A look back: PhD for 5 years

Time runs fast, that is true for everyone. From time to time, at the end of the year or at birthdays you take a look back, what the last year has brought to you. The good things, the bad and of cause what you want to achieve in the future. Five years ago today, I have finished my PhD, so it is a good time to do the same.

So what has happened since? I have worked into two completely new topics, palaeo-sea-level reconstruction and long-term, especially seasonal, climate prediction. In that time I have published three first author papers and four minor author ones, have lived more than two years abroad and have been to numerous conferences in Northern America and Europe. I have been active in teaching, have done co-supervision of students and learned many more skills. In short, I have worked as a scientist and am in my second post-doc phase.

That is a long list, but as always, under the pressure scientists are today, you always want more. Hopping between topics has proven a challenge for me, costed time to adapt and changing institutions always requires care not to completely starting from scratch. The first station, sea-level research, has proven as a surprise for me, as I really enjoyed working in the interdisciplinary environment. As a meteorologist, looking at topics based in oceanography is sometimes quite strange. Ideas are different even when the methodology, the math and physics, is in many perspectives the same. I focused on simple models and data assimilation and am quite happy with the results. The second station, seasonal climate prediction, has been more challenging as expected. Going from simple to complex models and working on real meteorology was new for me and it needed time to adapt. But finally it seems things come to fruition and I am positive for the future.

During the past five years I have specialised even more into the field I started in during my PhD: the development and application of new statistical methodology. I have done it now in many different fields and am due to cover the three main fields in publications of statistical data analysis in geosciences: data analysis and data assimilation are done, verification is hopefully done in the upcoming year. And with this we come to the future. What are the aims for the next years?

The main aim is of course to create more publications, get even better in teaching and get better in doing science and research. Currently there are four first author papers in the final phase before submission, so I hope this will become a successful year in this area. The biggest steps I had done in teaching in the last year, so I am working on steadying it. New challenges will be of couse to apply for funding and working even more in supervision of students. All this hopefully lead to the next steps and of cause some new collaborations.

So all in all, I am quite happy with the last five years, I have learned a lot and hopefully I will be able to learn even more in the next years. Science is still a lot of fun for me and I am still on track that it stays this way. So bring on the next five years and see where we end up.

 

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A look at lecturing: Just before the start

After I had written nearly two months ago how the preparations for the lecture in the new term has started, it is now the time to wrap up the preparations as from next week on the term starts. So what have I achieved up to now? Well, more or less nearly all lectures are prepared, I have one left to do, but this will be done nearer to the actual lecture, because I need one for a bit of wiggle room in the middle (so when I am too slow or I see that students do not get used to my concepts). Also I have managed to have ideas and prepare most of the practical sheets, which the students have to do. So far, I am quite happy with that, but I will only see in the active phase, whether this will really work out as planned. Continue reading

A look at lecturing: Preparations months ahead

Part of an academical job is to lecture. Myself am very lucky that this duty is part of my obligations as I really like to do it. In the past I have mainly assisted teaching or did tutoring in various lectures, but next term I will get my own lecture to plan and give in full. I will get important assistance on one or two lectures as my schedule require me to be away for some dates, but apart from that it I will have to fill the four hours a week. The topic will be in a statistical area and so more in my core expertise as my lecturing I did up to now, which was mainly in the physical areas of climate science.

In the upcoming months I will write some posts about this topic, my experience of preparing the lectures and my thoughts about concepts. Of cause I will omit talking about the actual lectures, as students should never fear that they are put on the spot. As the topic of the lecture will be the basis of statistics, it will be not so much about the actual topics, but on how to present them and how to make it an interesting learning experience for the students.

As there are another two month to go I have started to prepare the first lectures. All in all there will be roughly 15 weeks to fill, partly with predefined content and with practicals. The german system sets a fixed numbers of hours the student should work on any lecture and in my case this number can be worked out as 12 hours per week. That is a lot, because even with taking the four hours of presence study not into account, there are eight hours left. So it will be a balance to get enough stuff into the lectures and explaining it in a way that a general unloved topic can be understood. Statistics is for many students like maths and that is in applied physics courses like meteorology/oceanography/geophysics usually not very popular for them. Usually one to two years of mathematical studies, mostly not very connected to the rest of the curriculum, are the beginning of every students life and so the next step with a mostly quite dry topic like statistics is thought to be the same. And unfortunately, therein lies a problem. When you get into statistics too much on the applied side, then you do not give context to the maths lectures given before and it will get harder for the students in the future to get into statistics properly (so not only as an auxiliary subject, but a real tool which is comfortable to handle). On the other side when you do it too mathematically, it is just another hated maths subject. Balancing in the middle of it is certainly an aim, but not really realistic to achieve.

I am looking forward to this experience, but am also aware that all my planning and thoughts might not work out as planned and it ends up it a struggle for the students and myself. That is a challenge and I like challenges.

MOOC – the future of lecturing?

In the past couple of month I had taken a look at Massive Open Online Courses, better known under its abbreviation MOOC. These courses received some attention recently and from time to time you hear that they will be the future of lecturing at Universities. In this post I would like to talk about some of my own impressions on this topic and show where the problems and chances of these systems can be found.

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