A leading female volcanologist has completed a teaching placement at the University of Aberdeen as part of an initiative that aims to promote gender equality in the University's School of Geosciences.
Laura Spina spent a week with students on the MSc Geophysics programme as part of the placement, which was organised through the Visiting Female Researcher Programme.
Laura received her MsC and PhD from the University of Catania, before travelling to Munich for a four-year post doc. She is currently a researcher at the University of Perugia.
The placement programme - set up by the School last year as part of its bid for an Athena SWAN award - invites top female postdoctoral researchers to share their expertise and provide inspiring examples to female students interested in pursuing a career in research.
Laura taught students about the use of acoustic data in studying and detecting volcanic eruptions, an area in which she specialises through her research. This involved a full week of teaching, including practical exercises and assessments.
Describing the experience, she said: “I have never done a full week of teaching before so it was intensive, however I had a real desire to communicate and to teach and so the experience was very rewarding.
“This was especially true during the practical exercise where the students showed a great deal of interest in what I had to say, and where they interacted so well with me and with each other.”
Maria Pilar Di Martino was among the group of Masters students who attended Laura’s class in Topics in Advanced Applied Geophysics.
She said: “It was inspiring to be taught by someone who is clearly so passionate about her subject and who communicates her ideas so well.
“This subject is completely new to us but she made sure we understood the relationship between the topic and what we have been taught already, and this made things very clear.”
For Laura, the experience has helped boost her hopes of advancing her career in an area which is still seen as traditionally male-dominated.
“There is still some work to do to make sure that men and women are on a level playing field,” she said. “Still, the situation is improving and I feel that I can pursue a career without feeling as if there are any barriers to overcome.”
Laura added: “Part of what makes the opportunity I have had here at Aberdeen so helpful is that it gives me important teaching experience that I will need to apply for a position as a lecturer.
“And from a more personal point of view, it has been very satisfying to be able to communicate what I know, especially when the students have understood my ideas and have achieved good results.”