Jenni O'Connell - Geotechnical Engineer

BSc (Hons) Geology with Ocean Science graduate

When I started my final year of college, I had aspirations of going to university to study languages, with the ultimate goal of becoming a translator. All this changed when I began my Geology AS level on a friend’s recommendation. Within the first few weeks I developed a love for learning about how the Earth was made and what processes went into shaping the world we live in. 

As such, when it came to applying for university I had a dilemma; whether to apply for languages or take the risk and apply for geology. The decision was easier than I thought when I visited the Earth Sciences department at Plymouth. The staff were friendly and helpful, the department well equipped and most importantly I felt comfortable and at home.

The course was more than I could have asked for, allowing me to expand my interest in geology with lecturers who were genuinely interested in helping me achieve my goals. I learnt about Earth processes, mineralogy, engineering geology, fieldwork skills, geophysics, relevant computer work and life skills including CV writing and interview skills. This was taught in a number of ways from lectures and field trips to personal tutor sessions and evening talks. It wasn't until I began work that I appreciated how useful the skills I had developed during my time at Plymouth were. 

During my final year, I began applying for jobs as well as for the MSc Engineering Geology at the University of Portsmouth. I was offered a position as a mud logging geologist, as well as a place on the MSc. I chose to work in industry for a year before starting my masters.

In my position as a mud logging geologist I worked on oil rigs within the North Sea and off the coast of Greenland, two weeks on, two weeks off. This was a very practical job allowing me to develop the skills initially learnt at Plymouth, as well as providing an opportunity for me to travel before returning to university.

During my masters, I began working part time as a Geotechnical Engineer within the tunnelling industry. I am still in this role but on a full-time basis. The work is very varied, with each project requiring different skills and focus. The work isn't always geology related and this allows me to extend my skills into other areas of the industry. The tunnelling and construction industry are quickly expanding, making my current job an exciting one.

Without Plymouth I would not have gained the knowledge and experience to be where I am today. I have no doubt that I made the right choice in both career and university."

Jenni O'Connell on a field trip