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Predicting The Impact of Space Tsunamis (Advert ref: NUDATA23/EE/MPEE/SMITH1)

   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 Earth’s protective magnetic field is buffeted in the outflowing atmosphere of the Sun, known as the solar wind. The solar wind is variable but mostly changes relatively slowly, over minutes to hours. However, Earth’s magnetic shield is occasionally hit by supersonic interplanetary shocks, where the solar wind hitting the Earth changes dramatically within a few short minutes. These shocks can cause massive problems for our modern technology and infrastructure: in 2001 an interplanetary shock caused the failure of part of the power network in New Zealand. However, the issue is that not all interplanetary shocks will cause problems, and space weather forecasts must avoid costly false alarms: industry must rely on these forecasts. This project will work towards understanding and accurately predicting future impacts.

First, we need to understand the possible consequences of an interplanetary shock hitting the Earth. To do this you will use over 20 years worth of data from around the globe, using data intensive techniques. Depending on your interests you may then choose to focus on one of several different questions, for example:

  • Can we predict the consequences of a future impact using machine learning methods?
  • How fast do the changes travel around the globe?
  • What causes different observations in different regions around the world?
  • Why was New Zealand so badly damaged by the event in 2001?

You will have access to state-of-the-art methods and the opportunity to work with experts and scientists from around the globe (for example in New Zealand and the US). You will have the opportunity to present 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 Northumbria-hosted 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: 31st January 2023

Start Date: 25th September 2023

Funding Notes

The studentship supports a full stipend, paid for four years at UKRI rates (for 2022/3, this is £17,668 pa), full tuition fees and a Research Training and Support Grant (for conferences, travel, etc).


Smith, A. W., Rodger, C. J., Mac Manus, D. H., Forsyth, C., Rae, I. J., Freeman, M. P., et al. (2022). The correspondence between Sudden Commencements and Geomagnetically Induced Currents: Insights from New Zealand. Space Weather, 20, e2021SW002983.
Smith, A. W., Rae, I. J., Forsyth, C., Oliveira, D. M., Freeman, M. P., & Jackson, D. R. (2020). Probabilistic forecasts of storm sudden commencements from interplanetary shocks using machine learning. Space Weather, 18, e2020SW002603.
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