"Coming from a different background the first year wasn't easy, but looking back I feel very proud and confident about my choice!"
From Geography to Climate Physics
I did my Bachelor’s in Geography but realized I was more interested in the physical processes of the environment, rather than the social processes influencing them. I decided to switch my field of study and to pursue a Master’s in Climate Physics. The journey wasn’t easy, since I wasn’t used to the amount of Mathematics and Physics required for this Master. It took a lot of effort to get a proper grip on both subjects. But now, after investing many hours and successfully completing the first year, I feel very proud. I gained a lot of knowledge and I notice that I am really enthusiastic about my courses when talking to others, which makes me confident that this Master was indeed the right choice for me.
Lots of freedom
The Master’s programme is very broad. You learn about the physical processes in both the atmosphere and the ocean. I really enjoyed this, because you get a better sense of how they are related and how they influence each other. Besides the compulsory courses, you have ample opportunity to choose courses that interest you. You can either keep all options open, or specialize in one particular sub-field.
This Master’s is relatively small: you know all of your fellow students but also teachers know you by name, something I wasn't use to in my Bachelors. You actively participate in discussions and this will be remembered next week. I feel that a lot more interaction is possible in this way. Teachers are also very approachable. They are open for suggestions and listen to your feedback to improve the programme. For instance, since programming is of increasing importance in our field of research, a voluntary course on Python was provided after student feedback, to ensure that everyone had a sufficient background.
I’m now in the last year of my studies. After graduation, I would love to get a job where I can continue researching the physical processes of the Earth, for example at KNMI or RIVM.
"You can easy get into contact with topics that are currently being developed by researchers in the department"
I did my Bachelor in meteorology, oceanography and geophysics at the University of Lisbon. Reading authors like Carl Sagan made me aware of the importance of science in society, and I came across some very inspiring professors during my studies. This convinced me I wanted to follow a career in research.
Going abroad and experience other academic environments have always been high on my list, since I believe that different backgrounds can show you different solutions or approaches to the same issues, and that way offer an amazing learning opportunity. Utrecht not only aligned with this idea of an international environment dedicated to a high level of research and knowledge, but also offered a broad set of courses about the climate system to choose from.
This master’s programme has allowed me to discover new research areas, with courses like Ice and Climate and Atmospheric Chemistry. You can easy get into contact with topics that are currently being developed by researchers in the department. Right now, I am starting my research thesis in the topic of geoengineering where I will be studying the impacts of solar radiation management on some smaller scale atmosphere phenomena. I am feeling absolutely thrilled about doing research work and I can’t wait to explore this topic in depth.
"I thought I wanted to research Oceanography but it turned out I really enjoyed the Amtospheric Chemistry part"
I was always fascinated by the world around me and the great outdoors in general. After completing my Bachelor's in Physics & Mathematics, I quickly realised that it didn’t qualify me for the sort of work I wanted to do, namely working on the actual processes and science behind environmental phenomena. A master's degree in Climate Physics however would.
There were a few Master’s programmes at different universities available, but at Utrecht the scope is very broad, which was important to me. In fact I started the Master’s almost convinced that I wanted to do research in Oceanography but it turned out I really enjoyed the atmospheric chemistry part of the course, and decided to write my thesis on that topic instead - I was able to keep my options open!
My research is in the direction of air quality, and the impacts of a changing climate on the air we breathe, and what that might mean for human health in the future. I think it's a very relevant topic and hope to continue working on it after I complete my studies, either through a PhD or for a company which works in this area (e.g. RIVM).
"With the knowledge and skills I acquired from my Master’s programme I feel very optimistic about my future career prospects"
Whilst studying in the final year of my Bachelor’s at the University of Science and Technology China, I looked into the World University Rankings whilst searching for somewhere to study my Master’s. Although Utrecht University is not particularly well known amongst students in China, I noticed it was top of the rankings in the Netherlands. At the time, I was studying Atmospheric Sciences and was very interested in continuing within the field of Meteorology, Physical Oceanography and Climate. I then came across the Climate Physics programme, which ticked all the relevant boxes.
There were only twenty other students on the programme, which meant the communication within the class was very straight forward. We addressed the professors by their first name, which for me was very novel, and I generally thrived on the Dutch methods of teaching. I found the interdisciplinary research particularly interesting, and for my electives I attended courses on ‘Applying Mathematics in Finance’, as well as ‘Understanding Complexity: Economy and the Planet’, both of which significantly broadened my horizons.
Moving to the Netherlands opened a brand new chapter in my life. It enabled me to acquire valuable and precious experience, both through my studies, as well as from the adjustment to a brand new culture in a completely different country. I settled very quickly into life in Utrecht and have since become friends with many international as well as local Dutch students. There are far less tourists compared to Amsterdam, and the city with its ancient centre still surprises me even after two years. I enjoy the night canoeing in the canals, the active bars, the bleating of the sheep at Utrecht Science Park, as well as the quiet nature areas close to the campus, which is especially relaxing during a tense period of study.
I’ve graduated after completing my thesis on satellite data analysis, which was conducted in SRON (the Netherlands Institute for Space Research). With the knowledge and skills I acquired from my Master’s programme, coupled with the strong reputation of Utrecht University, I feel very optimistic about my future career prospects. I just got a job as a design engineer at ASML and I am excited to experience the Dutch working culture.
Han Chen, alumnus