by Laura Mansfield


This summer, I spent 10 weeks on a placement at the Met Office, in Exeter. This was part of the Mathematics of Planet Earth training programme and started with a week of lectures and lab sessions thanks to Professor Rupert Klein from the Freie Universität Berline, with guest lectures from UK academics and Met Office staff. The theme was “Multiscale analysis of atmosphere-ocean flows and related numerical issues” with topics covering scales in geophysical flows and asymptotic analysis. I learned a lot about how to approach geophysical problems and found the lectures to be the perfect balance of mathematics and physical intuition.

I spent the remaining 9 weeks in the Informatics Lab, who are a team of technologists, scientists and designers who work to innovate, explore and demonstrate new ideas, particularly to make data useful. I explored how probabilistic programming languages could be used in climate and weather modelling, which also gave me the chance to learn how to build simple climate models in Python. I presented some of this work at a seminar in the Met Office and wrote a few blog posts on my progress (see those here: an introduction to probabilistic programming , an application with differential equation modelling and simple climate modelling)

The working environment in the lab was very different from a PhD office. I found that colleagues have a genuine interest in what other team members are working on and partner or team work to solve problems was common. While I was there, I also gained some tips on how to work better, including better coding practises, how to distribute tasks across computing resources and how to visualise data more effectively. I will definitely be taking a lot of this back to my PhD with me!

Outside of work, I also enjoyed life in Devon. We generally had great weather and Exeter is a lovely city to spend time in. I also took a few trips down to the beach, to surrounding villages and to Dartmoor. Plus, I can’t really complain about the views from the Informatics Lab.

My view from the Informatics Lab on a sunny day

Thanks to Rachel Prudden and everyone at the Informatics Lab who took me in for 2 months and to Mathematics of Planet Earth and the Met Office for making this happen.