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.

 

Advertisements

Outreach: bringing science to the next generation

Outreach is fun, at least for me. You are going to an event, present what you do in easy terms and discuss with people about science, what you are working on or why what you do matters at all. These events are usually quite relaxed, filled with young people and a good break out of your usual day job. That is why I was happy to volunteer when we got as a group the question whether we would like to present our field at “Highlights der Physik” (Highlights of physics), a science fair held every year on a market place in a minor town somewhere in Germany.

All started with the question whether we want to do it and what we would like to show. As a meteorologist, I had done several of these events, and the usual stuff to show are measurement instruments and some experiments with water, because that works for 10-12 year old and this is usually the general target group to be able to catch everyone. This time the target group was given by the organizers with 13-15 years old, so the instruments would do it (especially as we are not a working group of meteorologists). Back in the days when we did these shows I always wanted to show something like statistics and ensembles at these events, because that is may daily job, but quite hard to boil down for little kids. This time the chance opened up with some reasonable budget to get it done.

As a group we decided to show the difference between weather forecasting and climate prediction, and of course our group topic, seasonal and decadal prediction. After several brain storming events we decided to develop a Galton board and try our luck how far we can go with it. With a lot of practical help of the one who finally build it, we designed it in a flexible way, so that we can show many different topics with it. Little barriers allow us to deviate the little wooden balls at any place on the board in the direction we want them and having a lot of little balls allow us to make impressive statistical experiments. So all in all, this little toy got us really exciting for the event and of course it helped us to get over the not so funny parts of organising our appearance there (posters, questionnaires, travel etc.).

When the time came, I had a beautiful week in Münster, a university town in the western part of Germany. Within a tent, surrounded by many other physics groups we showed our experiment and talked a lot about the wide field of climatology and weather. We are used to get questions about politics and energy as well, as many connect nowadays with climate the changing environment we are living in. And of course there is the main motivation for founders to send us to such events: talking with pupils, students and teachers about the great career opportunities, when you choose a geoscientific field for study. It also gave us this time again the opportunity to show that geosciences are part of the physics community, which also lead to interesting discussions with other physicists.

Being back I got contact with our PR department and they wrote a lovely piece for their web presence (unfortunately just in german). So all in all it was a lot of time, half a year of preparation and a lot of communicating science. And yes, I am happy that it was with such simple means possible to explain a lot of people a statistical topic in a physical environment.

 

Fluid dynamics on the beach

A month ago on Crosby beach the nature delivered me a wonderful visualisation of the turbulences of winds over the beach. The bright and dry sand from the dunes in my back delivered the tracers and the dark and wet sand of the beach the background. With open eyes it is possible to see these wonderful effects of the air at a lot of places everywere around us, so keep watching!