Lois BakerFluids Section
Supervised by Dr Ali Mashayek

Prior to starting her PhD, Lois completed an undergraduate and masters degree in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. She joined the Centre for Doctoral Training in Mathematics of Planet Earth in September 2018. 

Why did you decide to study for a PhD at Imperial and join the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering?

After graduating from my masters degree in 2016, I spent 2 years away from academia, working in a digital marketing agency. The time out was valuable, and helped me to decide that a PhD was the right direction for my career. It was an easy decision to apply to the Centre for Doctoral Training in Mathematics of Planet Earth at Imperial! The programme really appealed to me as students are given a lot of freedom to choose projects from any Imperial department, and the cohort aspect of the CDT is very beneficial. I was also keen to make connections with the Grantham Institute, which I am now aligned with through the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP.

After a research masters year including taught courses in the Maths department and a short research project, I moved to the fluids section in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department where my group is based. This move has allowed me to keep important ties to the maths department while working in the multidisciplinary CEE department, which is directly relevant to my research interests. The fluids group has been very welcoming, and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with other students and staff here.

Tell us about your PhD project

My research is focused on the interaction of oceanic flows with sea floor topography. It has been recognised that mixing of waters across density surfaces in the deep ocean (diapycnal mixing) is essential for driving the global meridional overturning circulation, which itself has important implications for oceanic heat and tracer transport. A primary cause of this deep ocean mixing is topographically induced turbulence, generated when tidal or geostrophic flows in the ocean interact with submarine ridges and seamounts.

Such interactions effectively transfer energy from large scales to smaller scales at which mixing and dissipation can act. These scales are unresolvable in global climate models, although the processes have been shown to have significant impact on the large scale circulation. We are interested in quantifying the characteristics and spatial and temporal distribution of this mixing to obtain a better physical understanding and create better parametrisation of sub-gridscale dynamics in global climate models.

During my PhD I will use a variety of methods including high resolution simulations and idealised mathematical models to help understand topographically enhanced turbulence.

What are your first impressions of being a PhD student at Imperial?

I have so far found student life at Imperial a great contrast to my undergraduate studies. As a graduate student I try to treat my work as a job with fixed hours, allowing a better work-life balance. There is a great postgraduate community at Imperial, and lots of opportunities for getting involved in both academic and non-academic activities. I have been fortunate to travel a lot in the first year of my studies, including taking part in a research cruise from Iceland, and a 10 week summer school in the US. The world class research in the department allows great opportunities for students to collaborate and make connections internationally, which is an important part of the PhD.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 3-4 years?

The last year has been exciting and has allowed great personal development as a researcher - I am excited to continue this development and consolidate what I have learned so far into my PhD research. I am very much looking forward to presenting my work at a conference next year, and continuing to meet and work with interesting people in the field. I am also really enjoying helping as a graduate teaching assistant in undergraduate classes.