We are very interested in the careers of our graduates. Alwin Haklander tells us about the choices he made.
Ever since I was a child, I knew what I wanted to be: an operational weather forecaster. After high school, the choice for college was between Wageningen University and Utrecht University. I was told that Utrecht would have a more theoretical approach, Wageningen a more practical one. I figured that a meteorologist should have the strongest possible theoretical background in order to understand what is actually happening in the atmosphere. Utrecht University seemed to provide the most solid physical basis, so I ended up at IMAU in 1997.
It was nice to meet other students with the same passion for the weather! A few compulsory courses, such as Quantum Mechanics, were tough. However, I think it is good to be familiar with physics in general. How else would we recognize anologies such as the analogy between electric charge and potential vorticity, and important concepts in dynamical meteorology?
I had a great time writing my Master’s thesis about thunderstorm predictors and their forecast skill for the Netherlands, in good cooperation with Aarnout van Delden. Although research was something I liked doing, my main interest still hadn’t changed.
After getting my Master’s degree in 2002, I found that there were only very few vacancies for the post of operational meteorologist. I had worked in a temporary administrative job through an agency for one year, when a vacancy for a PhD study at Eindhoven University of Technology came up. It was on the wave-mean flow interaction between the troposphere and the middle atmosphere, and being interested in dynamical meteorology, I decided to apply for the job.
Four years of PhD work would also open the door for many possibly interesting career opportunities later on. Another advantage was that the study would be done at KNMI, which of course has a forecast office… Just before finishing my PhD, five vacancies for the post of operational meteorologist came available. I applied and got the job, so I could start as a weather forecaster right after my promotion.
Since 2008, I have been a “regional” forecaster, making detailed aviation weather forecasts. Beside forecasting, I develop innovative tools for meteorologists, based on research of others. An example of this is a nowcasting tool for thunderstorms based on three-dimensional radar information, to enable meteorologists to identify thunderstorms before the first lightning strike occurs.
My background in research and programming at IMAU definitely helps me to do this kind of work! I hope to keep combining forecasting with developing forecasting tools in the future.