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  Understanding solar flare energetic electrons from the Sun’s inner atmosphere to the Earth (Advert Reference: RDF20/EE/MPEE/JEFFREY)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Natasha Jeffrey  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Sun is a prime laboratory for understanding high energy astrophysics. Its proximity to Earth and transient events such as solar flares make its atmosphere a unique and opportune environment for studying all aspects of high energy astrophysics including the production of solar flare energetic particles.

Solar flares, a key component of space weather, are evidenced to be initiated by magnetic reconnection. During the flare, much of the magnetic energy is dissipated into the acceleration of electrons but the exact amount, and the acceleration mechanism, is widely debated. Electrons deposit energy into the lower atmosphere, where the bulk of the flare radiative output is produced, while other energetic electrons that escape into the heliosphere can be detected at Earth. However, the connection between these distinct energetic electron populations is poorly understood.

This project aims to further our understanding of the production of flare-accelerated electrons observed at the Sun and in the heliosphere. By studying these distinct sets of particles together, the aim is to constrain the mechanisms and the environment that can produce solar flare-accelerated electrons.

During the project, the student will develop observationally-driven numerical simulations that model flare-accelerated electrons in the heliosphere and connect these simulations to already developed state-of-the-art simulations of flare-accelerated electrons at the Sun. The student will learn how to handle and analyse data from current (Parker Solar Probe) and upcoming (Solar Orbiter) space-based instrumentation, and compare electron data at the Sun and in the heliosphere with the results of numerical simulations.

This project is supervised by Dr Natasha Jeffrey. The second supervisor will be Professor James McLaughlin.

Please note eligibility requirement:
• 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 currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

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

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/EE/MPEE/JEFFREY) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020

Start Date: 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU/Worldwide students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


The Role of Energy Diffusion in the Deposition of Energetic Electron Energy in Solar and Stellar Flares
Jeffrey, N. L. S., Kontar, E. P. & Fletcher, L., Aug 2019, Astrophysical Journal. 880, 2, 136.

Determination of the Total Accelerated Electron Rate and Power Using Solar Flare Hard X-Ray Spectra
Kontar, E. P., Jeffrey, N. L. S. & Emslie, A. G., 4 Feb 2019, Astrophysical Journal. 871, 2, 10 p., 225.

The Development of Lower-Atmosphere Turbulence Early in a Solar Flare
Jeffrey, N. L. S., Fletcher, L., Labrosse, N. & Simões, P. J. A., 5 Dec 2018, Science advances. 4, 12, eaav2794.

Imaging Spectroscopy of Solar Radio Burst Fine Structures
Kontar, E. P., Yu, S., Kuznetsov, A. A., Emslie, A. G., Alcock, B., Jeffrey, N. L. S., Melnik, V. N., Bian, N. H. & Subramanian, P., 1 Dec 2017, Nature Communications. 8, 1, 1515.

Where will I study?