Amy J. V. Riches
Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail (and see who joins in!).

Amy walk

Planetary and Earth Scientist, Educator
Isotope Cosmo/Geochemist and Petrologist
Writer and Editor
Main Research Themes     Books     Activities    Blog
Scholar     ORCID     Researcher ID
Interview with the American Astronomical Society’s CSWA
National Geographic Explorer  CV available on request.

Research goal: How do habitable (Earth-like) worlds form and evolve?

Career summary: There is no cure for curiosity.

Having been raised in a rural lowland spot in the UK dominated by boulder clay, I opted for adventure in pursuing studies that involved being outdoors and among rocks and mountains so as to drink in fresh air in all weathers at least some of the time.  While gaining a first class MSci in Geological Sciences at Durham University, I discovered a love for unraveling melt-rock behaviours and deciphering planetary interior compositions via work in high-spec clean laboratories alongside the wielding of advanced forms of mass spectrometers, some attached to lasers. This led me to a Ph.D in geochemistry and igneous petrology at the Open University with full NERC funding.  At an earlier stage of my career it was a surprise to learn that studying fragments of Mars and other rocks from space is an actual job, so I was thrilled to do exactly that as part of postdoctoral appointment at the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee in the USA.  In subsequently heading off to snowier climes, I undertook a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Canadian Centre for Isotopic Microanalysis at the University of Alberta, Canada, where I investigated the composition and evolution of Earth’s mantle while also immersed in the building of research collections and laboratory building on a grand scale. Then, while still based in Canada, I taught undergraduates and also led a key scientific expedition to the other side of the globe, to examine Earth’s youngest continent and its potential as an analogue for ancient Earth. This expedition targeted New Zealand’s Southern Alps and with the support of the National Geographic Society, making me one of their Explorers.  I followed these scientific exploits with a planetary science / meteoritics focused Marie Sklowdowska-Curie Individual Fellowship during a two year return to Durham University, UK, before setting off to pursue new research and teaching, book writing, and to seek full independence in an excellent and well-suited long-term home. At every stage of my career I have been delighted to work with an array of excellent collaborators and colleagues. My research interests are summarised here.

Students supervised / trained / mentored include:

  • Co-Supervisor to Dr. Nicola Mari, Ph.D candidate, U of Glasgow, completed 2020.
    “Understanding the formation and evolution of Mars.”
    Ph.D thesis approved.
    Recipient of the Meteoritical Society’s 2019 Brian Mason Award.
  • Dr. Chao Wang. Visiting Chinese Doctoral Scholar, U of Durham, UK – completed 2017.
    Now Lecturer at China University of Geosciences, Beijing.
  • Dr. Katie Singer. Planetary Science Ph.D , U of TN, USA – completed 2016.
    Now Senior Policy Analyst for the U of TN’s Office of Institutional Research.
  • Laura Brin. MSc, U of Alberta, Canada – successful 2016.
  • Further, I have a strong interest in mentoring others and have supported the training of a number of other excellent and successful doctoral (5+), masters-level (3+), and undergraduate students (8+) who have gone on to a range of careers that they love.
  • In teaching undergraduate and graduate classes I have drawn a sense of reward in contributing more broadly to the education of the next generation of potential problem solvers and decision makers, and in doing so I thoroughly enjoy embedding independence and getting the best out of others.


meFriendly and appealing communities in which all can thrive: I take pride in being an energetic and imaginative woman of STEMM who does whatever she can to address the need for greater diversity more broadly. In addition, as the first member of my extended family to attend any form of university – and to be considered able to in a pragmatic sense – I have a special appreciation for the privilege of extended higher education. It has proven to be so much fun that I continue to take various opportunities to learn all life long. The lessons learned among the lovely folk of my upbringing, including the independent-of-mind self-employed – and charitable – skilled trades people, are personally important to me and of long term value also. Whatever your background and path, being fortunate in education and enjoying dedication to your passions (whatever professional route that may involve) can provide for all kinds of opportunities the world over.

It is vitally important that science is a safe, friendly, creative / innovative, enjoyable, inclusive, and increasingly diverse environment that acts to ensure and promote equality while accessing all possible talent pools. To achieve pleasant and productive work places  – as well as enjoyable activities that bring professionals together – the varying backgrounds, lived experiences, cultures, sense of identify, perspectives, personal work-life balances, privacy, and dignity of everyone must be respected. Equally so the differing aspirations / destinations for each person’s career and life successes are natural and should be celebrated. Equally so, we should promote the benefits that arise from true diversity. If we are all the same, or very similar, we have failed. It costs nothing to be polite. Such values are very important to me both professionally and personally. Be happy in what you do and where you are (and / or where you are heading, wherever that may be) while working on and sharing in what you love.

I’m sorry I know so little. I’m sorry we all know so little.
But that’s kind of the fun, isn’t it?
Vera Rubin

Professional affiliations: Member of the Meteoritical Society, Geochemical Society, European Association of Geochemistry, American Geophysical Union, Marie Curie Alumni Association, Royal Astronomical Society [Fellow],  Royal Society of Chemistry [MRSC], America Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, Inspiring Futures and Inspiring Governance,  STEM NET Ambassador, the Secure World Foundation, UK Planetary Forum, Moon Dialogs, the Lunar and Lunar policy lists and more. 

My other interests include a cat called Ninja, crafts, walks, basketball, and a range of charitable contributions.

“Without freedom of choice there is no creativity” Cpt. Kirk, Star Trek.