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3M BIC Fellowship – Dr Beth Fox, Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, X-Ray Computerised Tomography

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Introducing one of our 3M BIC Fellows for 2021/22, Dr Beth Fox, a Senior Lecturer from the Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences at the University of Huddersfield.


Beth’s 3M BIC Fellowship project will study the structure and three-dimensional distribution of different materials in geological samples to provide significant insight into both past and present Earth processes. It is often difficult to get a quantitative picture of the three-dimensional distribution of components in geological materials (rocks, sediments etc), but this distribution can contain a lot of information about the formation of these materials.


Beth’s research will utilise techniques such as X-ray computerised tomography (XCT), X-ray fluorescence and energy dispersive spectroscopy to develop methods for in-depth analysis and test whether these methods can be used to address geological issues such as:

  • reconstruction of past extreme hydrological events
  • present-day erosion of coastal dunes
  • past sea-level change under a global warming scenario.


Commenting on the Fellowship, Beth said: “I was already interested in the potential of X-ray computerised tomography for addressing several geological questions. When I became aware that 3M BIC had a suite of instruments suitable for advanced microanalysis techniques, I expanded my thinking to include a wider range of possible techniques to address these questions in more detail. If these tests are successful, I hope to further develop my research direction using the facilities available at 3M BIC.”


Having XCT facilities at the 3M BIC has helped streamline the development of Beth’s research. “The presence in Huddersfield of this range of facilities is very helpful as it enables me to work steadily over a longer period of time rather than trying to carry out all the measurements during a limited research trip.” The School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Huddersfield has also generously offered Beth access to their equipment.


“I have received support from the technicians at the 3M BIC, especially Janine Downs, to produce some pilot CT scans, as well as helpful advice from senior management. Dr Ahmed Tawfik of the School of Computing and Engineering is also working with me and 3M BIC on this project and has been invaluable in the pilot work we have done so far. I look forward to working with the 3M BIC team further in the future.”


Recently Beth secured more funding which will allow her to further develop the work. “Since applying for the Fellowship, I have been involved in another successful bid to the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Smart Ideas fund, which addresses my question around reconstruction of past extreme hydrological events from a different angle. This research is led by the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and is funded for $1 million NZD (around 500k GBP) over 4 years.”


During her Fellowship Beth also hopes to establish whether the concentration of heavy minerals at the surface in sand dunes should be considered when measuring the transport of sand in these habitats.

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