James Verdon

Oh no! Pipped at the post! Well done Nuala! Thanks for all the questions guys. I really enjoyed my time on IAS, I hope you did too.

Favourite Thing: Doing science is often like being a detective – we have the evidence left behind by previous events, and we have to piece together all the different bits of evidence to work out what happened. Doing this detective work to learn more about our planet is always fascinating, challenging and exciting, and I wouldn’t change it for any other job.



I did my GCSEs and A-levels at Lord Wandsworth College, Hampshire, and then went to Cambridge University for my 1st degree. Then I moved to Bristol University for my PhD.


I did Physics, Chemistry and Maths at A-level, with an AS in Spanish. I have a Masters degree in Earth Sciences from Cambridge, and a PhD in Geophysics from Bristol University

Work History:

I briefly worked as a geophysicist at Shell in Holland. I’ve also done a short spell as an intern at Pinnacle, another oil company (in Canada).

Current Job:

I’m paid to study earthquakes, both natural ones and, importantly, ones created by man-made activities such as coal mining and shale gas production


I work at Bristol University, in their Earth Sciences department.

Me and my work

I study earthquakes and volcanoes – why do they happen, can we predict when they’ll occur, what can they tell us about how the earth works?

My Typical Day

I get up slightly later than I should, and get to my office, where I analyse earthquake data from around the world. I also build computer models of volcanoes, coal mines and oil reservoirs to understand how they behave, and whether they’ll produce earthquakes.

Most of the time, I’m in my office analysing earthquake data and building computer models. Here’s my office:


However, the best bits of my work are when I get to go to the field, anywhere in the world, including volcanoes, and deploy seismometers to monitor the earth! Here’s some photos from a recent trip to the Nisyros volcano, which is on a Greek Island, where we deployed some geophysical monitoring equipment.

Here’s the volcanic crater:


Here’s us conducting a seismic survey at the bottom of the crater:


And here’s some monitoring equipment we deployed:




What I'd do with the money

I would use it to buy equipment and material to take to schools, to help you guys learn more about how earthquakes and volcanoes work

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Sporty, geeky, easy-going

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I have a completely random range of music on my iTunes, from Mozart to Katy Perry via a few guilty pleasures like Meat Loaf, Kiss and Aerosmith.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I’ve always loved anything outdoorsy, but I’ve especially loved canyoning, where you esentially hurl yourself through raging rapids and down waterfalls with little but a life-jacket and wetsuit for protection

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life, and to play my small part in increasing our knowledge about the planet on which we live

What did you want to be after you left school?

Premiership footballer. But I soon realised I was much better at science than football, so I wanted to become a scientist

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, I often used to get bored in lessons and cause a bit of trouble. Particularly in chemistry, with all those bunsen burners to play with!!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Conducting field work in fascinating locations around the world – particularly in volcanoes. As an Earth Scientist, you get to explore some pretty amazing places that not many other people get to go!

Tell us a joke.

My fried Dave just broke a world record by getting 26 birds to land on him at the same time. What a ledge!!!

Other stuff

Work photos: