Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My fav creature

Tardigrades, or fondly called 'water bear' can survive any and all of the following: extreme pressure, radiation, the vacuum of space, boiling, freezing (close to absolute zero) and dehydration. 

They can go without water for 10 years (and probably a lot longer), entering cryptobiosis (extreme hibernation) and reducing their metabolism to less than 0.01% of normal.

And they only take a short while to return to normal with the reintroduction of water.

In order to survive during cryptobiosis, the tardigrade enters a state called a ‘tun’. This happens very quickly and makes them practically indestructible. 

All of these and they make you go ‘awww’, no?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


So what is this blog going to be about?

Hmm... This seems to be the hardest to pen, so do allow some time for the author's thoughts to blossom into a proper post-worthy page.

But I figured I should start with my bucketlists.

*Adventure bucketlist*
Shark-cage diving (South Africa!)
Adventure caving (Cango Cave, Outsdhoorn)
Bungy jump (Bloukrans Bridge)
Skydiving (Cape Town!)
Abseiling off a mountain (Table Mountain)
The States and Canada national parksssssss
Everest Base Camp Trek (from Lukla)
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Patagonia, Argentina
Salar Uyuni and the Death Road, Bolivia
Petra, Jordan (from Dana Reserve)
Motorcycle expedition (off-road and tour)
Glacier hiking
Ice climbing

*Fitness bucketlist*
do five full pull-ups
lead climb (and beat my heights phobia)
hold a headstand
hold a handstand (banana -> straight/hollow)
hold a split (front -> side/straddle)

*Race events bucketlist*
run a half marathon (Barcelona, Bristol, Bath, Texas...)
do an obstacle Trail Run (Tough Mudder, Spartan Race)
do a Climbathon (Mt Kinabalu)
do a Triathlon (sprint category)
run a Full Marathon

3RM personal record

Deadlift 75kg
Backsquat 55kg
Frontsquat 45kg
Clean & Jerk 30kg
Strict Press 25kg
Push Press
Bench 30kg
CFT 155kg 342lbs

    Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

    Sunday, September 30, 2012

    ...oh the obligatory hello

    And so I've finished my BSc in Geology.

    And the day after my last paper I had to begin background reading on evaporites, sabkhas and Qatar, because two of my industrial sponsors were visiting the following Monday to discuss about the three-year project.

    Background reading was hard to get a headstart on, because (to much of Dr. Mary Benton's disappointment), my memory is indeed compartmentalised.

    So I met my sponsors whom both agreed that I was 'expensive to fund' over two full days of meeting and discussion about the project with various of collaborators - Dr. Alex Anesio, Dr. Tom Scott and possibly Prof. Mike Kendall.

    So what will my PhD be about?

    Hydrogeology and Geochemistry of Holocene Sabkhas in Qatar.

    I am contemplating whether to blog about it, hence the wishy-washy half-hearted start-up.

    Right now I am spending my summer in North Andros, Bahamas helping on a research work by Katie Cooper, more about it at

    [The (personal) story behind digging my own grave]

    Doing a PhD was something I never thought I would want to do or thought I’d be capable of doing. And of course, afford.

    But when Dr. Tom Scott asked a friend and I back in 2010, if we would like to do a PhD with him after my geological mapping at Capel Curig, Wales (provided if we maintain our grades) – I thought ‘Hey, if funding could be secured – why not.’

    However, after an internship with Shell, the group dynamics has mentally fixate me into working with the oil and gas industry. The fast-paced and dynamic multi-cultural cross-generation overachievers-filled environment was what I really wanted.

    My project was about gauging the hydrocarbon prospectivity and play feasibility of a underexplored basin. I've never worked in such an intense environment with the best of multi-disciplinary geologitst. The happiest AND the scariest moment would be when the Manager himself called me into his office to personally offer me a graduate position on his team. Best three months of my life. Period.

    [...and half of the exploration team, especially the expats, have a PhD.]

    During Week 0 of my third year, there’s a small award ceremony (in which I missed two years in a row because I was backpacking in Portugal and Germany, respectively he he) – Prof. Mike Kendall, the head of department asked if my friends (Hong Chin, Pollux) and I were interested in staying on to pursue a PhD provided if funds are available.

    [note that being on international payee status – we would cost 4 times of a local and European tuition fee status L]

    This time, I got more interested.

    A talk with Dr. Mary Benton (who taught Sedimentology since Year 1) and Dr. Fiona Whitaker (who taught me Hydrogeology and Petroleum Sedimentology this year) assured me that I should be able to handle the pressure of surviving the world of PermanentHeadDamage for three years with little research background or experience.

    I was still keen in working in the oil and gas industry, because that is where my passion lies. So I set requirements to convince me enough to do a PhD, which it has to be...
    •         Related (hence) funded by an oil and gas company
    •         A mixture of fieldwork and modelling

    So I had a talk with Mike Kendall, who asked me questions to gauge what kind of PhD environment/area/supervisor would suit me the most – which lead me back to Fiona Whitaker.

    So I decided to knock on her office door – and the rest is history.

    Getting funds were not easy. Well, to begin with - it costs about £16,000/year in tuition fees, about £14,000/year in stipend, and about £15,000/year for fieldwork costs, conferences, lab analyses, field equipment, computing, modeling software licenses and misc. (Do the math)

    I was shortlisted second by the department to try my luck in getting the highly competitive university overseas scholarship, after an American who has a Masters and has a paper published on Nature (!!) – but it was to no avail, as expected.

    Shell and Petronas were keen in supplying their data for my project, but not funds.
    ConocoPhillips was interested hence invested 50%.
    …and other little news here and there followed.

    One fine day – a call woke me up, by Fiona herself. Sounding unusually over-enthused, she asked me if I would like to spend my next three years looking at sabkhas in Qatar. I said yes after a seconds of waving grogginess away gathering my thoughts.

    Minutes after, I wore my Speedy Gonzales suit and jumped out off bed. I only had time to brush my teeth while skimming through Iain West’s work on sabkhas as I remembered vividly while looking up references to complete the Petroleum Sedimentology fieldwork report, all before running up to Park St to Wills Memorial Building.

    Emails, phone conference, meeting, a couple of minor hiccups followed by a two-day visit by my sponsors (who became my industry supervisors) last week – and it is on!

    So here you go, the concise version behind what defied everyone's (including of my own's) expectations of my decision to want to do a PhD.