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Belinda, Senior Scientist

Graduate of Exeter University and Reading University

Degree : BSc physics and MSc in Meteorology 

I work on assessing and developing the dispersion models we have at AWE. Dispersion models replicate atmospheric meteorological conditions (which includes, wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, mixing height, etc) and provide estimations of the concentration of pollutants, as they travel away from the emission source.

I am the AWE representative on the Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling Liaison Committee (ADMLC) (www.admlc.org.uk) and I also do some Maths mentoring at a local school which is part of our Schools Liaison Scheme. 

I studied maths, physics and chemistry for my A-levels, and then went on to a BSc physics Degree at Exeter University followed by an MSc in Meteorology at Reading University. I am also a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.

It's difficult to choose just one thing I like best about my job. There are so many aspects to my job that I enjoy. I find my work interesting and challenging. I take pleasure in completing new pieces of work/studies and presenting the results either internally at AWE or externally at conferences to the dispersion modelling community. 

I really like learning about new aspects of dispersion modelling, at the moment I am currently familiarising myself with a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model, which can be used for this kind of modelling. I hope to investigate its potential use at AWE. 

I get great satisfaction from the variety of my work which includes modelling work, experimental field work, training, as well as getting involved in emergency response exercises and mentoring.

My job is mostly computer and office based but I am usually working on a number of tasks, which provides a good variety.  Occasionally I attend meetings, give presentations and go to conferences in the UK and abroad. I have also been involved with experimental field work. Currently, I am writing an abstract for a conference on a study I have recently completed. The study was to assess how well two dispersion models predict air flow in urban environments by comparing their results with experimental data. This year I have been asked to present at the Society for Radiological Protection Annual Conference, which is a great honour so one of my tasks will be to put together an interesting and relevant presentation for this.

Dispersion modelling is a mathematical simulation of emissions as they are transported throughout the atmosphere.  This is all based on physics. All the dispersion models I use are based on physics and applied mathematics and about 90% of my work is physics related.

I really enjoy the mathematical/theoretical side of physics the most, but I also enjoy seeing it in play within real life situations. For instance, although I use a computer model to predict how pollutants are spread in the environment the effects of dispersion can be seen & felt all around us. Think about the spread of smoke coming from a chimney or feeling the effects of turbulent eddies around tall buildings; this is a good example of dispersion taking place in the real world.  After completing experimental field work I am interested in seeing how well the dispersion models we use at AWE compare to it. After studying Meteorology I can’t help but be interested in the weather, which effects us all, not just how it effects the spread of pollutants.

Although I enjoyed maths more than physic's at A-Level I would really recommend studying physics to other students. I felt studying physics gave me the prospects of getting a more interesting job at the end of my studies.  A high percentage of physics graduates find jobs and with this discipline you can have all sorts of career choices including things like Engineering or more specialised science disciplines. It gives you more options for once you finish you’re A-Levels/Degree. I went on to study Meteorology after I did my physics Degree.

For students interested in a career in physics I would suggest you look for physics courses that offer the most variety.  Try not to specialise too early, study as many aspects of physics as possible until you find one you really enjoy. It might also help you later on in life if you decide to move away from that specialised area into something else, and it gives you a better grounding for physics in general throughout your career.

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