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News > Alumnae Interviews > Kath Silva - Class of 1990

Kath Silva - Class of 1990

A life studying rocks!
Kath graduating at Royal Holloway College for her Doctorate
Kath graduating at Royal Holloway College for her Doctorate

In my role I have the pleasure of interviewing some incredible people with amazing careers.  Kath is certainly one of those!   I hope you enjoy reading this article as much I enjoyed researching it. 

Kath enjoyed school and loved sport, particularly hockey and netball, but her real love was Geography.  Kath went on to take A levels in Geography, Physics, Maths and Economics, then went onto Liverpool University to study Geophysics with Geology, which was a 3-year course.  She particularly enjoyed the field work which was taken over the Easter and Summer breaks, where she went to Ireland, the Isle of Mull and Wales.

Straight after Uni Kath went onto a 3-year PhD course, as she wanted to keep studying Geophysics and recognised that the best jobs in this area were in the oil & gas industry and required a MSc or PhD qualification.  Kath did a self-guided PhD and spent half her time at The Royal Holloway in Egham, Surrey, and the other half in Liverpool.  Kath did (as she puts it) “a bit of everything” including geophysics, geology, geochemistry, programming and undertook 2 field trips to Zimbabwe to study rocks.  Each trip lasted around 4-6 weeks.  Kath went onto tell me that some of the oldest volcanic rocks on earth can be found in Africa, so in the middle of nowhere, Kath was hammering and mapping rocks, often with a bunch of baboons barking at her!!

Kath sent the rocks back home so as she could section, study and analyse them back at the lab.  She mentioned she had some funny looks when she was sending boxes of rocks home at the Post Office!

From here Kath went into her first job with Shell International.  1998 was a big year where Kath got married and moved to the Netherlands as an ex-pat in The Hague.  Kath loved the Netherlands but found the position very maths intensive and after her 2 year placement she was happy to move to a new role in Houston.  It was here that Kath really enjoyed her job interpreting and analysing seismic data, focussing more on geophysics and geology. However, when the opportunity to go for a 10 month placement in New Zealand came up she was very excited to be chosen.

While in New Zealand Kath was based in New Plymouth very close to Mount Taranaki (see gallery photos) which is a dormant stratovolcano in the Taranaki region of the North Island.   Kath told me that a lot of filming took place in her time there, including Lord of The Rings and The Last Samurai and she would often be bumping into film stars in the strangest of places!

After her 10 months enjoying New Zealand Kath went back to Houston and then onto Brunei for 3 years in the tropics. Careerwise, she was now regarded as a Technical Expert in her chosen field and continued to enjoy developing and deploying new geophysical technologies across the business.

Kath told me that unfortunately her parents health was declining so she made the decision to move back to the UK and started working at BP in Sunbury.  She spent the next 14 years (Jan 2007-Dec 2020) in various roles, both technical and managerial. She particularly enjoyed developing and giving training classes, which again gave her the opportunity to travel the world!

Currently Kath is taking a career break to look after her elderly mother and young son.

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