Mechanical Engineering

Dr Helen Czerski

Dr Helen Czerski

Associate Professor

Dept of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Dec 2013

Research summary

Helen's research addresses the physics of breaking waves and bubbles at the ocean surface. These bubbles are an important component of the boundary between the ocean and the atmosphere, and the ultimate aim of these studies is to improve climate models as well as fundamental understanding of how the ocean works. Subsurface bubbles change underwater sound and light, help transfer gases from ocean to atmosphere (helping the ocean breathe) and also eject ocean material into the air.  She has spent months working on research ships in the Antarctic, the Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Arctic, and is an experienced field scientist.   In addition to the field campaigns, Helen runs laboratory experiments to study fundamental bubble physics and acoustics.

Helen has been a regular science presenter on the BBC for ten years, covering the physics of the natural world on both BBC2 and BBC4.  She is one of the three Royal Institution Christmas Lecturers in 2020.

Helen writes regularly about science, and her first book Storm in a Teacup won the Italian Asimov Prize and the Louis J. Battan Author prize from the American Meteorological Society.  She was awarded the Institute of Physics Gold Medal in 2018 for her work on physics communication, and an Honorary Fellowship of the British Science Association in 2020. She has been a Trustee of Royal Museums Greenwich since 2018, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, in 2020.

Teaching summary

Module Lead for Introduction to Thermodynamics & Fluid Mechanics: MECH0005

Lecturer on module ENGF0003: Mathematical Modelling and Analysis I.

I also co-ordinate the London Ocean Group


University of Cambridge
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2006
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 2001


Helen graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2001 with a BA and MSci in Natural Sciences (Physics), and again in 2006 with a PhD in experimental explosives physics. During this time she also worked at the University of Toronto in Canada and Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA. A continuing fascination with the world of small-scale phenomena that happen too fast for humans to perceive led her from explosives to the study of ocean bubble formation. After three and a half years spent working in the USA (at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Graduate School of Oceanography at URI), she returned to the UK in 2010 as a research fellow at the ISVR. Her interests are the optics and acoustics of bubbles, the structure of the bubble plumes in breaking waves, and the influence of bubbles on air-sea gas transfer.

She’s also passionate about public engagement on scientific topics, and has extensive experience of public lectures and demonstrations, as well as science media work.   You can find out more about that here.