Helen Robinson

Ph.D. candidate in Geothermal Energy, University of Glasgow

And - founder of the Geothermal Villages Network

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Find that something you really love, even if it's a little out of the box, and go for it.

What do you do?

My Ph. D. involves exploring how geothermal energy impacts groundwater quality and access in East Africa, and how we can ensure sustainable development of this resource in water-stressed nations. The Geothermal Villages Network promotes community education and involvement in the development of their local geothermal resources and supports the development of human-centered geothermal projects, meeting the specific needs of individual communities, creating off-grid power.

Why did you choose this field?

I have always been interested in the world around me. The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the story of David A. Johnstone, spiked my interest in volcanoes. I am also passionate about protecting our planet, and the animals and people who call it home. Although I absolutely love physical volcanology, I wanted to put my skills into exploring ways to meet the energy demands of a growing population, but significantly reducing the environmental impact of energy projects at the same time.
This brought me initially to the development of geothermal resources in the East African Rift Valley and the volcanic systems within the rift. Electricity generation in East Africa relies heavily on hydropower, which considering they are water-stressed nations, prone to extreme drought conditions, seems counter-intuitive. So the development of geothermal resources in East Africa is predominantly based on electricity development and reducing their reliance on hydropower. However, with current technology, to generate geothermal electricity, huge volumes of water are required. This is why I chose to work on the groundwater aspects of geothermal.

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

Working in East Africa is a tough environment. It's hot, dusty, and remote. Every day presents a different challenge that can be anything from your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, to animals running off with the equipment. I didn't go into higher education straight from schooling because in part I didn't think I could do it. But I have realized that it is possible to push your boundaries, step out of your comfort zone, be a little scared, think on your feet, get creative, learn to fix a car, and come out of the other side feeling immensely proud of what I have, and what I will continue to achieve.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love waking up knowing that today will be completely different from yesterday. STEM evolves so quickly as new technology allows us to explore further, which means you are always learning something new and you are always challenged.

Best advice for next generation?

Find that something you really love, even if it's a little out of the box, and go for it. Set yourself achievable goals with that something in mind. Get involved with societies and activities associated with your passions. Don't be disheartened if somethings don't go as you hoped, my journey has been far from an easy, straight line, but I've definitely learned more and grown as a scientist because of it.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.” - Mark Anthony, The Beautiful Truth

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