Laura Roberts Artal

Very sad to be out of the competition, but have had a great time! Thanks to all who voted for me :)!

Favourite Thing: Spending time in the field learning about rocks and the thrill of working on something that no one else has done!



The British School of Barcelona (1999-2003), University of Liverpool (2003-2007).


MSci Geology (Hons)

Work History:

I worked an Environmental Consultanfor three years after I graduated in the contaminated land sector. During Univeristy I was a bar maid. Whilst at school I ran a tutoring group.

Current Job:

PhD Student


University of Liverpool

Me and my work

I study some of the very oldest rocks in the world!

Through my research I am hoping to learn what the Earth was like shortly after it formed.

I’m particularly interested in whether it had a magnetic field. Earth is an amazing place because the conditions were right for life to start forming at about 3 billion years ago. We aren’t sure why life doesn’t exist on other planets, but we think that one of the reasons life is found on Earth is because we have a magnetic field (as well as water, carbon and oxygen). We don’t know now how old the magnetic field is and I am trying to find out. I collected some of the oldest rocks in the world which, if  asked nicely, (through hours of experiments) might be able to give us information about the very ancient magnetic field.


My Typical Day

There is no such thing! I might be in the lab, out in the field or teaching!

Most of my time is spent at the Geomagnetism Laboratory at the University of Liverpool, but I also spend a fair amount of time at a lab in Holland. When in the lab, chances are you’ll find me in our rock preparation room, where I cut rocks to size for hours on end. Otherwise, I’ll be in one of our shielding cages working on experiments. A normal experiment will take me between one and two weeks and I work on little else in that time. During term time I usually help out in practicals about volcanoes, fossils and earthquakes  teaching to undergraduates once or twice a week.

I’m also lucky to spend some time out in the field, either collecting rocks for my research or helping to teach undergraduates how geology is done.

I am also encouraged to go to conferences two or 3 times a year, where scientist share their latest discoveries. They are so much fun! You get to hear about groundbreaking science and network with leading experts.

What I'd do with the money

Split it between two projects: 1) Raising awarness of natural hazards in developing regions 2) Developing of an outreach activity in contaminated land in the UK

Millions of children all over the world live and go to school in areas prone to natural hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides. In developed countries, the U.S.A for example, children often get training on what to do in the event of one of these disasters striking, as do their teachers. Unfortunately, this kind of education is costly and so children and teachers in poorer countries often do not have the resources to access it. If I was lucky enough to win the Earth Zone, I’d donate some of the money to a project working in a school in a developing country that would educate children about the risk of natural hazards and what to do if one strikes.

Did you know geologist play a major role in everyday life in the UK? Did you know that construction of most buildings can’t go ahead without the involvement of a geologist? Geology isn’t only about volcanoes, earthquakes and dinosaurs, many geologist go on to have jobs that are heavily involved in the building industry or cleaning up contaminated land (petrol stations, large factories etc..). If I won the I’m a Scientist prize money, I’d use some of it to develop a board game (a little bit like Cluedo) that I could take to schools (or schools could visit us here at the University) to give school children the chance to be an environmental or engineer geologist for the day!


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Diligent, Inquisitive, Bubbly

Who is your favourite singer or band?

It varies on my mood, but I couldn’t pick between: Muse, Ben Howard and Snow Patrol.

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

A two week holiday exploring the volcanoes of Hawaii and playing with lions in South Africa.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A geologist.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

No, not really. One thing my teachers complained about was me drifting off into day dreams whilst they spoke.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Geography and Biology.

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

Engaged other people with science.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Pierce Brosnan as Harry Dalton in Dantes Peak!

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

I’d like to be involved with science communication and outreach. Failling that, I’d run my own farm shop, it would sell great cakes.

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

Have a job I enjoy,travel the world seeing lots of amazing places and cultures and bring something to those around me.

Tell us a joke.

How can you tell the ocean is friendly? It waves!

Other stuff

Work photos:

myimage1 Me and some of my lab colleagues at the geomagnetism laboratory at the University of Liverpool were I do most of my experiments.

myimage2 Although working away from home (South Africa) can be hard sometimes, I do get to meet some amazing new friends.

myimage6 The Robot! I spend some time at a lab in the Netherlands, at the University of Utrecht. They have some equipment that we don’t have at Liverpool and one of them is the robot. A totally robotized instrument. All you have to do is put your samples in the trays and tell the computer what experiment you want. Come back a day later and all your samples are ready and the results safely stored on the computer.

myimage3 Not many people can say they do most of their experiments inside a 19th Century Bunker, which was used during the 2nd World War to store ammunition – The Fort, Palaeomagnetic Laboratory, University of Utrecht.

myimage4 Me, drilling my samples out of rocks, using a diamond tipped drill, in South Africa.

myimage5 One of my favourite place to do field work- Teide Volcano in Tenerife, Canary Islands. I’ve been there 3 times now and the geology is incredible!

myimage7 A smoking lava flow in Hawaii