Andy Hitchcock

Andy Hitchcock has very happy memories of his three years in Leeds. “This was the last University I visited and I came away from the open day knowing that Leeds was where I wanted to study – the whole place had a real buzz about it”. Andy had been keen to experience something different from his hometown of Cheltenham (Gloucestershire), so a big city in the North was a perfect choice for him.


It seems fitting that Andy has become an exploration geologist, as he confides that he’s “always had an unhealthy relationship with rock collecting”. Andy knew that geology graduates, with their practical skills, such as report writing and data analysis, can find work in many other fields, but it was the lure of a career in geology that spurred him on. “Not many jobs give you the chance to live and work in some of the most unspoiled and beautiful places on earth – and get paid for it!” he says.


Like most of our graduates, Andy says that the highlight of his degree was the field trips, which give students the enviable opportunity to get to know their whole year group, as well as the teaching staff, really well. “Northern Scotland & Ireland were unforgettable, but my dissertation field trip in the French Alps was the best of all – two months of camping and climbing in the mountains, amongst some of the best scenery I’ve ever seen,” says Andy. “It was an amazing experience and I would go back there in a second! I also took the fantastic first-year module, ‘Gold in the UK & Ireland’ which included a weekend trip to pan for gold in the Leadhills in Scotland; it was one of the courses that sealed my future career path as a geologist!”


Although his undergraduate years went well Andy recognized that members of staff would always be on hand to offer support with either academic or more personal difficulties. Andy graduated in July 2008 with a BSc in Geological Sciences and found his current job through a combination of scouring the web and using the network of working geologists. “I responded to an email from another Leeds geology graduate, and before I could draw breath I was flying to Australia for an interview with BHP Billiton!”, he said.


“I’m currently living in Perth (Western Australia) and fly between there and Mining Area C in Pilbara, working nine days on and five days off. My day-to-day job involves a lot of hands-on work and I’m rarely indoors.”  Andy’s current important role involves the development of a resource into an ore-body that is ready to mine. “I spend my day supervising a drill rig, logging samples, and interpreting the data by drawing cross-sections and doing a geochemical analysis. On rare occasions I’m in the office to write a report or design a future drill proposal,” he says.


And his next step? “I don’t know! There are so many opportunities and I’m in the enviable position of having a choice! I definitely have plans to return to study when the time is right, but after finishing my BSc I was desperate to get some hands-on experience in the field.” His current job provides a wealth of opportunity for him to develop as a professional geologist. BHP Billiton has operations all over the world including Australia, South America & West Africa – and there is strong encouragement for employees to move between them. “They have one of the best graduate programmes in the world so I know that I’m in good hands.”