Supervisor profile #3: Dr Matt Watson

Dr Matt WatsonDr Matt Watson

Senior Lecturer in Natural Hazards

PhD (2000) “Remote Sensing of Tropospheric Volcanic Plumes”

1) The Twitter challenge: Describe your PhD in 140 characters (if you can remember it)
I used ground- and satellite-based data to quantify volcanic emissions in order to look at volcanic plumbing systems and plume chemistry.

2) What was the best part of your PhD?

Santiaguito volcano
Part of the addictive nature of volcanology – watching an eruption of Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala, 2009. Credit: Matt Watson

Fieldwork with Clive Oppenheimer and Peter Francis. Their schoolboy excitement and English eccentrism coupled with a significant mischievous streak (mostly Clive) set against the backdrop of Etna, Masaya and Soufriere Hills made for some memorable experiences.

3) If you had to start your PhD again now, what would you do differently?

I’d probably work harder in year 1! Cambridge was an intoxicating place (metaphorically and literally).

4) Why did you decide to stay in academia?

I like the intellectual freedom that academia affords. Volcanology is, in itself, pretty addictive, particularly if it involves occasionally getting closer than a low-Earth orbit.

5) What’s the biggest challenge about supervising PhD students?
The biggest issue I have is not having enough time. I really enjoy interacting with both PhD and Masters students, but discussions are always so fleeting as the next one hovers by the door. I think that’s one of the reasons I like the field – you get to know people, build relationships and have thought provoking discussion. In general, the pace of life in places like Guatemala is quite different.

Santa Maria volcano
In the shadow of Santa Maria volcano, Guatemala. Credit: Allie Hutchinson

6) And what’s the most rewarding aspect?
Seeing them succeed – my first PhD student (Lizzette Rodriguez) is now director of the geology department at the University of Puerto Rico. Or it could be my h-index…

7) What’s been your most exciting travel perk in your career to date?
I did blag my way into the BA lounge in T5 with Juliet ‘Biggles’ Biggs once! That was pretty exciting, even if the subsequent travelling for the trip was pretty horrific (fire at airport, day-long delays, bus crash etc). If you want something less prosaic, then I would say my greatest privilege was watching the 25th June 1997 eruption on Montserrat. It was singly the most beautiful, awesome and terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.

Soufriere Hills volcano
Pyroclastic flows billowing from Soufriere Hills volcano during the 25th June 1997 eruption on Montserrat. Credit:

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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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