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Just a quick note to say that my time in Edinburgh has come to an end. There are rumours of an honorary position, and two projects that I contribute to, so I will still be linked to UoE in some form, but my role has clearly changed. I will officially start at RWTH in Aachen (Germany) as a Professor for Applied Structural Geology on October 1st. There's a lot of exciting research and teaching already lining up, and there will be opportunities to work with me and my group in Aachen, so if you are interested, watch out for announcements on the geotectonics mailing list.

Last thing for me to do is to wish all who read this all the best. Thanks for your interest in my work. I hope that the labour disputes at UoE come to an end soon and that UoE leadership finally reward the many fantastic academics at this institutions with the respect they deserve, so that they can focus on delivering world-class teaching and research.

It's been such a long time, and so much has happened, as it always does, and it is definitely time for an update:

  • I've turned bionic (new left hip joint!), which was totally worth it, as I am now pain-free for the first time in five years or so. I can do field work normally again and the mountainbiking is great!
  • We have already published two Geology papers this year (Hou et al., and Fusseis et al.), with a third - Gilgannon et al. - in review, and a few other, really cool papers are in the pipeline.
  • The field-skills-people (which includes myself) have run two very good field camps with students in Spain and Inchnadamph.
  • The 4D imaging team had a great EGU meeting in Vienna, where I feel our work was very well received, AND
  • The same group has now dispersed into different corners of the UK (Damien at DLS/Manchester, James in Glasgow) and the continent (Roberto in Florence), with only EIlidh, Ian and myself left in Edinburgh for the moment.
  • We have started a collaboration with the French Synchrotron SOLEIL's PSICHÈ beamline, to make Heitt Mjölnir available for general users there.

But more change is abound, as the most important news is that I will be leaving Edinburgh in mid-September to take up a new post as a Professor in Applied Structural Geology in Germany. This has been several years in the making, really, in a sense that I've become increasingly restless and was open for change, but now everything is moving very rapidly and I will start teaching on the continent in October. I feel that after >10 years in Edinburgh, it is now a good time for a move, especially as there are fresh opportunities, new colleagues with new ideas, more room (literally) to develop our research and a great funding environment. We all (i.e. Edinburgh 4D imaging) agree that this is more a spreading out than a disbanding, and I am very happy that Berit will join me from Bern to become my assistant in Germany, which will also be a great opportunity to develop her own research and teaching.

Two posts in a day... we got news that Mark Rivers' team at GSECARS at the Advanced Photon Source will be making a copy of our flagship rig available to their users. During our visit to APS in November we visited Mark and Yanbin Wang at their extremely tidy beamline and were really amazed by their setup. Mark is already using a copy of Mjölnir with his users. During our visit we presented our latest invention to him and it seems we convinced him that it was the vehicle of choice at the moment. So, friends on the other side of the Atlantic, once APS resurfaces after the upgrade, you will have a new toy to play with... this will be our third rig at APS, with Sleipnir being hosted by Viktor Nikitin and Pavel Shevchenko at 2BM, with its uniquely cool zoom camera.

It's a pretty spectacular day when two 36-months NERC grants get funded! This means four postdoc positions will be advertised soon, two of which will be directly associated with 4DµCT in our group:

  1. One for the project "Enabling CO2 mineralisation through pore to field-scale tracking of carbonate precipitation: INCLUSION", led by Stuart Gilfillan. In this project I will lead a work package where we will use our new Heitt Mjölnir rig to identify the key controls on CO2 mineralisation at the pore scale and quantify the pore space evolution during the process by conducting the first time-resolved 4D imaging and quantification of grain-scale mineral dissolution and precipitation within basalts from a real-world engineered storage site, the CARBFIX project.
  2. One for "On the edge?", led by Ian Main, for which we will build on our existing rig Stor Mjölnir, which already combines imaging with acoustic emissions (AE). For this project, we will develop a new monster rig for 18 mm diameter samples that will have 6 AE sensors included (and doesn't have a name yet). In this project, we will explore critically stressed rocks and see how they react to systematic stress perturbations. I will lead and co-lead two work packages in this project related to the imaging side, mostly.

If you are interested in the imaging side of either of these topics, get in touch!


The beginning of January always brings the abstract deadline for the EGU General Assembly in April of that year. This year, we have a lot of cool abstracts submitted, and if you come to the meeting I can promise you good entertainment. Here's is a list of the abstracts from our team:

James Gilgannon et al. - A non-hydrostatic stress state forms fabrics during metamorphic reactions. Session TS1.5 – Deformation processes and texture analysis

Roberto Emanuele Rizzo et al. - Deep learning and chemical constraints allow accurate segmentation of micro-CT data from metamorphic rocks. Session TS1.5 – Deformation processes and texture analysis

Zhaoliang Hou et al. - Syn-kinematic porosity evolution during nucleation and growth of stylolites (Eilean-Dubh limestone, NW Scotland). Session TS1.5 – Deformation processes and texture analysis

Florian Fusseis et al. - Emergent permeability in dehydrating rocks is controlled by the stress state and orientation. Session GMPV5.1 – Fluid-rock interaction: Kickstarter of metamorphic, deformation and geo-engineering processes

Damien Freitas et al. - Heitt Mjolnir: an internally heated triaxial rock deformation apparatus for operando experiments at up to 573 K at Synchrotron imaging beamlines. Session GMPV5.1 – Fluid-rock interaction: Kickstarter of metamorphic, deformation and geo-engineering processes

Alexis Cartwright-Taylor et al. - Micromechanics of damage localisation and shear failure of a porous rock: sound and vision. Session EMRP1.2 – The Mechanics of Earthquake Faulting: a multiscale approach

Derek D.V. Leung et al. - Where curling stones collide with rock physics: Cyclical damage accumulation and fatigue in granitoids. Session EMRP1.3 – Multiscale rock damage in geology, geophysics and geo-engineering systems

Should be an exciting week, and I am really happy that we will be presenting so many cool results from so many different studies!

2022 definitely feels like a very full year. I've lost count on the number of beds I've slept in and I feel I've travelled at lot. My family has been very patient with me and I am glad that the year comes to a quiet end in Edinburgh now. I do look forward to spending a fair bit of time with my kids and wife and friends over the next three weeks.

Between February and December 2022, there were 4 synchrotron visits (2 to SLS, 1 to DLS and 1 to APS), a fortnight in southern Spain with students to establish a new advanced field camp, a good amount of time spent in Austria to run a workshop for an EU project and a science retreat with our team, as well as work on a new structural geology course, and a conference in Grenoble where we presented our latest 4DµCT research. I've been in Lausanne working with a friend and colleague at EPFL and completed two consulting projects for companies that develop pumped storage hydropower in the Scottish Highlands. The consultancy field work really reconnected me with field mapping, and I've updated my skills and gone fully digital now to meet the required turn-around times and data formats.

Writing this, I am also recovering from a hip-replacement surgery that unfortunately became necessary as the condition of the joint started to affect my ability to do field work. Luckily all went well and, fingers crossed, I should be back in the field to do more consultancy work and field teaching in March.

Science and publication-wise, we have several super-cool papers pretty close to submission, and I have to say, it's been a great, great pleasure to work with Damien Freitas, James Gilgannon and Roberto Rizzo as the three postdocs on our Midgard project. The gents have been supermotivated, creative, hard-working and productive, I honestly couldn't ask for more. The results we produced with the fantastic support of Christian Schlepütz and Federica Marone at SLS really exceeded our expectations. We have also up'd our image analysis skills, found a way to segment 4D datasets really accurately and calculate transport properties from them.

In terms of collaborations, the ICTMS meeting in Grenoble really was a golden opportunity for establishing new collaborations, but also to consolidate existing ones. As part of our impact efforts, we've negotiated with the Spanish synchrotron ALBA to make some of our rigs available to a wider geoscience user community, but ultimately decided to work with Andy King at SOLEIL's PSICHÈ beamline until SLS' TOMCAT is back from a longish dark period as they upgrade to a 4th generation storage ring. Hopefully, later in 2023, users will be able to do 4DµCT experiments using our Mjölnir and Heitt Mjölnir rigs at PSICHÈ with the necessary user support provided by our team. I was also really glad to meet up with Ryan Hurley and work on a project where we aim to combine time-resolved imaging with x-ray diffraction to characterise both cause and effect of pressure solution creep in halite and calcite aggregates.

Along the lines of "sharing is caring", we've also just been at APS in the US, where two of our rigs have been copied and are being successfully used at two different imaging beamlines: Sleipnir at 2BM, and Mjölnir at 13BM. The rigs very nicely integrate with the exciting imaging setups there, and it was great to see that these groups have taken our robust design templates and adopted them to their needs.

On the teaching side of things, I've spent time working on two courses: One for the new Earth Sciences degree that will launch in Edinburgh in September 2023 (Earth Science for Society) and one that may become an MSc-level structural geology course and/or an open-source teaching resource (Case Studies in Structural Geology). Both are exciting projects and I will write more about them as they mature.

I am pretty stoked that we had a chance to do a first set of experiments using multiscale/multiresolution 4D tomography at beamline 2BM at APS in November, where acquired three 4D datasets on three different scales from the same experiment simultaneously. The data volumes we produced pose some challenges, and the data are currently transferring over from the US. I am particularly interested in how characteristic length scales that are intrinsic to many materials (e.g. grain size & mineral distribution and fabrics in rocks, pores and organic structure in wood and biochar) will influence the upscale propagation of damage in specimens. Below a photo of the experimental setup we used to image evolving thermal damage in Westerly and Ailsa Craig granite. You can see the copper-clad heater with the water cooling coil on the outside and just below a sample on a long ceramic rod, waiting to be inserted into the furnace. To the left of the furnace, you can see the new imaging array, with three different lenses (covered by the lead shields) and two cameras on top of the array. The set up allows to dynamically change between the lenses and even the cameras, whereby the entire imaging procedure can be automated (i.e. a heating protocol can be coupled with imaging acquisition at the three magnifications at pre-set locations in the sample). This is definitely an extremely cool new tool for operando imaging that Viktor Nikitin and Pavel Shevchenko have put together, and I hope to get to use it more in the next years.

I had the pleasure to give a talk to the Edinburgh Geological Society last week, which was a really nice experience. The presentation is targetting a slightly different audience from the usual conference presentations, and, judging from the excellent questions, the recipe I chose worked. If you want to learn more about how we use x-rays and neutrons to study tectonic processes, have a look!

For the past two years, I've been leading the development of a new degree in "Earth Sciences", which is planned to replace our current "Geology" degree from 2023 onwards. This was now approved by our Board of Studies and is awaiting College approval. A lot of people contributed to this, but at the core, the process was driven by a small group of younger academics who attempted to develop a degree that prepares our graduates ideally for the changing working environment and topics in Earth Sciences. As a teaser, here's the external summary I wrote for the paperwork:

"In the Earth Sciences degree, you will study the Earth’s past to forecast its future. You will develop a deep understanding of the many processes that shape the Earth and life on it, and how they interact and depend on each other. We will teach you how to acquire, analyse and visualise a wide range of geoscientific data, and how to put your knowledge and skills to use to make a real difference in our transition to a fair and sustainable society. You will learn how we can use the Earth’s resources sustainably to meet our needs in energy, minerals and water, and become an expert in assessing the risks associated with volcanoes, earthquakes and climate change. 

Edinburgh’s Earth Sciences degree, which is accredited by the Geological Society of London, is a cutting-edge degree that ideally prepares you for advanced careers in Earth Sciences and beyond. It carefully balances data science and computing skills with classical geological field skills and a broad geosciences knowledge and makes optimal use of our unique Scottish geological heritage. An extensive independent research project provides an opportunity to develop your research skills and be trained on our world-class facilities by top scientists. From the beginning, you will develop your transferable skills in communicating Earth Science topics in writing, presentations and online. You will be debating and collaborating from day one, and we will train you to become a confident professional over your time at our School. An independent research project provides an opportunity to develop your research skills and be trained on our world-class facilities by top scientists. Our focussed pathway option allows you to complete your BSc (hons) degree in three years while still being able to specialise in a field of your interest.

In the MEarthSci degree, a further extensive research project provides you an opportunity to become an independent researcher, while a summer internship gets you in contact with industry. Our focussed pathway option allows you to complete your MEarthSci degree in four years while still being able to specialise in a field of your interest."

It was great to see that the proposal was voted through the BoS with no opposing vote. There's a lot of work left - not alone the writing of 18 new courses - but we are all pretty excited. As a project lead, this was an incredible opportunity to understand the dynamics of a School like ours better, and I learned a lot about the interaction with colleagues, the consideration of their viewpoints, and how to find compromises that incorporate as many opinions, contraints and ambitions as possible.


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