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Professor Jim Wild FRAS SFHEA


Jim Wild

Lancaster University

Physics Building



PhD supervision

The impact of space weather on UK railways. This is an exciting opportunity to explore how changes in the near-Earth space environment are linked to potentially damaging electrical currents induced in the UK rail network. It will use measurements of variations in the Earth’s geomagnetic field and rail-monitoring equipment installed through in collaboration with a major UK rail infrastructure stakeholder. Space weather describes the changing properties of near-Earth space, which influences the flow of electrical currents in this region, particularly within the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere. Space weather results from solar magnetic activity, which waxes and wanes over the Sunspot cycle of 11 years, due to eruptions of electrically charged material from the Sun's outer atmosphere. Particularly severe space weather can affect ground-based, electrically conducting infrastructures such as power transmission systems, pipelines and railways. Ground based networks are at risk because rapidly changing electrical currents in space, driven by space weather, cause rapid geomagnetic field changes on the ground. These magnetic changes give rise to electric fields in the Earth that cause geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) to flow to or from the Earth, through conducting networks, instead of in the more resistive ground. Railway infrastructure, safety-critical systems, and operations can be affected by induced electrical currents during extreme space weather. Studies of railway operations outside the UK have shown that induced and/or stray currents from the ground during strong magnetic storms result in increased numbers of signalling anomalies in track currents. Meanwhile, induced direct current flowing in overhead line equipment have the potential to stop train movement. In this project, you will investigate the level of GIC in UK rail infrastructure for the first time by undertaking a comparison of naturally-occurring geomagnetic activity with rail GIC measurements. The outcomes of this project will increase our understanding of the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to the space weather hazard. Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as physics or geophysics. Informal enquiries can be directed to Prof Jim Wild (j.wild@lancaster.ac.uk).


Jim Wild is a scientist studying the space environment and the links between the Sun, the Earth and other planets.

Jim studied for a degree in Physics with Space Science and Technology before completing a doctorate in solar-terrestrial physics at the University of Leicester. He is now the Professor of Space Physics at Lancaster University’s Department of Physics.


Research Interests

His research investigates the physics behind the aurora borealis (sometimes known as the northern lights), the impact of space weather on human technology and the interaction between the Martian atmosphere and the interplanetary environment. As well as exploiting an international flotilla of satellites, Jim’s research has regularly taken him to the high arctic to carry out experiments.

As a passionate science communicator, Jim has established himself as a popular speaker for public audiences and he also contributes to print and broadcast media. In 2010, he was awarded a Science in Society Fellowship by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Jim is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a member of the European Geosciences Union and American Geophysical Union.

PhD Supervisions Completed

Dr. Patrick Daum: "Global MHD Simulations of Magnetospheric Phenomena" [Lancaster University, 2008]

Dr. Peter Tullet: "ULF Oscillations in the Terrestrial Magnetosphere" [Lancaster University, 2009]

Dr. Katie Turnbull: "A Study of Geomagnetically Induced Currents in the UK National Grid" [Lancaster University, 2011]

Dr. Nathan Case: "Solar Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions: A Statistical Analysis of Spacecraft Measurements" [Lancaster University, 2014]

Dr. Robert Kidd: "The Origins of Space Weather: Solar Activity and Geomagnetic Response" [Lancaster University, 2014]

Dr. Jonathan Doyle: "Magnetospheric Plasma Dynamics: Investigating Ion and Electron Flow in the Magnetotail" [Lancaster University, 2019]

Dr. Daniel Billett: "The Great Space Weather Washing Machine: Examining the Dynamics of High-Latitude Ionosphere-Thermosphere Coupling" [Lancaster University, 2019]

PhDs Examined

Robert Fear [University College London, 2006]

Amin Aminaei [Lancaster University, 2007]

Nicola Longdon [Lancaster University, 2007]

Peter Boakes [University of Leicester, 2010]

Daniel Whiter [University of Southampton, 2011]

Paul Wild [Lancaster University, 2012]

Adam Kellerman [La Trobe University, 2012]

Segheen Beyene [University College London, 2012]

Carl Bryers [Lancaster University, 2014]

Martin Archer [Imperial College London, 2014]

Matt James [University of Leicester, 2014]

Olugbenga Ogunmodimu [Lancaster University, 2016]

Benjamin Hall [University of Leicester, 2017]

Hasanain Abbas Hasan Al-Behadili [University of Leicester, 2018]

Rececca Gray [Lancaster University, 2018]

Katie Raymer [University of Leicester, 2018]

Stephen Browett [University of Southampton, 2018]

External Roles

For the Royal Astronomical Society:  The RAS was established in 1820 to promote the study of astronomy and geophysics (which has grown to include solar and solar-terrestrial physics, planetary sciences, astroparticle physics & astrobiology) and comprises nearly 3,400 Fellows and Honorary Fellows. I have contributed to the running of this prestigious learned society as follows:

Vice-president, Geophysics (2014 - 2016)

Diversity Champion (2014-2016)

Member of the RAS Education Committee (2009 – 2013)

Member of the RAS Awards Committee, Geophysics Division (2009 – 2011)

Member of the RAS Membership Committee, invited member (2005 – 2011)

Member of the RAS Presidential Election Committee (2009)

Elected member of RAS Council and trustee of the society (2007 – 2010)

For the Science & Technology Facilities Council

Member of the STFC Consolidated Grant Review Panel (2018 - present)

Chair of the STFC Astronomy Grants Panel (2017 - present)

Deputy Chair of the STFC Astronomy Grants Panel (2016)

Member of the STFC Astronomy Grants Panel (2012 – 2015)


Member of the STFC Cluster Oversight Committee (2007 – 10)

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