Meet...Simon Proud

13 April 2021

Headshot Simon Proud

Name: Simon Proud
Job title: NERC Innovation Fellow

What are you currently working on?
I am looking at how to best use weather satellites to detect and characterise thunderstorm activity around the globe. There is a growing network of these satellites in orbit and we can get really frequent data now – new images of the globe every 10-15 minutes. But the satellites are each slightly different and it is a big challenge to devise methods that work equally well across all of the missions. I have a particular interest in using historical data to look at how storms are evolving due to climate change and, as I am an innovation fellow, I also work closely with industry: working with airlines to provide 'near-live' weather updates to assist with safe and efficient flight planning.

Describe a typical day
The day usually starts with me checking the success (or otherwise) of whatever algorithms I left running overnight. One of the good things about working with satellite data is you can set computers running to crunch the numbers while you are doing other things – productivity while you are asleep! I also spend the mornings sorting through emails, meetings and paperwork; trying to keep afternoons clear for research. Most of my science involves writing computer code to analyse the satellite data, but I also do lab studies: looking at the infrared absorption characteristics of ice crystals that make up clouds. Switching between desk and lab research provides a welcome break. Then, I tend to leave around 3:30pm to collect kids from school but often spend half an hour in the evening answering emails.

If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?

My ideal day would be climbing in the mountains somewhere, preferably Nepal but Scotland is also a good choice. It is a great way to get some fresh air and do something different to the normal day-to-day life. My kids are a bit too young just now, but I am looking forward for when they’re old enough to join in!

What is your favourite place in Oxford?
The fields behind Cutteslowe park; they are easy to get to and yet feel quite isolated from the busy city streets. It is also a great place for a weather nerd like me to watch thunderstorms in the summer.

Plan B: what would you be doing if you weren’t doing your current job?
I would probably go back to being a pilot, although I would miss the creativity of research.