Q. What was your background before coming to ISGS?
A. Since arriving in the U.S. in 1999, I have worked across the country in various higher education institutions within stable isotope geochemistry. Between 2014 and 2017, I worked as a Laboratory Engineer at The Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. My job was to help design and operate the stable isotope laboratory at a brand new research facility. Prior to that, I spent 7 years at the University of Kansas managing the Keck Paleoenvironmental and Environmental Stable Isotope Laboratory. I have also worked at the Earth Systems Science department at UC Irvine, and spent 4 years working at the Geosciences department at Princeton University where I helped develop methods for analyzing nitrogen and oxygen isotopes of nitrate.
My education background includes a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Geosciences from the University of Ottawa in Canada. The focus of my graduate degree was isotope geochemistry of groundwaters and the possibility of groundwater contamination in a watershed in eastern Ontario.
Q. What will you be doing in your new role?
A. I was hired at the ISGS to help manage and run the Stable Isotope Lab (SIL) in room 031. I will be setting up analytical protocols for running isotopes of C and O in carbonate samples, but also developing methods for running H, C, O and N isotopes from waters, soils, rocks and potentially organic samples. As a larger focus, the goal is to attract new business and clients. And so a focus on advertising the capabilities of the laboratory will also be critical.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of working here? Or What are you most looking forward to in your role?
A. My favorite aspect is the autonomy of my work in developing the capabilities of the SIL. I was quite successful at the University of Kansas in doing this, and I can see the potential for this lab to also grow and be successful. There is much to do, and it will take time, but the ability to have myself and my assistant, Morgan Bailey, take control, develop aspects of the lab and help it expand is exciting and I look forward to the challenge.
Q. What are common misconceptions about your career? Or What is a question you get asked most frequently about your job?
A. I don’t think people appreciate the amount of work that goes into managing a lab. From receiving samples, there’s a whole protocol involved that’s necessary in order to prepare, analyze and then submit the data to the client. There are sometimes pretreatment procedures necessary in order to isolate samples from material that might affect the final result. This can be labor intensive. There are quality control issues we have to monitor in order to ensure instruments are functioning properly and data is calibrated accordingly. And the gorilla in the closet is keeping those instruments happy. A lot of time can be spent troubleshooting and fixing problems related to the instruments. This can be a huge time sink, that people on the outside may not be aware of.
Q. What are some challenges you faced in your career?
A. The biggest challenge I have had no matter where I’ve been is keeping our instruments running on a consistent basis. I’ve had mass spectrometers and peripherals go down for a variety of reasons, most that involve simple solutions like switching out a fuse. But there have been times where the fix wasn’t so easy, and this involved trial and error, phone calls, gutting the instrument in order to find the problem, and then putting things back together. It can get stressful, but victory is sweet when you’re back on track.
Q. What work/project are you most proud of?
A. My work at the University of Kansas (KU) was very rewarding. Prior to working at KU, I was at UC Irvine, and much of my time was spent on my own, developing new peripherals for the principal investigator I was working for. That prepared me well for my time at KU, as I was given full control of the Keck Paleoenvironmental and Environmental Stable Isotope lab (KPESIL), with little supervision. The lab was basically mine to do with as I pleased on a commercial basis. It took about 2 years, but we ended up with a long list of clients from within and outside the United States, including Canada, Iran, and Spain. The lab went from a 2 week lead time, to well over 4 months. I felt the lab’s success was reflected in the demand for our services. I am definitely proud of what I accomplished with KPESIL, and I hope to mirror that success here at the ISGS.
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A. I simply enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter. We enjoy quiet weekends, and we definitely enjoy going back to Canada or Indonesia to visit our family when we can.