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Riddhi Dave, PhD

How did you decide on pursuing your degree(s)? Did you know about geology/geoscience before you entered university?

Growing up in India, the academic landscape predominantly steered students toward the realms of engineering and medicine. The concepts of Earth science, geoscience, or geology were rarely taught, and encountering a geophysicist or geologist in the '90s was even rarer. Fueled by my passion for Physics, my dreams were always set on pursuing research within that domain. It wasn't until my graduate studies in the US that I stumbled upon geological courses, and it was an instant connection! Geophysics emerged as the ideal convergence of interdisciplinary studies that had eluded me.

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

After completing my double bachelor's in Mathematics and Physics, I relocated to the United States and joined the physics department at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I focused on modeling the thermal properties of near- Earth asteroids using NASA's Infra-Red Telescope Facility in Hawaii, HI for my master's thesis. Subsequently, I pursued my doctoral studies at the University of Houston, where my dissertation centered on seismic tomography of the Wyoming craton. Following this, I briefly assumed the role of a visiting postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, utilizing magnetotellurics and potential fields techniques to map geothermal sources in Idaho and Nevada. A change in scenery led me to Canada, where I undertook a postdoctoral position at UQAM in Montreal. Here, I again got a chance to work on cratons, (including Tanzania and Superior), with a focus on diamond exploration in alliance with DeBeers Inc.

Finally, an enticing opportunity arose with the Geological Survey of Canada, and I couldn't pass it up. Presently, I am a research scientist based in Vancouver, focusing on multidisciplinary mapping of lithospheric architecture

(I like to call myself a "Lithospheric Architect").

I thrive in engaging with and contributing to multidisciplinary projects and subject matter, as is evident from my experience.

If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?

I would have preferred to be introduced to geosciences/geology at an earlier age. While I continue to be passionate about mathematics and physics, and constructing computational models of the Earth remains my strength, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to enroll in geology/geosciences courses during my undergraduate studies.

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are three things you would change?

The best part would undoubtedly be the people. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have encountered exceptionally talented individuals who are not only proficient in their field but also outstanding human beings. The opportunity to work closely with such high-caliber people on a daily basis is a true blessing.

Another exciting facet of my geoscience career is the hands-on exploration offered by fieldwork. It allows me to directly interact with geological challenges in their natural settings, making real-time observations that enhance the authenticity of my work and contribute to a deeper understanding of Earth's processes. Additionally, it provides the unique opportunity to visit the remotest, wildest, and most beautiful parts of our planet. Oh, the places I’ve seen!

Independence is a standout feature of my job at GSC. I appreciate the level of autonomy I have in conducting scientific research. The ability to formulate and pursue my research questions allows for a personalized and in- depth exploration. While funding can be challenging, the capacity to cross-collaborate with both industries and academic peers provides unparalleled intellectual stimulation.

As for things I would like to change: Being a woman and a POC, I aspire to effect change in addressing the issues of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as well as the representation of minorities in my field. Being a part of the government also comes with challenges such as bureaucracy and slow processing times. Lastly, like every scientist worldwide, I face the pressure of publishing, which often prioritizes quantity over quality and remains a significant concern.

Why is gender balance in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience important to you? Why should it be important for everyone?

As a woman, a person of color (POC), and an immigrant, pursuing a male-dominated field has exposed me to the effects of underrepresentation of minorities firsthand at various stages of my career.

Working towards gender balance helps break down stereotypes and systemic barriers, promoting a more equitable society and creating a workforce that is diverse, dynamic, and better equipped to address the complex challenges that humanity currently faces.

What advice would you give to young women starting a career in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

This is my advice to young women everywhere: Start by embracing your passion and building a strong foundation. Pursue what genuinely interests you and acquire relevant skills and knowledge through academic studies, internships, and practical experiences.

Next, learn to advocate for yourself. Be your own voice and make it loud. Be proactive and brave.

Seek mentors, both men and women, as there are many amazing people out there waiting for you to connect with them. Lastly, emphasize grit and resilience. I strongly believe that grit and resilience are far more important than any other assets you can develop.

What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

My family, my husband, and my cat are my biggest motivators. I have a passion for the outdoors and staying fit and active. I enjoy dancing, practicing yoga, working out, playing tennis, hiking, and traveling, among other activities. Additionally, you'll often find me whipping up some amazing dishes in the kitchen as a stress buster.

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