Dr Cathryn Birch - School of Earth and Environment

Cathryn Birch

Why did you choose to study for a PhD? 

My undergraduate degree was in meteorology and I really enjoyed my dissertation project and the field courses. I wanted to continue doing this kind of work after I graduated. My PhD project was on Arctic meteorology, which has implications for climate change. I was particularly excited about this project because I had the chance to go to the central Arctic Ocean (North Pole) on a research expedition for several months.

What have you done since you graduated?

In the final year of my PhD I made some enquires about Research Fellow positions in the department. There was a position available in a different research group, looking at storms over West Africa. Although my PhD topic was on a different aspect of meteorology, I had the skills and experience necessary for this position. I was offered the job and I started a few months after finishing my PhD. I will be going to Morocco next year to take part in research flights over the Sahara desert. 

Has your degree been useful to you in finding work?

A PhD is by far the best way to start a career in academia because it allows you to learn the skills needed to do scientific research. I found it easy to find an academic job when I graduated because the prerequisites were so specific.

What are your long-term career goals?

My current position is for three years. After that, I plan to work abroad for 2-3 years at another university. I will then hopefully have enough experience to apply for a lectureship position at a university or a higher-grade job at a national meteorological office, such as the U.K. Met Office. 

What would you say to someone else who may be considering studying a PhD at SEE?

There are many advantages in doing a PhD. Research is interesting and exciting, there are travel and fieldwork opportunities and you are your own boss. It is, however, challenging and requires a great deal of commitment so you need to be sure it is what you want to do before you start.