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Pursuing palaeoclimatology at University of Texas

Kaustubh Thirumalai
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Kaustubh Thirumalai
Kaustubh Thirumalai

As is wont with most of us young Indians, I pursued a bachelor's degree in engineering. I graduated earlier this year from NITK Surathkal with a degree in Chemical Engineering. To be honest, I was never too interested in the field. Always intrigued by wildlife and the outdoors, I was looking for different avenues to convert my passion into a career. However, I didn't want to waste my engineering degree and the tools that came along with it. Sometime during my second year of college I became interested in climatology and in specific, palaeoclimatology — the science of deciphering ancient climates. Soon I obtained research intern positions at the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) and Physical Research Laboratory (Ahmedabad).

Opting to pursue my doctoral studies I decided to apply to graduate schools. I was looking for a reputed school located in a pleasant city and importantly, one that was a leader in my field. I was fortunate enough to obtain fully-funded admission into the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin (or UT for short). Choosing a school for a Ph.D. is tricky business. Remember, you are planning on spending at least five to six years (the median time for a Ph.D in the U.S.) of your life in the same department. Of course, the most crucial aspect is that you are a good fit with your advisor and research group.

UT is a wonderful university and Austin is a highly interesting place with very pleasant weather (no harsh winters). There are tons of intriguing spots to visit and you can always consider yourself occupied when you get free time (however rare that may be in a grad school!), be it with parks, museums or the nearby caves. There is a strong cycling culture in Austin and it just takes me under ten minutes to bike to work. People here are very friendly and are ever ready to give you a helping hand. The music scene is fantastic with gigs happening on a daily basis catering to fans of diverse genres (including an obscure death metal fan such as myself). You can satiate any sort of culinary craving thanks to numerous restaurants and I've had no problem being a vegetarian. There is a significant Indian population in Austin and of course there are many good Indian restaurants.

The University of Texas is home to many prolific scientists and researchers including greats such as George Sudarshan and Steven Weinberg. It has been affiliated with numerous Nobel laureates. The Jackson School of Geosciences is a leading Geology department with cutting-edge facilities and vast research interests ranging from dinosaurs to energy to climate modeling (to name a mere few).

In order to survive in a grad school, one has to be focused on research and should enjoy what one does. I am fascinated by palaeoclimatology. My lab geochemically analyses corals, foraminifera (small marine organisms) and speleothems (cave deposits) which give us clues about past climates through their isotopic signature. Sample collection leads us to interesting places such as the Solomon Islands and the Caribbean.

The laidback attitude of Austin and the breadth of academic excellence that the university has on offer makes UT an ideal place for graduate studies. I would strongly recommend the University of Texas at Austin to students of science, engineering, business and the arts who would like to fabricate a substantial foundation atop which they can forge a successful career.     

Kaustubh Thirumalai Ph.D candidate, Office: JGB 5.118, Palaeoclimate Laboratory Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, kaustubh@mail.utexas.edu

The Jackson School of Geosciences is a leading Geology department with cutting-edge facilities and vast research interests ranging from dinosaurs to energy to climate modeling.


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