MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

Nominations are open for MIST Council

We are very pleased to open nominations for MIST Council. There are three positions available (detailed below), and elected candidates would join Georgios Nicolaou, Andy Smith, Maria-Theresia Walach, and Emma Woodfield on Council. The nomination deadline is Friday 31 May.

Council positions open for nomination

2 x MIST Councillor - a three year term (2024 - 2027). Everyone is eligible.

MIST Student Representative - a one year term (2024 - 2025). Only PhD students are eligible. See below for further details.

About being on MIST Council

If you would like to find out more about being on Council and what it can involve, please feel free to email any of us (email contacts below) with any of your informal enquiries! You can also find out more about MIST activities at mist.ac.uk. Two of our outgoing councillors, Beatriz and Sophie, have summarised their experiences being on MIST Council below.

Beatriz Sanchez-Cano (MIST Councillor):

"Being part of the MIST council for the last 3 years has been a great experience personally and professionally, in which I had the opportunity to know better our community and gain a larger perspective of the matters that are important for the MIST science progress in the UK. During this time, I’ve participated in a number of activities and discussions, such as organising the monthly MIST seminars, Autumn MIST meetings, writing A&G articles, and more importantly, being there to support and advise our colleagues in cases of need together with the wonderful council members. MIST is a vibrant and growing community, and the council is a faithful reflection of it."

Sophie Maguire (MIST Student Representative):

"Being the student representative for MIST council has been an amazing experience. I have been part of organizing conferences, chairing sessions, and writing grant applications based on the feedback MIST has received. From a wider perspective, MIST has helped to grow and support my professional networks which in turn, directly benefits my PhD work as well. I would encourage any PhD student to apply for the role of MIST Student Representative and I would be happy to answer any questions or queries you have about the role."

How to nominate

If you would like to stand for election or you are nominating someone else (with their agreement!) please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 31 May. If there is a surplus of nominations for a role, then an online vote will be carried out with the community. Please include the following details in the nomination:

  1. Name
  2. Position (Councillor/Student Rep.)
  3. Nomination Statement (150 words max including a bit about the nominee and focusing on your reasons for nominating. This will be circulated to the community in the event of a vote.)

MIST Council details

  • Sophie Maguire, University of Birmingham, Earth's ionosphere - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Georgios Nicolaou, MSSL, solar wind plasma - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Beatriz Sanchez-Cano, University of Leicester, Mars plasma - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Jasmine Kaur Sandhu, University of Leicester, Earth’s inner magnetosphere - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Andy Smith, Northumbria University, Space Weather - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Maria-Theresia Walach, Lancaster University, Earth’s ionosphere - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Emma Woodfield, British Antarctic Survey, radiation belts - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • MIST Council email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Winners of Rishbeth Prizes 2023

We are pleased to announce that following Spring MIST 2023 the Rishbeth Prizes this year are awarded to Sophie Maguire (University of Birmingham) and Rachel Black (University of Exeter).

Sophie wins the prize for the best MIST student talk which was entitled “Large-scale plasma structures and scintillation in the high-latitude ionosphere”. Rachel wins the best MIST poster prize, for a poster entitled “Investigating different methods of chorus wave identification within the radiation belts”. Congratulations to both Sophie and Rachel!

As prize winners, Sophie and Rachel will be invited to write articles for Astronomy & Geophysics, which we look forward to reading.

MIST Council extends their thanks to the University of Birmingham for hosting the Spring MIST meeting 2023, and to the Royal Astronomical Society for their generous and continued support of the Rishbeth Prizes.

Nominations for MIST Council

We are pleased to open nominations for MIST Council. There are two positions available (detailed below), and elected candidates would join Beatriz Sanchez-Cano, Jasmine Kaur Sandhu, Andy Smith, Maria-Theresia Walach, and Emma Woodfield on Council. The nomination deadline is Friday 26 May.

Council positions open for nomination

  • MIST Councillor - a three year term (2023 - 2026). Everyone is eligible.
  • MIST Student Representative - a one year term (2023 - 2024). Only PhD students are eligible. See below for further details.

About being on MIST Council


If you would like to find out more about being on Council and what it can involve, please feel free to email any of us (email contacts below) with any of your informal enquiries! You can also find out more about MIST activities at mist.ac.uk.

Rosie Hodnett (current MIST Student Representative) has summarised their experience on MIST Council below:
"I have really enjoyed being the PhD representative on the MIST council and would like to encourage other PhD students to nominate themselves for the position. Some of the activities that I have been involved in include leading the organisation of Autumn MIST, leading the online seminar series and I have had the opportunity to chair sessions at conferences. These are examples of what you could expect to take part in whilst being on MIST council, but the council will welcome any other ideas you have. If anyone has any questions, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”

How to nominate

If you would like to stand for election or you are nominating someone else (with their agreement!) please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 26 May. If there is a surplus of nominations for a role, then an online vote will be carried out with the community. Please include the following details in the nomination:
  • Name
  • Position (Councillor/Student Rep.)
  • Nomination Statement (150 words max including a bit about the nominee and your reasons for nominating. This will be circulated to the community in the event of a vote.)
 
MIST Council contact details

Rosie Hodnett - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mathew Owens - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Beatriz Sanchez-Cano - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jasmine Kaur Sandhu - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Andy Smith - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Maria-Theresia Walach - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Emma Woodfield - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
MIST Council email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RAS Awards

The Royal Astronomical Society announced their award recipients last week, and MIST Council would like to congratulate all that received an award. In particular, we would like to highlight the following members of the MIST Community, whose work has been recognised:
  • Professor Nick Achilleos (University College London) - Chapman Medal
  • Dr Oliver Allanson (University of Birmingham) - Fowler Award
  • Dr Ravindra Desai (University of Warwick) - Winton Award & RAS Higher Education Award
  • Professor Marina Galand (Imperial College London) - James Dungey Lecture

New MIST Council 2021-

There have been some recent ingoings and outgoings at MIST Council - please see below our current composition!:

  • Oliver Allanson, Exeter (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2024 -- Chair
  • Beatriz Sánchez-Cano, Leicester (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2024
  • Mathew Owens, Reading (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2023
  • Jasmine Sandhu, Northumbria (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2023 -- Vice-Chair
  • Maria-Theresia Walach, Lancaster (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2022
  • Sarah Badman, Lancaster (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2022
    (co-opted in 2021 in lieu of outgoing councillor Greg Hunt)

Packing up and Postdoc-ing in Germany

by Hayley Allison

On the 29th March (the first Brexit day that never was) I submitted my PhD thesis and, after a few rounds of celebratory drinks in the pub, returned home to spend the evening and the next day packing my most important belongings into two suitcases. On the 31st March I moved to Germany, ready to start a new postdoc on the 1st April.

In hindsight, that timeline, while sufficient on paper, was completely exhausting. However, moving to Germany has been one of the biggest decisions and most exciting things I have ever done and I would repeat it in a heartbeat.

Posing outside Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Posing outside Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

How I knew I wanted a postdoc

I undertook my PhD at the British Antarctic Survey/University of Cambridge and am now a postdoc at GFZ German Centre for Geosciences. 

Looking back, it was at the start of the third year of my PhD that I knew for certain that I wanted to continue with academia. I had toyed with the idea throughout my PhD, but I realised then that there were many ideas and projects I still wanted to explore and I wouldn’t have time to do them all during my PhD. I decided that while science continued to excite and motivate me, that was the career I wanted to pursue. Finding a postdoc would be a challenge, but realistically, other than a bit of lost time, it wouldn’t hurt to try!

For me, my main reservation with taking on a postdoc position was the insecurity and the short-term contracts. Sometimes funding uncertainties do worry me, but in my opinion, getting to do a job I love is worth it. I get to spend my days working on interesting problems, talking to outstandingly intelligent people, and travel abroad at least once a year! Even if I only get to do that for a few years, it seems like a pretty great way to earn a living. 

At the start of my PhD, the idea of moving around while following the postdoc track had made me wary of the idea – in fact it terrified me. Choosing to uproot your life every few years is a scary thing to do, but moving offers a fantastic opportunity to work with different people, make new friends, learn new things, and experience other countries/cities. By the last year of my PhD my priorities had shifted so that these factors were important to me and moving no longer seemed (as) frightening. 

Finding this postdoc and the application process

Although I had made the decision to look for post-doc positions at the start of my third year, it wasn’t until that summer (nine months left) that I applied to my first one. Actually, I think that was a tad too early. It depends on the situation, but slightly closer to when I was ready to finish might have been better as generally the preferred start date was a few months after the interview. 

Finding this postdoc was the result of a rather sudden phone call one evening from the head of the Magnetospheric Physics group at GFZ. We had met previously at a Fall AGU poster session and he knew my PhD supervisors well. I spoke to him several times throughout the first AGU meeting I attended and he kindly invited me out to dinner with the GFZ group. Personally, I find the AGU poster sessions to be excellent places to meet people you have only seen on papers and actually talk to them about their work. As the whole poster session setup is about approaching people, it is one of the easiest places to introduce yourself.

During the phone call he told me about an opening in his group working on the radiation belts (my PhD focus) and then emailed me the link for the application. I distinctly remember thinking that I wasn’t qualified enough for the role. It was listed as a research scientist/senior research scientist and had items like ‘experience leading a research group’ in the requirements. Despite this, I applied and was offered a Skype interview (spoiler alert, I was ultimately offered the position, which just goes to show that even if you don’t meet all the criteria, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply). On Skype, I gave a short presentation about my work and answered a number of questions, which all-in-all took about 40 minutes. That was the first time that I had done something like that over Skype and although I wasn’t happy with my performance, a few days later they invited me for a real interview and to give a seminar to their group.

Flying to Potsdam was very fun and very tiring. It was a two day visit during which I spoke individually to each member of the group about the work they were doing, gave my presentation, and had an in-person interview. At the end of the first day, we went out to a lovely restaurant… but I was so unbelievably tired. I had gotten up at 2.30am that morning to catch my plane (I chose the flights I wanted, so I only had myself to blame) and it was 10pm before I got up the nerve to excuse myself. I had reached the droopy eyelid stage and decided I would rather be the person who left early than the person who fell asleep during the conversation.

I left Germany feeling like the interview and visit had gone well, but the key issue was the start date. They wanted someone to start the following month (November 2018) for funding reasons, but I still had to write my thesis and finish up some of my work. My PhD funding didn’t end until April 2019 and I wanted to start the postdoc at that point. Starting before would have put extra pressure on me and meant that I would have had to start a postdoc and write up my thesis at the same time. For me, starting before April was a deal-breaker. A few days later, they rang me to offer the job with an April start date and I was given a week to think about it before I accepted.

While I was lucky to be contacted about the GFZ postdoc, other fantastic ways to find postdoc positions are the MIST and GEM mailing lists. Also, approaching people directly is another option. Sometimes there are funding opportunities coming up or some money that could be used for a short postdoc and it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Photograph of the old market square in Potsdam, taken during my visit to the GFZ group for the interview.
Photograph of the old market square in Potsdam, taken during my visit to the GFZ group for the interview.

What it is like living and working abroad

I was completely terrified on that first Monday when I started at GFZ; not to mention exhausted and burnt-out from the thesis write-up. There were many new names and accents to learn and admin tasks to do, but everyone I met was so nice. They remember what it is like on their first day and how long it can take to settle in. Really I had nothing to worry about, but it was about a week before the nerves subsided. Receiving emails in a different language, having a German keyboard, and a computer initially set to German didn’t really help with the nerves either. A lot of the computer and account setup emails I received were in German, so Google Translate became a permanent bookmark.

Map highlighting Potsdam

Map highlighting Potsdam

Aside from the postdoc work, there were many other tasks that I needed to do because I had moved country. Things like applying for a bank account, health insurance, registering myself with the tax office, registering my address, etc. All of these things needed to be done in person via appointment and honestly were just added stress. Thankfully, not only was there a GFZ Welcome Centre which could help and advise with these tasks but my colleagues were also a fantastic source of knowledge and more than happy to help.

One thing that I had never experienced before moving was not being understood myself because of my accent or colloquial words. I never thought I would be explaining why we occasionally say “five quid” instead of five pounds when I accepted the role. After a few weeks, I could understand everyone perfectly and they could understand me.

I have been asked quite a lot how is it living in a place where you don’t speak the language. I am learning German, but I can’t really speak it yet. Unfortunately, the idea that you pick up a language very quickly if you move to the country is not particularly true. I find that if I wanted to, I could avoid the German language all together. Aside from the odd interaction, I work in English, I browse the web in English, I speak English at home, I watch Netflix in English, etc. Think about what you say to people that you don’t know regularly: you buy a ticket, you order food, you say “excuse me”. Really, that is a very limited number of words – and you learn how to say those very quickly and that’s sufficient for day-to-day life. That being said, you have more opportunities to integrate and meet people when you speak the language and I think it’s important to try.

In this post I have spoken very positively of moving because that’s been my experience, but I do want to say that moving to a new place is not without its challenges. You leave behind friends, family, plants… I was incredibly lucky that my boyfriend also agreed to move with me, making the whole process infinitely easier. Plus my grandparents kindly agreed to care for my coffee tree, the other great love of my life. Of course I miss friends and family, but it is easy to contact them. Friends have already come to visit me and it’s not difficult to get home should I need to. Europe is very well connected by plane, train, and bus if you so wish.

Oddly enough, I miss things I had never even thought about. I miss British tea. The tea is different here and I end up bringing back massive quantities of teabags every time I visit the UK. I miss being able to read magazines and pick a book in a bookshop or library. Instead I make much more use of my Kindle now. It’s easier and quicker than ordering a book online to be delivered. I also miss (missed) British bedding. In Germany, double beds have two single duvets on them – everyone gets their own cover. Also, the pillows are square instead of rectangular and, together, this amounts to a very different sleeping experience. For most things I have just adapted, but this was just too much and, after two weeks,I ordered brand new duvet set from the UK.

Moving abroad has been so much fun. It has changed how I view German culture and also British culture. I have been to new places, met new people, eaten new food, and I am sure that I will have many more new experiences throughout the remainder of my postdoc here.

Tips for finding a postdoc

  • Ask for advice from postdocs/fellows/permanent staff. I had so many ‘how to have a science career’ chats in the pub and they were honestly all so helpful!
  • Ask around to see if there are postdocs available or coming available – or even just odd money that could fund a short postdoc position.
  • Pay attention to mailing lists like GEM, MIST, SPA, etc.
  • Network – introduce yourself to new people at meetings and conferences.
  • Ask for feedback from unsuccessful applications.
  • Remember that start dates are negotiable.

Tips for moving abroad

  • Make use of any Welcome Centre.
  • Join expat groups on Facebook to find friends and things to do in English.
  • Throw yourself into the language and don’t let any worries that you don’t speak it hold you back from moving to a new place.
  • Research all of the “moving country admin stuff” you need to do.
  • Make the most of it – time flies!

If you have any questions about starting a postdoc abroad, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..