Awesome Jobs: Dr Rebecca Williams – Volcanologist

Geologist and volcanologist Dr Rebecca Williams was featured recently in the “i” newspaper’s (part of the Independent) column The Shift, which highlights fascinating jobs.

Dr Williams talks in the article about her interest in volcanoes starting while studying A-Level geography, but that the idea of being a volcanologist seemed so ‘out there’ she initially didn’t believe it was achievable. As a university student studying geology, she heard that the Hawaii Volcano Observatory took volunteers. After being accepted on their programme, Dr Williams spent six months as a gas geochemist, including monitoring gas emissions from Kilauea volcano, and it was at this point she realised you could do this as a career.

Currently a Lecturer in Volcanology, Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Dr Williams explains in the column how she divides her time between teaching and research.  Her main area of research is volcanic flows, involving studying lahars (the flow of debris, mud and water down from a volcano) and pyroclastic density currents (the fast-flowing currents of hot gas and rock from an explosive eruption).

“I look at ancient deposits and try to understand how they were formed, and from that understand the behaviour of different flows,” Dr Williams said.

“You can’t observe them in action, except from a long way away, and then they are shrouded in ash clouds.”

The University’s new flume, constructed by Dr Williams, which in the GEES flume lab, simulates lahars, enabling her to investigate these hazardous flows, helping people who live in volcanic regions by predicting which areas might be affected.

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