Career Spotlights

A look at some recent meteorology graduates 10 years after graduation - see what the class of 2003 are doing
  • Ben Suter

    Ben Suter

    What A levels did you do?
    Maths, Physics, Geography

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I was obsessed with the weather as a child so it wasn't a difficult decision for me. I knew that I wanted to be a weather forecaster so the course at Reading was an obvious choice.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    The best bits for me were the practical, hands on parts of the course. I learnt the most during these sessions and found them more applicable to my long term goal as a forecaster.  If I had to choose one bit, it would probably be the field trip!

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    I wanted to be a forecaster so the obvious choice for me to start my career was definitely the Met Office.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    No! The Met Office stopped recruiting new forecasters after I left Reading in 2003, so I did a year and a half of temping agency work (yawn) and then went back to uni at Nottingham to do a Masters in Navigation Technology. Employment began in Cardiff as an air quality consultant in 2006 and then I finally got on to a forecasters course at the Met Office in 2007.

    I've been a forecaster ever since but moved to Bureau of Meteorology in Cairns, Australia in 2010 and will be taking up a senior forecaster position in Darwin in Oct 2012.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    Write, monitor and amend forecasts for aviation, commercial and infrastructure industries. I have the pleasure of dealing with phone calls and questions from the general public! I also do regular radio broadcasts and ad hoc TV interviews, particularly in the lead up to and during severe weather. I will have management responsibilities in Darwin where I will also be more heavily involved in things like cyclone warnings and volcanic ash advisories.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    In the tropics! I'm hoping to learn a lot more about tropical met over the coming years in Darwin. However, forecasting roles are forever changing with increasing amounts of automation as model data improves, so the forecasting role in 10 years time could be quite different to what it is now.

    What is your favourite weather?
    Storms! I've been tornado chasing in Oklahoma and have witnessed some extreme weather conditions here in Oz. I will shortly be moving to Darwin which is one of the most prone parts of Oz for storms with over 80 thunder days a year! Nice.

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    Being flown down to Brisbane to continue work after the Cairns office was evacuated in the lead up to Cyclone Yasi on 3-4 Feb 2011. This was an incredibly exciting and high adrenaline few days where a lot was learnt in a short space of time.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    Being flown down to Brisbane to continue work after the Cairns office was evacuated in the lead up to Cyclone Yasi on 3-4 Feb 2011!! Watching the Willis Island radar being knocked out by the cyclone while on shift in Brisbane was worrying (understatement). At that time the cyclone had the potential to cause widespread destruction in Cairns and I was not sure what I would be returning home to. Mixed emotions that day!

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    I'd have to agree with Hugo on this one and say the Burns Day Storm of 1990, simply because this is one of my earliest weather related memories and I'm positive it has a lot to do with why I'm a weather nut today.  I remember leaving school that afternoon in a friend's car, however my school was close to a wooded area and a tree had already fallen trough the school fence into the playground. More trees were coming down on the route back to my friend's house and I remember cowering in the back of this jeep with her, thinking we were going to get squashed. We got stuck in a traffic jam in the woods, waiting for someone to saw a tree into pieces which had fallen over the road, while all the other trees around us were bending over backwards! Very exciting and scary for an 8 year old!


  • Tim Barnes

    Tim Barnes

    What A levels did you do?
    Physics, General Studies, Maths

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree? 
    I've always been interested in meteorology

    What was the best bit of the course?
    The other students (and the departmental pub crawls!)

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    My first job out of Uni was working at an Argos store. It's not as if I chose that career path on purpose!

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    It certainly wasn't easy to find a job. However, I'm pleased to say that my Argos time was short and I'm now at British Antarctic Surve.y

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves? 
    I'm a data manager, so I make sure the science data comes back from the Antarctic and then make sure the scientists back here get the data they want. It also involves the occasional trip south from time to time!

    What is your favourite weather?
    A bright and sunny day, but with temperatures just above freezing. In essence, a typical summer's day at the Rothera Research Station in the Antarctic.

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    The day I arrived in Antarctica.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    The day I left Antarctica.

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    Singaporean rain. When it rains, it doesn't just pour. It deluges the likes of which I've never seen!

     


  • Hugo Ricketts

    hugo rickets

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I’ve always been interested in meteorology

    What was the best bit of the course?
    The fellow students!

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    I liked the idea of research, so academia seemed right.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    Fairly easy and yes.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    Lidar research of the atmosphere (Lidar is like radar, but uses lasers instead of radio waves).

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    Breaking and fixing lasers :-).

    What is your favourite weather?
    Windy enough to break some good waves along the coast.

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    When i found the mistake in some computer code.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    When I came back from a field project and someone else was sat at my desk :-).

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    The Burns Day Storm 1990.


  • Stephen Nash

    What A levels did you do?
    Maths, further maths, physics, geography

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I was given a Rain and Shine weather kit (with a John Adams thermometer) when I was 7 and never looked back!

    What was the best bit of the course?
    Building up a great range of analytical skills that are highly valued in the workplace; all supported by great lecturers and amazing fellow students!

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    Trial and error. I tried some research on graduating but it wasn't for me. I knew I wanted to work as a consultant but was unsure of exactly what area.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    It was relatively easy to find a job. After the research stint I trained to build up my basic business skills. Since qualifying I've been working in energy, specifically in strategy consulting. I have also done a lot of economic modelling in my job.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    I help my clients to answer the big strategic questions that are keeping their C-suite awake. In energy that is generally policy and how to respond to the challenges of climate change.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time? 
    As a partner in my firm; and playing a key role in decarbonising Europe's power sector.

    What is your favourite weather?
    Cold, crisp mornings

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    Lots of good moments, but one of the best was probably a meeting in Milan where I had a room full of bankers hanging on every word of advice after they had invested in a bad project.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    When I was doing lots of economic modelling it could be very iterative, meaning many long days with little to show for it!

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    Seeing the remains of Shanklin pier after the 1987 storm.

  • Curtis Wood

    Curtis Wood

    What A levels did you do?
    Maths, Physics, Geography, Chemistry

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?  
    (i) interested in weather,
    (ii) advice from a career questionnaire,
    (iii) good use of the subjects I was already doing.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    The mixture was good (field, labs, analysis, theory, mixture of science subjects)

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?  
    I just followed my nose

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    It was easy, and I’ve stayed in the same type of job – although with different funding and in different places.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?  

    I am a research scientist so the job involves a mix of reading and writing scientific papers, writing grant proposals proposals, attending conferences, giving talks, preparing posters, writing and running computer code, etc.)

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?  
    In the same job.

    What is your favourite weather?  
    Spring sunshine

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?  

    The record-breaking snow in UK in 2011.

  • Sarah Norris

    Sarah Norris

    What A levels did you do?
    Physics, Maths, Chemistry, General Studies.

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I always had an interest for the weather and especially severe weather so I wanted to combine this interest with my love of science.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    The enthusiasm of the fellow students and staff.

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    For my final year dissertation I worked at the UK Met Office MRF department testing and calibrating a new instrument for the research aircraft. I really enjoyed the combination of hands on instrument work along with the science research so this pushed me into the field of research.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    After completing my Ph.D. at Leeds University I have been a post-doc researcher in the department working on many similar projects.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    My job can be very varied depending on what stage in a research project we are at. The first part is to building, test and calibrating instruments in the laboratory which I then deploy in many locations around the world to collect the data we require. The second part is then to analyse that data to find answers to the research question which I write up in research journals and present at international conferences. The field work part of my job has taken me from the high Arctic ice sheets to Antarctica, and from typhoons in the Pacific Ocean to winter storms off the Outer Hebrides and is defiantly the most exciting part of my job but I do also enjoy analysis of the data and discovering new finds.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    Probably doing the same type of work.

    What is your favourite weather?
    Big storms, large hail, thunder and lightning are always very exciting but sunset lit Mammatus clouds are my favourite to photograph.

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    There have been too many to list but experiencing 17 metre waves off the Scottish coast in a UK research ship, taking part in helicopter research flights over the arctic ice pack and going down a glacial crevasse in Antarctica are definitely up there in the top 3.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    There can be frustrating days at work when something isn't working as it should, either instrument or computer code, but you get lots of satisfaction when you finally fix it. Some people might say working on a ships deck in -5 deg C getting soaked through is a bad day but it is an experience to remember, however miserable, so isn't really a bad day.

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    It has to be while storm chasing in the USA with Ben Suter and some other friends. We got caught in a big hail storm and the softball size hail damaged the car we were in. That was some storm.

  • Duncan Ackerley

    Duncan Ackerly

    What A levels did you do?
    Physics, Maths and Geography.

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I had had an interest in meteorology from the age of 5 when a primary school teacher gave me a 'weather log book' to keep me out of trouble. From there I found the weather fascinating especially thunderstorms and tornadoes. I just wanted to learn more and doing the meteorology course was the obvious choice.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    I really enjoyed pretty much everything on the course but the field trip was the best experience I had.

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    I wanted to stay in academia after such a great experience on the undergraduate course and a really interesting PhD came up at Reading so I decided to do it.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    I've had 3 different positions in 3 different research areas. I started in aerosol modelling at Reading University, then moved to Wellington (New Zealand) to do high-resolution regional climate modelling of past, present and future in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere. I am now in Melbourne (Australia) investigating the causes of increased rainfall in the north-west of the country. It's one of the great things about doing meteorology, there are opportunities everywhere and you can work in some really amazing places.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    In all of my jobs the basic theme has been the same - running, analysing, perturbing and evaluating different versions of the Met Office Unified Model.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    I hope to have finally chosen a subject that encompasses all of my research experience and to teach the next generation of atmospheric scientists about that subject. However, if someone had asked me the same question 10 years ago I would never have seen myself living and working in New Zealand and Australia... so if something else comes along I may pursue that instead.

    What is your favourite weather?
    Thunderstorms - Melbourne has been the best place for them out of all the places I've lived.

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    The Christmas day storms in Melbourne in 2011. There were tornadoes and golf-ball sized hail in the northern suburbs. The storms also brought a halt to our Christmas Day cricket match in Melbourne's south-east. We were stuck in a public amenities pavilion at the park for half an hour as the lightning was happening directly overhead.

  • Jonathan Wilkinson

    Jonathan Wilkinson

    What A levels did you do?
    Geography, Maths, Physics and General Studies.

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I always enjoyed studying the weather and meteorology whilst at school. By the time I reached the middle of secondary school I'd decided that I wanted to get a job in that field, so a meteorology degree was the obvious choice.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    Everyone was so friendly- the lecturers and other students. It was a great place to study and the course was well-structured.

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    Prior to University, I had considered being a forecaster. However, during my time as an undergraduate, I realised that I liked the idea of doing research and wasn't as keen on the shift work that forecasters have to do. So, after a summer break, I started a PhD at Reading in clouds.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    It wasn't too tricky to get into my PhD, but when I came towards the end of my PhD, there were very few jobs in my research area and I found it difficult to move on. Thankfully, a job in research at the Met Office came up eventually and I was able to start in Exeter two months after graduating with my PhD.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    I work to improve the representation of 'cloud microphysics' (the processes which lead to precipitation) in the Met Office Unified Model (the computer model which is used to predict the weather and do climate modelling).  This has involved a variety of projects (anything from drizzle to snow or heavy rain) but has recently led me into studying thunderstorm electrification processes and to computer modelling of lightning, which has been really exciting. I also do some consultancy work, such as investigating lightning strikes to helicopters serving the oil and gas industry in the North Sea. On occasions, I also get experience flights on the research plane used by the Met Office and UK Universities.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    I really like Exeter and Devon; the city is nice and the countryside surrounding it is fantastic so it would be great to stay in this location.

    What is your favourite weather?
    A nice warm summer's day when you can spend all the day outdoors.

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    During the first sixth months of 2012, I looked into lightning prediction using the Met Office model and was able to produce a test facility to do so.  On the afternoon prior to the London Olympics opening ceremony, the forecasters on duty asked if we could use this to see if there would be any lightning around the Olympic stadium that evening; they were concerned because there was lightning over France that afternoon and had been lightning over part of the English Channel earlier that day and they wondered whether it would spread to London. Our predictions showed that there was unlikely to be any lightning during the ceremony, which turned out to be true, even though there was a light shower just before the ceremony started. I got home late and was exhausted, but it was worth it all to know I had played my small part in making the Olympics such a huge success.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    Thankfully there are very few bad days. However, one of the most memorable was trying to organise a video conference. The equipment kept crashing and we randomly got put through to someone in Coventry, who had nothing to do with the meeting!

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    On the 16 Feb 1996 when my family and I saw some extremely rare nacreous (or mother-of-pearl) clouds whilst driving towards Huddersfield.

  • Helene Muri

    Helene Muri

    What A levels did you do?
    Maths, chemistry and physics.

     

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I have always been interested in the weather, of course. And I liked the blend of scientific topics it involves.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    I really enjoyed the practical courses in synoptic meteorology and the fluid dynamics lab work. Also, the Tropical Dynamics and Ocean Dynamics modules were very good! We had some very inspiring lecturers.

    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    I did the degree to in order to become a weather forecaster. But during the course I got swayed towards the research path. So I did a bit of weather forecasting at first, to try it out, but didn’t fancy the shift work, so I got into research instead.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    I found a job straight away as a weather forecaster. I moved on to wind energy research at Vestas in Denmark not long after. When that research project ended I did a D.Phil degree at the University of Oxford involving paleo-climate modelling. Since then I have done a post-doc in Belgium and now I am a researcher at the University of Oslo, still doing climate modelling
    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    My current job at the University of Oslo involves running Earth System Models on powerful computers to investigate the effect of different geoengineering options, like stratospheric sulphur injections and cirrus cloud thinning, on the climate. I am also doing some work on paleo-climate modelling, comparing the modelled climates of 6000 years and 500,000 years before present to the proxy records. So I spend my days by the computer screen and having fun on the computing cluster.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    Hmmm... Hopefully still working with climate modelling.

    What is your favourite weather?
    Snowy weather!

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    The days I’ve had my puppy with me.

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    Surely there are no bad days at work in this profession! But the worst day was probably when the espresso machine was broken.

    What is your most memorable meteorological moment?
    I have to say the category 5 hurricane of October 1999, in Puri, Orissa, India. (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/tropicalcyclone/tcbulletins/05b). I have never before or since experienced anything like that, and hopefully won’t ever again. The weather was interesting – to say the least – and the destructions were devastating. My friend and I were out trying to evacuate as it made landfall; knee-deep in water, rain lashing, howling winds and a wall of grey and darkness. It was indescribably wild.

  • Kgolo Michelson

    What A levels did you do?
    Physics and Maths

    Why did you choose a meteorology degree?
    I stumbled into weather when I was a Physics student at the University of Botswana. I met one of the meteorologists and had a very interesting discussion on atmospheric physics.  I quickly became hooked and never looked back. It's what I've wanted to do ever since. So I came to Reading 2 years later.

    What was the best bit of the course?
    Studying climate and tropical meteorology was really useful for my country's weather (Botswana), at a good level of detail. Contained fascinating accounts of extreme weather events, plus explanations of why they happen, which has been very valuable at the beginning of my career. 


    How did you choose what to do after you graduated?
    There wasn't much choice for me since Meteorology is still in its infantry stage in my country, so I had to join the Meteorology department to contribute the little I had learnt.

    Was it easy to find a job, and have you stayed in the same job since you graduated?
    It was relatively easy but I have since moved on to other things.

    Can you give us an overview of what your job involves?
    I started as a duty forecaster, then did TV presentations on weather. After almost a decade, I decided to go back to school to pursue my postgraduate studies. I am still in the study lane, and hope to continue into Doctorate should the opportunity arise.

    Where do you see yourself in another 10 years' time?
    I am so interested in climate modelling, so I hope to contribute in Research for African climatology, particularly rainfall variability or cloud physics.

    What is your favourite weather?
    I prefer sunny conditions. Temperatures in mid 20's to lower 30's.

    What has been your best day at work so far?
    Representing my country as a delegate at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference

    What has been your worst day at work so far?
    I can’t really say I have had that yet.

    What is your most memorable weather moment?
    The weather moment that affected me most was A 'Tati-Siding Hail Storm' in November 2006. I had recently transitioned from a desk forecaster to a fill-in TV weather forecaster when the storm brought heavy winds and large hail of more than 5cm in diameter to the North East District (particularly the Tati). This was my first life-threatening weather event to cover first-hand. It was during that storm that I realised what a huge responsibility weather forecasting is, and from that moment, I have been more than hooked on weather.

    Other people in this year included Laura Tobin, ITV weather presenter, and Caroline Bain, Met Office researcher.

Other Meteorologists' Careers

We have asked a group of meteorologists to talk about their particular training, career and job. The group is very diverse, ranging from a forecaster on Al Jazeera, to the Royal Navy.

You can download full details below using the links next to the pictures.