Polar Oceanography, Céline Heuzé @ClnHz: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME:  Céline Heuzé

CURRENT TITLE:  VINNOVA (Sweden’s innovation agency) Marie Curie research fellow, or post-doc simply

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Polar oceanography, abyssal circulation

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  4 years in research

EDUCATION:  PhD in physical oceanography from the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom); Master’s degree in hydrodynamics engineering.

WEBSITE:  http://polarfever.com


Cruise to Antarctica in February 2012 with the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey on board RRS James Clark Ross. I was quite excited that we were doing some proper ice breaking! ©Celine Heuze

What’s your job like?

I study the deep ocean currents, and in particular, how the water at the bottom of the oceans arrives there. As bottom waters originate from polar regions, I ‘have’ to go there! I’m very lucky to have already been at sea both in Antarctica and in the Arctic! I cherish this time at sea: it’s physically demanding, but very relaxing at the same time for you are so far away from the rest of the world with no internet. Back in the office, my job is quite varied. Over these last years, I have analysed climate model outputs, run my own climate model experiment, analysed real-world measurements, worked with satellite images and will soon develop my model. It’s also a very exciting topic to talk about and demonstrate, so I try to do as much outreach as I have time to!

What’s your typical day like?

My average office day looks more or less like this:

8:30 to 11:30: Swedish class. I am new to the country, so the city allows me to take language lessons for free!

11:30 to 12:00: Check the PhD scicomm website that I am in charge of (SciSnack.com).

12:00 to 12:20: Lunch outside. It’s getting dark here, so I must enjoy as much light as I can!

12:20 to 19:30: Finally do some work! I generally spend these hours in front of my computer playing around with my data until they make sense, reading recently published papers, browsing the internet for information on upcoming conferences, and drinking coffee.

19:30 onwards: Walk home and relax! Every other day, I go to the gym or for a run. Once a week at least, I write a blog post for polarfever.com. I also spend some time socializing with the rest of the laboratory people at coffee break or for a Friday evening well-deserved beer! That’s if I am at home. If I am at a conference, then I get up too early, listen to a lot of talks, go out in the evening with the other participants, and come back exhausted yet full of work ideas! If I am at sea, I actually sleep a lot, eat very good food, and spend time outside in the wet and cold, deploying instruments or fixing them — and taking lots of pictures!

What’s fun?

I find playing with water great fun including going to sea, spending weeks by a glacier, hearing sea ice form around me, and watching the birds play around the ship. It’s not just fun, it’s magical! Every day life sounds boring, but it is fun too! My favourite times are these “eureka!” moments in the office leading to a victory dance. I’ve also just introduced my office mate to the concept of sitting on a yoga ball instead of a normal chair, so we keep giggling as we’re bouncing around!

What’s challenging?

Some days just don’t work. If it’s one day, it does not matter — you just go home. But when you’ve been stuck on the exact same spot for months and it keeps you awake at night, you want to just throw everything out. It’s hard to recognise that it is time to take a break and do something else and even harder to go back to that problem later on. I also struggle to find enough time for everything — particularly now that I have the language class… but I’ll find a way to make it work!

What’s your advice to students?

Play the game. There are plenty of things that you have to learn to reach your goal and that you will never need again. Don’t complain (as I used to a lot!). Just learn them for the exam, and then forget about them! And never give up. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, prove them wrong by doing it and being excellent at it.

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