Undergraduate research opportunities

Every year many undergraduate students undertake research placements in the SPAT group, making invaluable contributions. We are always looking to engage UG students in our research, and these pages provide more information about how you can get involved.

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Previous UROP projects in SPAT

UROP projects in SPAT in Summer 2018

UROP students 2018
Project TitleStudentSupervisor
 Partitioning of heat transport between ocean and atmosphere  Jack Carlin  Arnaud Czaja
 Mirror-mode structures in the Earth's magnetosphere investigated using data from the Cluster FGM magnetometers  Han Yau Choong  Chris Carr 
 Development of magnetoresistive sensors for space weather monitoring  Claudia Cobo Torres  Chiara Palla 
 Building a database of simulations for the Forum mission  Xinmiao Hu  Helen Brindley
 Analysis of PDRMIP solar experiments  Elliott Kasoar  
 Predicting the space weather effects of coronal mass ejections  Ronan Laker  Tim Horbury
 Studies of oceanographical tracers  Elleanor Lamb  Heather Graven
 Development of a magnetic moment inversion system for the screening of magnetic parts to be used in an instrument in development for the ESA JUICE Mission  Adrian Lamoury   Patrick Brown 
 Using machine learning to reduce uncertainty in climate change predictions  Gerald Lim   Peer Nowack
 Developing a novel ozone parameterization to speed up climate change simulations  Qing Yee Ellie Ong   
 ITCZ shifts in an intermediate complexity atmospheric model  Burhanuddin Pisavadi  Arnaud Czaja
 Mirror-mode structures in the Earth's magnetosphere investigated using data from the Cluster FGM magnetometers  Jiatianfu Qu   Chris Carr
 The intertropical convergence zone in past and future climates  Rhidian Thomas  
 Study on SFG in the ocean  Henry Throp   Heather Graven
 Analysing data from the Helios Solar Mission to explore the process of magnetic reconnection  Hanae Tilquin   Jonathan Eastwood 
SPAT UROP projects summer 2018
Summer 2018 UROP students and projects

UROP Opportunities

Opportunities to pursue UROP placements in SPAT in summer 2019 can be found here.

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Cluster magnetometer data analysis and calibration 

Description: The magnetometer instruments on the four ESA Cluster spacecraft (Balogh et al. 2001) were built at Imperial College and will continue returning ground-breaking multi-point measurements of the Solar-terrestrial space environment into the next decade. In order to check the accuracy of these measurements (e.g. Alconcel et al.), theoretical properties of the space-plasma magnetic field are compared with experimental data. Waves in space plasmas can be described as Alfvénic (non-compressible, characterised by a rotation of the magnetic field vector). Measurements of these fluctuations are used to check and adjust the magnetometers’ calibrations: with a well-calibrated instrument, the field will appear to rotate with constant magnitude.

However, Alfvénic fluctuations are not available at all points in the satellites’ orbits. Recently, researchers on the NASA Themis mission (Plaschke and Narita 2016) proposed a method based on non-Alfvénic (compressional) fluctuations known as mirror-modes. The aim of this project is to apply the method described by Plaschke and Narita to the Cluster magnetometer measurements and assess whether this can be used as a new method for checking the instrument calibration.

Skills and Experience: Through this project you will gain experience in the analysis of space-plasma datasets and will develop software in either Python or Matlab. The work will directly contribute to active research within the Cluster magnetometer team at Imperial and will be supported by staff and researchers within the SPAT group.

References:

Balogh et al., The Cluster Magnetic Field Investigation: overview of in-flight performance and initial results, Annales Geophysicae, Vol: 19, 2001

Plaschke and Narita, On determining fluxgate magnetometer spin axis offsets from mirror mode observations, Annales Geophysicae, 34, 759-766, 2016

Alconcel et al., An initial investigation of the long-term trends in the fluxgate magnetometer (FGM) calibration parameters on the four Cluster spacecraft, Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 3, 95-109, https://doi.org/10.5194/gi-3-95-2014, 2014

For more information, contact Chris Carr.

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Modelling the complex magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune

Description: Uranus and Neptune are the most distant planets in the Solar System. Motion of conducting fluid in their interiors generate magnetic fields in surrounding space that have a very unusual structure. This project will involve simple computational modelling of these planetary magnetic fields, to the limited extent that we have characterised them thanks to the Voyager 2 spacecraft flyby in the 1980s. The model will then be extended to determine the range of spacecraft trajectories that would reveal how these complex magnetic fields are generated, feeding in to ongoing planning of future missions to these planets.

Skills and experience: Required: current undergraduate in physics, mathematics, or engineering. Experience with the Matlab software package desirable but not essential.

For more information, contact Dr. Adam Masters.

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Analysis of magnetic field data taken during the Cassini end of mission

Description: The Cassini spacecraft orbited the giant planet Saturn for just over 13 years. The mission ended with 22 orbits where the spacecraft dived between the planet and its rings, culminating in the planned breakup of the spacecraft in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Data taken during this final stage of the mission continues to lead to important insights in to the planetary system, including the strangely symmetric magnetic field of the planet itself. This project will involve the computational analysis of magnetic field data taken by Imperial’s fluxgate magnetometer during this final phase of the mission. The aim will be to improve our understanding of Saturn’s diverse magnetic environment.

Skills and experience: Required: current undergraduate in physics, mathematics, or engineering. Experience with the Matlab software package desirable but not essential.

For more information, contact Dr. Greg Hunt.

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Software Support of JUICE magnetometer ground test campaign

Description: We are developing a magnetometer instrument that will fly on ESA’s JUICE space mission to the Jupiter system in 2022. Arriving at Jupiter in 2030 it will make a tour of the Galilean moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede. The magnetometer measures the local magnetic field vector and will be used to confirm the presence of oceans buried underneath the lunar surface. An integral part of delivering a space qualified instrument is the extensive test campaign that is undertaken on ground before launch. We are offering projects to support this test campaign in the area of software and programming. Key tasks will include: 

• Helping to automate detailed testing of the instrument’s software via scripts and existing applications

• Check existing software for errors and inefficiencies via analysis tools

• Writing and testing scripts for data decode, display and analysis

• Working with the engineers to troubleshoot anomalous data and to support and help improve general laboratory test activities

Successful candidates will work closely with the engineering team at the Space Magnetometer Laboratory which has a high international profile having been responsible for providing instrumentation for many ESA and NASA missions including Ulysses, Cassini, and Rosetta.

Skills and experience: Some experience of coding is necessary, preferably in Python or C. Experience or interest in microcontrollers (Arduino, Raspberry pi etc.), electronics and programming or scripting using Linux. The candidate must be enthusiastic about instrumentation and be willing to work as part of the team to help deliver a successful test campaign. 

For more information, contact Alex Strickland.

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Analysing the substructure of magnetic flux ropes using data from NASA’s MMS mission

Description: NASA’s Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) mission is a 4-spacecraft mission, which collects measurements of the plasma that surrounds the Earth. The measurements are collected up to a factor of 100 times faster than any previous mission and the spacecraft orbit in a close formation, offering an unprecedented look at the small-scale dynamics in the plasma. Members of SPAT are closely involved with the science team for MMS and the successful candidate will work closely with the MMS team at Imperial. 

This project builds off recent work performed within the group that showed intense small-scale electric fields can be present inside twisted magnetic field structures, known as flux ropes, in the Earth’s magnetotail. These structures are formed by a process called magnetic reconnection, which releases energy that has been built up in the Earth’s magnetic field and can drive the Earth’s aurora and space weather events. The project will involve:

  • Identifying magnetic flux ropes in the MMS dataset
  • Determining how common intense small-scale electric fields are within magnetic flux ropes
  • Using measurements from a variety of instruments on MMS to characterize the type of electric field structures present

Skills and experience: Some experience coding is necessary. The project will use IDL, but experience in other coding languages is acceptable.

For more information, please contact Dr Julia Stawarz.

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Data analysis of JUICE magnetometer ground test campaign

Description We are developing a magnetometer instrument that will fly on ESA’s JUICE space mission to the Jupiter system in 2022. Arriving at Jupiter in 2030 it will make a tour of the Galilean moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede. The magnetometer measures the local magnetic field vector and will be used to confirm the presence on oceans buried underneath the lunar surface.

An integral part of delivering a space qualified instrument is the extensive test campaign that is undertaken on ground before launch. We are offering projects to support this test campaign. Key tasks will include:

• Analyse the susceptibility of fluxgate magnetometers to a high frequency radiated B-field.

• Analysis of magnetometer data taken during the on-ground test campaign   including performance testing EMC, thermal vacuum and calibration tests

• Work with the engineers to troubleshoot anomalous data

• Support and help improve general laboratory test activities

Successful candidates will work closely with the engineering team at the Space Magnetometer Laboratory which has a high international profile having been responsible to instrumentation for many ESA and NASA missions including Ulysses, Cassini, and Rosetta.

Skills and experience Some experience of coding is necessary, preferably in MATLAB. Hands on experience with electronics and/or instrumentation hardware is also desirable. The candidate must be enthusiastic about instrumentation and be willing to work as part of the team to help deliver a successful test campaign. 

For more information, contact Richard Baughen.