Erik Young



Erik Young

EASC Graduate Student

Current Ph.D candidate

Thesis Project:  Understanding the role of basal processes in glacier surface structure evolution

Supervisor: Dr. Gwenn Flowers

What is the best part of working in Earth Sciences?
The diversity of the work you get to do. As part of your studies, you will probably spend time out in the field and working in the lab. In practice this means spending time working in some pretty remote and beautiful locations, and then learning a ton of skills back home such as coding, microscopy, GIS and so on.

What is your research?
I work on many aspects of mountain glaciers, trying to understand how they evolve through time. I look at the role played by climate in governing their mass balance, and at how ice dynamics (the flow of ice) interact with this mass balance. I also apply methods and concepts from structural geology to better understand the dynamics of surge-type glaciers. Ice can behave an awful lot like rocks do deep in the Earth's crust, but a lot faster. This makes it a very unique material to study.

What's the best part of doing your research?
Every step of the way I need to pick up new skills or learn new concepts, and most of the time there are others working on completely different projects trying to do the same. So not only do I get to spend time implementing new software, mastering new equipment, or developing new code, but I get to do it alongside others who are trying to do the same to reach their own research goals. I don't just learn about glaciers, but also all aspects of the Earth Sciences just by sharing my experiences with them. That, above all else, keeps things interesting and helps me broaden my perspective on the applications of the work I do.

What advice would you offer students?
Graduate school is a unique opportunity to spend time focusing almost exclusively on a project that belongs to you. You get to set priorities on what skills you want to learn, and be independent in terms of what projects you want to pursue. This can be amazing, but also quite consuming, and the flip side to independence is no one is really looking out for you. Life doesn't stop while you work on your graduate degree, and there is always more work to do than time to do it. I think the most important thing to do is to surround yourself with good people and to really prioritize the aspects of your life external to research. While sometimes things are great and you really just want to crank out one more result, having a solid foundation of friends and life outside of research will make everything better.