SciSoc Spotlight Issue 23 – Prof. Marian Holness

13 May 2021. Prof. Marian Holness is with the Department of Earth Sciences. A PDF version of this Issue is available here.

Research focus: Igneous petrology

My research is concentrated on understanding the processes which occur during the melting and solidification of rocks – these include the formation and segregation of crustal melts, and the evolution of the crystal mush forming at the margins of cooling magma chambers. I approach these problems by starting with detailed field observation and sample collection, with careful microstructural observations using microscopes (both optical and electron) coupled with geochemical analysis to decode rock history.

What made you decide to pursue research?

I have always been interested in pattern-finding, and understanding why things are the way they are. I decided I wanted to be a scientist when I was 14 and have stuck with it ever since. A scientist is essentially “who I am”…even if I weren’t doing research in a university, I would be puzzling things out and trying to work out why things are the way they are. I am lucky in that I have found my niche, with lots of engaging problems to work on and the opportunity to get outside and visit interesting places while doing that.

One piece of advice…

The main thing is to find out what you’re good at. It took me a while to realise that my skills lie in observation, rather than numerical descriptions. I was lucky to find interesting and important problems to work on that are fundamentally grounded in seeing what is in front of our eyes. Find your superpower and then work out how best to use it!

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