About Maike Sonnewald

I am interested in how we bring theoretical constructs and inferences together with observations to meet the needs of modern society. I will join the Computer Science department at UC Davis in July 2023. At Princeton University I am an Associate Research Scholar. I am also an Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, and hold an associate position at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Combining domain knowledge with advanced techniques from data science, I aim to create new insight and accelerate exploration. I primarily work within the ocean and climate realm, but have a formal background in computer science/data science, as my thesis was joint between the National Oceanography Centre (UK), and the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation (University of Southamapton). I joined MIT as a Postdoctoral Associate working with Carl Wunsch, Patrick Heimbach and Steph Dutkiewitz. I have held visiting positions at Harvard University, and the University of Texas (UT) at Austin.

I am an Associate Editor at the journal 'Artificial Intelligence for the Earth Systems' (AIES) by the American Meteorological Society. My publications include an invited review and perspective article, and numerous high impact publications (Science and Nature journals). My work has been featured in the NOAA AI strategy 2021-2025, and used in the science basis for New Zealand's Marine Protected Area legislation. My over 60 invited talks include to NOAA Research senior management and the Department of Energy, as well colloquia and major conferences. My other service activities include convening and chairing at major conferences, such as, AGU and EGU, as well as smaller workshops and I enjoy hosting local seminars. I am committed to raising awareness around climate change, and have contributed to the Carbon brief, held sessions at summer camps and open days at museums.

Joining the lab

Students: I am looking for motivated, kind and curious students who are passionate about working towards solving problems related to the ocean and climate, and not shy about crossing disciplinary boundaries. Society needs interdisciplinary thinkers both in academia and industry, and completing a PhD in my lab is a great way of gaining key skills. At UC Davis, interdisciplinary work is possible and encouraged: Working with me you can graduate in any discipline even outside of computer science.

Postdocs: Are the research themes of my lab, broadly defined, exciting to you and do you have solid expertise in at least one relevant field? Let's chat! I am happy to support and host fellowship applications to numerous agencies including the NOAA Global Change, Fullbright, the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, pphilanthropic efforts and others.

Why UC Davis: Beyond or perhaps at the root of its excellence in research, there is a strong tradition of interdisciplinary work and a collegial atmosphere that allows bridges across fields to grow at UC Davis. For resources, the university is nested within the University of California system with access to its resources, but UC Davis also has strong ties to US national labs and industry. Beyond research, UC Davis ranks highly as a workplace that fosters diversity and is nationally recognized and distinctly within the UC system a great place for women and families with extensive benefits that allow both work and life to thrive.

Nested between the Sierra mountains, the Pacific ocean and with San Francisco and the Bay Area easily reachable by public transport, UC Davis offers an incredible range of experiences. UC Davis is in the town of Davis, known as the "bicycle capital of America" with over two bikes per inhabitant, and feels similar to Scandinavia apart from the sunshine.

I particularly encourage applications from individuals with non-traditional backgrounds, and from historically underrepresented minorities including of race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, economic status and others.


  • Redouane Lguensat
  • Krissy Reeve
  • V. Balaji
  • Alistair Adcroft
  • Aparna Radhakrishnan
  • John Krasting
  • LuAnne Thompson
  • Dan Jones
  • Isa Rosso
  • Stephanie Dutkiewicz
  • Chris Hill
  • Carl Wunsch
  • Patrick Heimbach
  • Isabela Le Bras
  • Joel J.-M. Hirschi
  • George Nurser
  • Pat Hyder
  • Thierry Penduff
  • Nicolas Le Bihan
  • Rory Bingham


  • William Yik (Harvey-Mud) Holling Scholar (NOAA)
  • Jacob Cohen (University of Washington), PhD student
  • Yvonne Jenniges (Alfred Wegener Institute), PhD student
  • Mariana Clare (Imperial) now at ECMWF
  • Zouberou Sayibou (Bronx Community College) now Junior at Stanford


Teaching is highly rewarding, and I received the Kaufman Teaching Certificate from MIT in 2017.

I have developed material at the graduate and undergraduate level for traditional classes and workshops as well as virtual, including for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC):

Graduate level lectures I have given include:

I enjoyed being a teaching assistant for these undergraduate courses (including boatwork):

Commitment to diversity

I believe that diversity is an asset, and that talent should be recognized regardless of race, size, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender-identity or sexual orientation. At Princeton, I am engaged in outreach to underserved communities, such as the Bronx Community College, and hosting interns from traditionally underserved communities. Mentorship has played an important role for me, and I am formally and informally mentoring graduate students. At MIT I worked to lower the financial barriers to the outdoors as a guide, bringing together diverse individuals in a setting otherwise inaccessible. As a teacher, I try to emphasize existing diversity through highlighting the diverse individuals that made the discoveries.


I enjoy engaging with the wider community. A recent highlight that is hard to top is being a member of the COPEZILLA EAPS team for the Red Bull Flugtag. Kelsey Tsipis for EAPS News snapped a great photo of me at the "Nautical day at the MIT Museum". Previously, my engagement found me helping an NGO at COP15 communicating climate change, or being asked to present for the International and Industrial Advisory board of the ICSS.


I was born in Copenhagen but raised in Norway, and am German from my mothers side. I am fluent in all three languages, and I enjoy traveling to explore new cities and taki in culture.

Some of my favourite pastimes are found in the mountains. My main sport is distance running, and I am a passionate proponent of increasing representation and increasing diversity in the outdoors. In June 2018, I partnered with Katherine Rosenfeld to set a first and fastest known time (FKT) for running the 70+mile High Sierra Trail in one push. I am dedicated to increasing female participation in outdoor sports such as FKTs, by increasing underreported participation. I'm currently based in Princeton and Seattle, but my other favourite areas include the Isle of Wight, the Exmoor coast, and the Lake District in the UK, as well as the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I mainly run to explore the natural areas around me. The Vermont 50 mile trail race is the only race I've run where I placed 8th in my division.

I am classically trained as a flutist and contemporary/classical ballet dancer, but a series of injuries and life decisions set a stop to this. I have had the honour of performing at the Odd Fellows Palace (DK), Olavshallen (NO) or Turner Sims (UK). I was part of Step By Step, but that opened the World Championships.