Helen Czerski

Helen Czerski is a physicist and oceanographer and was one of the three 2020 Christmas Lecturers.

Helen Czerski in the Ri lecture theatre
2020 Christmas Lecturer Helen Czerski, Credit: Paul Wilkinson

Helen Czerski is a physicist and oceanographer with a passion for science, sport, books, creativity, hot chocolate and investigating the interesting things in life.

Helen graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2001 with a first in Natural Sciences (Physics), and again in 2006 with a PhD in experimental explosives physics. A continuing fascination with the world of very fast small-scale phenomena led her from explosives to the study of ocean bubble formation.

In 2010, Helen returned to the UK after four years spent working in the USA at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography. Her academic home now is the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University College London.

Helen's academic research addresses the physics of breaking waves and bubbles at the ocean surface. These 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.

Helen has spent months working on research ships in the Antarctic, the Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Arctic, and is an experienced field scientist. It still astonishes her that we don't talk about the ocean more and she spends a lot of time working to bring this beautiful blue engine, the heart of our planetary system, to the public eye

Outside work (as well as a lot of other sports), Helen paddles Pacific outrigger canoes here in London. That’s the place where her interests in science, culture and the ocean all meet, because you need all of them to succeed in an outrigger canoe.

Helen has been a regular science presenter on the BBC for ten years, covering the physics of the natural world in BBC2 landmark documentaries (including ‘Orbit’, ‘Operation Iceberg’ and ‘Supersenses’), and the physics of everyday life in a range of BBC4 documentaries (including ‘From Ice to Fire: The Incredible Science of Temperature’, ‘Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics’, and ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science’, along with many others).

Helen is also a regular contributor to Horizon, and most recently she presented the BBC show ‘Ocean Autopsy’, examining the damage that humans have caused to the ocean and its habitants.

Helen also writes regularly about science. She had a column in BBC Focus magazine from 2012-2018 and has had a regular physics column for the Wall Street Journal since 2017. Her first book, ‘Storm in a Teacup’, was published in November 2016. Helen is also regularly on stage with Robin Ince and the Cosmic Shambles network, talking about science in their shows at the Royal Albert Hall, the Hammersmith Apollo, and many summer festivals and smaller shows.