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Geoffrey Pook

Geoffrey Pook

The Applied Environmental Geology course allowed me to use my undergraduate degree to develop applied skills valued in the industry.

I enrolled at Cardiff University to study the master’s degree having completed a bachelor’s degree in Palaeobiology and Evolution from the University of Portsmouth and working as a teacher abroad since graduation.

I had identified construction and geotechnical engineering as a potential career path based on my undergraduate training and interests, whilst the applied nature of the course and the 6-month work placement really appealed to be me as a way to get up to speed in the industry.

I found the course to be very rewarding and the class had a great camaraderie developed through the field and group work. We all came from varied backgrounds at different stages in our careers/education. As one of a few mature students, I took a bit longer to get back into the university structure, but I found the lecturers to be very supportive and the lectures themselves were engaging and challenging. Looking back, I can see many similarities to the tasks and work tackled in class that I now routinely deal with at work with my team of geologists.

Professional project

My six-month industry placement during the master’s course was with the British Geological Survey, working with their geohazards team to provide support to the geospatial analysis of a feature known as gulls, where intact limestone has formed gaps or cracks due to the freeze thaw weathering of softer mudstone layers during past ice ages. The task required strong GIS and fieldwork skills as well as fundamental desk study techniques all of which I had been introduced to as part of the MSc course. The system of taking part in the placement was very straightforward and the university provided plenty of support whilst those at the BGS were also very encouraging. I was very proud of the dissertation I produced at the end of the placement which was subsequently published with the help of BGS.

Career journey

After graduation, I started work at Greenfield Associates in Bath as a graduate geotechnical engineer, mainly involved in ground investigation supervision and report preparation of logs using geotechnical and geo-environmental software. I subsequently moved to REC Ltd to take a position as a Graduate Geoenvironmental Engineer. Here, my role was more focused on remediation and assessment of development sites. I worked mainly on desk study reports and soil sampling preparation for laboratory tests with a lot of site work over the south of the UK. In these positions I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in soil mechanics and ground investigation techniques to help facilitate my work.

In early 2014, I moved to Hong Kong to take a position in Meinhardt Infrastructure and Environment Ltd, a construction consultant operating globally. I started out as a Graduate Geologist, and I now hold the position of Principal Engineering Geologist with a team of around 10 geologists. My team has played a key role in securing and successfully completing Hong Kong and international tunnel projects as contractor designer. I owe much to the skills and knowledge I developed during the master’s degree for my career progress at Meinhardt, notably the technical skills but also the professional considerations of the applied nature of the course.

Providing students with industry knowledge and practical experience allows them to make informed decisions in projects, drawing upon both technical and project management skills. The universality of many of the techniques, standards and software made the transition to Hong Kong particularly smooth. I feel I have been able to fully utilise much of the valuable knowledge learnt during the course, especially in rock mechanics for deep excavation and tunnelling work in which I am now primarily involved.