Last week Miguel Teixeira visited IDL, giving a talk in the “IDL Meetings” about “The impact of mountain waves in the atmosphere at local to global scales”. Miguel is a Lecturer at the Department of Meteorology of the University of Reading since 2012 and previously he worked as a researcher in IDL.

 

IDL – Miguel, could you tell us when did you work as a researcher in IDL and what did you research at the time?

Miguel Teixeira (MT) – I worked as a researcher in IDL from 2001 to 2006 as a Postdoc (supported by an FCT fellowship) and from 2006 to 2012 as a Research Fellow (with a public-sector non-permanent contract). My research did not differ much from the present one: I am primarily a theoretician, working on fluid dynamics problems using techniques from applied mathematics. At the time, I started by doing work on oceanic turbulence (the topic of my PhD thesis), and (by about 2003) moved to mountain meteorology, more specifically mountain waves (the topic of my recent presentation at IDL), because that was a field I found interesting, well-suited to be addressed using analytical techniques, and that allowed me to collaborate effectively with my supervisor Prof. Pedro Miranda.

IDL – When did you move to the University of Reading and how did that the opportunity appear?

MT – I started working at the Department of Meteorology of the University of Reading in September 2012. I became aware of the job opportunity via an online database called “jobs.ac.uk”. The job description seemed especially appropriate to my skills and abilities, being focused both on mountain meteorology and on boundary-layer meteorology. Since this was a permanent Lecturer position, it was an excellent opportunity, so I decided to apply, was interviewed in January 2012 along with two other shortlisted candidates, and knew the successful outcome about 3 months later.

IDL – According to you, what are the main differences between the research system in Portugal and the UK?

MT – In my opinion, the main difference is the size of the research community, which allows a higher level of both competition and collaboration within it. To give you an idea, at the Department of Meteorology of the University of Reading, we have more than 50 teaching staff, 80 Postdocs and 80 PhD students, all of them working on varied topics within meteorology. Obviously, this allows more extensive collaborations, and work to be developed both in mainstream and niche areas. The science funding system is extremely competitive in the United Kingdom, but sources of funding are numerous. There are separate funding agencies for different science fields. The funding body for Environmental Sciences, NERC, puts a strong emphasis on the societal impact of the science, so it is necessary to spend time thinking about how to best “sell” your science.

IDL – Do you still maintain collaborations within IDL? Do you visit the Institute often?

MT – Yes, I do maintain collaborations within IDL, especially with my former supervisor, Prof. Pedro Miranda, but also with an IDL collaborator from the University of Algarve, Prof. José Luis Argaín. We collaborate on flow over orography, focusing primarily on mountain waves, but also including smaller-scale flow over hills, where boundary layer effects and turbulence become more important. I visit IDL approximately three times each year, during my holidays in Easter, Summer and Christmas. These visits are not only for pursuing collaborations, but also for personal reasons, to visit old friends and acquaintances at IDL and at the University of Lisbon in general.

IDL – You are Associate Editor of the open-access journal Frontiers — Atmospheric Science. Can you tell us what the advantages of publishing in an open-access journal are?

MT – I became Associate Editor of this relatively new open-access journal when it was established in 2013, by invitation of Prof. Luis Gimeno, from the University of Vigo. The advantages of publishing in an open-access journal are undoubtedly the wider reach of the research, since the public can access scientific papers without an expensive institutional or individual subscription. Open-access journals are becoming increasingly popular, and NERC now demands that all research outputs from projects it funds are published open-access. Recently (in November 2016), I oversaw the publication of a special issue of Frontiers – Atmospheric Science on “The Atmosphere over Mountainous Regions”, along with colleagues from the UK Met Office, University of Innsbruck, University of Iceland and McGill University. When I became an Associate Editor, I also published an invited inaugural paper entitled “The physics of orographic gravity wave drag”.

IDL – Can you summarize the achievements of your research in the past years and why are they important for the rest of us?

MT – Over the recent past years, I have been developing work on mountain meteorology, primarily mountain waves. Since September 2013, I have been leading a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant with the title “Global to Local Impacts of Flow over Orography”. In its context, I have pursued my own research, but have also been supervising two PhD students as lead supervisor and one as co-supervisor. The first two students are investigating the impact of shear on gravity wave drag, with the ultimate aim of improving the representation (parameterization) of this force in weather and climate prediction models used operationally; and mountain wave breaking in flows with directional wind shear, and the consequent generation of turbulence. This has implications for the improvement of methods used to forecast Clear-Air Turbulence in the atmosphere, which is a serious aviation safety hazard. The co-supervised student is investigating the impact of mountain wave parameterizations at different resolutions on meteorological model biases.

IDL – What do you miss the most about living in Portugal?

MT – Apart from the more clement climate and old friends (I had spent virtually all my life in Lisbon – excluding the 3.5 years of my PhD – before starting my job in Reading), I miss some of the freedom I had for organizing my activities over the year. The multiple tasks I am in charge of (exam preparation, writing and supervision of PhD projects, MSc projects, final year undergraduate projects, acting as a tutor, among many others) are very useful for developing my CV, but often take too much time, leaving not enough time for research. When those activities are not so well organized, they place a lighter burden on one’s time. For someone who already has a well-established research strategy, this additional freedom can be an advantage. I would consider the possibility of returning to Portugal, if the opportunity arose.