Doug Cresswell is a senior scientist specialising in wave modelling. He works for a consultancy – HR Wallingford in Oxfordshire. Whist Doug’s work is primarily office based, he sometimes attends meetings, courses and conferences around the UK and in Denmark, Germany, France and Italy.
How did you become interested in the marine environment?
I enjoyed science at school and grew up by the sea. When I was applying for jobs after graduating, I was interested in a wide range of environment issues. My first job was at the Met Office where I started to learn about, and get interest in, the oceans.
What was your entry route?
After doing A levels in maths and physics, I took a degree in mathematics at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. I then went on to do a masters degree in mathematical modelling and numerical analysis at Oxford University. I applied for a general graduate entry job at the Met Office, and was offered a position working on sea ice in climate models.
How has your career progressed so far?
As mentioned above, my first job was working on the sea ice part of climate models at the Met Office. To help me with my work, I was given a lot of training – the Met Office sent me on courses about climate physics, oceanography and fluid dynamics. After a few years, I moved to University College London where I was responsible for establishing a numerical modelling capability for the study of sea ice at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling. This involved combining numerical models and satellite data.
What are your main responsibilities/tasks?
In my current job, I use numerical models to predict waves in coastal areas. From my office in Oxfordshire, I work on projects that are based all over the world. A typical project involves building a digital model of an area, which may include a new structure that a client is proposing to build. Then I use our numerical models to predict what the waves will be like, in either everyday wave conditions or severe storms. Each project is different, and takes between a week and a few months. I usually find myself working on two or three projects at a time. At any one time, I may be working on tsunami threats as well as modelling wave conditions within proposed harbour developments in Great Yarmouth or Gibraltar!
What are the main qualities and skills you need to do your job?
To model the ocean using computers you need some understanding of the ocean and how computational models work. Maths and physics are as important as geography for this kind of work.
The skills you need include:
- being able to interpret maps
- computer programming
- organisational ability
- the ability to explain things clearly to colleagues and clients.
Where do you see your career heading?
I hope to continue working in oceanography and increase my experience of modelling different processes – tides, sediment and marine ecosystems. Perhaps in the future I’ll try to get out to sea more often, although I do get a bit seasick!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Every project is different, and I get to see a lot of the world…on paper at least!
Do you have any tips for someone considering a similar career to yours?
If you’re interested in this area of work, it’s important to pick a good course at a good university. Read around the subject and ask lots of questions. If you can, try to get out to sea. Aim to work on projects that interest you.