Christopher Emersic Official Website
Home A personal account of my experiences during my career Read about my research (Coming soon!) Want to learn some background science?  Here it is in simple terms (Coming soon!) See all the presentations I've given on visits or at conferences (Coming soon!) Read about my involvement with the media and how to contact me (Coming soon!) Read my blog thoughts about random lightning things that I come across A friendly chat forum for the atmospheric electricity community and general public where we can talk all things thunderstorm and beyond (Coming soon!) Some links to other webpages of interest
The University of Manchester My first foray into areas outside lightning and thunderstorm science
So my next postdoc position was back where I started in Manchester.  This time, the group had moved from the lovely Sackville Building into refurbished engineering space.  I quickly found myself an apartment and got settled in.  It's a lot easier to do things when you know the area—and I'd spent the better part of a decade here previously.  I had to get used to rainy weather again; in fact, the first time I opened the umbrella I'd taken to the US, it produced a huge cloud of dry desert dust—I'd never used it! While my PhD involved using the F10 cold room, this had all now been decommissioned and a new facility—the Manchester Ice Cloud Chamber (MICC)—had been built in the new location (see my website about the fall tube).  It was commissioned in 2007 about the time I arrived in Oklahoma, but had not been used as much as perhaps would have been liked in that time. This project was the first time in my career that I'd departed from my primary area of expertise and interest and wasn't actually working on something associated with lightning.  I was very fortunate to have this new position and was grateful for the opportunity!  So now I was working on cloud physics processes involving ice—certainly an interesting departure.  The first project involved looking at better quantifying the aggregation efficiency of ice crystals.  Essentially, I'd make ice crystals at the top of the fall tube and they would fall down, sticking together in the process to form chains.  These are essentially miniature snowflakes which grew to about 1 mm in size.  I certainly felt right at home using this facility.  Cold rooms are certainly unusual pieces of equipment, but I've had years of experience with them. I stayed on at the university on numerous short postdoc contracts to look at a range of things including raindrop breakup, ice nucleation, the Hallett-Mossop process and a number of similar projects—some using high speed video cameras which I became good with.  One of the more unique elements of my time in Manchester relative to other postdoc positions was the opportunity to work with a number of students.  My daily activities gradually involved increasing amounts of lab management, including the equipment and overseeing many experiments that went on there.  While I enjoyed conducting the practical experimental research, I realised that this situation was a good opportunity to learn to supervise students at a range of levels and support their development.  There were many undergraduate student projects; some worked on their own, others worked with me using the larger cloud chamber facility.  In total, I've worked with a dozen or so undergraduates, a couple of summer students, and about three PhD students.  While my involvement in the formal direction of their projects was somewhat limited as a postdoc and informal advisor, I felt that in many cases, my interactions with them have been mutually beneficial and that I had improved their well-being.  They’d often come to me for advice and support, so I must have been doing something right.  When working with students on experiments, I'd often try to liven up some of the more tedious and monotonous experiments.  For example, we'd often enjoy playing the "what does the ice crystal look like" game which involved looking at the images of ice crystals that the probes detected and trying to see how many other things they looked like—very much like the psychiatrists ink- splodges which look like butterflies etc.  From my own experiences in the US, I realised that students would be more focussed and productive if they were happy.  I also enjoyed providing them with lots of advice about how to produce good written reports for their lab experiments.  The undergraduates in particular would display such a positive reaction when I explained to them how to structure lab reports and what general content should be in each section.  I like to think I had a positive impact; the closest I've come to measuring it was to learn that one of the students I worked with achieved the highest score in their year for their written lab report. While I may not have had time in the lab at work, when I first returned to the UK, I spent all my spare time out of working hours writing the paper from the research I performed from my NSF funded project.  It was certainly difficult working two effective jobs, but it was worth the effort in the end when the paper was published.  I also had some money left over on my grant to pay to attend the AGU conference in San Francisco in 2009.  It was wonderful to be able to head back to the US and meet with all my friends and colleagues who gather there each year.  I even managed to get an upgrade to business class on the way back somehow—perfect for an international overnight flight!  Yet after all this postdoc time, I'd still not written up much of my PhD work.  There was neither the time nor necessary support during this postdoc position to do this, and I'd often sacrifice my holiday time to make progress—such is my love for lightning science. During the early time when I returned to the UK, my PhD supervisor, Clive, retired from the university after being there for over 40 years.  We had a lovely retirement party for him and he also hosted a great BBQ at his house.  Prior to this, we had some of our electrification colleagues visit us from Cordoba in Argentina.  It provided the opportunity to conduct a few interesting thunderstorm electrification experiments like I used to back in the old cold rooms, albeit with limitations, as the new facility was never designed for such work.  It was a great month though and felt like old times. I also had many engagements with the media for a range of documentaries during these few years.  We would often be contacted, either because of the ice facility, or for Clive's and my knowledge of lightning, and I became increasingly experienced working with film crews, being visual, and articulating the science using some very nice demonstrations.  My favourite experience was when I was involved with a film crew for BBC1's The One Show in which we did a piece on thunder.  I proposed we blew things up to visually demonstrate its power, and so we went down to the high current labs in Abingdon in Oxford and conducted a few experiments I thought up.  I suggested producing shockwaves to blow out candle flames and we also blew up paper cylinders—and it worked great.  It was all filmed in high speed and produced some of the most amazing video footage I've seen.  That experience was one of the highlights of my time in Manchester!  You can see some of the video I recorded on my media engagements page. While being at Manchester working on cloud physics was a nice excursion that I've appreciated and hope to continue to work on in the future, there's no doubt that my greatest interests will always lie with thunderstorms and lightning.  I'm currently in the process of making efforts to return to that area of science.  Now that Clive has retired, as his last student, I feel the onus is on me to continue to lead our field in thunderstorm electrification laboratory studies, and I also want to increase the amount of lightning research undertaken in the UK.  Given the opportunities I've had in the US, I'm now in a position to expand my research interests and work in related areas of the field.  We'll see what the future brings!
Postdoc 4 summary I returned back to Manchester University and had the opportunity to work on a number of cloud physics projects using the new fall tube facility.  I worked with many students at different levels of their education and generally managed the running of the facility.  During the many short contracts there, I investigated the aggregation of ice crystals, the breakup of raindrops, and even did some filming of microscopic ice phenomena using a high speed camera.  I was also involved in several media productions and documentaries on topics ranging from snow and ice, to thunder!
A few more probes attached to the bottom of the fall tube The scattering chamber used to find crystal phase functions Looking up from the bottom of the 10 m tall fall tube Beautiful sectored plate ice crystal replicated in formvar, taken in 2012 My Fourth Postdoc Experience My Fourth Postdoc Experience 2010 Left: Christopher Emersic; Right: Clive Saunders next to the Manchester ice fall-tube 3 cloud particle imaging probes sampling from the fall tube The wind tunnel originally used by Clive Saunders
Clive with the wind tunnel back in the day Clive placing a drop into the air flow of the wind tunnel back in the day
 Dr Christopher Emersic