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Next Generation Space Weather Forecasts (Advert ref: NUDATA23/MPEE/SMITH2)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Andy Smith  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

About the Centre for Doctoral Training

This project is being offered as part of the STFC Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science, called NUdata, which is a collaboration between Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, STFC, and a portfolio of over 40 industrial partners, including SMEs, large/multinational companies, Government and not-for profit organisations, and international humanitarian organisations. Please visit for full information.

PhD project description

The dynamic and hazardous conditions in near Earth space, known as space weather, are driven by the everchanging outflow of plasma from the Sun: the solar wind. In extreme cases space weather can damage critical components of our modern society, destroying satellites and causing power blackouts. We must be to be able provide accurate forecasts with enough warning. Current state-of-the-art space weather forecasting models can only provide an hour of warning – too short an interval to allow us to prepare. This project will develop the next generation of space weather forecasts in order to give us the maximum warning time of space weather threats.

Current models, including those used by the Met Office and NOAA, use solar wind data obtained just upstream of the Earth, about 30 – 60 minutes before it hits. To get longer forecasts we need to take data from the Sun itself. You will use cutting edge numerical models and data from the Sun to predict what the Earth will encounter in the next few days.

Your predictions can then be fed into machine learning models of the space weather risk at the Earth. You will have access to the current state-of-the-art, operational models as a starting point, but you may also choose to develop your own set of machine learning models – predicting the risks to power networks or satellites.

You will work in a collaborative team, with scientists and experts from around the world (from countries such as New Zealand and the US) during this project . You will have the opportunity to travel, presenting your work at conferences in the UK and internationally.

We welcome applicants with a background in physics, applied mathematics, computer science or other related disciplines. Prior experience in scientific computing or plasma physics is a benefit, but we will support you to gain all the skills you need to do your project.

Recruitment Event

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.

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.

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. NUDATA23/…) in your application.

If you are interested in more than one of the NUdata research projects, then you can say this in the cover letter of your application and you can rank up to three projects you are interested in (i.e. first choice, second choice, third choice). You are strongly encouraged to do this, since some projects are more popular than others. You only need to submit one application even if you are interested in multiple projects (we recommend you submit your application to your first choice).

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).

We offer all applicants full guidance on the application process and on details of the CDT. For informal enquiries, email Professor James McLaughlin ([Email Address Removed]). Please contact the Principal Supervisor of the project(s) [Email Address Removed] for project-specific enquiries.

Deadline for applications: 31 January 2023

Start Date: 25th September 2023

Funding Notes

The studentship supports a full stipend, paid for four 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).


Smith, A. W., Forsyth, C., Rae, I. J., Garton, T. M., Bloch, T., Jackman, C. M., & Bakrania, M. (2021). Forecasting the probability of large rates of change of the geomagnetic field in the UK: Timescales, horizons, and thresholds. Space Weather, 19, e2021SW002788,
Smith, A. W., Forsyth, C., Rae, I. J., Garton, T. M., Jackman, C. M., Bakrania, M., et al. (2022). On the considerations of using near real time data for space weather hazard forecasting. Space Weather, 20, e2022SW003098.
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