Professional updates

New job!

I know, it’s not very long since the last time I said that. But part of the nature of a postdoc is that it’s temporary, and insecure, and you’re looking for something better… and I’m lucky enough that something better came along, and I applied for what I thought was a long shot, and I got it, and…

…in about a month I’m going to be starting as Lecturer in Renewable Energy[1] at the University of Hull! I’m joining the Energy and Environment Institute, which is a multidisciplinary group with a specific mission that speaks to me. It sits outside of any department, but works with a number of them, and feels like it should be a good fit.

My feelings are complicated. I had planned to be in the US for more than the ~7 months that I will have spent here. I’m sad to be leaving without having had much time to really get to know a city that I was starting to like, or the country beyond its boundaries. At the same time, living here is feeling less and less comfortable politically, and I’m also happy to be moving “home”. There’s a certain amount of guilt in leaving a postdoc after six months at relatively short notice, because it always has an impact on projects when that happens; but it’s a great career move, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity! The jump to a first faculty post is a big one. I’m a little daunted, but also excited, and really looking forward to getting into it.

Right now I’m buried in organising my second intercontinental move in a calendar year, while also working full-time and trying to keep track of what’s happening with Brexit. It’s stressful. In a few weeks I should be out the other side of that, with a new place to live in (for me) a new city, whether or not that city is still in the EU… keep watching this space for (very) occasional updates, and get in touch if you’d like us to work together!

[1] For the benefit of any Americans here, Lecturer in the UK is approximately equivalent to Assistant Professor on tenure track in the US – although tenure track is not a thing in Britain.

Posted by simon in Professional updates, Reflective

The end of one job… and waiting for the next

Cruise line poster advertising SS Leviathan on United States Lines, "Europe-America"
Not my intended mode of travel. Though I wish I had enough time that it could be.

My time at Marine Scotland Science came to an end yesterday… and then I went in today anyway for a meeting, because it was the only time that all the necessary people were free. But that’s at an end, and so is my much longer time with Heriot-Watt. Obviously, I hope to keep in touch with and collaborate with both.

My next role will be a postdoc with Dr. Zhaoqing Yang at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Seattle. I’ll be building on my existing skills with FVCOM modelling, both for energy and other applications. That might hopefully be starting in about a month’s time, but it all depends on when my US visa comes through. In the meantime, I have plenty to occupy me with selling my car, sorting all my belongings into “ship, store, or throw away[1]”, and trying to see as many of my European friends – British and otherwise – as possible before I go. Oh, and that paper I promised to write 😉

Moving to America, and working over there, is both exciting and daunting. It will be an adventure!

[1] Give away, where possible.

Posted by simon in Professional updates


Whiteboard markers and a whiteboard.This term, in addition to my modelling work at Marine Scotland, I’m the instructor for two masters modules at ICIT (Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus). This is my first experience of teaching, beyond the occasional seminar here and there, and I’m really enjoying it. I have a small group of interested students, who want to be there (I realise that this is a privilege of teaching postgrad), who ask intelligent questions… and that makes it really rewarding.

It’s also very hard work. I was brought in at fairly short notice after a lecturer left, to fill in the gap before a new one could be recruited. I’m only going to be delivering this content once, yet I’ve chosen to put together my own material for it based on what the previous instructor did, rather than using his directly. That’s because the content follows a different logical order in my head to his, and… well, as anybody who has tried giving a presentation using somebody else’s slides will attest, it’s not a great experience for anybody concerned. So I’m talking to students for 2-2.5 hours most mornings, and spending the afternoons preparing future material – trying to stay 2-3 days ahead, but occasionally catching up with myself. It’s not a pace that I could sustain in the long term, but it works for a few weeks.

This experience has reassured me that, should I be successful in landing a long-term academic role in the future (and I realise that that is a very long way from guaranteed), then I would be able to embrace the teaching side as enthusiastically as the research.

Of course, this is only half of the job. My lectures finish next week, but towards the end of the year the marking will begin….

Posted by simon in Professional updates, Reflective

Corrections accepted!

When I had my viva I reflected that although it was an important milestone, it didn’t feel very climactic because it was simply a gate passed beyond which there was more work to do.

A few weeks ago I finally got word back from my internal examiner that my thesis corrections had been accepted. This felt far more joyful and climatic, because this was an agreement that from an academic perspective, I had passed and would receive a PhD; the only remaining hurdles were bureaucratic ones.

A week later I printed four copies of the thesis and organised an overnight trip to Edinburgh to get them bound and handed in. I got a receipt, and I clutched on to it like the special document that it was. This was what I was waiting for – the point at which I could fully relax. Well, before worrying about the next job 😉


Two pictures. On the left, a cardboard box with "Simon's Thesis" scrawled on the top in marker. On the right, four hard bound theses - black books with gold lettering.

Before and after. Photos: Author.


Posted by simon in Professional updates, Reflective

News! Thesis! Job!

Hello world. I have two bits of news.

A stack of paper, about 2cm high

And that’s double-sided!

The first one is that a couple of weeks ago I sent a complete draft of my thesis to my supervisors. This isn’t the end of anything as there’s still plenty of work to do, both before and after they get back to me, before it’s ready to be submitted for examination; but it’s a milestone. I’d never printed the whole thing in one go before, and I was surprised by its bulk…

The second piece of news is that I have a new job! I’ve been lucky enough to win a NERC “innovation placement”, which will allow me to spend a year working with the Oceanography team at Marine Scotland Science. From next month I’ll be doing the same type of modelling that I’ve done for most of the last four years, but instead of using it for energy I’ll be working on applications in aquaculture.

This doesn’t mean that I’m leaving energy behind, at least for now – apart from anything else, if time permits there’s at least one more energy-related paper waiting to be written. But it will be valuable for me to diversify my skills and experience in a different area for a year.

Posted by simon in Professional updates, Reflective