Lewis Banks

British Geological Survey


Advancing micro-analytical isotopic and trace element ICP-MS techniques for future application to ore genesis and exploration


Dr. Matt Horstwood (NIGL, BGS), Dr. Simon Tapster (NIGL, BGS), Dr. Tiffany Barry (University of Leicester), Dr. Daniel Smith (University of Leicester)

PhD Summary

This project aims to develop low volume sample introduction to MC-ICP-MS machines, with the use of new Teledyne-CETAC MVX-7100µl sample introduction technology. It will focus on geochronological isotopic tracers such as Lu-Hf, Rb-Sr and Sm-Nd for example, and will allow for precision levels comparable to typical analysis with minerals and samples currently too low in key elements to measure effectively. The knowledge that is gained from these novel techniques will then be applied to ore-forming processes, allowing a greater constraint on timings and processes involved in ore genesis. This will be completed by comparing datasets with petrographic and geochronological data. It is expected that this will have applications in ore exploration.

What inspires you

I was first interested in the natural world because as a child, I was lucky enough to be taken on family holidays to exciting locations. Many of these places were volcanically active and I was always enamoured by the sulphurous smell, the boiling muds, the hot springs and the dramatic volcanic landscapes. Throughout school, my favourite subject was always geography – especially when it came to the tectonics and volcanics modules. This came to a head during a school trip to Iceland. It was then that I knew I wanted to forge a career in geology.

Previous activity

Before my PhD, I studied an MSci degree in geology at the University of Southampton. As part of my Master’s year, I undertook an Advanced Independent Research Project. This focussed on the behaviour of boron in a subduction zone, using its behavioural traits to understand the evolution of Western Anatolian volcanics and the closure of the Neotethyan Ocean. This region is of particular interest because it is home to the largest borate deposits in the world. This research helped to understand why this region is so enriched in boron, and why the δ11B signature of these rocks are so low. As part of this, I also worked on developing the anion-exchange chromatographic method for the extraction of boron from a dissolved rock sample

Why did you choose doctoral research?

I decided to undertake Doctoral Research because the further I got into my degree and the more personal research I was undertaking, be it lab work or desk-based, the more I wanted to contribute to the field of geology. One of the aspects I enjoyed the most about working on my Advanced Independent Research Project was the lab work, and being able to conduct more research in an area which fascinates me so much really attracted me to undertake a PhD.

Why did you choose CENTA?

Initially what attracted me to a CENTA studentship was the project. This project allows me to continue with research in a field I have become so enamoured by with the support of a multidisciplinary DTP, allowing the employment of many different areas of geology. Having five universities within the DTP allows for a range of training opportunities and a broad range of knowledge and research to draw from. Personally, having The British Geological Survey as part of the DTP is very exciting. As I am hosted there, the opportunity to be surrounded by world leading research in such a historic organisation particularly interested me in a CENTA studentship.

Future plans

Studying this PhD will help my future prospects by developing my skillset. This project will require the use of SEM, optical microscopy and various types of single collector- and multiple collector- ICP-MS machines. These are skills which are important for geoscientists and will strengthen my CV to future placements or jobs I apply to once I finish my PhD. It will also develop my data analysis skills, communication skills and introduce me to new software, further adding to my skillset. After I finish my PhD, I would like to continue in research and carry on developing the field of geochemistry with my own projects, setting my own project aims and aiding in pushing forward the frontiers of geology.