“Nurture your scientific curiosity!”: Meet Henrieka Detlef

Hennie_DetlefHenrieka Detlef is currently a second year PhD student at Cardiff University. Her research focuses on reconstructing climate change in the past 1.5 million years, in particular continental ice volume in combination with sea ice extent in the North Pacific Ocean. Here she tells the story of how a trip to New Zealand made her study Geology in the first place and why a career in science is a great choice for everyone. At Soapbox Science Cardiff she is going to speak about a secret passion of hers: how and why future ocean acidification will impact our marine life.



SS: Henrieka, how did you get to your current position?

HD: Before I came to Cardiff I studied Geology at Kiel University in Germany. Quite early during my studies I discovered my love for climate science, in particular Paleoclimatology.

After I graduated with a bachelor of science, I did a 3-months internship in Paleoclimatology at Cardiff University. By then I was still planning to pursue a master’s degree in Tromsø, Norway. However I was so impressed by the atmosphere in the research group in Cardiff and the laboratory facilities that I decided to look at the PhD offers for the next academic year. I found a project that captured my interest instantaneously and I applied for a PhD position and the master program at the same time. When I was offered the PhD I was overwhelmed and didn’t have to think twice.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

HD: For me in school it was always a very close tie between scientific subjects like biology and geography and artistic subjects. I struggled to make a decision after I graduated and decided to take a year off instead to travel New Zealand and Australia. Lucky for me New Zealand is a geologically very interesting country and my curious/scientific nature quickly gained the upper hand over my artistic side.

Now being a PhD student the influence of female role models, like my supervisor, becomes more and more important. They can not only offer guidance with career decisions but also offer a glimpse of what is possible if you pursue a career in academia. As a woman for example it is great to know that a career in science and having a family is very much possible.

In retrospective pursuing a career in science was a great decision. It offers me a chance to investigate new things and to overcome problems, which makes every day an interesting work experience.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

HD: In my research I work with microfossils that we find in sediments deposited at the seafloor. These microfossils get preserved over millions of years and their chemical composition can tell us about the climate at that time. I think it is simply astonishing that these tiny fossils are capable of and it fascinates me every day.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

HD: I think events like these are important to let people know about the research that is going on in the UK right now. As an early career scientist I have experienced that when you become more and more specialized in a certain field of research you become more and more reluctant to communicating your research to a wider audience. Soapbox Science counteracts this phenomenon in a unique way, it is the perfect interface between cutting edge research and the non-scientific community. It’s a great event both for the audience as they get to hear and learn about so many different interesting things and for the scientists as we get to learn to make our research more accessible to a wider community. I can’t wait for the reactions and discussions on the day, it’s going to be great fun!


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?

HD: Definitely excitement with a pinch of nervousness!

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