Graduate profiles

Madlen Burgess

Defence forecaster at the Met Office: MMet Meteorology and Climate 2008-2012

I wanted to study Meteorology from a young age and chose my GCSEs and A levels knowing what was required to get onto the Reading course as it is recognised as the best Meteorology course in the UK.

I was instantly welcomed into the department and after great anticipation and high expectations it didn't disappoint. The quality of teaching was brilliant with a spectrum of courses and practical experiences to give a broad practice of meteorology. It is this deep underpinning knowledge that I learnt at Reading that gives me the confidence as a defence forecaster at the Met Office. Every day I answer ad hoc meteorological questions from military customers and having four years of high quality education means I answer their queries with certainty. Training to be a defence forecaster involved a 6 month course at Met Office HQ in Exeter. Having a MMet in Meteorology gave me a head start on the course and made starting a new job far less intimidating as I already had a solid understanding of the subject. My degree is a brilliant foundation for my future career. Many Met Office employees are graduates of the Reading Met Department and as a result, the MMet or BSc is widely recognised within the organisation as a high standard qualification. I know that I can apply for a wide variety of jobs within the Met Office with my MMet degree.

Not only is the department brilliant academically but it is highly social. I quickly felt a part of the department by attending the many social events such as the Christmas Pantomime and Summer BBQ/barn dance. These events are a good way to get to know the departmental staff and it is rare to have such a homely feel to a department. I always felt supported throughout my course with countless avenues of help available to me when the work got tough. The relaxed atmosphere of the department means asking for help from an expert in the field is encouraged, which in turn, means you receive the highest quality education.

I was fortunate to spend a year abroad studying at the University of Oklahoma, an opportunity which I can't recommend enough. I spent my time in America learning a completely different aspect of Meteorology from the world-leading researchers, making great friends, travelling to as many states as possible and of course storm chasing! I had countless extraordinary experiences during my year abroad which have helped me throughout my degree, career and undoubtedly my future life. As part of my job I talk to a variety of military customers about basic meteorology and there are always questions on extreme weather. I find it easy to answer these as the lectures in America were very well taught and the practical, storm chasing experiences are unforgettable!

The best part of my degree was making the lifelong friends through my course mates. It was so refreshing to find a group of people who shared the same passion about the weather as I do. Throughout the years of hard work, travelling and lots of socialising I found best friends. I still frequently visit the Met Department and I am greeted back with a warm welcome. I would not want to have gone anywhere else. I feel that attending the MMet course and the Met department have been an enormous benefit to my education, career and social life.

James Penrose

Energy trading consultant meteorologist: MMet Meteorology and Climate (2008-12)

People often ask me 'How did you get into meteorology?' My interest came about following an encounter with Hurricane Wilma whilst on a family holiday in Miami. I didn't know much about the weather and wanted to learn more, so thought a meteorology degree would be a good choice. When researching different universities, I found there were only a few places to choose from. I decided on Reading because I really liked the campus and the course presented the opportunity to study abroad in Oklahoma at one of the leading meteorology schools in the USA. This proved to be an amazing experience that I'm sure my course-mates and I will never forget.

The department at Reading is a really friendly place and a nice community to have been a part of. There was always something going on in the coffee room and the social events such as the barn dance and weekly five-a-side football were a great way to get to know other students and some of the lecturers too. Lots of the research being carried out at the department is ground-breaking, with many of the undergraduate classes taught by leading figures in weather and climate research. This was definitely something I took for granted at the time.

Looking back I feel very fortunate to have studied at Reading. The career prospects for a meteorology graduate are excellent, with almost everybody in my year finding a job, or pursuing further study. I now work as a meteorologist for a commodity trading company, which is a leading participant in the European power and gas markets. A key part of this role is to advise traders on weather forecasts for variables such as temperature, wind, cloud cover and precipitation which have an impact on power and gas demand and the supply of renewable energy.

Ross Maidment

Post-doctoral research assistant: BSc Meteorology and Climate 2005-2008

I had always been interested in science, in particular the weather and climate and how it works, and found that the three year undergraduate degree provided a brilliant overview of the varied components of the subject. The department had a very friendly atmosphere which made it easy to feel part of the department whilst the world class expertise of the lecturers and research staff provided a stimulating environment in which to study. The department also has a busy social calendar, including a pantomime and a summer BBQ and barn dance which everyone always enjoys!

After completing my BSc, I took up a six month internship at a European Commission research centre in Northern Italy where I worked on a project evaluating satellite rainfall estimates over Africa, a project that was similar to my undergraduate dissertation. This was a truly worthwhile experience as I gained valuable research experience whilst having the opportunity to experience a new culture. I can easily say this was one of the best experiences I've had! The internship of course was only possible because of my BSc Meteorology degree, so I'm glad I decided to take this course.

Upon my return to the UK in 2009, I began a PhD in Reading researching African rainfall using satellite observations and developing a new long term rainfall dataset for Africa. My doctorate involved many trips abroad, including conferences and workshops, some of which were in Africa. It was this international focus of my research that I particularly enjoyed, including the collaborations and contacts I made.

In January 2014 after submitting my PhD thesis, I began working as a post-doctoral research assistant within the department working in the same area as my PhD research. I decided to continue to work in this area as there are many weather and climate related challenges facing Africa, and the prospect of helping to alleviate such problems through improved climate science I find particularly motivating. I'm extremely glad that I pursued my interest in meteorology as now I have a career which I enjoy every day. None of this would have been very likely if it were not for my BSc and PhD from Reading.

Paul Gundersen

Chief Forecaster at the Met Office: BSc Meteorology at Reading

'If you're after a career in meteorology, then this course is a must. I couldn't recommend it, and the Department, highly enough. I'd been interested in the weather from an early age and actually wrote to the Met Office when I was about 14 asking how to go about getting a job there. They said a degree in maths, physics or meteorology would be a good idea. I decided I'd prefer the meteorology degree, and Reading was the best place for it. The BSc Meteorology course was excellent, and is highly respected in the Met Office.'

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