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Research Experience Placement – Roy Schumacher

What are you studying?

I am studying Physics on a 4 year integrated masters programme at Durham University. I have just completed my second year.

Roy Schumacher stood in a field with mountains behind him.

Tell us a bit about the project you have been working on this summer?

My project was in climate modelling, using a model called FAMOUS. The model developed around the year 2000 and is quite low-resolution. The goal of my project was to see whether the model of the carbon cycle in FAMOUS would accurately respond to volcanic eruptions.  To do this we ran simulations over the last 1000 years with simulated volcanic eruptions and looked at how FAMOUS responded to those eruptions. We then compared that data to literature results from similar simulations with other climate models and the ice core CO2 record. We found that while the general prediction (increased carbon storage in the soil leading to a drop in CO2 directly following an eruption) was in line with other results, FAMOUS seemed to be overestimating the magnitude of the change.

Plot of carbon anomalies from soil, vegetation, oceans and atmosphere 1000 to 2000. Produced by Roy Schumacher.

What new skills have you learned while doing this internship?

I would say that I have learned and further developed various skills during this internship. A lot of them are related to computing; for example, using the Unix shell command line interface or improving my data analysis in Python. On top of that there are some more general skills I practised, like working independently or giving presentations for instance.

How have you found working with your research team?

I really liked working with my supervisor (Prof. Simon Tett), as he was very willing to help and generous with his time. I am also very grateful for getting the opportunity to attend the weekly discussions of the wider research group he was part of (The Contemporary Climate Group). It was very interesting to hear about what research other people were doing and listen to the academics discuss amongst each other. Finally, I was also lucky to start on the same day as another REP (NERC) student whose project had similarities to mine and so we were to discuss various aspects of our work.

What has been the highlight of the internship for you?

My personal highlights were the social events organised by SENSE. I enjoyed meeting the other interns and hearing about their experiences. It was also interesting to listen to the PhD students to get some advice and a better idea in general of what it is like to do a PhD.

How has doing this internship changed your plans or thoughts about your future career?

Before this internship I had thought of a career in Climate Science as an option but would have been uncomfortable committing to e.g., a PhD or even a Masters in the field, as I had no idea of what it would be like, coming from a Physics background. After doing this internship I could definitely imagine working in Climate Science in the future and it confirmed that I would enjoy working in a research environment.