In 1991 I began acting and singing professionally however in 2009 I decided to change career. I began studying with the Open University and in 2015 I obtained a BSc Mathematics with first-class honours. During my studies I discovered an interest in mathematical modelling and decided to pursue a career in this field. In 2017 I obtained a MSc Mathematical Modelling with distinction from the University of Birmingham.
I have maintained an interest in astronomy since childhood. For my MSc dissertation I took advantage of the opportunity to initiate a cross-departmental project and worked with the School of Physics and Astronomy towards improving the efficiency of COMPAS (Compact Object Mergers: Population Astrophysics and Statistics), a model of the evolution of stellar binaries into potential neutron star or black hole mergers. My PhD project has provided a further opportunity to combine my interests of mathematical modelling and space.
“Developing global ionospheric data assimilation models to improve forecasting of equatorial scintillation”
Space weather is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “environmental conditions in space arising from the flux of electromagnetic radiation and charged particles, esp. that emitted by the sun and regarded as a potential threat to telecommunications, electronics, and power supplies on Earth.” This threat has been made particularly clear following large solar storms in the last few decades. For example solar storms have resulted in power outages affecting large areas, a blackout of all short wave communications on the sunlit side of the Earth, airlines having to redirect routes due to concerns about radiation levels and satellites experiencing instrument, telecommunications and navigation failures. The total failure of the Midori-II (ADEOS-2) satellite may also be linked to space weather. The collision between the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 satellites could have been influenced by changes in drag due to spatial and temporal variation of the neutral (atomic and molecular) density in the ionosphere (a region of Earth’s atmosphere with a higher level of ionised atoms and molecules due to radiation from the Sun – the lower limit of the ionosphere occurs at an altitude of 50 to 70km) caused by space weather. The satellite collision resulted in 1472 pieces of debris with known orbits (as of 8 June 2016), which could cause damage to other satellites and spacecraft. Space weather can also cause variations in electron density, impacting long-distance radio communications which are reflected or refracted by the ionosphere to allow transmissions to travel over the horizon.
Severe space weather was added to the UK National Risk Assessment in 2011 and the Met Office are now responsible for providing space weather impact nowcasting and forecasting. My aim is to assist the Met Office with improving ionospheric modelling by coupling the Met Office UM (Unified Model) with TIE-GCM (the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model). This global coupled model will extend vertically from the ground to 500-700 km. Our approach will involve incorporating ionospheric data assimilation through AENeAS (Advanced European Ne Assimilation System) to ensembles of this coupled model using a LETKF (Local Ensemble Transform Kalman Filter). We will then test whether this model improves nowcasting and forecasting of ionospheric electron density, particularly the prediction of small scale structures (less than 1 km) which are too small to be modelled directly. These structures can cause radio scintillation (rapid fluctuations in phase and amplitude) which can affect radio signals such as those from GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems).