September 9, 2014
The TIMS lab! This is where the magic (science) happens. 
Currently running the last of my micas for Sr isotopes. Finally, the end is in sight!

The TIMS lab! This is where the magic (science) happens. 

Currently running the last of my micas for Sr isotopes. Finally, the end is in sight!

July 13, 2014

Anonymous said: Hey Shychemist. I've been following your blog for awhile and I want to bring up something that seems dated but nonetheless holds to be accurate today. I feel like the girls who consider themselves to be on the science side of tumblr to be horribly mistaken. It's statistically proven that women applicants struggle to get into stem doctorate programs, and rightfully so, they don't belong there. examples- atomic-o-licious, brainsx , adventuresinchemistry, i can't fit anymore but you get it








It doesn’t seem dated, your attitude is dated. This is the 21st century.

Women deserve to be in STEM programs just as much as men. I’d wager they deserve to succeed in the Sciences even more than men because of the sexism and misogyny they experience.

They struggle to get in because they’re the minority, and a lot of people who could admit them are sexist (regardless of gender) because of the society they grew up in. Its not through any intellectual weakness. These women are amazing and just as smart as the men in their fields.

You have no right to say these things to these amazing women, many of whom I consider to be friends.

Wow. That seems like really fucking wrong. And offensive.
And I would love to take some more time out of my day to be pissed about it.

It seems that I have a lot of fucking science to do. 
So, uh, screw that.
If anybody needs me, me and my lady bits will be getting some fucking science done.


I’m oddly excited to have been name checked by this shitty anon. Because it means that the very fact that I got into an Ivy League, top 15 science PhD program (where I fucking belong) is a giant fuck you to shitty anon. Also, shitty anons make Lewis sad. Because Lewis is a feminists science hippo.


imageBest way for me to deal with shitty nonnies who think women can’t do science? DO MORE SCIENCE!!!! MWAHAHAHA


Crap, I’m a woman biologist. I’d go get another career but I have a groundbreaking thesis on rapid evolution of reproductive isolation between seed beetle populations to finish. 

I’m not a well-known tumblr scientist…but I am a scientist all the same. And while I could probably obtain a more gender-appropriate occupation… I’m pretty content with the fact I’m an atmospheric chemist Additionally, I am also one of the few women who have managed to be selected to intern at NASA’s airborne research program. 




Do I not deserve a place in the STEM fields, anon? 

Hey ladies! Mind if some physicists join in?

At the CERN visiting the CMS part of the LHC where were were working for 8 months on both computational and experimental work:


Presenting our research at a conference on Physics of Living Systems:

And visiting the Wind Tunnel experiment after presenting our research at Max Planck Institute at a Advances in Cardiac Dynamics Workshop


Yo, I haven’t posted for a while, but I’m doing a PhD in isotope geochemistry and this made me mad enough to come out of the Pb isotope lab and take this ‘selfie’ to make damn sure no-one thinks that girls can’t do science. I do what I do because I love it, and you know what? I kick ass at it. So jog on hateful anon, we’ve got science to do. 

March 27, 2014

Melting aluminum with an electromagnet.

'Shit, that's fucking amazing' is what I literally just said out loud to myself. 


Melting aluminum with an electromagnet.

'Shit, that's fucking amazing' is what I literally just said out loud to myself. 

(via evaporites)

8:41pm  |   URL:
Filed under: SCIENCE 
December 29, 2013
Structural geology. It’s like Cluedo with less murder.

[This is a copy of a piece I wrote for my ‘proper’ geology blog,]

In the summer, I went for a walk along the coast near where my folks live in South Devon. While I was there, I noticed some rather spectacular geology, so photographed a few bits of it while I was on my walk. I was initially disappointed because had neither my notebook or compass-clinometer and therefore couldn’t do any in-depth geology, except for in a ‘oohh, that looks nice’ kind of way.  As I walked along the coast, I noticed that things were starting to get complicated, so I took the photos and then went back to my walk, in the knowledge I’d think about it more later.

Now, in December, over 5 months after actually looking at these rocks, I have a bit of time to think about the history in a little more depth, giving them the true attention they deserved. I was right, it wasn’t as simple as I’d originally thought and a little geo-detective work was needed to untangle what was going on. 

I was walking along the coast on a gorgeous July day and saw this fantastic outcrop. Obviously I had to stop and snap a picture as it seemed to be showing ‘S0’ which is the original bedding surface of these rocks before they were metamorphosed by the first stage of deformation ‘D1’, which formed the second planar surface, ‘S1’. Notice that the original bedding surface and the deformed surface are slightly oblique to each other? That’s because of the stress direction of the deformation event that created the S1 surface. I’ve marked on the photo below my interpretation for this outcrop, although feel free to disagree with me, as I’m no structural geologist by any stretch of the imagination! 

After this, I was enticed to carry on walking down the coast to see if there was anything else I could learn about what had happened to these rocks. I know I’m a nerd, but go with it. 

So a little further down the coast I came across some rather interesting structures called en enechelon tension gashes (outlined in blue). These showed me that there had to have been a second stage of deformation, ‘D2’ which was shearing the rocks in a direction that was oblique to the first stage of deformation. Wow - two deformation phases within 20 paces, I was starting to enjoy this walk more and more!

A little further along the coast, after being licked to death by a large Golden Retriever, I saw some lovely folding so again snapped a photo, thinking that they followed the same deformation style as the previous outcrops I’d been looking at.

But the more I looked at the folds, the more I thought there was something wrong with my initial interpretations. The folds were clearly affecting the ‘S1’ surface, but the axial planes (shown by the dotted lines below) were perpendicular to the S1 surface. This means that the principle stress direction had changed, and that there was a third deformation event affecting these rocks!

Well, that was fun. And all of that was seen in a really short distance - maybe 1km at the most. After this the outcrop became confined to large cliffs and the tide was coming in. I also needed a little bit of time to contemplate my findings with a biscuit and some tea (very essential walking provisions), and then carry on my walk along a rather nice part of the South West Coast Path. Well, it’d be rude not to on such a lovely day - and I certainly had a lot to think about!

August 21, 2013
Hillswick: a cautionary tale of the ups and downs of geological fieldwork

I’ve just come back from sampling various Caledonian rocks in Shetland for the start of my PhD. 10 days in that gorgeous little archipelago, which nestles quietly between the Atlantic and the North Sea. 

One of the aims of the field trip was to collect samples for geochronological analysis from a little peninsula on Mainland Shetland called Hillswick. Mostly because there were reports in the early literature of massive garnets from there, and that’s one of the main focuses of my PhD. And with a geological map that looks like this, how could I refuse the challenge?


Myself and one of my supervisors, Anna, went there for just one afternoon initially. But surely one afternoon isn’t enough to sort out such a mess? Of course it’s not, but a few things clouded our judgement that day. 

Firstly: the midges

Anyone who has ever done any living, walking, camping, working etc in Scotland at this time of year will be familiar with the Highland Midge. For those who haven’t, they look like this:


They are bastards. They’re small, swarmy, and like to eat poor unsuspecting geologists alive. I was clearly unimpressed by the little beasts in Hillswick, here’s an extract of my field notebook, complete with squashed midge (I draw you’re attention to the title of the page).


Secondly: Space Dementia

People all have different names for this, but Anna called it this, and it just stuck. I’m sure everyone has experienced it, but this was my Hillswick experience of it. 

We had been rained on heavily, it was humid, and warm (for Shetland), and critically there was no wind. We had to dodge some rather fierce looking cows, and plough through a field full of wet knee-high grass. Half way through the field something snapped inside me. 

In the rain, being eaten alive by midges, in knee-high grass to the sound of distant cows I just stood there and laughed. For 10 minutes. 

Space dementia - it’s like cabin fever, but for geologists. 

Thirdly: RiP hammer

Like my sanity, my trusty Estwing hammer didn’t make it out of that field alive. I realised when I got to the next outcrop and realised I needed something a little more delicate than the 14lbs sledgehammer we also had with us. 

But I wasn’t going back to that field. Who knew what mental or physical torture would await me…

We found some OK samples, but nothing too spectacular.image

A few moderately garnetiferous amphibolites (see above), but none of the massive garnets we’d been expected. So we went dejectedly home and made a rather large hole in a bottle of whisky. 

A few days later, we’d recovered from the Hillswick trauma, and decided to give it another crack (now that the windspeed had increased somewhat). 

We picked up another hammer, avoided the strange farm animals, defied vertigo on the sheer cliffs, and eventually found what we were looking for. 


Beautiful, beautiful garnets! The geology of Hillswick is so bizarre that I have no idea what age these garnets will give. Who knows whether they’ll be 1.2 billion year old, or 430 million years? I guess I’ll find out. 

But one thing’s for sure. I’m glad I went back, despite the stress. 

July 4, 2013
A fantastic poem about the woes of isotope geochemistry

My PhD is going to have a lot of this. 

So I thought I’d share what isotope geochemistry is really like. 

February 27, 2013
I just… AAAHHHHHH!!!!

"Dear Stephanie,

Further to your interview on 11 February, I am pleased to say we would like to offer you a NERC scholarship to study Matthew’s PhD project “ Geochronology of multiple orogenic events in a complex basement terrane, Shetland, Scotland ” .  The studentship amount will approx. be £15, 700 per annum for maintenance and a fees waiver.”

FUCK! I’m so excited! I can’t believe it. 

This is literally a dream come true.

February 5, 2013
I got an email about the my PhD application today.

I have an interview on the 18th. 

This is making me so nervous it’s disgusting. 

But also unbelievably thankful my university/department/professors don’t think I’m totally useless. 


January 20, 2013
Guess what I spent my saturday night making?

That’s right, a tectonic map of the northern Europe/America before the opening of the Atlantic. 

Why did I waste valuable drinking time doing this? Well, firstly I had way too much to drink on friday night (damn Scots buying me whisky!) and secondly, look how close Shetland is to the Norwegian and East Greenland Caledonides!

It shows really well why Shetland is so important for reconstructing the final stages of the Caledonian Orogeny. 

If we’re to find evidence of the Scandian (430Ma continent-continent collision, which some people think is when the Iapetus finally closed), the surely we’ll find it there…

Watch this space. 

January 15, 2013
Sometimes scientists need to think about maths…

I’m the first to put my hand up and say that until very recently, I had a near crippling fear of maths. 

But as a scientist, I needed to bite the bullet and learn my shit, because I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ geologists who can’t be taken seriously because they fail to grasp the basic principles of maths. 

However I’ve been getting more and more irked by reading geochemistry papers where the authors are proposing trends in isotopes/chemistry that are actually just a function of pure good-old-fashioned mathematics!

For example:

A paper in which an un-named, but very eminent geochemist has shown a trend, which he suggests is a function of sediment being incorporated into the melt of a subduction related arc-lavas.

Seems reasonable, right?


I’m sure you’ll notice, as I did, that the denominator of the y-axis is the same as the x-axis. 

So essentially, this is a graph of 1/x vs. X. Such as this examples I just made in Excel (Where X=n*2):

Wow, a hyperbola! What a surprise! 

It’s not a geochemical insight if it’s just a function of the maths guys… Please think about what you’re doing before you do it.