Reanalysis of Scottish mountain snow – thesis submitted

On the 29th January 2016 I submitted my PhD thesis for examination. This is the first step towards being awarded a doctorate, the next is for my thesis to be examined. At the University of Edinburgh we have one internal and one external examiner. These both consider the thesis over a minimum period of approximately six weeks, after which an oral exam takes place. This oral exam, the viva, happens behind closed doors between the candidate and the two examiners. Traditionally, the external examiner is primarily concerned with subject matter and the internal examiner that the requirements of the school have been met. My viva is set for late March. Like most candidates, I’m uncertain about whether the work I have done warrants the award of a PhD; this is known as imposter syndrome. However, I trust my supervisor and he seemed happy enough with me submitting.

Until examination, I’m not going to talk too much about the contents of my thesis. The short answer is it contains a data section based on my Snow Survey of Great Britain work, a comparison between snow cover and NAO index and some snow accumulation and melt modelling. The purpose of this blog post is as a short self congratulatory/relief note and to thank those who’ve helped me get this far. So, repeated here is the acknowledgements section of my thesis:

I extend great thanks to my primary supervisor, Richard Essery, for his insight, humour and support over the past few years. I’m grateful for the effort he has expended in steering me through my research and integrating me into the wider research community. My second supervisor, Nick Hulton, provided excellent discussions on catchment snow modelling, while Richard took a sabbatical in 2013. Both Neil Stuart and Kate Heal have given excellent encouragement; Neil in the role of advisor and Kate as an employer on a parallel research project. Lynne Chambers, Shona Hogg and the Met Office Edinburgh staff were welcoming and supportive during the mundane work of digitising Snow Survey of Great Britain records. My thanks go to the Natural Environment Research Council, without whose funding I would not have been able to undertake this research.

I am especially lucky to have been part of the large research community in the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. In particular I’d like to thank Tim Reid, John Stevenson, Mark Naylor, Kit Carruthers and Emma Knowland for taking an interest and sharing their wisdom. Outside of the university, Neil Nutt and Janez Sušnik have kept me focused on the bigger research picture and held me to account for my choices. On a technical note, the computing staff of the School of GeoSciences, particularly Magi Hagdorn, Justin MacNeil and Ross Taylor, have offered useful advice on data storage and programming. When doing technical computing work, there are few who could survive without the community supplied answers on Stack Exchange; my thanks go to the often anonymous answerers of questions. The School of GeoSciences’ administration staff do an excellent job of looking after students, especially Nicki Reid, Helena Sim, Rosie Maccagnano, Lisa Thorburn and Graham Walker.

I’m really glad my brother, Jeremy Spencer, offered to proof read this thesis, an unenviable task. Finally, thanks and love go to my partner, Laura Burnett, and son, Artie Spencer-Burnett, for keeping me grounded and helping me remember there is life outside research!

As a fun exercise I decided to make a word cloud of my thesis, you can see it below:

Word cloud of the most commonly used words in my thesis. Larger words occur more frequently.

Word cloud of the most commonly used words in my thesis. Larger words occur more frequently.

I was tempted to make this using R, but the leg work in getting the tm and wordcloud packages to manage my raw LaTeX files wasn’t appealing. In the end I used Jason Davies online word cloud creator, which let me export as svg and play around a little with the formatting. Prior to creating the word cloud, I removed some LaTeX commands (e.g. \begin) manually. I combined individual chapters together (which were in their own files in separate folders) using Bash:

# Copy your files from multiple directories to one
cp dir/dir/*/*.tex

# Combine your files into one
cat *.tex > all.tex