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Particle Acceleration in Solar Flares

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 15, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A major open question in the physics of solar flares lies in describing the mechanisms responsible for generating significant populations of non-thermal particles. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed, including acceleration by parallel electric field in the reconnection region, acceleration in the reconnection outflow region (e.g. collapsing magnetic traps), acceleration at shocks, and stochastic acceleration.

A PhD project on this topic would involve extending previous work (see references) to improve the electro-magnetic field and plasma models used in the past and test how efficient the new models are in accelerating particles by using test particle calculations. These calculations will initally be utilising existing numerical codes, adding further features to the codes as required.

STFC funding is available for a PhD project on this subject to start immediately, subject to eligibility.

For more details about the group, please visit our website:

For information about the School and the application procedure in general, please see:

Funding Notes

Applicants should have should have (or be about to complete) an undergraduate degree and/or taught postgraduate degree in (applied) mathematics or (theoretical) physics. Past experience shows that successful applicants usually have a very good first class degree (or equivalent).

Eligible applicants will be considered for UK research council funding (STFC).

Applicants who will graduate from a Scottish university may be eligible to apply for Carnegie/Caledonian Scholarships (for details see View Website, please note the deadline on 16 Jan 2020!).

Applicants from the China may be eligible for funding by the China Scholarship Council (for details see View Website, deadline 6 Jan 2020!)


J.W. Threlfall, J.E.H. Stevenson, C.E. Parnell and T. Neukirch, "Particle acceleration at reconnecting separator current layers", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 585, A95-1 - A95-12 (2016).

J.W. Threlfall, Ph.-A. Bourdin, T. Neukirch, and C.E. Parnell, "Particle dynamics in a non-flaring solar active region model", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 587, A4-1 - A4-13 (2016).

A. Borissov, T. Neukirch and J.W. Threlfall, "Particle acceleration in collapsing magnetic traps with a braking plasma jet", Solar Physics, 291, 1385 - 1404 (2016).

J.W. Threlfall, T. Neukirch, and C.E. Parnell, "Particle acceleration due to coronal non-null magnetic reconnection", Solar Physics, 292, 45-1 - 45-19 (2017).

A. Borissov, E. Kontar, J.W. Threlfall and T. Neukirch, "Particle acceleration with anomalous pitch angle scattering in 2D magnetohydrodynamics reconnection simulations", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 605, A73-1 - A73-10 (2017).

J. Birn, M. Battaglia, L. Fletcher, M. Hesse and T. Neukirch, "Can substorm particle acceleration be applied to solar flares?", The Astrophysical Journal, 848, 116-1 - 116-14 (2017).

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Mathematical Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 30.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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