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Cassian Pirard Ph.D

Education & previous occupations

2000 - Always interested in natural sciences - After doing most of my secondary education in Belgium, I finished my last year in New Zealand, during which my innate interest in the observation of nature truly crystallized into a professional objective. On my return to Europe, I started a degree in Earth & Environmental Sciences and eventually developed a strong interest in Geological Sciences.

2005 - Exotic locations & rare rocks - By the end of my graduate studies, I spent considerable time doing field mapping in the Ardennes mountains and eventually finished my studies with a thesis on copper-cobalt-uranium-selenium ores in Katanga (D.R. Congo). In 2007, I finished another research project on rare phosphate minerals in Namibia, Rwanda & France, leading to my M.Sc thesis.

2007 - Remote islands & extreme lab experiments  - I was given the opportunity to enter a  PhD program at the Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES), ANU, Australia in early 2007; at the time RSES was considered in the top 5 best places in the world for geological research and it was very exciting time to work there.

               At RSES, I investigate what exactly happens around 100 kilometers below volcanoes, where elusive reactions occur to produce magma.  Since certainly cannot dig that deep I recreated these magmatic reactions in a laboratory, using ultra high-pressure devices that would turn any piece of coal into diamond. To confirm some lab hypotheses, I would also travel for long period of times in remote jungles of Pacific islands to search for clues in rocks exhumed there.

               During that time I was also involved with numerous teaching activities including field trips, practicals and public outreach as well as some technical support for some scientific instruments (electron microscope, mass spectrometer,...)

2011 - Technician for fancy scientific equipment - For a few months, I worked at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam in the Netherlands as a post-doctoral position. My job consisted of supporting post-graduate students doing analyses on electron microscopes and X-ray fluorescence instruments I was maintaining at the time.

2012 - More research on the deep Earth - I moved back to the Great Barrier Reef in northern Australia at James Cook University. This research project on the recycling of oceanic crust in the Earth required rocks from the Alps, Kazakhstan, China and New Caledonia.

2013 - Focusing on teaching - In addition to research, I became lecturer for undergraduate and postgraduate geology students. Although a daunting task at first to teach minerals and volcanoes to 2nd & 3rd B.Sc students. I really enjoyed this experience that lasted for a few years.

2014 - A bit of everything  - I reached what I see as the perfect professional balance in academia when I added the supervision of research laboratories to my activities of research and teaching. The laboratories under my management covered everything that was required to extract precious information out of hard rocks. It included large crushing machine to turn rock in powder; chemicals and huge magnets to separate them into primary components and mounting equipment to prepare them for analysis. The last step requires the use of sophisticated and complex instruments to analyse extremely small amounts of atoms in all kind of materials using electron microscopes, X-ray, mass spectrometers, etc.

2016 - Change of path - I moved to Chiang Mai in late 2016 and bought some land surrounding by jungle in a remote area on the foothills of Doi Inthanon. There I spent most of my time building my own house, bringing water and electricity and still developing my land for my family, my dogs, my horses and the amazing wildlife crossing or living on the property.

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