SIAM News Blog

Jamboree 2016

Preparing Students for a Career in MPE

By Hans Kaper

Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) is an emerging area of research in the mathematical sciences. Its focus is on the mathematical modeling of Earth's climate system, ecosystems, sustainability, natural resources, land use, socio-economic systems, extreme events, and the management of risk.

To prepare students for the challenges of MPE, Imperial College London and the University of Reading have joined forces to create the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Mathematics of Planet Earth (CDT MPE). Students admitted to the program receive cohort-based PhD training in the mathematical and computational techniques needed to successfully address the challenges of MPE.

The MPE CDT program emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of MPE. It encourages teamwork and the development of communication, management, and leadership skills.  I had the pleasure of attending Jamboree 2016, a three-day get-together of the cohorts of 2014 (10 students) and 2015 (16 students), where all these aspects featured in the program.  The event was organized by Tristan Pryer (University of Reading) and held at the University of Reading in March. 

The Jamboree was an opportunity for the students to showcase their research and its impact in posters and oral presentations. Read a speech given by Goodwin Gibbons, one of the students of the 2015 cohort at the University of Reading, to introduce the student speakers at the event.

Of particular interest was a series of talks by representatives of several stakeholders of MPE:

European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), ongoing work in atmospheric composition modeling;

Institute of Environmental Analytics (IEA), science and technology developments;

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), uncertainty in modeling power distribution;

Lake Street, a consulting company specializing in weather and energy markets (“working with the weather”);

Asia Risk Center, agricultural risk modeling and risk analytics tools for the agriculture and food security domain.

These talks provided ample evidence of the broad range of MPE-related career opportunities. Several of the companies also offered opportunities for internships.

The students had organized a minisymposium on Weather and Climate, with four speakers from academia. 

The final act at this Jamboree was a keynote address by Professor Peter Lynch (University College Dublin) on “The Emergence of Numerical Weather Prediction: Fulfillment of a Dream & Realization of a Fantasy,” a very entertaining presentation with wonderful illustrations and personal anecdotes. 

Jamboree 2016 demonstrated the many challenges for applied mathematics and computational science in MPE.  It also showed the many opportunities for interesting careers.

Hans Kaper, founding chair of SIAG/MPE and editor-in-chief of SIAM News, is an adjunct professor of mathematics at Georgetown University.

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