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Gerrit Holl
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Gerrit Holl

Published: 24 May 2019

Round 3

SpaceMaster was my ticket to my PhD with Stefan Buehler at the Department of Space Science, Luleå University of Technology, Kiruna Space Campus, Kiruna, Sweden. I obtained experience working with level-1 satellite data, researching methods to retrieve information about clouds from satellite measurements, by combining measurements from different satellites in so-called "collocations". I enjoyed this position, and it gave me experience for my second postdoc, where I developed a Fundamental Climate Data Record (FCDR) to apply metrology to meteorological satellite measurements (

Now in 2019 I'm about to start at the Deutscher Wetterdienst (German Weather Service) in Offenbach, Germany. I will join a team to prepare for the utilisation of Meteosat Third Generation (MTG), the next generation European weather satellites that will operate 2021–2040.

How did I get here?

My personal SpaceMaster-history starts in the autumn of 2005. In the 3rd year of my Bachelor in Applied Physics, I was an Erasmus exchange student. From my home university (University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands) I went on an exchange to Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden. From my major in Applied Physics, I decided to spend one semester abroad. During this semester, I felt how great it is to study in a highly international environment. As it was the 3rd year of my Bachelor, I was starting to think about what I wanted to do next. I like physics, but the masters offered by my home university did not look particularly exciting for me. And I actually enjoyed studying abroad a lot more than studying at home. One chilly morning, it was probably around -10 degrees, I saw the advertisement for SpaceMaster partly in a town even further north, and from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do.

I applied to start in the year 2007/2008, and I was admitted. Two years of studies in a multi-disciplinary field in a highly international environment were starting. The time in Würzburg was great, but for me, a scientist, the best part started when we moved to Kiruna. I arrived on a mild and sunny day in winter, just -8 degrees, I was picked up from the railway station by a staff member and driven to my dorm. An excellent service starting an excellent new phase in my studies.

The academic environment in Kiruna was (and is) perfect for me. Engineers and scientists profit from the proximity to this corner of European space science and industry: the Institute of Space Physics, Esrange, Eiscat and others guarantee nearby expertise in space science, atmospheric science and balloon and rocket projects. The latter was of great help for the BEXUS project in which I took part: Stratospheric Census. And the science going on in Kiruna turned out to match exactly what I wanted to do: working with Earth observation from space, thus applying my physics background, my Spacemaster knowledge and skills, and my strong interest for the tiny part of Space that we as humans inhabit. And all of this in a small-scale environment, at an institute small enough to know everyone by name, with staff who are easy to reach and helpful. This was my place.

Despite the hard work in all the courses, there was time to have fun. Fun in Kiruna, but particularly outside Kiruna. Travel! Road trips! Many times I went to Lofoten, in winter, spring and summer, to enjoy the magnificent nature. And thus recharge for the next exam in the courses that might fit less to my personal preferences and skills - of course, those exist.

Spacemaster has given me the opportunity to spend two years in a highly inspirational environment among friendly, interesting and talented students from all over the world. I would not have had this opportunity in a "simple" master course, and I would not have discovered the specific field that I work in now. And so I return to where I started: as a PhD student at the department where I spent three out of four semesters of my Spacemaster studies. To learn further for what I really want to do with my life: science.