A warm welcome to our new PhD candidate Laust Færch

Laust recently joined the CIRFA team to do his PhD with us. During the upcoming three years, his work will focus on Mapping and Modeling of Iceberg Occurrences in the Barents Sea.

Photo: Bodil Færch.

Laust, where are you from, and what is your study and/or work background?

I grew up on the island of Funen in Denmark. I moved to Copenhagen in 2012 to study and obtained a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the technical university of Denmark (DTU) in 2018.

During my studies, I specialized in space technology and developed a deep interest in radar remote sensing as it perfectly combines all the subjects I find interesting within electrical engineering (eg. wireless systems, signal processing, machine learning, computer vision, and space technology). After finishing my degree, I spent the next 2 years working as an engineer before I decided to try something new in another country.

What motivates you to spend time with your research?

As an engineer, my main motivation is solving tough technical challenges that haven’t been solved before. It is like a big puzzle where you have to find the pieces in previous publications, and somehow try to make them fit together to solve your own problems. At the same time, I feel like I have landed in the middle of a field in hasty development. The amount of earth observation satellites being launched at the moment is unprecedented, and we have never had so much data at our fingertips as now. We just need to find ways to translate this data into actual information, and being there in the forefront utilizing these possibilities is definitely exciting and motivating.

How will your research make a difference for people and companies that are operating in icy waters?

The topic of my research is mapping and modeling iceberg occurrences offshore Norway. At best, a satellite image can tell us about the current conditions on the ground. More realistically, they tell us about yesterday’s conditions (due to delay in data handling, etc.). People on the ground want to know the conditions 1 hour, or one day into the future.If we can measure something reliably (in my case iceberg positions) across thousands of images, the information we obtain can be used to train models that forecast future conditions.

My project is a small piece in this puzzle, but hopefully, down the road, my research will contribute to the improvement of forecasting models and help us all assess and mitigate the risks that icebergs pose in the Arctic.

What benefits do you expect for your professional development?

As a PhD, I have the opportunity to dive deep into my subject. This is something that wouldn’t be possible to the same extent if I was working in a private company. In that sense, a PhD will enable me to develop my technical skills like no job I can imagine. At the same time, it is an amazing learning environment, where you get the chance to learn from and work with some of the world’s top experts.

What do you like about Tromsø and why did you choose to come here?

Coming to Tromsø was a bit due to coincidence. For a long time I had sought job opportunities abroad, but actually, I was mainly looking for jobs in South East Asia as I had previously lived in Singapore for a short time and wanted to go back there. But when I saw the job offer from UiT and read some of the research previously published by the group, I knew this was the right place for me. Living in a city where you can see mountains from your window and go cross-country skiing 8 months a year is just an awesome bonus.

A cargo vessel is navigating through dense sea ice. Photo: Alex Perz/Unsplash.
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