A five hour evening climb to the summit of Stromboli volcano in Italy, reaching the active crater just before midnight and witnessing the erupting volcano live, spewing lava just a few hundreds of meters away from where she was stood. That stunning moment was when Weiran (Alex) Li knew she wanted to pursue a PhD to explore the mystery of volcanoes. The trip to Italy was organized by the 2013 Goldschmidt annual conference on geochemistry, which she attended right after the first year of her master studies. After completing her undergraduate and master's degrees in geochemistry, and geochronology at Peking University (China), Alex moved to Singapore in 2014 to pursue a PhD with EOS-IGS under the supervision of Assoc Prof Fidel Costa. In November 2019, after gaining experience, advanced skills, and pushing the frontier of her field a bit further ahead, she successfully defended her thesis, titled Eruptive styles of volcanoes: investigation of magmatic volatile budgets and ascent rates using apatite. We caught up with Dr Li, now an EOS research fellow, to ask about her experience of doing a PhD and her research on volcanic eruptions.