Gneiss2MeetU: A ‘geologists only’ dating app

Tim Jones

In the late 90s, online dating was expected to become a cyber dystopia for weirdos and burnouts who couldn’t get a date in the ‘real world’. And while it still has its issues, hooking up over the web has become something not many of us expected it to be –normal. But rather than getting down and digital with ‘coolguy2000′ who you met in a Green Day chat room, today’s virtual date is conducted through matchmaker websites like OKCupid and mobile apps such as Tinder. With their explosion in popularity the market of dating websites and mobile apps has become saturated, which makes finding the right one almost as difficult as finding the one.

Here at oncirculation we care as much about your hearts as we do about your samples. To find out how one navigates through the world of swiping, poking, liking, matching all at light-speed rates of rejection, we contacted Charlotte Lyell, creator of a ‘geologists only’ dating app, and asked about her experience with online dating:

“I’d been online dating for years, drifting from one app to the next… I told myself that if I just kept looking, I’d eventually find the right dating service for me. There were a couple that I really liked, including one I was using for about a year but it didn’t work out. Anyway, it all culminated on a business trip when I got blind drunk and downloaded a bunch of apps all in one night. I’ve been between apps ever since.”

Feeling dismayed with her online encounters, Charlotte decided to make up an app for those with a very specific interest, Geology. When asked why geologists require a separate corner of cyber space to themselves, Charlotte replied:

“Dating can consume a lot of time and most people expect a quick response. But geologists are different; abstract concepts like ‘tomorrow’ and ‘next week’ are meaningless to us. A week, a year, a million years –they’re all relatively short periods of time. Also, most of my clothes were bought at a Kathmandu sale and while most people think wearing cargo pants and hiking boots everywhere is tacky, geologists appreciate the practical aspects.”

The app itself, called Gneiss2MeetU, has several unique features you won’t find in typical online mediums, including the ability to reject anyone who doesn’t wear polo fleece and an instant match up if you have the same favourite dinosaur.

In science we are all faced with things we don’t understand and often, after much struggling, we will fail. Over time, it becomes easy to lose hope in our scientific endeavours and the same is true for love. But Gneiss2MeetU offers a new method, an avenue of inquiry that might just work for you, so what do you have to lose? As George Harrison wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.”


Ten things I’ve learnt since starting a PhD

By Jen

I started my PhD over a year ago, here are some ‘valuable’ life lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Being self-driven is hard. I have really struggled with having no-one hold me accountable if I don’t show up or do any work. I could just not come in for a week and probably no-one would notice. As an ‘adult’ though, obviously I am just shooting myself in the foot if I slack off. This took me a shameful amount of time to realize.
  2. I’m not the only one who feels unworthy of being here. There is a term for this: ‘the imposter syndrome’, apparently it’s quite a common phenomenon. Essentially I just keep thinking someone is going to knock on my office door and tell me this was all a joke and to pack my things. I went through a stage where I was afraid to leave my office, in case someone asked me what my project was or how it was going. I keep having to remind myself they are still paying me so I can’t have totally stuffed up yet.
  3. I am surrounded by the coolest people I have ever met. Earth scientists are a lovely mix of being super intelligent and also super friendly. They are witty and forward-thinking, but they have also managed not to slide so far on the spectrum as to be antisocial. Also, a lot of the competitiveness that I see in other fields has been replaced at RSES by a healthy attitude of self-deprecation.
  4. My sense of humour is too culturally specific. As a local Canberran, one of the wonderful things about working at RSES is that I get to interact with people from all over the globe on a daily basis. This means that unfortunately not everyone is going to get my hilarious Kath-and-Kim reference, and not everyone knows who Hans Moleman is. This is definitely a reflection of my sheltered life and middle-class upbringing. I have learned, however, that some subjects are universally hilarious- my favourites being poop and sex (just to clarify these are two separate subjects).
  5. Grocery shopping is an impossible task to master. There is a specific art to buying the perfect amount of food during weekly grocery shops such that you don’t have to nip back for anything later in the week, but so that none of it goes bad and needs to be thrown out. This is hard enough let alone trying to buy things that are both healthy and delicious. It requires you to plan every meal in advance but thinking of new recipes hurts my brain.
  6. Academics are people too, with the same insecurities. They are just as desperate to prove their worth, and are just as worried about what other people think of them.
  7. There needs to be an extra day in the week. There should be an extra day reserved for doing adulty things i.e. washing clothes, washing dishes, cleaning your room, cooking for the week, paying bills, keeping dentist appointments and car rego inspections etc. Saturday and Sunday seem to be increasingly filled with doing the things I should have done during the week but didn’t.
  8. PhD students are glorified slaves. Has anyone noticed that we work 40 hour weeks while earning below minimum wage?! Some of my friends that I went to school with own their own homes. I’ve been saving up to buy a new sports bra for four months.
  9. I really like doing science. I have just started getting into the clean lab to start some solution chemistry on my basalt samples. Until now most of my work has been sitting in front of a computer playing with data. I really like wearing the lab coat, glasses and little plastic gloves. I love pipetting things. I love working with cool and dangerous chemicals such as concentrated HF!
  10. Doing a PhD is an amazing privilege– one that I am trying desperately not to screw up. How many people get to do a job where they have to use their brains every day? Where they get to study the planet on which we live? Where people around them are making ground breaking discoveries that will add to society’s scientific knowledge?    phd

Mid-Term Review

Having just finished my mid-term review I thought I would give you some advice and observations from my experience. Your mid-term review will be completed at 16-18 months into your PhD. Lucky me, I got to do mine at 15 months, but most people wait for the later option.  I feel like my biggest source of anxiety was not knowing what exactly to do/expect. I hope this little article hopes you to understand what to expect.

Here at RSES we generally have to write 50 pages that we hand to our panel a week before giving our 20 minute oral. Let me just tell you now, these are SHORT. Looking now you might not think that 50 pages and 20 minutes are short but explaining (well) what you’ve spent over a year working on in that amount of pages/minutes is a hard task. Which leads me to my first point:

Talk to your supervisor and panel

The earlier the better. Everyone will give you different opinions but you need to find out how they would feel if you were a little over the page limit or the timing limit and what they think your should focus on. Also ask if they expect drafts beforehand (this means your deadline is even sooner)

Written Report.

start writing early

And by early I mean AS SOON AS YOU HAVE DATA. While it is fresh in your mind write down what you have done, what you have found and try and make a nice figure or two. It doesn’t matter about spelling mistakes or proper grammar or anything at this point just write down something! Future you will thank you.

Also figures (you will change them a million times before sumbission), each of these figures are worth a thousand words and academics have a great skill in understanding your entire work without reading the words, just by looking at figures. Make sure they are clear, concise and consistent.

Plan your chapters

You should plan what your chapters are and what they will contain. Keep keep repetition to a a minimum. Also, look at other student’s thesis. Your supervisor will have their past student’s thesis somewhere and your friends will probably give you theirs to look through for ideas on structure.

I was told that the most important section in your FUTURE PLANS section. Make sure you put lots of thought into that section too.

If you get stressed

Coffee is your friend and foe

Hopefully you have started writing early and have not left writing your mid-term until a week before it is due. As not much of a coffee drinker, I had trouble regulating my coffee intake. This lead to less sleep which caused more coffee the next morning and this vicious cycle continued.

Coffee is a super villian.

Not much you can do about this really if you need coffee. Just watch how much you’re drinking and maybe try going for a walk instead (and not returning with coffee) to help you concentrate.

Find something that relaxes you

You can’t think when you’re stressed. I found that listening to meditation music on youtube not only drowned out my office mates (sorry) but also lowered my blood pressure. Find what works for you. Also, make sure you make some time for other things in the last weeks before its due. Something you enjoy (and the key is not to feel guilty for doing this thing).

just hand it in

Don’t hold onto it. Don’t look through it one last time. You only wrote it so your panel has an idea of what you are doing. If there are typos, chances are they won’t even notice. You’ve told your story now let them read it

Oral Presentation.

I have to make this powerpoint for a whole week?

No. No, you do not. Really it only takes two days to make your powerpoint and practise it a few times. Do this in the first few days then do SOMETHING ELSE. really how many times can you practise your 20 minute presentation in 7 days! (504 times) practise it a few more times closer to the date. I suggest practising in the room you will be presenting in

You can do it

eye of the tiger begins playing as you set up-  You’ve practised this!

Rising up, straight to the top, Had the guts, got the glory, Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop, Just a man and his will to survive.

congratulations! You did it…. now its….

Question time!

I have to admit, I didn’t really know this was going to happen. I knew there would be questions but the questions I was asked were to test my understanding of what/why I did things…. they already knew the answer… but wanted me to show that I knew as well (and sometimes I didn’t and that’s okay too)

I took in a pen and paper and wrote the suggestions down as we discussed them (but I am told this will be written into a report and given to me at some point).

What to do next.


I have a million things on the “suggestions” list. I feel like after the mid-term there should have been relief and relaxation….. not really… I just have the ever-growing list of things I have left to do in a shortening amount of time.

But right now all I can think of is:




This was your last assessment piece really! Your final thesis is handed in with no defence necessary and apart from a few questions after your final oral presentation that’s it!

Making volcanoes in the lab

By Eleanor

Early on in my PhD I started telling people I do “experimental petrology”, which was true, but most people had no idea what I was talking about. I liked the term because it sounded clever and then I would explain it. “Petrology is the study of how rocks form,” I would say, “so I do experiments to understand how rocks form.”

Lately I’ve given up on that approach – instead, I just say, “I make magma.” This is also true, and it usually gets people more interested… everyone likes magma!

But then people tend to assume that I study volcanoes. So I have to add, “I’m interested in magma before it even thinks of coming out of a volcano.”

I don’t study volcanoes, but many people do, and last week I visited the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where I met people who do experimental volcanology. Now that’s a term people might be able to understand: yes, it does mean making volcanoes in the lab.

I was lucky enough to attend a short course called “Melts, Glasses and Magmas” by Prof. Don Dingwell. The course was fantastic – I felt like it came at just the right time for me, that it really helped me to develop my understanding and think more critically about my own research.

But besides the lectures, we were also given tours of the lab facilities. Seeing fancy, complicated looking labs is always fun, but it’s even better when you get to see something that has been referred to as a “volcano in the basement”… even if it does look more like a rocket ship than a volcano.

The top part of each of these columns is just a big container full of air. In a small chamber at the bottom sits a sample of volcanic rock, which has a lot of pores (holes). This lower chamber is filled with high-pressure argon gas – the gas also fills in all the holes in the rock.

Then, the valves separating the two chambers are opened. Suddenly the high-pressure gas at the bottom, in the rock, expands, and it does this so quickly that the rock explodes and is forced up into the chamber above – bang! Volcanic eruption!

Recently, in one of these ‘eruptions’, the team in Munich observed volcanic lightning! This is the first time volcanic lightning has been seen in a laboratory – check out the video.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls…”

By Jess

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab; you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry!”

These are the words of Nobel Prize winner and Royal Society member Sir Tim Hunt at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea earlier this week; at a lunch hosted by women scientists, no less.

Of course, being in a room full of journalists, just because his speech was unrecorded did not mean it went unreported…

He must have just been joking… Well apparently not

As a female who spends a fair amount of time in a lab I feel a bit insulted. And I feel insulted on behalf of all women scientists, who I know to be a lot more capable than fulfilling Tim Hunt’s three expectations of what ‘girls’ do. Who knows, maybe on top of those things women could also do some science?

Although let’s not forget Hunt did also admit to his own faults, apparently he too is incapable of being in a lab with someone of the opposite sex without falling in love.

Which I guess is why he’s “in favour of single-sex labs”.

Wow. Just how are we getting anything done at RSES with all the falling in love and crying that must be going on in our labs where men and women are allowed to work side by side?

It’s disappointing to hear these words coming from the mouth of a prominent and respected scientist, especially when they are voiced so publicly. And it’s a sad reminder that though things have clearly come a long way, gender inequality still continues to exist in academia.

But finally, more than anything I can’t help but wonder what the reaction of his wife was, herself a successful scientist and professor…

A (somewhat) serious look at my future career

By Kelsie

I have reached the point in my PhD where people have stopped asking me what my PhD is on and started asking me what I’m going to do when I finish. When I’m asked this question I mumble something about post-docs then change the subject. The truth is I’m not sure that I want to continue with research when I’m finished (or that I will do a good enough job to get into a post doc anyway!). This has prompted me to actually start thinking about a life after my PhD but I don’t really know where to begin.

things people ask Phd students

You may have heard one or two or all of these. I still find the “What’s the point of that?” question super hard.

I was one of those fools who went straight from high school to university to honours to a PhD. Organized learning and research has been my life for as long as I can remember. I haven’t moved overseas, I have stayed at the same uni in the same city, in the same country for my whole university career. All I know is that when I finish I want to go somewhere new and possibly do something different. So here is what I have come up with.

“Awesome future career choice” number 1: Jewellery

I work with otoliths (fish earstones) and they look pretty cool. They would probably make pretty nice alternative jewellery and I know for a fact that in the right environments they can last for thousands to millions of years. Family heirloom? More like species heirloom!

otolith jewellery

Just to prove it’s a real thing. If you want to find out more here is an article about it: “Otolith jewelry: Creating beauty out of unconventional parts.” or this one “Lucky stones: otoliths are awesome”

“Addicts career choice” number 2: Barista

Ok I realise a lot more goes into making coffee than I think but I’ve drunk so much of it over the course of my life that I see myself as an expert. Basically I’m so addicted I probably won’t be able to give it up after uni and getting free coffee would be pretty brilliant.

“Dream career choice” number 3: Reading books

There has to be something I can do that is just sitting around reading all day and getting paid for it. Librarian maybe? My mum was a librarian. Maybe I could follow in the family footsteps. Or I could just own a bookshop and get someone else to run it/serve customers. Then I can just sit up the back with my coffee machine and read books.

“Creative career choice” number 4: Origami folding

I have heaps of practice folding little paper sleeves using greaseproof paper for storing powdered samples and standards. I’m not sure how I would get money from this but I still think it’s a useful skill.

“Worst possible career choice” number 5: Public speaker

I have had to give quite a few presentations both for my undergrad degree and for post grad stuff. I can string words together and speak them out loud in front of people… actually I’ve changed my mind. I’m going back to the bookshop idea.

Alright so that’s my list. I’m enjoying the work I am doing at the moment but that doesn’t mean I will enjoy it five years from now or ten or twenty! I think we have to be willing to think outside of the research box and look at other areas of occupation and build up other skills. My dad has always told me to take opportunities and steer yourself towards the things that make you happy so that’s what I’ll do.

Oh and here’s one last idea; to everyone who is currently undertaking a PhD at RSES, I don’t know all of you, and there’s no guarantee you will read this post but in 20 years (when we’ve just finished our PhDs) let’s write an email to whoever is running the Oncirculation blog and tell them what we ended up doing. Did we stay in academia, did we teach, did we travel the world, have 20 children or make novelty science themed jewellery? Who did we become? I for one am looking forward to finding out.

Foraminifers of the Caribbean

By Kate Holland

PhD candidate Kate Holland teams up with a small crew of scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to make small gains in our current understanding of how planktic foraminifers record information in their calcium carbonate shells.

Foram carribean

Aside from the obvious selling points of Puerto Rico, the homeland of Ricky Martin and of Enrique Iglesias’s father (and more), its tropical location means we can catch and grow tropical species of foraminifers.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have participated in foraminifer culturing on Catalina Island (see: The prevalent species found there, O. universa is not used for paleoreconstructions. O. universa make a wonderful spherical shell when they are an adult, however, this makes them very different to most other foraminifers. This means work on O. universa is often criticised as being not relatable to other foraminifer species.

The tropical foraminifers we catch in the tropical Puerto Rican waters are G. ruber and G. sacculifer. These species are both used to reconstruct past ocean conditions, so the things we find out, stand to make more of an impact to the work of paleoceanograhers!


Sweet pink rubers

A typical day of culturing foraminifers involves travelling 8 nautical miles from the lab, off the continental shelf, to reach the open ocean habitat of planktic foraminifers. We then dive and capture foraminifers individually in glass jars to bring them back to the laboratory! The jar is ideal, when foraminifers are caught in a net their spines break and fall off. Catching foraminifers by scuba ensures the foraminifers are as healthy as possible.

foram spine

A very happy, living, G. ruber with spines protruding outwards from the shell, living on the spines are the photosymbionts, and cytoplasm that streams out from within the shell!

Once back at the laboratory, we spend hours identifying which species each foraminifer is, and measuring them. The measurement is very important; this is so that we know their size when they started the experiment, so that we can tell what they grew during the experiment, in our controlled conditions. The foraminifers live out their days in experiment seawater where we might have changed the salinity, the pH, or the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) content. This is to see how foraminifers tell us about how the seawater conditions influence the way they make their shell, and how this might influence the trace elements that they incorporate into their calcite.


This is me, checking the contents of the jar for a foraminifer

We observe every single foraminifer in culture every day, to see that they are alive and happy, or on the bottom of their jar looking very unhappy. We feed the happy foraminifers their favourite fatty snack, 1-day old brine shrimps (aka. baby sea monkeys), give second or third chances to unhappy foraminifers to get their acts together, and archive the shells of foraminifers which have finished their life cycles. Repeat this for seven weeks and you have my time in Puerto Rico, interspersed with some lap swimming in a 26° C ocean on non-dive days and the occasional mojito.