Changing to the dark side: How I ended up in Science


2006, 10th grade: Me getting the worst possible grade in our Maths exam. 2007, 11th grade: Me getting rid of Physics as soon as possible. 2008, 12th grade: Me and three friends in a Maths exam, receiving as many points combined as the best girl in class alone. 2018: Me starting the third year of my PhD at the faculty of Physics. How could this happen?

Well, I won’t deny that a certain amount of sadomasochism is helpful. Going through 3 semesters of maths and theoretical physics and keeping up the hope that it’s worth it is challenging, it’s cumbersome and it can be frustrating. But, dear reader, trust me: If I could make it, you can make it! And the silver lining at the horizon appears faster than you may have thought. Slowly, the puzzle pieces start to align. And once you made it through the first year, the fun starts and you get to where you want to be. I started as a natural science illiterate. Seeing that even I can understand what happens in the ocean and with the sea ice by means of simple physics. This was my personal study highlight.

Afterwards, one thing led to the other: I have always been fascinated by polar adventure stories. Therefore, I started a student assistant’s job in the sea ice group, did my Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis there, seasoned it with a stay on Svalbard and started looking for a job. Getting a PhD position was also a question of having the luck of being at the right time at the right place, but that may be a topic for another blog post.

Now, dear reader, I have written a lot about how I got to where I am now, but what am I actually doing? I like comparing my work to a crime scene investigation: Imagine you are Sherlock Holmes (second best job after polar researcher) and are investigating a murder. You may have several witnesses who all know something about what happened. However, no one knows the murderer. But by asking all of them, listening carefully and combining what each of them told you separately, you are often able to get extra information and may be able to find the murderer in the end, although no one actually saw what happened. Exchange witnesses by satellites and the murderer by the area covered by sea ice and you already have a pretty good idea of how I spend my days.

More details about my strategy when questioning my witnesses will be the topic of another blog post. Teaser: no torture involved.

So long and have a nice week,
Valentin

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