Heather Sheldon

Wondering what I've got myself in for...

Favourite Thing: Working with other people to get amazing results. The best science comes from lots of people working together. Nobody knows everything, everybody is good at different things.



Crabtree Junior School, Harpenden, England (a very long time ago). Marlwood School, Bristol, England (1988-1995).


Aberystwyth University (Wales, UK) 1995-1999: BSc Geology. Liverpool University (England, UK) 1999-2003: PhD Geology.

Work History:

CSIRO 2003-2012


CSIRO, Perth

Current Job:

Research Scientist

Me and my work

I’m a geologist researching geothermal energy in Western Australia

I’m a geologist, which means I study rocks. Actually I’m a bit of a strange geologist – I rarely look at a “real” rock, because most of my work is done on a computer! I use computers to model the behaviour of rocks. That’s a really useful thing to do, because geology happens over very loooonnnnng times. We’re talking millions of years. So we can’t just do an experiment in the lab to figure out how rocks work. Computers can make millions of years of geology happen in a few hours.
Right now I’m looking at the possibility of using geothermal energy in Western Australia. Did you know that the Earth gets hotter, the deeper you go? Well, we can use that heat to replace some of our other energy sources, like coal or gas. In Perth we already use geothermal energy to heat swimming pools, but we think we can do more. One day, it might be possible to replace the air conditioning and heating in your house with a geothermal “heat pump”. Which is great news for the environment. So, I’m using computers to try to figure out where would be the best place to drill a hole to get some heat.

My Typical Day

Run some computer models, figure out what the results mean, and go talk to my work mates if I can’t figure it out!

Every day is different – that’s the great thing about being a scientist. I’ll try to describe a typical day.

My work day starts about 8.30am, when I arrive in the office after dropping my daughter at daycare. I’ll read my emails and reply to any that need a reply. Then I’ll look back at my notes to remind myself what happened yesterday. Maybe its time to look at the results of some computer models that I ran overnight (that’s the great thing about computers – they can be doing stuff while I’m asleep!). I might find that the models didn’t work because I did something wrong – very annoying, but it happens a lot! So I’ll fix the problem and start again. Or perhaps there’s a strange result which I can’t figure out. Then I might go and talk to some of my colleagues to see if they can help. Often just talking to someone about a scientific problem will show me the answer. After lunch, I might spend some time talking to one of my students and helping them with their work. Then I might be writing a report, or doing some more models. Maybe I get some new data to look at.
At 5pm I’m out of the office to go and collect my daughter and head home to start my other job… as mum.

What I'd do with the money

I really don’t know!

To be honest I don’t have a very good idea what I would do with the money. For me, “I’m a Scientist” is more about taking part than winning. Perhaps I could organise a field trip for school kids to learn something about geology in their local area. I’m open to suggestions!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Smart, short, horse-mad

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Sorry… very uncool… haven’t really got a favourite.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Surfing. I’m no good at it, but its fun anyway!

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

1. Always be there for my daugter. 2. Have more time to enjoy horses. 3. Live a sustainable life (no greenhouse gas emissions, grow my own food etc)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A geologist (but I didn’t really know what that meant)

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not much. I think I got put in detention for pulling someone’s hair once.

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

Making a contribution to geothermal energy research in Australia – because it might just help to reduce global warming. Just a teeny tiny bit.

Tell us a joke.

Never lend a geologist money. They consider a million years ago to be Recent.

Sports followed

Don’t really follow any sports, except special events like the olympics.

Favourite team

Don’t have one!