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Women in science

At the heart of the Met Office are people. By valuing the individual differences that people bring, the Met Office is developing a diverse workforce that is representative of society so that our work is relevant to the community and customers we serve. Part of this diversity includes gender balance and, although women are often underrepresented in science, at the Met Office women are making vital contributions to the global understanding of weather and climate. Here are just a few examples.

Laura Paterson, Chief Meteorologist

When Laura recently became one of our Chief Meteorologists it was a great milestone as it was the first time a woman has taken on this role. The position of Chief Meteorologist is pivotal to the success of the Met Office and is seen by many in the global meteorological community as the pinnacle of the career as a meteorologist. Apart from the key role they play in the protection, prosperity and well-being of the UK and our citizens abroad, by leading a team of highly skilled service delivery teams they act as a conduit for pulling through science capability into excellent customer service. The Chiefs also have an important role to play in the Senior Leadership team, as well as ensuring the best of the Met Office is channelled into customer experience.

The team of Chief Meteorologists holds ultimate responsibility for the National Severe Weather Warning Service and leads the Met Office management of high impact weather. Before taking up her current role, Laura was Deputy Chief Meteorologist. Before that she worked for three years supporting the Met Office’s Chief Executive and wider Executive Team as Private Secretary to the Chief Executive. Before that she worked as a meteorologist in the Met Office’s Operations Centre, and onsite, at several RAF bases around the UK and the world. Laura also completed a five month detachment as a meteorologist to the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Base in 2011. She is a Chartered Meteorologist and sits on the Working Group for the Cooperation of European Forecasters.


Felicity Liggins, STEM Manager and Applied Scientist

Felicity graduated with a Masters in Geology from the University of Southampton. After this, she joined the Environment Agency, working in hydrometry and telemetry and flood risk management. Felicity joined the Met Office’s Climate Consultancy team in 2008, helping organisations identify the challenges and opportunities of extreme weather and climate change. Today she works part-time in Climate Services helping organisations around the world make decisions relating to climate variability and climate change impacts. Felicity is currently working on European research projects and a DfID funded project in Ethiopia.

Felicity also leads the Met Office’s outreach programme to young people. On joining the Met Office, Felicity became a STEM Ambassador to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to young people. To help this, she undertook a Masters in Science Communication at the University of the West of England. Having enhanced the Met Office’s outreach, Felicity now leads an award-winning programme of STEM activities, coordinating a network of over 270 Ambassadors who deliver varied events across the UK and beyond reaching thousands of young people each year. This includes visiting schools, giving talks, running workshops, providing careers advice, attending community events, and holding Met Office Science Camps at our HQ in Exeter. Felicity’s two roles are different but essentially both involve finding creative ways to engage people with Met Office science and make it useful.


Annette Sercombe, Business Group Security Architect

Annette has been at the Met Office for 10 years. She works as a Security Architect with responsibility for transitioning the Met Office commercial estate using an innovative delivery mechanism and a new cloud-based architecture. She is solely responsible for managing the security requirements in the change programme, providing advice and guidance to the Senior Leadership Team and ensuring that they are informed about the risk of delivery from a security perspective. In her previous role, Annette designed and implemented new and innovative approaches to Cyber Security and represented the Met Office at Big Data Analytics (White Hall Media 2015) on the use of analysing large data sets to deliver actionable security intelligence for the business. She is on the external advisory panel for Computing at Plymouth University and was a keynote speaker at the Women in STEM Symposium last year.


Joelle Buxmann, Senior Scientist, Remote Sensing Systems, R&D - Lightning, Clouds and Aerosols

Joelle’s main interest is remote sensing of aerosols, water vapour and trace gases including nitrogen dioxide and ozone. During her PhD. in environmental physics, Joelle designed and built novel instruments to detect trace gases in the field as well as during laboratory studies. Soon after starting to work for the Met Office in Observations R&D in 2013 she went on an expedition to Antarctica on the research vessel Polarstern in collaboration with the University of Heidelberg. Her work focused on detecting halogens (e.g. Bromine and Iodine) from sea salt aerosols, which can cause ozone depletion and transfer toxic mercury compounds into the food chain. She currently leads the implementation of sun photometers (an electronic device that measures direct and indirect sunlight) and product development within a novel network for aerosol detection across the UK. The network of collocated sun photometers and lidars monitors volcanic ash in case of an eruption and supports the recommendations given by the Met Office Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Joelle works in close collaboration with the national and international scientific communities, setting-up the structures to submit sun photometer data to the AErosolROboticNETwork, a global network providing information including total aerosol amounts and size distribution. She has also worked with the Met Office observation based research and satellite team to implement a Sun Photometer temporarily on the Cape Verde Islands.


Dr Helene Hewitt, Science Fellow and Manager of Ocean Modelling group

As a Met Office Science Fellow and the manager of the Ocean Modelling group, Helene leads the development of configurations of both the global ocean and the UK shelf seas in support of weather and climate prediction. In particular, she plays a key role in leading the development of high resolution ocean models that enable the representation of important mesoscale processes in the ocean and represents the Met Office on international committees on ocean modelling.

Helene began her scientific career studying Maths at the University of Cambridge before completing a PhD on mixing in the Western Equatorial Pacific at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. She joined the Met Office in 1996 and has worked for the last twenty years in the area of ocean and climate modelling. Helene has two children and juggles family and career by working part-time.


Dr Helen Wells, Group Leader for Science and Meteorology

In her role as Group Leader for Science and Meteorology, Helen leads a team of around 70 operational weather forecasters and scientists who are involved in the development and delivery of Met Office services to industry. She works closely with her team to transform the way we integrate our science and operational meteorology into our industry services ensuring that our services use the world-leading capability and skills of the Met Office in weather and climate. Helen began her career at the Met Office in 2002 as a graduate scientist working on modelling flow over mountains. The Met Office sponsored her to work on a PhD with the University of Leeds which she completed in 2007. In 2010 she began working part-time and subsequently moved to the aviation applications science team as Science Manager developing new science in support of air traffic control, airlines and airports. After maternity leave, she returned to work as Head of Applied Weather Science, leading a team of 45 scientists to develop services for various sectors including defence, aviation and energy. She moved into her current role in 2016.