Anne Pluymakers

Assistant-professor, TU Delft

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Don't let anyone make you believe you cannot do it. You can do anything you want to.

What do you do?

By breaking rocks in the laboratory under pressure, temperature and fluid conditions similar to those in the subsurface of the Earth, I try to understand how strong rocks are and how they break. This is important for extracting energy from the earth, in the form of geothermal energy (water), oil and gas, but also when using the subsurface for storage of waste, waste water, CO2 or energy. Knowing when rocks break helps us to make the extraction/storage process safe and efficient.

Why did you choose this field?

I didn't know anyone who was a geologist. I was looking for something that combined chemistry, physics and mathematics with a practical application, and found this in earth sciences. It is a little bit of everything, and it involves a lot of travel! I choose the studies because of the field trips to Spain, but loved it from day 1 of the introductory course of system Earth. I love that understanding Earth, because it is complex and most of it is unreachable, is about trying to logically solve a complex puzzle with circumstantial evidence.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I am still not entirely sure it is possible, but I am doing my best to make it so: to have a successful career, and maintain a satisfying social and family life at the same time. That also as a woman we can have it all, a family, friends, and a career. I can let you know when I retire if it worked

Why do you love working in STEM?

Puzzle solving with logic! Combining information from different disciplines and creating something new. The best part of my day is when I talk to people and I think of something new, either a new question to answer or when a penny drops and you suddenly know the answer to something you've been puzzled about. Also when you can solve everyday problems with science, such as why water suddenly vigorously boils when you throw salt in just before it hits boiling point. Pondering the beauty of dancing bubbles in water and using that to understand the world below our feet. The fact that so many processes at different scales and in different disciplines share the same basic principles, and are yet slightly different.

Best advice for next generation?

Don't let anyone make you believe you cannot do it. You can do anything you want to.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Buigen moest ik wel maar barsten deed ik nooit.” -Heideroosjes, Dutch punkband - roughly translated as “I had to bend but I never break.”

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