Linda Kirstein

Linda completed her doctorate in geology. After this she worked on a project at the Free University in Amsterdam. She then obtained funding to be a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, followed by funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is now working as a research fellow funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council.

The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name is Linda Kirstein, I am a natural environment research fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Basically I do research in geological sciences, and focusing on research in Taiwan, looking at how mountains are built and looking at what the sediments that are preserved in the geological records can tell us about that process.

"I graduated from school having done seven subjects because I did it under the Irish system, and in that seven subjects I had done biology, and physics as well as maths. And when I began choosing university courses, I kind of decided that science would probably be the better option for me to start with. So I did a four year degree in Ireland, and I did maths, physics, geology and computers in the first year. And then as the years went on you basically had to choose what you were going to specialise in and, possibly by process of elimination in terms of subject choice, geology just stuck out as the thing that I would do.

"In my final year I had a really great lecturer, and she erm was convinced that I should do postgraduate research. And it was purely by her instigation that I applied and I applied both to erm Trinity College of Dublin and the Open University in Milton Keynes. I wanted to do something that would allow me to travel and basically those two universities at the time had some really good projects that I was interested in doing.

"As a researcher you have to do time management, you have to do people management, you have to take responsibility erm for all the money that gets invested in your research questions. Four years of research was a really good training ground actually, so I spent from '93–'97 in Milton Keynes working on a project that was based both in Uruguay and Namibia. If you are a UK student you can get a project funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council. And these days, they pay quite well.

"So, as I was writing up, I went to a conference and I met a woman from Leeds, and she had just got funding from the European Union for a big project that involved 10 different universities across Europe, and there was a project available at the Free University in Amsterdam. So for my PhD I went to Amsterdam to work on this project. It was an amazingly well-equipped university. They had loads of different dynamic people who wanted you to do sort of different techniques so you could explore as many directions as you wanted to.

"From Amsterdam I got funding to be a research fellow at Edinburgh from the Marie-Curie Science Foundation which is part again founded by the European Union. And since then I've had funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and now from the Natural Environmental Research Council.

"I probably will apply for another fellowship, partly because there is huge amounts of independence and flexibility when you are driving your own research. And you don't have to do very much teaching and you don't have a lot of administration to do.

"Research is one of those things, it's got its really high moments where you're succeeding and you're feeling like you're answering fundamental questions and everything's coming together. And then it's got its really low points where everything you thought you understood, or in terms of a project anyway, has to be thrown out the window based on your latest batch results.

"I think in the gap between having gone to university and taking up a sort of PhD I would definitely recommend doing a Masters or a six-month placement with somebody that basically allows you to get a feel for the research but not have the huge responsibility that you take on your shoulders when you take on a PhD.

"I like being outside, I like doing my field research. I like a job where I am not just sitting at a computer, I can actually use the computer, but I can also go into the lab and collect some isotopic data or some geochemical data. And I can also go out into the field and I can actually choose which rocks I'm gonna look at. And so putting all of that together, I don't think there are that many jobs out there that you can do that allow you to do so many different things."