Congratulations to Oxford Earth Sciences faculty member Helen Johnson who has been promoted to Professor of Ocean and Climate Science by the University’s Recognition of Distinction panel. The process which recognises distinction, calls on referees with international standing in the field and scrutiny by a committee formed from across all of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division departments, together with senior external representatives. Professorships are awarded on the basis of exceptional leadership track record in research, service to the community and teaching.
Helen has been a member of Oxford Earth Sciences since 2007. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Physics and Meteorology at the University of Reading, before embarking on a 15 month project at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) at MIT. In 1999, Helen returned to the UK to undertake her PhD in the Oceanography Group at the University of Reading, studying the time-dependent dynamics of the thermohaline circulation, learning much about the dynamical adjustment of the overturning circulation to changes at high latitudes. After graduating, Helen continued her research as a postdoc at the University of Victoria, looking at smaller scale oceanography and the dynamics of flow through straits. This sparked a greater interest in the dynamics of the Arctic Ocean and its interaction with the rest of the global circulation and led to a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, and to her joining the University of Oxford as a lecturer in Earth Sciences in 2007.
Helen’s current research uses fluid dynamics, simple and state-of-the-art numerical models and ocean observations to improve our understanding of ocean circulation and the role it plays in the climate system. She addresses a wide range of questions, with a focus on the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Helen leads the new SNAP-DRAGON project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and US National Science Foundation (NSF). This flagship project brings together scientists in Oxford, Southampton, Reading, Liverpool and Oban, with colleagues across the US, to study the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean which stretches between the UK, Greenland and Canada. The project will provide new knowledge of this critical region and help to improve predictions of ocean and climate variability. In addition to leading this mammoth project, Helen continues to supervise postgraduate students as well as teach the Physical Climate System and Oceanography undergraduate courses and to co-lead our Oceanography 4th year undergraduate field trip to Bermuda.