we had a pretty mean bully in our class, and he frequently gave me a hard time…
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Maybe I would work in a zoo because I really like animals. It’s a difficult question because I always wanted to be a scientist (pretty geeky, I know… ).
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I like punk and ska bands from the 1990’s, like NOFX, Lagwagon, Goldfinger or Mad Caddies. If you don’t know them, you should check them out!
What's your favourite food?
I like barbecue a lot, but I am also a big fan of dumplings!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
That would either be a surf trip with my former flat mate, or one of my ship expeditions.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1: Continuing to live as happy and healthy as I am doing right now. 2: In a couple of years, I would like to have one or two well-behaved kids. 3: Better weather at Newcastle.
Tell us a joke.
I could tell you loads of German ones, but I’ll first have to think about something in English…