Riga State Gymnasium No.1 (school), University of Glasgow (BSc and PhD)
BSc Earth Science, PhD Earth Science
University of Glasgow
Univesity College Dublin
Favourite thing to do in science: Replicating processes occuring in nature on a small scale in a controled environment. This way we can understand one bit at a time things that otherwise seem very complex.
About Me: A curious person who is interested and fascinated by the ways how our planet Earth works. How the processes in the air influence those occurring on the surface and, most importantly, under the surface. I also like pizza.
My name is Jānis (pronounced as “Yaanis”) and I am originally from Latvia. Before coming to Ireland I lived and studied for almost nine years in Glasgow, Scotland. So this way whenever anybody complains about Irish weather, I can tell them it is actually an improvement for me compared to one I had in Scotland. I also can entertain people by doing heavy Glaswegian accent.
I decided to study Earth Science as I always have been interested in understanding how things work and this particular subject has allowed me to travel the world and see the most amazing places. Understanding how planet Earth works seemed good enough challenge. When people say it is just rocks, I tell them that they are not wrong, but rocks and other things that seem most trivial to many people actually hide secrets behind how our planet works and things without which there could not be life. It is not only 4.5 billion years of history. It is earthquakes, magnetism, super-volcanoes, meteorites that killed dinosaurs, oceans and continents that once were there but no more and many more things. All of them are hidden in something that most people think is just a rock. It is actually quite amazing how fascinating science can be.
Outside work I like to play sports, especially volleyball and ultimate frisbee. I like ice hockey, but it is not popular in Ireland. I also play guitar (my favorite bands are Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers), read books (I especially like old sci-fi novels) and watch series (waiting for new “Mr. Robot” season).
My Work: I work on computer models of how the Earth's crust deforms. Because these processes are very slow and take millions of years to happen, in nature we see only the end result. Like Alps, for example. But some time ago there were no Alps, it was all flat land, and before that there was an ocean. By making mathematical models on the computer we can speed up a virtual model of, say, Alps forming, and understand in very precise detail what exactly happened that lead to the result we see nowadays.
As mentioned before, I work on computer models that simulate how Earth’s crust deforms under different circumstances. The reason we need to know this is because it is actually very hard to see and know what is happening beneath our feet. It is slightly more than 6000 km to the center of the Earth. Of that, solid crust is only about 30 km on average. The deepest hole ever drilled was 13 km deep. This is the deepest we have managed to go to get actual samples from what is below our feet. Understanding the rest is very much like a detective work. All the rocks we find have been through numerous processes that have reshaped our planet and it is up to as to find all the clues in them and put together a jigsaw puzzle of what was happening millions of years ago. Understanding this allows us to cleverly guess what Earth look like many more kilometers deep.
I particularly work in understanding the fractures and large breaks we call “faults”. One reason why we are interested in understanding these faults is that because, when there is motion along these faults, earthquakes occur, and we want to learn to predict them. Other reason is actually more energy related. These faults and fractures present a space where fluids can move through otherwise solid rocks. Back in the day, people were mostly interested in them because oil and gas moved through them and understanding these features helped them to know where to look. Now we look into how we can use this knowledge in other ways. One of them is geothermal energy. This means pumping water in one deep well into hot rocks, let it move through a network of fractures and heat up and then pumping it back up through another well to a station, where it can be used to generate electricity. This requires knowing how the fractures are located so that there is an actual path between the two wells. Another purpose is that people are looking to store things in the rocks under the surface, which otherwise can be harmful to people if left on the surface. Such things are radioactive waste from power plants and carbon dioxide (the greenhouse gas believed to be responsible for the global warming). In this case we want to make sure there are no fractures or a path through which these things could get back to the surface.
What I'd do with the money: Would be a good idea to invest it into some hands on science experiments kits. Textbooks and theory are nice but you can't learn how things around us work just by reading the same way as surgeon can't learn to operate by simply watching tutorials on YouTube. Seeing is believing, so would be great to help turning science theory into practice.
ng Earth Science but might not always have financial means to do so.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Scientist because curious
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Rode a snowmobile on a glacier close to the North Pole
What did you want to be after you left school?
A Rock Star (but became a scientists studying rocks)
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I once got caught making a paper airplane out of my math test and throwing it into the French embasy. The French were not amused.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Climbed a mountain just to get some rock samples
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
Somebody telling me we share about 60% identic genes with a banana. I didn't believe it and had to look up how and why.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Hopefully a real rock star.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Unlimited waffles, chance to go to Mars, taking my waffles to Mars.
Tell us a joke.
Who is a geologist’s favorite band? The Rolling Stones.