From Aberdeen to Polar Scientist - Dr Robert LarterDr Robert Larter

MSc Petroleum Exploration Studies, 1984
From Aberdeen to Polar Scientist

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
The course had a good record for providing a route into employment for students. Another important factor was that I was offered one of four commercially-sponsored places on the course, which covered the course fees and provided me with a stipend equivalent to a NERC postgraduate grant.

Why did you choose your particular course?
At the time I was aiming to pursue a career in oil and gas exploration.

If while at Aberdeen you benefited from a scholarship, what was the scholarship and what difference did it make to your time at Aberdeen?
Sponsorship from Occidental Petroleum. This meant I was financially independent during my time at Aberdeen, and also provided contacts that enabled me to set up a dissertation project with data provided by Occidental.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
There was excellent camaraderie among the cohort of 17 students on the Petroleum Exploration MSc course that year. I enjoyed the proximity to the mountains, participating in the mountaineering club trip to Torridon and visiting the Cairngorms for hill walking and skiing.

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
It depends on their interests, but I would encourage people to explore the surrounding region, both along the coast and inland to the Cairngorm mountains.

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Research Associate at University of Birmingham.

What did your first role involve?
Collecting, processing and interpreting marine geophysical data and writing software to analyse particular kinds of geophysical data. In particular I directed processing of the first seismic reflection dataset collected with the Natural Environment Research Council's first digital multichannel seismic system.

What is your current job title?
Marine Geophysicist/Deputy Science Leader at the British Antarctic Survey.

What is your current role?
Managing a team of researchers studying polar palaeoenvironments while also continuing to do research myself.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
The research group I was employed in at University of Birmingham closed down after I had been there for four years and was replaced by a new research group at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. I was successful in getting a post in the new research group and have been at BAS in a variety of roles ever since.

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
The Geophysics component of the Petroleum Exploration Studies MSc course at Aberdeen and the seismic modelling project I did for my dissertation were a key stepping stone to getting a job as a Research Associate at Birmingham with responsibility for directing acquisition and processing of multichannel seismic data. The knowledge I gained at Aberdeen and the things I learnt through this first role at Birmingham have remained a core part of my skill set, providing me with a platform from which I have been able to add other skills and diversify my interests.

One Top Tip

In addition to achieving the best academic results you can, be mindful of the fact that many employers will also look for evidence that you show a positive, innovative and cooperative attitude and work well as part of a team.

You can read more about Dr Larter's work in Antarctica in this conversation from rollingstone.com.