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Laura Gilchrist (BSc Meteorology 2002)

Meet Laura; who, after graduating from the University of Reading, landed her dream job with the BBC. Here, Laura gives us a glimpse inside her working life and shares memories of her student days – the thunderstorms, the lessons learnt, the graveyard shifts at the student radio station and more…

Biography

I am a specialist forecaster working for the Met Office at the BBC Weather Centre. It is currently located at Television Centre in west London, but we are moving very soon to our new home in Broadcasting House in central London. I lead a team of broadcast meteorologists who work with me at the Weather Centre, and I also provide briefings to presenters working across the UK for BBC Nations and Regions. I also get to do broadcasting on BBC local radio, and occasionally presenting the weather on television!

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

I had wanted to be a forecaster since age 13, and back then had already set my sights on the University of Reading; the Department of Meteorology was the most highly-rated of its kind in the country. At the time, the alternatives were few, but I was in no doubt that Reading would be top of my list regardless. The Department of Meteorology has since been awarded a prestigious Regius Professorship by Her Majesty the Queen, marking her Diamond Jubilee.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

I loved the University’s Whiteknights campus, the green space was a definite attraction. Many of the halls of residence sat on or around the edge of Whiteknights, making it easy to get around on foot or by bike. The town sits on the River Thames too, and has quick links to London for sampling night life a bit further afield. For me it was also close enough to home, but far enough away to justify living in halls! (Pictured right: Laura on her first day at University, in Wells Hall)

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

University is a fantastic experience, so make sure you have a really great time as a student. Don’t however lose sight of what you are ultimately there to achieve. I think it is important to set the right balance between studying and partying, and to be careful not to party beyond one’s means. As dull as that sounds, university can also be a very expensive experience; keep track of your finances and seek advice if you need it. I had a part-time job, which definitely helped.

After graduating from Reading, how did you get to where you are now?

Three months after I graduated in 2002 I landed an amazing job with the Met Office working as a Broadcast Assistant at the BBC Weather Centre. In 2007 I finally achieved my dream of training as weather forecaster, which I did at the Met Office College in Exeter. After that I spent nearly two years working as a forecaster for MeteoGroup, a rival private weather company! It was excellent experience but before long I was back at my favourite place, the BBC Weather Centre. I returned as a Broadcast Assistant in 2009 and was promoted into my current role at the start of 2011. (Pictured right: Laura on her graduation day, London Road campus)

What is the best bit about your job?

I love working in the exciting, fast-paced media environment that also allows me to indulge in my love of weather and meteorology. Get me started talking about weather and you’ll find it difficult to shut me up! Radio broadcasting is the favourite bit of the shift; I worked for Junction 11 when I was at Reading, which was priceless experience for my CV and for what I do today.

How has the University of Reading helped in your chosen career path?

By having the Regius Professorship-holding, internationally-renowned Department of Meteorology; it is a jewel which I hope Reading will always value. I wanted to follow my BSc with an MSc at Reading, but they advised that the MSc content was condensed from the BSc, so rather than study elsewhere, I decided to aim for the working world instead. Not having an MSc hasn’t put me at a disadvantage, so it was valuable advice. (Pictured right: Laura at the top of Whistler Mountain, British Columbia)

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

The meteorology community is a close-knit one, and I’m often finding colleagues at the Met Office who studied at Reading. I even work with a couple of them! Despite my obsession with weather, my favourite moments were when I was able to spend the two hours of the Junction 11 graveyard shift playing my favourite tracks to the few people who may have been listening; it was the perfect escapism from the pages and pages of equations! But the summer terms did provide some fantastic thunderstorms…

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