Professor Marian Holness is Professor of Petrology and the first female Earth Sciences professor in the department. Her primary interest is in decoding rock history by interpreting the way the constituent mineral grains fit together to form a microstructure. She is currently working on the solidification of basaltic magma, looking at dykes, sills and layered intrusions. Recently her work has taken her to East Greenland and South Africa, with the bear-free and crocodile-free West Coast of Scotland providing light relief.
“I have been fascinated by landscapes and the processes that formed them for as long as I can remember. My passion for geology started at school and I went on to read geology at the University of Sheffield. Here, I encountered a ‘stronghold’ of petrology and was taught by inspirational lecturers who cultivated my enthusiasm for hard rocks! I went on to study a PhD, at Kingston Polytechnic, which focused on the processes associated with the movement and storage of magmas in the Earth’s crust. Subsequently, I undertook 6 years of postdoctoral research at the University of Durham, on continental rifts and large volcanic eruptions. This provided me with the opportunity to travel, explore and meet people in remote parts of the world. The exciting findings of this research were fundamental to me wishing to pursue a career in academia.
My early ambitions to be a geologist were realised when I was appointed as a lecturer in the Dept of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge in 1995. I continue to study volcanic rocks from all over the globe in order to find out more about the inner workings of our planet. I remain fascinated by the fact that by analysing rocks and tiny crystals it is possible to place fundamental constraints on the large scale physical processes that operate deep in the Earth. As a Cambridge academic I am able to pursue my research interests in a vibrant environment but also, importantly, to share my knowledge and ideas with scientists, students and wider public audiences around the world.”
Dr Alexandra (Sasha) Turchyn is a marine isotope biogeochemist who got her PhD from Harvard University in 2005. She was a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California Berkeley before joining the academic staff in the Department of Earth Sciences in 2009 after a short career break. Since joining the Department, Sasha has established and is the group leader for the Laboratory for Marine Biogeochemistry where her group works on aqueous and solid phase isotope geochemistry and uses a dedicated anoxic environment to incubate and grow cultures of anaerobic bacteria. In 2012, Sasha was awarded an ERC Starting Investigator grant and in 2015 she was promoted to University Reader. Sasha has three daughters who help keep her non-science life very full!
Dr Helen Williams is a new University Lecturer in Earth Sciences. Helen is an isotope geochemist and her research interests primarily focus on the chemical evolution of the Earth through geologic time. Her research has involved developing new chemical and mass spectrometry techniques for analysing a wide range of geological samples, including meteorites and experiments simulating the condition of planetary core formation.
Dr Sanne Cottaar is a global seismologist. Her research includes imaging deep Earth structure and dynamics using earthquake waves. These observations are used to answer questions on the general dynamics, composition and evolution of our planet, and the cause of surface features such as plate dynamics and intraplate volcanism. Sanne recently started her University Lectureship in Earth Sciences at the Bullard Laboratories.