Testimonies

What people that now work in Meteorology / Climate science have to say about their experiences.

JobsForAstronomers: What is your current job?
Claire: Support Scientist - Wave Climate Modelling I take output parameters from CMIP5 climate models (surface wind, sea ice etc) and run wave modelling software to study ocean wind-waves in the present and as they may change in the future. I do the same thing using reanalysis data to make "observational" datasets for comparison (waverider buoys are great but not well distributed). Using multiple climate models allows us to make an ensemble of projections and thus do statistical analyses. We output a range of wave parameters and do statistical distribution studies at sites and areas of interest also. This has applications in coastal zone management, inundation and storm modelling, and requires we understand the magnitude of storm events and extreme events as well as typical waves, noting differences in direction, period, height etc. My job involves installing code and modifying it as necessary (FORTRAN), running code and handling output (shell scripting), analysis (matlab, some python, R, and various geospatial software like NCO, CDO), converting data into standard formats like NetCDF, and writing reports and papers (mostly in Word! :( ). Some reports are for a scientific audience, some for government.

JobsForAstronomers: What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?
Claire: Love it. Frequently have days when I'm pretty sure I'm too stupid, not well enough trained, or generally just can't handle the responsibility, but I'm pretty sure that's normal. Not keen on career progression though - all fields of science (even in government) seem to be the same, the higher you go the more time you spend doing grants and reviews, not science. That said, the "pecking order" does not feel as strong here as does in some places.

JobsForAstronomers: What qualifications were necessary for obtaining this position?
Claire: BSc (Hons) + experience. I have a research masters. Others in my position have recently finished their PhD or are completing their PhD remotely - some then move on to post docs, others stay in this position because it's a lot more enjoyable doing the "technical" side than "research". Familiarity with coding and use of high performance computing and large data sets was vital, a publication record was very helpful, and keenness to learn about the field was also pretty vital. As an aside, there are a lot of ex-physicists in my division, not just at the support science level but right through to senior post docs. Atmospheric physics and physical oceanography are both physics, and there is much more demand than supply of directly qualified people at the moment, and the field is very open to people bringing in cross-disciplinary knowledge. Experience in other similar fields and adaptability are highly valued.

JobsForAstronomers: What additional training did you complete in order to be able to perform your duties?
Claire: None was required, but as my employer provides "capability development" days, I have taken a few courses through my employer and grad courses at the local uni in statistics, data analysis, oceanography etc, and plan to take more in oceanography and atmospheric physics largely for my own benefit in better understanding seminars.

JobsForAstronomers: What was your last academic position before switching fields of work (i.e. PhD student, first/second post-doc etc)?
Claire: Grad student and Research Assistant and in radio astronomy. Also did tutorials, labs and outreach work.