Wiebke Frey is a meteorologist working as a PostDoc at the Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Manchester. She studied (ice) clouds from different perspectives: Measurements performed on board research aircraft, numerical simulations on high performance computers, and lab based using a cloud chamber.
At the Soapbox Science event in Manchester, on saturday the 23rd of July, she will share her passion for clouds.
SS: Wiebke, how did you get to your current position?
WF: By application… Looking at the whole way from its start, I knew that I wanted to work in a science related field when I was in the last years at school. Maybe biology, but I became more and more interested in physics. I got into university, studying meteorology – the physics of the atmosphere. I moved to another town to do my PhD, which was on airborne measurements of clouds. From there I secured a two year fellowship to do a project in Melbourne, Australia, where I was using computer models to further understand different processes in and around clouds. Towards the end of that fellowship I was searching for my next post – and a job got advertised that caught my interest: Working in a cloud chamber in Manchester. So here I am now!
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
WF: Curiosity! I love to find out and understand how things in nature work. A second driver came from my brother in law, who told me about a friend who had the opportunity to participate in a cruise of the German polar research vessel ‘Polarstern’. I was so fascinated that I thought “this is what I want to do!”. During my undergrad studies I found out that there is so much more than that, like flying on a research aircraft through clouds…
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
WF: You see clouds so often in your everyday life, which could make you think, that we know every little detail about them. Still, there is so much we don’t know about clouds, how they form and persist. Another thing I really like is the internationality in atmospheric sciences. I love travelling and learning about other cultures, so that is a great side effect.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
WF: When I tell people that I am studying clouds, they always get fascinated. So, I thought I should challenge myself and ‘go out in the wild’ and tell even completely random people about what I am doing. It’s a great way to show that science is not boring at all and that also women have their place in sciences!
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
WF: More stable work conditions for less established researchers. Having myself had two two year contracts in different places (and even countries), I get tired of moving around just when I got settled and made new friends. We should never forget how important good friends are, and it takes time to find them when you move to a new place which might be far away from what used to be your home.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
WF: Network!!! Use conferences or meetings to talk to other people in your field. It might seem easier to approach people in your career stage at poster sessions, but I also made the experience that even the very experienced senior researchers can be very interested in your research and they have great tips to offer! Don’t be too shy! The people you have once met can be great collaborators later on in your career.