Hannah Bentham

If you want to hear what I sound like, listen to my podcast from fieldwork in Turkey. Skip to 8mins in.

Favourite Thing: Problem solving and fieldwork



University of Leeds (2003-2007), Harrogate Grammar School (1996-2002)


Undergraduate masters degree in Geophysical Sciences (2003-2007), PhD (expected summer 2013)

Work History:

Geophysicist at Petroleum Geo-Services, Researcher, Planning enquiries clerk, bar tender, waitress, fish and chips server person! litter picker

Current Job:

PhD research student


University of Leeds

Me and my work

I’m a passionate geo-nerd who likes looking at the energy from earthquakes to look for ancient ocean floors and volcanoes.

I get alerts as soon as there’s an earthquake. Part of me is thinking, “please don’t let anyone be injured”. The other part is, “wow, let’s have a look at why it happened and whether we can use it to learn more about the Earth and it’s hidden past”. The truth is that most earthquakes don’t result in loss of human life. Also, these earthquakes tend to be difficult for seismologists to analyse anyway.

The earthquakes I use are from SE Asia and I look at the energy that arrives at seismic stations in North America. The great thing is: I can comfortably download the earthquake data from the internet, even while chilling out on my sofa! I use the data so I can create images of what lies 1000s of km (1000000 meters) beneath our feet, in the depths of the Earth. Luckily the methods I use are similar to those that create the X-ray or CAT scans that you might get in a hospital, so are standard imaging techniques.

I generally look for old ocean floors (subducted slabs) and in my recent work I have found oceanic rock that could be from 80 million years ago. Now that’s pretty old! These old rocks are important because they help us understand plate tectonics, today and in the past, and also how convection in the Earth is connected to the changing world on the surface.

My Typical Day

I’m a PhD student – so my day involves tea drinking and sitting at a computer looking at earthquakes and writing computer programs!

Things I do in a day:

* check for earthquakes
* download earthquake data
* check data for signs of seismic echos and locate where the echos come from.
* make some models of the Earth
* drink tea
* write my thesis
* avoid writing my thesis
* write computer programs (I prefer this kind of writing!)
* plot my results on charts/maps ready for interpetation
* create movies showing my results in 3D
* read some published articles by some amazing scientists (geolebreties)
* drink tea
* check twitter
* meet with other nerdy scientists to chat about what is going on deep in the Earth (in the mantle) and even deeper in the Earth (in the core)
* teach BSc/MSc students
* drink tea

What I'd do with the money

Create “I’m a future scientist” mobile app

The app would be aimed for secondary school children to find out what scientist they could be. The user would input their interests, skills and idols, and the app would find the science careers that best match. The user can upload a photo of themselves, and this can be placed on the body of the scientist and shared to friends and family. The app can be used just-for-fun or as a tool to help youngsters find a great science career.

£500 wouldn’t be enough to create the app in full but will help in developing the concept.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Attitude is everything

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Flight of the concords

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

White water rafting in Bosnia

What did you want to be after you left school?

I actually didn’t know! But I loved solving problems (and I still do!)

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Um … only for singing in french class, chatting and throwing around pencil cases.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths (geography was a close 2nd)

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Recording a podcast for Planet Earth while Installing seismometers in Turkey and interviewing locals about the 1999 turkey earthquake

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Doc Brown (Back to the Future)

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A specialist doctor in tropical diseases!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1)To travel round South America on a motorbike 2) To go to the moon 3) To live in a castle

Tell us a joke.

Patient: Doctor, Doctor Every time I drink a cup of coffee I get this stabbing pain in my eye! Dr: I suggest you take the spoon out!

Other stuff

Work photos:


Images 1-5: Fieldwork in turkey – installing seismometers in the Sakarya province
Image 1 – hole for seismometer (50 cm – 1m) with plate myimage1
Image 2 – testing the seismometer (which is inside the black tube). Screen was difficult to read in sun. After 3 days we worked otu we just need to plug it in! myimage2
Image 3 – Seismometer is buried and solar panels are built and connected. myimage3
Image 4 – “Stomp testing”: making sure the seismometer records ground motion by getting the locals to jump up and down! myimage4
You can listen to my Turkey podcast here:

Image 5 – Fieldwork in Lanzarote – me with an old-school seismometer myimage5