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Heating and Energy Transfer in the Solar Corona (Advert ref:STFC23/EE/MPEE/REGNIER)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Stephane Régnier  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The solar atmosphere is structured by its magnetic field and the ionised plasma is flowing along such magnetic structures. Observations of the solar corona show a broad variety of magnetic structures having thermodynamics parameters covering several orders of magnitude, such as temperatures between 100,000 K to 5 MK. The observations also show that the coronal plasma is highly dynamic on time-scale of few seconds to few hours, and strongly coupled with the photosphere and chromosphere (lower layers of the solar atmosphere). There is a continuous exchange of matter and energy between the different layers, whilst maintaining a steady state of the magnetic structure and plasma. The physics of those structures is especially dominated that the overall increase of the temperature in the corona leading to a better understanding of the well-known problem in solar physics that is the coronal heating: the increase of temperature to few million degrees in the corona while the surface temperature of the Sun is about 6000 K. Currently, even if several candidates to heating have been proposed, none of them can self-consistently explain the overall heating of the corona. To tackle this issue, it is proposed to first understand the response of the corona plasma to heating events and compare with observational signatures to discriminate the possible mechanism(s). 

The aim of this project is to understand the dynamics and stability of the coronal plasma, the exchange of energy within realistic 3D magnetic configurations. First, we investigate the effects of background heating, asymmetric heating and high/low frequency heating on the coronal plasma in magnetic structures with different geometry (e.g. arcades, S-shaped field lines). Second, modelling the heating in 3D magnetic structures using extrapolated magnetic structures as well as magnetohydrodynamics simulation (i.e. Lare 3D). Third, it is important for understanding the observed dynamics of the coronal plasma to model the physics of different instabilities responsible for the exchange of energy, such as thermal instability and Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities.

The physics of the coronal plasma derived from the modelling is thus compared to the observations obtained in EUV (e.g. Solar Dynamics Observatory, IRIS, Solar Orbiter).

The PhD candidate will develop skills in plasma physics, numerical modelling, intensive computations, and data analysis. The computations will use Fortran and Python programming languages.

Eligibility Requirements*:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

You will join a strong and supportive research team. To help better understand the aims of the CDT and to meet the PhD supervisors, we are hosting a day-long event on campus on Monday 9th January 2023.

At that event, there will be an opportunity to discuss your research ideas, meet potential PhD supervisors, as well as hear from speakers from a variety of backgrounds (academia, industry, government, charity) discussing both STFC and data science as well as their personal paths and backgrounds. Click here for details.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note:

You must include the relevant advert reference/studentship code (e.g. STFC23/…) in your application.

You do not need to submit a research proposal for the proposed project, since the project is already defined by the supervisor. If you have your own research idea and wish to pursue that, then this is also possible - please indicate this on your application (if this is the case, then please include a research proposal of approximately 300 words).

Deadline for applications: 31st January 2023

Start Date: 1st October 2023

* please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.

Funding Notes

The studentship supports a full stipend, paid for 3.5 years at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year), full tuition fees and a Research Training and Support Grant (for conferences, travel, etc).


Karampelas, K. McLaughlin, J. A., Botha, G. J.~J., Regnier, S. 2022, Oscillatory Reconnection of a 2D X-point in a Hot Coronal Plasma, ApJ, 925, 195, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ac3b53. Use of MHD numerical code for a magnetic field with a topology.
Williams, T., Walsh, R. W., Regnier, S., Johnston, C. D. 2021, Multi-Stranded Coronal Loops: Quantifying Strand Number and Heating Frequency from Simulated Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) Observations, Solar Physics, 296, 102, doi:10.1007/s11207-021-01848-8. Modelling of coronal loop heating.
Regnier, S. 2013, Magnetic Field Extrapolations into the Corona: Success and Future Improvements, Solar Physics, 288, 481, doi:10.1007/s11207-013-0367-8. Review of magnetic field extrapolation methods.
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