An Introduction to Dr Veerle Vandeginste, her research and travels

By Dr Veerle Vandeginste; Assistant Professor in Geochemistry

I would like to introduce myself here. Originally, I am from Ieper (Ypres), a fairly small city in West Flanders (Belgium), known for the intense battles that were fought in the area during the First World War. Besides the many war graves in and around Ieper, the Menenpoort (Menin Gate) is a well-known Memorial to the Missing, where every evening since 1928 (except for a period during the Second World War), at 8pm the Last Post is sounded in memory of British soldiers who fought and died there. West Flemish people are known to have the most difficult to comprehend dialect in the country, and we also tend to be hard working, rather introvert, and down-to-earth. 

 In terms of studies and research, my background is in geology, acquired through a Licentiaat (equivalent to MSci) and subsequent PhD, of which I obtained both at the KU Leuven (Belgium). My PhD focused on diagenesis, i.e. physicochemical changes that impact sediments and sedimentary rocks from the time of deposition till the onset of metamorphism (around 200ÂșC and 250MPa). I focused mainly on diagenesis in carbonate rocks. One of the key aspects I really enjoyed in my PhD research was the multidisciplinary nature, whereby concepts in sedimentology, field work, a variety of microscopic and geochemical methods and a range of structural geological approaches were combined to derive new interpretations on the evolution of fluid flow through geological time and related diagenetic processes in the study area of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Upon finishing my PhD, I joined the Geological Survey of Belgium (a division of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), where my research mainly concentrated on carbon capture and storage. This was also a very interesting and exciting time, where I got to explore the engineering side of things, with a focus on transport of carbon dioxide through pipelines, and getting into planetary sciences, with some research on the mysteries of meteorites. In my leisure time, I studied forensic sciences. Besides my eagerness of learning more about other disciplines, I also wanted to gain the experience of immersing myself in a different culture by living and working abroad. So, this is what I did.

Hiking in the heat for field work in Oman
I first went to CEREGE (Aix-en-Provence, France) for a postdoc, where my research focused on sedimentology and diagenesis of Miocene carbonate rocks from Mallorca, and subsequently, I started a postdoc position in the UK at Imperial College London. In London, I was fortunate to become part of the biggest program ever being funded at Imperial, namely the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre. This research opened a new world to me, as it enabled field work in the Middle East and many interactions with people working both in industry and academia in the Middle East, as well as local people we met during our field work at remote localities in Oman. Since 2012, I have been Co-Investigator on this project which involves an amazingly dynamic and interdisciplinary team of researchers who perform fundamental research that tackles current challenges regarding the storage of carbon dioxide in subsurface carbonate reservoirs.

Field work in Oman is not without its hazards - mind the camels!
In September last year, I started as an Assistant Professor in Geochemistry in the GeoEnergy Research Centre (GERC). Although my time at Imperial has been fantastic and gave me lots of opportunities, I felt it was high time for a new challenge, and this is exactly what the job in GERC offered me, i.e. establishing a new discipline (geochemistry) in the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham, and doing so under the wings of GERC, which is growing and establishing itself as one of the major centres for research in the field of energy, in a partnership with the British Geological Survey (BGS).

My research interests build upon my previous expertise in diagenesis, primarily dominated by my research in geochemistry and rock mechanics (or structural geology), and this in an energy framework, with a primary focus on carbon storage, besides conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon extraction and radioactive waste disposal applications. Currently, I am in the process of acquiring funds to build unique, novel equipment for chemo-mechanical experiments. This equipment will enable tackling fundamental research questions of which the answers will help the applied industry. This research benefits collaboration with experts across Chemistry, Engineering, and Mathematics at the University as well as experts from the BGS.

 I have a number of opportunities for PhD studentships through a range of doctoral training programs at the University and encourage high calibre candidates, who are keen to join a dynamic research group and excited to do energy-related multidisciplinary research, to get in touch. This research promises to make a difference and I fully embrace what lies ahead!
Did you know?
Veerle has also wrote a blog for the GERC Diary about her fieldwork applying novel methods (drones and ground penetrating radar) to map dolomite bodies in the Carboniferous carbonate host rocks of the Caliza de Montana and Picos de Europa formations. You can read it here

*You can keep up to date with GERC activities on our social media channels*