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Dr. Eric Thiessen
What got you interested in Earth Sciences?
During my undergraduate studies, I took an elective course on Earth’s geological and biological evolution, which I found fascinating. However, my decision to switch into an Earth Science major was also influenced by very promising job prospects since the mining and mineral exploration industry was very active at this time.
Why did you choose SFU EASC?
The instructors within the EASC department have a strong field-based background and expertise that spans all the fundamental aspects of the Earth science discipline. This allows students to gain a broad knowledge base of the discipline through both a theoretical and empirical framework. Also, being a medium to smaller size department means that both undergraduate and graduate students have numerous hands-on interactions with instructors and supervisory committees over the course of their studies. I initially chose to come to SFU for a specific project with Dan Gibson within the Petrology and Tectonics research group. However, over the course of my time at SFU I also had numerous positive interactions with faculty and students well outside of my research area, which included scientific discussions, grant writing advise, and learning effective teaching methods. These interactions aided my development as a researcher and also demonstrated the value of a supportive and cross-disciplinary work environment.
What was your favourite course?
My favourite courses were EASC 408 where we had a 4 day field trip through the mountains from Canmore to Vancouver, and EASC 606 where we spent two weeks mapping a terrane bounding shear zone in the Okanagan. I value courses that include exposure to field-geology beyond the lab and lecture format.
What is your research?
At SFU, I studied tectonics of two-billion-year-old (and older) mountains that used to tower above the prairies and tundra within the Canadian Shield. This type of work requires summer field work that establishes relative age relationships of rock units and the geometry of faulted and folded regions in order to generate geological maps and testable hypotheses. Laboratory work typically involves determining ages for rocks and performing structural and metamorphic analysis. By combining field work with microanalytical analysis, my work has uncovered new hundreds of kilometre long fault zones as well as cryptic tectonic episodes that has advanced our understanding of the duration, extent, magnitude and nature of mountain building processes in the Canadian Shield.
What has been your best learning experience?
For me, I learn the most through the process of communicating my scientific results and interpretations. This forces me to critically evaluate my scientific questions, how the data addresses these questions and what new knowledge is gained. Every time I go through this process for a conference presentation or writing of a journal article, I gain invaluable perspectives that carries through to subsequent projects.
What advice would you offer grad students?
Take as many opportunities as possible to broaden your experiences and your professional network. Attend conferences, meetings, workshops, field trips, volunteer work; present your research (undergraduate and graduate) and interact with researchers beyond your department.
What are your plans after SFU EASC?
I am currently a postdoctoral research scientist at Laurentian University. I am looking for opportunities at a university, a geological survey or in the mining industry.