£2.6m for university mathematicians

Sunday 22 April 2007

Researchers at the University of St Andrews have been awarded £2.6 million to study magnetic activity in the atmosphere of the Sun and the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The group of solar experts in the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics will work on key scientific questions relating to magnetic activity over the next 5 years, with funding from the UK’s Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC, recently renamed Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC).

The grant will allow the Solar and Magnetospheric Theory Group to employ five postdoctoral researchers as well as funding support staff and other costs related to the group’s research work such as travel costs, computing equipment and hosting visiting scientists.

The award was made to Dr Thomas Neukirch as Principal Investigator and Professors Alan Hood, Eric Priest and Bernard Roberts and Drs Clare Parnell and Andy Wright as Co-Investigators.

Dr Neukirch said, “We are absolutely delighted with the award of this grant as this has increased our funding quite substantially and against all odds. This new £2.6 million grant forms the backbone of our group’s long term research funding and allows us to continue our successful work in key areas of solar and magnetospheric theory.”

Professor Priest, the Head of the Solar and Magnetospheric Theory Group, added, “The award of this grant is a tribute to the high quality of the work undertaken by the group and its scientific reputation both within the UK and internationally.”

The group will use the funding to focus on five main research projects. The first will examine the way in which the magnetic fields that are generated within the Sun emerge through its surface.

In the second project, measurements of waves and oscillations of the Sun’s magnetic field will be used to find out more about the properties of the Sun’s atmosphere, similar to the way waves generated by earthquakes can be used to determine properties of the Earth’s interior.

The third and fourth projects will examine how the reconfiguration of the complex solar magnetic field leads to the storage and ultimately release of energy within the solar atmosphere that is responsible for spectacular phenomena such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

The fifth project is concerned with some of the influences that solar activity has on the Earth’s magnetosphere and deals with the physical processes generating the energetic particles causing the aurora.




Thomas Neukirch: Tel 01334 463713, email [email protected]

Eric Priest: Tel 01334 463709, email: [email protected]

Alan Hood: Tel: 01334 463710, email: [email protected]



Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk

Ref: 2.6m magnetic grant 230407

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