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Exploring the Time-Dependence of Kinetic Structure at Earth’s Bow Shock


   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Dr Imogen Gingell  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Supervisory Team:  Imogen Gingell

Project description

When the solar wind interacts with Earth’s magnetosphere, it is heated and slowed from supersonic to subsonic speeds at the bow shock. Shockwaves in space are ‘collisioness’ – the energy in the flow cannot be dissipated by particle collisions (viscosity) since the density is far too low. Instead, electromagnetic effects at the smallest plasma scales must be responsible. These processes lead to a turbulent and strongly time-dependent shock transition region. Observations of Earth’s bow shock and the magnetosheath by state-of-the-art missions such as Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) enable high-resolution exploration of the 3D micro-physics of these regions at a particular snapshot in time. Furthermore, ‘string of pearls’ configurations of all 4 MMS spacecraft allow us capture shock processes at different times, effectively allowing us to directly observe how they evolve. The objective of this project is therefore to identify and characterise plasma process in the shock, and then examine how they evolve in time using a combination of spacecraft observations and simulations.

The student will: i) develop methods for identification and classification of time-dependent shock structures such as surface ripples, cyclic shock reformation, stream instabilities, and magnetic reconnection; ii) utilize ‘string of pearls’ and other novel configurations of the MMS spacecraft to track the time evolution of these structures, and iii) directly compare the observed time evolution to that seen in high performance plasma simulations run by the student in Southampton. We may also adapt these methods for use with interplanetary shocks observed by Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter, where serendipitous spacecraft conjunctions allow for observations of time dependence. We also expect these outcomes to aid in preparation for future science with missions such as NASA’s Helioswarm, and the proposed MAKOS mission.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 January 2023 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £17,668 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

How To Apply

Apply online: PhD Application | Research | University of Southampton. Select programme type (Research), 2023/24, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD Physics (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Imogen Gingell

Applications should include:

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts/Certificates to date

For further information please contact: [Email Address Removed]

The School of Physics is committed to promoting equality, diversity inclusivity as demonstrated by our Athena SWAN award. We welcome all applicants regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or age, and will give full consideration to applicants seeking flexible working patterns and those who have taken a career break. The University has a generous maternity policy, onsite childcare facilities, and offers a range of benefits to help ensure employees’ well-being and work-life balance. The University of Southampton is committed to sustainability and has been awarded the Platinum EcoAward.


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