My first trip to visit my Italian supervisor in Milano by PhD student Leah Nolan

Posted by lcb14 at Dec 18, 2013 03:10 PM |
Professor Lucia Angiolini is one of my external supervisors and is based in the Department of Palaeontology, University of Milano. Her expertise in brachiopod taxonomy and preservation is an essential part of my research training, last week I went out to visit her for the first time...
My first trip to visit my Italian supervisor in Milano by PhD student Leah Nolan

Leah Nolan

I arrived in Milan and on my first morning at the university I was thrown in at the deep end and given a lecture on brachiopods, their morphology, growth, shell structure and life modes -  all really useful stuff! Then in the afternoon I used this information to look at some of my brachiopod samples that I had previously collected from Derbyshire. It was great to understand what I should be looking at, brachiopods are remarkably complicated. I was then taught how we will choose the shells that I will work on in the future; for example how to recognise the best preserved  shells (they are around 350 million years old after all), how we cut them to make very thin sections in order to study the mineral structure better. One shell (from a quarry called Once-a-week, which I think is because they only worked there once a week) contained a large geopetal (a type of way up structure!) near the umbo between the two valves of the shell and it was filled with coarse diagenetic calcite and bitumen. Understanding why the carbonates of the Derbyshire Dales contain bitumen and how it moves through the rocks is something that I will be investigating.

I also got to use a Scanning Electron Microscope in Milan, a type of microscope which is used to look at the shell structure at very high magnification. The shells I looked at were very well preserved, in particular the original shell  layers looked like they had been laid down yesterday and not millions of years ago. I also got to do a tiny amount of sight seeing in the centre of Milan, the Christmas market was spectacular and I treated myself to a very authentic Italian pizza!

Leah Nolan is a first year PhD student in the Department of Geology.

The Milano Christmas market in full swing
The Milano Christmas market in full swing
A view of my flight over the Italian Alps
A view of my flight over the Italian Alps
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