by Sarah Henkel
Except for a few raindrops, urgently needed for an experiment, beautiful September weather welcomed the guests of the ITaRS Summer School “Clouds and Precipitation: Observation and Processes”. From September 08-17, 2014, 30 young researchers met for two intensive weeks in the Research Center Jülich, Germany. They came from institutions in Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Canada, Brazil, USA, Barbados, UK, Israel and Greece. Half of the participants were ITaRS fellows.
Right on Monday morning, the ITaRS coordinator Susanne Crewell posed six challenging questions:
The participants were divided into sub-groups, each guided by an expert from the field, and had a week to work out their contributions. Cloud experts like Athanasios Nenes (Georgia Institute of Science), David Turner (NOAA), Christine Chiu (University of Reading) and Pavlos Kollias (McGill University) gave important background knowledge in daily lectures. In practical exercises, the participants were directly involved in the measurements of the Jülich Observatory for Cloud Evolution (JOYCE) located at the Research Center.
The group dealing with the topic "When does a cloud form?" exploited novel infrared observation techniques to detect thin liquid water clouds. These clouds are difficult to observe but quite common and thus important for the climate. This group was invited to also present their results at the Copenhagen Meeting of COST-project TOPROF, in November 2014.
The aim of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions is to prepare young researchers for a career not only in academia. Despite being deeply focused on the competition of the group work, the participants had to be dragged away from it again and again to change their perspectives.
They discussed the problem of the Anthropocene in a science café with guests from other disciplines and learned to see their research in a wider context. A trainer with a background in theatre gave an introduction to presentation skills and gave individual feedback to each participant after the group presentations at the end of the school. One day of the school was dedicated to entrepreneurship and work in industry. Two industrial partners of ITaRS showed the participants around their offices and workshops: Radiometer Physics and Selex, which are manufacturers of microwave radiometers and radar systems, respectively. Afterwards, the founder’s service of the University of Cologne gave a workshop on entrepreneurial thinking. As the final session of the summer school, representatives from funding institutions like the ERC Executive Agency and the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD presented funding opportunities for young researchers after the Marie Curie fellowship.
“It was a really good experience for me”, summarizes one of the participants from outside the ITaRS network, “in particular, it was useful because I could improve my knowledge in cloud physics and in the infrared measurements. But I had also the opportunity to meet young researchers and to know something about their research. I had an idea about the opportunity for young research in Europe. And last but not least, I had a lot of fun!”