Current PhD Projects

Space physics postgraduate students and their projects:

StudentSupervisorProject TitleWhat's it all about?
Omakshi Agiwal Prof. Michele Dougherty  

Cassini: End of mission data analysis

 Exploring the inner magnetosphere of Saturn using data captured during the grand finale of the mission.
 Gianluca Carnielli Dr. Marina Galand
Variability of the ionospheric plasma around Ganymede  
 Christian Clear Prof. Juliet Pickering The Spectrum and Term Analysis of Singly-ionised Nickel (Ni II)  A new generation of space and ground-based spectrographs on telescopes are producing high-quality, high-resolution spectra of stellar and planetary atmospheres, nebulae, quasars, the ISM and many other astrophysical objects. These spectra are revealing exciting new information about the composition and evolution of these bodies. However fundamental, laboratory-measured atomic and molecular data, vital for the interpretation of these high-resolution spectra, is often of insufficient accuracy or incomplete. This results in large numbers of spectral lines which cannot be identified and the loss of much potential accuracy when calculating astrophysical parameters.

The last major work on the spectrum of Ni II was in 1970. Although comprehensive, the wavelength and energy levels accuracies are now insufficient for modern astrophysical applications. An order of magnitude increase in the accuracy of Ni II atomic data is needed, and can be achieved with Fourier Transform Spectroscopy.
Florence Concepcion Mairey

Prof. Juliet Pickering

New accurate atomic data for astrophysics applications - Fe II transition probabilities.  
Emma Davies

Dr. Bob Forsyth

 Ewen Davies

Prof. Michele Dougherty/ 

Dr. Adam Masters

The Dynamics of Saturn’s High Latitude Magnetic Field Configuration Energy flow within the magnetosphere of Saturn is not yet completely understood. At Earth, the system dynamics are driven by the solar wind, whereas at Jupiter, the planet’s rotation is the dominant factor. The situation at Saturn is thought to fall somewhere between these two setups, and my work aims to narrow down where. By analysing unusual transient configurations of the magnetic field, and considering how these states arise with respect to internal and external factors, I hope to develop a better understanding of what makes the whole system tick.
Joe Eggington Dr. Jonathan Eastwood Global Simulations of Planetary Magnetospheres Studying the plasma environments around planets and how charged particles move through their magnetic fields via the use of computer simulations. This will improve our understanding of space weather, and help to make predictions for observations by future space missions. 
 Alex Hage Prof. Juliet Pickering    
 Kevin Heritier Dr. Marina Galand

Cometary ionosphere analysis from Rosetta multi-instrumental dataset


The Rosetta spacecraft escorted comet 67P during a two-year period. It is our first opportunity to study a cometary environment from a close perspective and assess its variability over time. My goal is to use the multi-instrumental measurements of Rosetta to understand the different drivers of the cometary ionosphere (plasma sources, losses, and chemical composition). 

Harry Manners Dr. Adam Masters  The structure and dynamics of Jupiter's giant magnetosphere  Inspecting Jupiter's magnetosphere for dynamic phenomena and developing our understanding of its global structure, in preparation for the forthcoming launch of ESA's JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) mission.
 Lars Mejnertsen Dr. Jonathan Eastwood/ Prof. Jerry Chittenden Global simulation of the solar wind – magnetosphere interaction with applications to space weather modelling  
 Alex Siddle Dr. Ingo Müller-Wodarg    
 Mehdi Ben Slama Dr. Ingo Müller-Wodarg Electro-Magnetic coupling between interior, atmosphere and space environment on Galilean Moons  
Ned Staniland Prof. Michele Dougherty  Magnetospheric dynamics and global field modeling at Saturn.  

My project’s aim is to build a full model of the magnetic environment at Saturn which includes the physical processes that serve to distort the field’s geometry. The model will include effects from sources such as the planet’s internally generated field, the equatorially confined magnetodisk and the field aligned currents which couple the magnetosphere and the ionosphere. Not only will this model provide new scientific understanding of the dynamics of Saturn’s magnetic field, but it also provides the opportunity for collaborative work with others who want to use this model to further their research.

 David Stansby Prof. Tim Horbury

Properties of the near sun solar wind


The solar wind is a supersonic flow of plasma from the surface of the Sun to the edge of the heliosphere. As it flows past the earth, it causes the Northern Lights, but can also disrupt satellites and impact human space travel. Despite it’s importance we still don’t know how it is generated and accelerated from the surface of the Sun During my PhD I am re-analysing old data taken by satellites close to the Sun to make new discoveries about the origins of the solar wind.

Space physics postgraduate students and their projects

Atmospheric physics postgraduate students and their projects:

StudentSupervisorProject TitleWhat's it all about?
Kieran Brophy Dr. Heather Graven/ Prof. Juliet Pickering Atmospheric studies of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion  
Kelvin Choi Dr. Helen Brindley  Building a Long-term Record of the Global Solar Energy Resource from Satellite Observations  The aim of this PhD is to further develop the radiative transfer capability within the RAL algorithm such that the quantities most pertinent for assessing the solar resource and informing solar cell design are routinely generated. Once implemented and evaluated, the dataset will be fed into solar cell simulation tools in order to estimate the electricity generation potential for different cell designs as a function of location. In this way the optimal cell technology and/or design for different regions can be identified based on real, long-term observations.
Alison Cobb Dr. Arnaud Czaja    
Natasha Dansey  Dr. Arnaud Czaja/ Prof. Jo Haigh    
Goodwin Gibbins Prof. 

Jo Haigh and Valerio Lucarini


Entropy Production in the Earth System

Everything which occurs - from rain to wind to the act of reading this sentence - must be part of a process which increases entropy, producing 'disorder' which can't be restored. The sun provides the renewing high-quality energy for the Earth system, while the long-wave radiation leaving the planet carries away the low-quality, high-entropy energy so that the planet can exist in a steady pseudo-equilibrium. My project studies the quantity of entropy flux in and out of the system, characterising and summarising the net effect of the processes which occur in the climate. We hope that this will provide a new, simple lens with which to view the climate, climate change, and our attempts to model it.
Fumi Hayashi Dr. Arnaud Czaja    
Joanna Lester Dr. Heather Graven/ Dr. Arnaud Czaja (Imperial) and Samar Khatiwala (Oxford) Studying ocean circulation, acidification and CO2 uptake using models and tracers  

The ocean is currently taking up around 25% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. However, the uptake of CO2 by the ocean is strongly determined by ocean circulation, which is sensitive to climate change and subject to complex feedbacks. I am using observations of oceanic transient tracers collected on ship-based cruises, including radiocarbon and chlorofluorocarbons, to compare with ocean models to investigate ocean transport and mixing processes, how these processes respond to climate change, and the resulting impacts on the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 and ocean acidification.


Yi Li Prof. Ralf Toumi Regional ocean data assimilation and forecast  

Data assimilation is an approach to fuse observation and numerical models to produce optimal state estimation. In my project, I'm using ensemble data assimilation algorithm to improve the forecast of ocean currents. I'm also working on the forecast of tropical cyclones by assimilating ocean observations.

Minyi Liang Dr. Arnaud Czaja Extreme poleward heat transport to the high latitudes  
Ronan McAdam Dr. T Evans/ Dr. E. van Sebille     
Robbie Parks Prof. Ralf Toumi  Seasonality of mortality: evaluating past trends and forecasting the effects of a changing climate  

I am interested in examining seasonality of human mortality, both sub- and multi-nationally, and how climate change may be influencing the patterns and trends evident. 

My research includes building mathematical models both to analyze past trends of seasonality of human mortality and to forecast possible futures for climate change risk assessment.

Luke Phillipson Prof. Ralf Toumi Regional ocean data assimilation  
Cesar Quilodran Casas Prof. Ralf Toumi    
Grace Redmond Prof. Ralf Toumi    
Amy Seales Dr. Helen Brindley 'Reducing uncertainty in climate predictions: Enhancing the science case for TRUTHS'  
Peter Shatwell Dr. Arnaud Czaja, David Ferreira (Uni of Reading), Greg Pavliotis (Imperial Maths) A process study of heat uptake by the global ocean A compilation of hydrographic surveys over the 20th century and the recent development of the ARGO float program have revealed significant variability in oceanic heat content in all basins. Some of these changes must be related to the heat-content increase in response to the accumulation of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but some must also reflect fluctuations intrinsic to the coupled ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere system. Due to limited observations and the costly computing requirements to study deep ocean heat uptake, our understanding of these fluctuations is poor.
The goal of this PhD project is to step back and conduct a process study of heat content change, or heat uptake, by different elements of the global ocean circulation: wind driven gyres (the global ocean), buoyancy-forced overturning circulation in a narrow basin (North Atlantic), and wind- and buoyancy-forced circulation in a channel geometry (Southern Ocean). The aim is to develop simple (linear and, possibly, stochastic) models of heat uptake i.e. models in which knowledge of the pre-industrial oceanic state allows for a prediction of heat uptake in response to anthropogenic forcing. This prediction will then be applied and compared to observations. 
Mohan Smith Prof. Ralf Toumi  

Applications of AI to Catastrophic Weather Event Prediction


My work aims to use image recognition algorithms on satellite images to match realtime data to prior and simulated datasets to better constrain the characteristics and movements of tropical cyclones. This work therefore looks to provide faster more accurate forcasts than current weather predictions as these cyclones unfold.  

Rebecca Thomas Dr. Heather Graven and Prof Colin Prentice Using atmospheric CO2 measurements to advance land carbon science   
Sunil Varma Dr. Apostolos Voulgarakis/ Dr. Arnaud Czaja    
Chris Wells Dr. Apostolos Voulgarakis