Chiara Ferdynus, Research Experience Placement student

M.Eng Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Supervised by Dr Andrew Newton and Dr Donal Mullan


In this year full of uncertainty and cancelled opportunities I was lucky enough to find an internship that allowed me to work on an interesting project over summer.

A big reason why I decided to study engineering was the wide range of applications, so I was excited when I heard about the opportunity to put my skills to practice in the field of climate change research. I worked on a project called: “Modelling historical ice phenology data and implications for future environmental change”.

The first couple of weeks I spent processing and structuring data sets that contained the freeze-up, break-up and open water time of over 1500 lakes and rivers in the northern hemisphere. What may sound like tedious work to some people, as a person who loves to organise and analyse everything, I genuinely enjoyed this part of the work. Throughout the entire project I was able to use Python, a programming language I did not have much practical experience in prior to my internship, hence I was very eager to develop my knowledge in that area as well.

In the second step I was then able to conduct statistical analysis on these data sets (using the Mann-Kendall Test) in order to further investigate if there were trends in the amount of time these sites have been frozen or not. This would then be a useful indicator to show if and how climate change is affecting (and potentially will be affecting) the open water season of these sites. These changes can have a significant impact on the ecosystem and life in these areas. To visualize my findings, I created multiple graphs not only of the data as a whole but also of the different individual regions that clearly indicated how the ice seasons have changed over the past 200 years.

Even though my supervisor was working from Ireland while I was staying in Aberdeen, I found it very easy to collaborate either through Skype calls or weekly updates via email. I very much appreciated the amount of trust and independence I was given while always feeling supported in case any issues came up. The chance to get an insight into an area of research that is so different from what I usually spend my time on within my degree was not only refreshing but also inspiring. Seeing that with my background I can also contribute to a completely different field was a very rewarding experience and opened my eyes to the variety of possibilities I have moving forward in my career.