Tallinn University of Technology

Sophie Graul, a doctoral student at TalTech Department of Geology, chose Estonia for her doctoral studies because she values the country and society here. In her dissertation, the young researcher studies Estonian phosphorite reserves and the rare earth metals they contain.

Sophie Graul confirmed that her interest in what is happening under the earth's crust had arisen in her childhood. "In France, young children are very interested in volcanoes. I just haven't grown up,” laughs the 24-year-old doctoral student, who, before arriving in Estonia, defended her bachelor's and master's degrees in earth sciences and studied volcanoes and magma as well as mineral resources during that time. Sophie also has some exciting work experience.  She worked as a research engineer for two years at the French international mining and metallurgical company Eramet. "I have mainly researched and quantified titanium reserves on the coast of Grande Côte in Senegal, participated in a pyrometallurgy pilot project and focused on mineralogical analyses," Sophie describes her previous professional experience.

Before entering her doctoral studies, the Frenchwoman carefully studied different countries and universities. The choice fell on Estonia and Tallinn University of Technology. "When I was looking for different opportunities for further study, I first read about some of the experiences people had shared and the recommendations of other students, and I became interested in Estonia," tells Sophie, who already knows how to form some Estonian sentences.

Sophie is currently writing her doctoral dissertation, lecturing and participating in the ResTA Research and Development project, where she studies phosphorites and does metallurgical research. Phosphorites are a mineral resource included in the list of critical raw materials and it is known that such large reserves as in Estonia have not been discovered elsewhere in Europe. The industry is interested in phosphorus from phosphorite, which is used primarily in the production of fertilizers, as well as possible rare earth elements. To this end, in-depth research is being carried out under the ResTa program, in which Sophie also has a role. The girl's doctoral dissertation is also related to the study of phosphorite and its enrichment possibilities: “In my work I focus on the classification and quantification of rare earth (REE) elements of Estonian phosphorites. The first challenge is to understand the formation of these deposits and the properties of rare elements (mainly various apatites). To this end, I analyse and compare them with similar deposits and previous studies. Another challenge is to model the variability of this resource in different deposits in Estonia and to develop models for the concentration and use of rare earths.”

Sophie Graul has adapted well in Estonia, she is no longer discouraged by our cold winters or a slightly strange habit of refraining from sitting next to another person on the bus. The inward-living people here have grown on her. "French and Estonians are different in the way they express themselves. I would say that the French are very warm to you, but in reality they do not care much on a personal level. It seems to be exactly the opposite with Estonians - building relationships takes longer, but these relationships are ultimately more genuine.”

She appreciates the safe environment in Estonia, where it is good for young women to live and study. Enthusiastic about volcanoes herself as a small girl, Sophie hopes that the locals here - young people who grew up on flat land - will find an interest in discovering the secrets of the earth's crust. “In the field of earth sciences, the possibilities of applying knowledge and experience are extremely diverse. This specialty is definitely one of those that gives us the opportunity to discover the world we live in. Whether we are talking about geotechnics, environmental and materials sciences, or environmental protection,” Sophie names areas that are relevant to the earth's crust. At the same time, according to the young scientist, we must not forget that people's daily lives are directly and strongly connected with earth sciences, and, therefore, humanity faces a number of challenges: Nor can we forget the environment, the regeneration of different regions and the socio-economic aspect of all this. This is an area that has a long-term perspective, but we will see results in a few years,” says Sophie.

More information:
TalTech Department of Geology
+372 512 1131