Earth science draws UK siblings to Victoria

The sister of a sibling duo from the United Kingdom will be back in Wellington to graduate with a PhD in Geology this week, reuniting with her brother who also studies earth sciences at Victoria University.

Siblings & PhD students Katy & Callum Chamberlain

The sister of a sibling duo from the United Kingdom will be back in Wellington to graduate with a PhD in Geology this week, reuniting with her brother who also studies earth sciences at Victoria University.

Katy and Calum Chamberlain, who studied together at Leeds University before moving to Wellington, say their passion for earth sciences started early on when they’d go on regular walking holidays with their parents.

“This love of the outdoors led me to want to understand why landscapes are the way they are, and how millions-of-years-old geologic processes have shaped the world we live in today,” says Katy.

Katy is a volcanologist whose work looks at the chemical compositions of eruptions to find out what the magma system looked like before eruption, what processes occurred within the magma chamber(s) and the timescales for these processes.

Calum, studying toward a PhD in Geophysics, is exploring seismicity in the Southern Alps under the supervision of Dr John Townend and Professor Tim Stern from the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences.

“Apart from the fact that Calum studied geophysics rather than geology, we have both had the same route through undergraduate to postgraduate,” says Katy, adding that Calum tried hard not to copy his sister, but in the end it was earth science that he was drawn to.

During her undergraduate study, Katy spent a year at Victoria as part of a study abroad programme. “I loved the city, the varied weather and the department. I met my future supervisor, Professor Colin Wilson, in 2009 and was offered the chance to come back for a PhD here.”

Katy says a highlight of studying at Victoria was the opportunities to go abroad to present research and attend workshops. She visited San Francisco, Florence, Germany and Stanford, as well as undertaking fieldwork in eastern California.

“Another highlight has to be all the fieldtrips I was lucky enough to tutor on. The third year volcanology trip to Tongariro was so great—even if the weather is sometimes rather challenging.”

Katy also had the opportunity to spend two weeks in the Southern Alps with Calum learning how to set up and service seismic stations. “I must admit, I was a bit jealous flying over the mountains going to service sites—we had to carry all of our rocks out when I did fieldwork!”

A huge sports enthusiast, Katy played rugby while studying at Victoria, and in the offseason completed the Buller Gorge, Mt Cook and Round the Bays half marathons.

“Like all geologists, I love being outdoors whenever I get a chance,” she says. “After graduation, I’m running the Abel Tasman track with my best friend—the start of our dream to run all the great walks in the next 10 years.”

Katy will graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy in Geology on Thursday 11 December.