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Happy Birthday MIST
The Sun and the Earth – Mike Lockwood by Max Alexander
Image Credit: STFC/Max Alexander

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Happy Birthday MIST

The MIST logo recreated with images

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO; NASA/GSFC Conceptual Image Lab.; NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan

It's fifty years since the UK's magnetosphere, ionosphere and solar terrestrial physicists started to get together, hold meetings and develop their community, a group supported by the RAS form the start. Mike Lockwood looks back – and forwards.

Mike Lockwood is now a widely-respected senior figure in the MIST community, an RAS Gold Medallist known for his research insights and committment to public understanding, especially where MIST sciences have a bearing on our climate. But once he was a young researcher unsure of where to go next – he credits the encouragement and guidance he gained at MIST meetings as an important element in his development as a scientist. 

Mike's entertaining overview of the whole MIST area in the UK gives a sense of how the field has grown – and changed. He mentions the explosion of data and the extremely rewarding expansion of the field to include planetary systems. But he also recalls such arcane practices as using stencils and pens to draw figures, which is an unknown experience to today's early career researchers. I too wouldn't swap writing and drawing figures on my computer for the remembered delights of the Rotring pen and coloured film, but Mike also sounds a cautionary note about some of the other ways in which MIST has changed.  

Time pressure means we are all choosy about the meetings we attend, he notes, and holds his hand up to having missed MIST meetings. But he points out that, if today's early career researchers are to benefit in the same way that he and his colleague benefitted a few decades ago, then today's senior figures need to go along to meetings, listen and talk to the next generation – and, above all, be there for the informal conversation that is such a lubricant to collaboration. To quote Mike: "Coffee drives collaboration – tea breaks are not trivial!"

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