Ayesha Tandon – Climate Science Communicator, UK Met office

Ayesha Tandon Graduated in MSci Natural Sciences, 2019. She’s currently a Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met office. Find out the steps she took to get into this exciting career. 

Ayesha Tandon, Exeter Alumn and Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met office

I work as a Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met Office, where my job involves helping members of the government and general public to easily understand important aspects of climate science. I started my career at the Met Office as in intern in the summer of 2018 and loved it! I continued to work part-time at the Met Office throughout my Masters year, and this experience helped me to get an internship at the climate journalism group Carbon Brief during the summer of 2019, where I was focusing on improving my writing. Following this internship, I began to work for the Met Office full-time. Climate change is a hugely pressing issue; human activity is already causing large-scale changes to the climate system that are likely to cause more severe impacts in the coming years.

The Met Office Hadley Centre produces world-leading research on climate science, but this is often highly technical and can be difficult to understand. This is where Climate Science Communicators come in! We write paper summaries, produce briefings for government, draft text for the Met Office website, and design infographics to explain climate research more easily, allowing people without a scientific background to understand important pieces of science. It is very difficult for anyone to care about something that they cannot fully understand it, so this work is crucial for bridging the gap between scientists and policy makers.

“The Met Office produces world-leading research on climate science, but this is often highly technical and can be difficult to understand. This is where Climate Science Communicators come in! We write paper summaries, produce briefings for government, draft text for the Met Office website, and design infographics to explain climate research more easily, allowing people without a scientific background to understand important pieces of science.”

Finding this job was a very happy accident. When I started my degree in Natural Sciences in 2015, I was completely clueless about which area of science I might want to pursue. I was drawn to a range of different topics throughout my degree, but climate science turned my head in third year and that was the one that stuck. I also enjoyed writing and editing for university newspapers and journals throughout my degree, and was always on the lookout for some elusive job that could combine these two interests. My application for an internship at the Met Office in Climate Science Communication was very last minute. Some of my friends were finishing off their applications, and I thought ‘Why not?’ I did not think that it would come to anything, and was torn between which of the multiple internships I should apply for. In hindsight, I feel very lucky that I picked the right internship, because I have loved my work at the Met Office!

My favourite part of the job, as cheesy as it sounds, is that it allows me to share my love of climate science with people! This job allows me to talk to world-leading scientists about cutting-edge research, and then think of creative, informative ways to share their work with the rest of the world. The first thing that I do whenever I start a project is to read whatever I can on the subject, and talk to the scientists leading the research, so my knowledge of climate science has ballooned over the past two years! I am usually working on multiple projects at one time, and a single project can take anywhere from hours to years to complete!

“I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Exeter because it is such an international hub of climate science research and expertise.”

I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Exeter because it is such an international hub of climate science research and expertise. I did not have any interest in climate science when I first joined the University, but I was surrounded by so much incredible research at Exeter that climate science quickly became my favourite topic. Plenty of the lecturers at the University have links with the Met Office, and many of the third year group projects were strongly linked to Met Office science and research. I even attended the James Lovelock Climate Science conference “a three day event that attracted people from around the world” on the Exeter University campus!

When I joined the University, I had no idea about which area of science I might be interested in, and so I really appreciated that this course allowed me to take my time to explore my options. The first year was an intensive year studying all sciences, maths, and computer science to get us up to scratch, so that by the time we reached second year, there was a huge choice of modules available to us. Those who knew what they wanted to study were able to specialise straight away, but others (like me) were able to spend a couple of years exploring different options. I started off my degree with an interest in nanotechnology, and came out of it specialising in climate science! I can’t think of many other courses that would have allowed this.

“The most important skills that I learned at University were definitely the soft skills that you pick up without realising, rather than specific facts or equations learned in lectures.”

The most important skills that I learned at University were definitely the soft skills that you pick up without realising, rather than specific facts or equations learned in lectures. For example, every year throughout my degree, we did a group project. I will be the first to admit that I found group projects quite stressful, and that I did not always look forward them. However, they taught me a huge amount about organising a team of people, about adapting my working style to fit with my course mates, and about playing to everyone’s strengths to get the best possible outcome from a project. I now work in a very diverse team of people at the Met Office and really enjoy it!

It is difficult to jump straight into a career; it is much easier to do it in lots of little steps. So keep your eye open for exciting opportunities and get involved in everything that you can at University because these things will give you experience, introduce you to interesting people, and be great stepping stones towards the next stage of your career. I didn’t enjoy every single one of the stepping stones that I took, but each one gave me some experience that I could put towards my next stepping stone. These extra things are great to talk about in interviews, and can really set you apart from everyone else. I think that this advice is probably relevant for the vast majority of careers.

My stepping stones towards my current job were:

  1. Writing for the student newspaper Exepose, and the Exeter Undergraduate STEM Journal in my first two years of University. These were publications that any Exeter student could contribute to, and were a nice easy first step
  2. In my third year of University, I joined the board editors for both publications. Again, this was a fairly easy step because I had experience with the publications
  3. I started a personal blog to develop my writing style a bit more. I didn’t publicise it to anyone, and just used it to explore different topics and writing styles. I now really enjoy writing for this blog.
  4. Internship at the Met Office in the summer of my third year. This was probably the biggest step, but it helped that I had a lot of experience to draw on. This internship was amazing, and it taught me a lot about climate science and its communication. I was then invited to continue working part-time throughout my final year at university.
  5. Internship at Carbon brief in the summer of my graduation. I used a piece from my blog, and my knowledge from the Met Office in my application
  6. Full-time job at the Met Office

I hope that I will be able to stay at the Met Office for at least a few more years! I recently completed media training and have started giving interviews and talks, which I am really enjoying. I also want to do much more outreach at schools to engage children more with climate change, so I have also applied to be a STEM Ambassador! I’m not sure at the moment if I want to pursue communications with government, outreach with the general public or both! That said, I also do miss getting stuck into maths and science, so there definitely is a possibility that I might do a PhD in the future. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I want to do in the future, but I love where I am at right now!