Alumnus profile #5 – Dr. Duncan Muir

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

duncan muirDr Duncan Muir

Post-doctoral research assistant, Uppsala University

PhD title “Investigating Magma Storage Conditions at Uturuncu Volcano, Bolivia”


1) The Twitter Challenge: Describe your PhD in 140 characters
Investigating pre-eruptive magma storage conditions (pressures and temperatures) of magmas beneath Uturuncu, an actively deforming volcano in the Andes of Bolivia.

2) Where are you now? What are you doing?
I’m a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. I’m studying erupted rocks from various volcanoes along the Sumatran arc to determine magma storage and crystallisation histories. We hope to understand in more detail how processes vary along the arc in response to changes in crustal thickness or tectonic stresses.

3) Why did you decide to stay in academia?
I left academia after my undergraduate degree to try my hand at mineral exploration for a couple of years and then worked in the offshore industry doing geotechnical investigations. After a while my job became quite repetitive and wasn’t providing me with much mental stimulation. I returned to academia for the intellectual freedom it provides, as well as the opportunity to do more fieldwork and to get the chance to spend time in the labs generating my own data.

Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons
Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons. Walking the strata of the Old Red Sandstone in the hills of South Wales sparked my interest in Geology originally.

4) What is the most useful thing you learnt in your PhD?
To take the positives out of your research at all times. There’s no such thing as a bad result. Everything you do helps you to understand something more clearly eventually.

5) Is there any advice you wish you had taken?
Write things up as you go along while concepts and methods are fresh and clear in your mind. I managed to do this on the whole but there were times when I didn’t prioritise it enough. Breaking down a large research project into smaller manageable parts removes the daunting concept of having to produce a huge thesis at the end of 3 years. It’s so much more efficient in the long run and prevents mistakes from forgetting what you did days, weeks, months and years ago.

6) Your best PhD travel perk
Opportunities to spend time outdoors was the main reason I chose to study geology in the first place. I’m quite happy doing fieldwork on a wet and windy UK hillside, but to be able to work in some exotic and remote parts of the world is an added bonus. During my PhD I was lucky enough to go to many great places: Guatemala, Hawaii, Bolivia, Japan to name a few. All of these trips were great for different reasons; however, a recent excursion to Kamchatka sampling lavas from Tolbachik and Bezymianny volcanoes takes some beating. Spectacular active volcanism and true wilderness along with first class Russian hospitality combined for a very memorable trip.

Lava window on Tolbachik, Kamchatka
Lava window on Tolbachik, Kamchatka

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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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