'Geology is a lot about storytelling...'
Studying towards a PhD in Education
Coming from Kolkata, how as it been so far living and studying in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Pretty awesome. As a geologist, it’s heaven to be in. I was also intrigued by the innovative nature of the Geoeducation research at UC and I absolutely knew that I wanted to be here.
What is the inspiration behind your geology research?
To learn and teach geology in a way that students find relevance in what they are learning. As educators we are always looking for ways to teach authentically and I see my research as an engaging way to do this.
Why the education angle?
I am a storyteller by nature. I guess we all are, but science, geology, art, and story anchor me and enable me to make sense of the universe. Geology is a lot about storytelling – stories that are encapsulated in time, in rocks. While I was pursuing my PhD in Experimental Petrology at Rice University, I felt that I wanted to bring my interests in teaching, in art, and communication to the research I was doing and this project in Digital Storytelling just felt like the right fit.
How have you tied in Aotearoa to your research?
I am using a digital storytelling for improving caldera risk literacy around Lake Taupō. Lake Taupō is an active caldera volcano that was created by a super eruption about 27,000 years ago.
Super eruptions present high consequence risk scenarios with immense potential for destruction to the community. Unrest in Lake Taupō is normal, and it is possible to live in harmony in such environments; unrest does not always result in super-eruptions. However, this warrants an understanding of the risks and uncertainties that are often associated with such situations. In my research, I intend to use digital storytelling to develop resources aimed at caldera risk literacy. More specifically, I aim to give voice to the different worldviews of geological unrest through these digital tools.
I enjoy the transdisciplinary nature of the research and the tie ups and collaborations across departments. Most importantly, I cherish and value the community here.
What ways have you been getting involved with the community?
As a geologist, field trips are part of our curriculum and I had the opportunity to accompany Geology students enrolled in GEOL 476 to a field trip on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and I’d totally recommend it to other students. Field trips in general play a crucial role in forging connections and friendships. You get to know people outside of their work, and I guess as humans it’s always the deeper level of connections that make things more relevant to us.
I am also a UC Postgraduate Student’s Association (PGSA) exec member, and I basically manage the social media for the club. UC PGSA aims to foster a culture of postgraduate community on campus and at the same time advocate for student wellbeing and try and foster opportunities to support all our members. To that end we have been organising frequent events on campus that range from weekly coffee mornings, social Fridays, to academic writing retreats, etc.
What helps you get through the challenge of doing a PhD?
I love reading; painting; travelling. On an average I make sure to read 2 books a week but that sometimes changes keeping in mind deadlines or research schedule. I am very mindful about journaling and feel that it is something that anchors me to the present. You could say it is my spiritual practice.
What advice would you give to other PhD students at UC?
To follow their dreams, however weird that may sound to others. I believe that when you listen to your heart and persistently follow what you are passionate about, you eventually discover where you want to be.