Alumnus profile #6 – Dr Susan Little

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

Dr Susan LittleDr Susan Little

Post-doctoral researcher, ETH Zürich

PhD title “‘The Oceanic Biogeochemical Cycling of Cu and Zn and their Isotopes’”


1) The Twitter Challenge: Describe your PhD in 140 characters
Figuring out the oceanic budgets of copper and zinc and their isotopes.

2) Where are you now? What are you doing?
I’m a post-doctoral researcher at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. I still work on copper and zinc isotopes (and a few others besides). I spend plenty of time doing other things too, like learning German and playing football for a local team (the latter partly to help with the former, though Schweizer-Deutsch ist besonders schwierig…)

Cyanobacteria cultures
Cyanobacteria cultures grown whilst on exchange at NordCEE, University of Southern Denmark. Photo credit: Susan Little

3) Why did you decide to stay in academia?
I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Zürich is a fantastic city. I’ve always wanted to live near the Alps. I enjoy what I do and the lifestyle that it allows me to lead. It’s true; there are downsides – like the rapid pace at which my initial two-year contract is accelerating by… – but for now I’m (mostly) happy enjoying living in the moment.

4) What is the most useful thing you learnt in your PhD?
I think the most useful thing that I’ve learnt, in terms of how to do science, I’ve learnt in the year since finishing my PhD. A PhD is something finite, with an end point (I know, it doesn’t always feels that way!). As a result it’s possible to spend a lot of time thinking about that end point, motivating yourself simply with that in mind, and not enjoying the process itself. But ‘doing science’, in reality, is not finite. Of course there are milestones: grants to apply for, papers to write. But ultimately science requires (seemingly) infinite patience, and an ability to sit back and enjoy the process. And to accept that one cannot know all of the answers…

5) Is there any advice you wish you had taken?
Not to rush.

Barberton Greenstone belt
‘Old Rocks’ sign was on fieldwork in the Barberton Greenstone belt. Photo credit: Susan Little

6) Your best PhD travel perk
My best travel perk to date came this year, travelling to the AGU Ocean Sciences meeting in Hawaii… Turns out there is a lot more to Hawaii than beaches and surfers!

Kilauea gas cloud
Kilauea gas cloud in Hawaii. Photo credit: Susan Little

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About Charly Stamper

I’m an ex-experimental petrologist.
I used to make pretend volcanoes; now I work in renewable energy

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