When studies make a real impact – fighting climate change with Atmospheric Sciences

The Atmospheric Sciences Master’s Programme at the University of Helsinki offers applicable knowledge to solve global challenges such as climate change. One of the future solvers of global challenges is Anna Nikandrova.

Anna Nikandrova grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was not too worried about the climate change when growing up and it seemed distant to her. Her opinion changed drastically when she began studying the subject at a university level. Now Nikandrova is a doctoral student in Atmospheric Sciences in University of Helsinki.

“The more I studied it the more I understood how big of a problem it is”, says Nikandrova.

Climate change is still an underestimated subject in 2018. In Nikandrova’s opinion, the key to slowing down the climate change is science.

“There are already more extreme events such as tornados and heat waves which take people’s lives. We need better monitoring and forecasting technologies to notify the population and authorities in advance.”

Even though the research and studying of climate change has evolved remarkably over the past years there are still many places left unstudied.

“We still need a lot of different observations to study how ecosystems will respond to the changing climate, especially in remote places”, thinks Nikandrova.

When asked about some easy steps anyone could do to slow down the climate change, Nikandrova has a sharp answer:

“Taking your bicycle or public transport instead of your own car and being a vegetarian once or twice per week. Recycling of course.

“The first step is to fully understand what is happening”, ponders Nikandrova on how science can slow down the climate change. This implies that the more people study the climate change the more chances we have to find out and influence on climate change.

Vast field for all the natural scientists

Nikandrova started her doctoral studies five years ago in University of Helsinki. She thinks one of the best features of University of Helsinki is that there are no hierarchy between the students and professors.

By that, she means that questions are more than welcome and professors are interested in their students’ thoughts and opinions. In Nikandrova’s words, that is horizontal learning. The faculty is multicultural but the same working language brings them together.

As a part of her doctoral studies, Nikandrova teaches the Master’s students in Atmospheric Sciences. She tells that the Master’s Programme can be easily adapted based on the student’s own interests.

Students of this Master’s Programme become experts in one of the six study lines: aerosol physics, geophysics of the hydrosphere, meteorology, biochemical cycles, remote sensing or atmospheric chemistry and analysis.

“It combines meteorology, physics, chemistry, biology and forestry so there’s a wide variety what you can choose from for your studies”, summarises Nikandrova. This Master’s Programme provides an excellent option for those who seek to make a difference in this world.

“Atmospheric Sciences is such a vast field so all the natural scientists can fit in”, tells Nikandrova.

The teaching methods vary from traditional courses with lectures and exercises to intensive field courses.

 “During intensive courses we look into real scientific research questions without any predefined answer and students work in groups to find an answer”, says Nikandrova about the practical side of this programme.

Most of the intensive courses take place in the Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station, where the scientists carry out cutting-edge science daily. The station is located in the middle of state-owned forests and peatlands, approximately 235 kilometers from Helsinki.  

Next step: European Space Agency

Nikandrova’s scientific career started from her hometown St. Petersburg where she studied Hydrometeorology. After that, she got a Master’s Degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. She was curious to know more and her academic path led to doctoral studies in University of Helsinki.

Nikandrova wishes that the next step in her career path would lead her to the European Space Agency. “European Space Agency is now launching a lot of new satellites. Satellite data enables to monitor air quality and important processes in the climate system, so we will be able to ‘see’ small-scale processes that we could not observe before”, tells Nikandrova. “A lot of things are going to change in the field and it would be exciting to be in the center of it”. Nikandrova is hopeful that science will come up with something that will slow down the climate change.

Learn more about the Master’s Programme in Atmospheric Sciences