I am the ‘UKRI Stephen Hawking Fellow’ in Space Plasma Physics at Imperial College London, studying how the weak plasma (sometimes known as the fourth state of matter) that fills the solar system, and in particular Earth’s space environment, makes seemingly empty space an incredibly complex and dynamic place.
Earth’s magnetic field acts a barrier to the solar wind, forming our magnetosphere with a bow shock upstream that slows and deflects the supersonic plasma around it. However, this is a highly dynamic and non-linear process with many complicated feedback mechanisms. These result in various transient phenomena which can have localised and even global impacts on the magnetosphere affecting the energetic particles in the radiation belts, electrical currents directed into and through the top of the atmosphere, auroral processes and launching a cacophony of different ultra-low frequency waves analogous to sound. These impacts can severely impact on our space- and ground-based technology and infrastructure, resulting in technological, economic and societal repercussions known as space weather. My research career has focused on many of these dynamical processes, investigating their origins, properties and consequences.
Here are a few of the highlights of my research career so far.
- Observational discovery, 45-years after being proposed theoretically, that the boundary of Earth’s magnetosphere resonates like the surface of a drum when struck by impulses. Published in Nature Communications, this work was highlighted by NASA and covered by BBC, ABC Australia, USA Today, Scientific American, New Scientist, Xinhua and many more.
- Demonstrating that a novel form of citizen science, where high school students explore satellite data in the form of audible sound, can lead to unexpected scientific results — that decreasing-pitch “whistling” sounds occur following geomagnetic storm and are far more common that previously thought. This was highlighted by the Space Weather editor and NOAA, being covered by BBC, MSN, Forbes, IFL Science and more.
- The first comprehensive surveys of the occurrence, properties and impacts on our magnetosphere of fast jets of plasma which originate at Earth’s bow shock. These works were chosen as highlights of the NASA THEMIS mission.
- Invited member of two International Space Science Institute (Bern, Switzerland) teams.