Adam Booth

Adam Booth

Thirteen years ago, I wrote a biography in which I described my experience as an undergraduate geophysics student in Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment.  At the time of writing, I was about to undertake an MSc in Exploration Geophysics at Leeds – a flagship MSc in the seismic industry – and, as a look to the future, concluded by stating that the MSc qualification would open up lots of potential career options.  Fast-forward to the present day, and I’m about to return to Leeds to start a Lectureship in Exploration Geophysics – but via research avenues and adventures that I couldn’t possibly have imagined over a decade ago.

I graduated from the MSc in 2003, and had realised during the year of study that I had become more interested in research applications of geophysics than I had the purely industrial route – therefore securing a PhD position became a priority.  After working for a year in Rock Deformation Research, a University of Leeds consultancy, I secured a PhD position in Leeds’ School of Geography.  The project, a CASE partnership between NERC and English Heritage, involved improving ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey methods for archaeological applications, taking inspiration from the acquisition and processing methods developed for application in the seismic industry: essentially, the perfect marriage between my experience at that point and my interests in near-surface surveying. 

Indeed, this aspect of knowledge transfer has been central to much of my research to date, particularly in glaciological settings.  Following the completion of my PhD in 2008, I took a post-doctoral position in Swansea University’s Glaciology Group, working with Prof Tavi Murray.  Within a few months of starting, I was deployed along with a handful of geophysical survey systems to the Norwegian High Arctic, working in freezing temperatures and armed with a rifle in case of polar bear attack!  In the 5 years which followed, I spent over 6 months in the European Arctic – including a one month survey camped on the Greenland ice sheet, where our team was using a variety of geophysical methods to characterise subglacial hydrology.  My post-doctoral position also facilitated inter-disciplinary research, and I was able to collaborate with Swansea’s Egyptology Centre to perform GPR surveys in and around an ancient Egyptian tomb site near to Luxor

In 2012, I joined Imperial College London as a Research and Teaching Associate in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering.  Working closely with students on the MSc Petroleum Geophysics programme, I was able to hone my teaching skills, particularly with regard to overseeing independent research projects and designing their experience of field geophysics.  With regards the latter role, I am now the Academic Director of the “Geophysics Boot Camp” training course operated by the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE).  Meanwhile, I have been able to maintain collaborative research links, and have undertaken numerous field deployments.  Prominent among these was the fabled quest for the “Lost Squadron” of Spitfires in Myanmar: precious little related to functional aircraft was unearthed, but the geophysical surveys undertaken shed valuable light on how the legend developed over the years! 

Having studied in the University of Leeds for 8 years, maybe it’s no surprise that my research specialisation is so closely aligned with that in the School of Earth and Environment.  However, I have the strong sense that Leeds really values the research that I undertake and the varied research collaborations that it fosters.  Furthermore, I am able to undertake this research as the School has a well-provisioned stock of field equipment, vital for developing the methods I envisage eventually deploying to study Antarctic hydro-glaciology – including on a forthcoming expedition on the Larsen C Ice Shelf.   It’s also exciting to join the team which delivers the acclaimed MSc Exploration Geophysics programme: I hope to benefit from the close industrial ties that the programme affords, and look forward to working with future generations of enthusiastic MSc students.  My return to Leeds really does feel like a homecoming, and I’m excited to contribute to the ongoing ambitions of the School of Earth and Environment.  Plus, it’s about time I rediscovered the flavours of a good Yorkshire bitter.