Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

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)

Charter amendment and MIST Council elections open

Nominations for MIST Council open today and run through to 8 August 2021! Please feel free to put yourself forward for election – the voting will open shortly after the deadline and run through to the end of August. The positions available are:

  • 2 members of MIST Council
  • 1 student representative (pending the amendment below passing)

Please email nominations to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 8 August 2021. Thank you!

Charter amendment

We also move to amend the following articles of the MIST Charter as demonstrated below. Bold type indicates additions and struck text indicates deletions. Please respond to the email on the MIST mailing list before 8 August 2021 if you would like to object to the amendment; MIST Charter provides that it will pass if less than 10% of the mailing list opposes its passing. 

4.1  MIST council is the collective term for the officers of MIST and consists of six individuals and one student representative from the MIST community.

5.1 Members of MIST council serve terms of three years, except for the student representative who serves a term of one year.

5.2 Elections will be announced at the Spring MIST meeting and voting must begin within two months of the Spring MIST meeting. Two slots on MIST council will be open in a given normal election year, alongside the student representative.

5.10 Candidates for student representative must not have submitted their PhD thesis at the time that nominations close.

SSAP roadmap update

The STFC Solar System Advisory Panel (SSAP) is undertaking a review of the "Roadmap for Solar System Research", to be presented to STFC Science Board later this year. This is expected to be a substantial update of the Roadmap, as the last full review was carried out in 2012, with a light-touch update in 2015.

The current version of the SSAP Roadmap can be found here.

In carrying out this review, we will take into account changes in the international landscape, and advances in instrumentation, technology, theory, and modelling work. 

As such, we solicit your input and comments on the existing roadmap and any material we should consider in this revision. This consultation will close on Wednesday 14 July 2021 and SSAP will try to give a preliminary assessment of findings at NAM.

This consultation is seeking the view of all members of our community and we particularly encourage early career researchers to respond. Specifically, we invite:

Comments and input on the current "Roadmap for Solar System Research" via the survey by clicking here.

Short "white papers" on science investigations (including space missions, ground-based experimental facilities, or computing infrastructure) and impact and knowledge exchange (e.g. societal and community impact, technology development). Please use the pro-forma sent to the MIST mailing list and send your response to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Quo vadis interim board


A white paper called "Quo vadis, European space weather community" has been published in J. Space Weather Space Clim. which outlines plans for the creation of an organisation to represent the European space weather community.
Since it was published, an online event of the same name was organised on 17 March 2021. A “Quo Vadis Interim Board” was then set up, to establish a mechanism for this discussion, which will go on until June 21st.

The Interim Board is composed of volunteers from the community in Europe. Its role is to coordinate the efforts so that the space weather (and including space climate) European community can:

  1. Organise itself
  2. Elect people to represent them

To reach this goal, the Interim Board is inviting anyone interested in and outside Europe to join the “Quo Vadis European Space Weather Community ” discussion forum.

Eligible European Space Weather Community members should register to the “Electoral Census” to be able to vote in June for the final choice of organisation.

This effort will be achieved through different actions indicated on the Quo Vadis webpage and special Slack workspace.

Industrial Placements and Snowflake Software

by David Price

At the time of my PhD application the placement in industry that was tagged on to the process sounded like a good idea, I thought to myself that it would provide the opportunity to see what other career options my Master’s degree offered me and hopefully illuminate which of the two paths, academia or industry, would better suit me at the end of my studies. However when the time came to start looking around and applying for opportunities, late in my 2nd year, I was angry at my past self: ‘why couldn’t you have just chosen a normal PhD so you wouldn’t have to worry about all this?’

Now that the prospect was actually upon me, and not just a seemingly good idea for my CV a few years ago, the foray into the world of industry conjured imagery of an Office Space–esque hellscape of grey cubicles, excessive bureaucracy and miserable excel zombies. However, my experience at Snowflake Software, at which I spent the second half of last year, turned out to be a far cry from this “potentially inaccurate” mental image and as a result I have entirely new perspective on life outside of academia. I was introduced to Snowflake via the GRADnet Employer Engagement scheme, ran by the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), who host regular training events and distribute placement and graduate opportunities to participants. If you are a member of one of the participating Universities and are interested in also doing some kind of placement I would recommend checking their website out (I’m also sure there will be similar resources for students at non-participating universities, just ask!). Unfortunately for readers of this post I am unable to go into extensive details of the work I was doing at Snowflake (for intellectual property reasons), so instead I will focus mostly on my thoughts and reactions to the experiences I had whilst working there.

Day to Day

Snowflake Software is a small software company, conveniently located in the centre of Southampton, that specialises in the aggregation and redistribution of flight, weather and aeronautical data from a variety of sources. During my placement I was attached as a Data Scientist to the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Turbulence Aware project. Snowflake had landed a competitive deal to build, host and manage IATA’s cloud-based turbulence data platform which now receives live in-situ turbulence data from thousands of flights all over the world. On my first day I was given access to millions of individual data points, each containing a measured value of turbulence, location, time, and many other meteorological variables over a timespan of approximately one year. The brief was simple: ‘see what you can find out about this dataset’ (paraphrased), and so began 5 months of me exercising a mild obsession with maps by plotting and producing just about any kind of interesting analysis I could come up with. This open ended kind of approach to the placement was both familiar and enjoyable and I was given free rein to choose what software and coding language I wanted to use to approach this interesting dataset.

Joining the Snowflake Software team!

As a result the actual work was similar in many ways to some of my work during the PhD, the vast majority of my time was spent writing python code, and I would liken it specifically to the final stages of analysis on any data set you could have acquired during your research. However, the day to day experience was different in many ways to that I have experienced in academia. I would obviously put most of the differences down to the simple fact that Snowflake was delivering a product for a paying client, and as such they did not have the flexibility and freedom on timescales that we sometimes are party to during our PhD. Snowflake practices a development methodology known as ‘Agile’ which utilises an iterative development process, with a focus on collaboration with the client on a regular basis. Starting from day one I was folded into this system, but since I was not a software developer I was sort of operating on the fringes of this methodology - in short I contributed to the agile development process in two ways:

  1. Participation in the daily ‘stand up’ sessions with the team. A stand up essentially consists of each member of the team giving an update on the tasks they have accomplished since the last meeting, what they hope to accomplish before the next and how they are feeling on that day. Whilst for the others it was useful for keeping track of who is developing what aspect of the software at any time, for me it usually consisted of: “spent most of my time wrestling with matplotlib yesterday, I imagine I will also be doing that for the most of today” an ‘experience’ most PhD students are already intensely familiar with.
  2. Participation in the bi-weekly ‘sprint review’ sessions with the client. These sessions were a much more formal affair, in which the team hosted a conference call with the IATA turbulence aware group. These meetings consisted of a 20-30 minute presentation in which any new software features were demonstrated by a member of the team and appropriate feedback was given and questions asked. After this it was my turn to take over the presentation and talk the IATA team through the analysis I had done during that period and take suggestions for further research directions. 

The idea behind both of these processes is to consistently receive feedback and guidance, which in turn helps to steer your day to day work in the direction the client desires. This meant that I spent very little time wandering what I should be doing as I always had one or two fresh suggestions of things to look into from the IATA team. Of particular note were the inputs from the enthusiastic subject matter expert, ex-pilot Bret King. Bret provided an unending supply of anecdotes from his extensive career as well as incredibly useful insight into the kind of turbulence data and information actual pilots really wanted and could use effectively.

Overall I think the Agile system has both pros and cons. Initially I was frustrated by the extremely regular meetings at the start of the day (particularly when I didn’t accomplish much in the 24 hours period) but when you are working towards a client’s expectations I do think it is useful to be made very aware of the current state of progress. One of the things I found most difficult about Agile was having to assign a point like system to your tasks wherein you make a prediction on how long something is going to take you. I know I have a particularly bad habit of telling my PhD supervisor that something will be ‘easy enough’ and that ‘I’ll have it ready by next week’ only for this prediction to fall completely flat. I think the Agile system is also susceptible to this error in judgement and often in the less flexible environment of industry I saw it leading to mad rushes before a deadline to deliver all that was promised. 

Extra-curricular activities

My time at Snowflake didn’t just consist of coding and meetings with the clients, in fact there was a lot of what I have called extra-curricular activities on top of all the rest. I would be remiss if I didn’t mentioned the many games of ping pong I played at lunch, the end of the day, and pretty much at any time I could convince another office member to take five minutes off. In fact a personal favourite outcome from my placement is the development of my forehand smash, it’s absolutely lethal. On top of this, those who know me will know just how sickeningly competitive I am which meant that obviously I kept an extensive spreadsheet of my win loss ratio against everyone in the office, the result of which you can see below. The ‘BIG 3’ marker is a combination of the companies’ best players (pretty much the leadership team), whom I failed to take a single game off, much to my intense dissatisfaction. You’ll also note I purposely left out the total number of games played…

The infamous ping pong spreadsheet.

On another more serious note, the true highlight of my placement was the incredible opportunity to travel to Chicago and present the work I had been doing. Approximately three weeks into my placement I was given a chance to attend the IATA Turbulence Aware forum. The forum was a conference like congregation in which representatives from airlines all over the world gathered to discuss the applications of the new turbulence dataset IATA was in the process of making available to them. My presentation was to be the last of the two day itinerary – a 45 minute slot in front of a panel of meteorologists from the likes of Delta, United and Southwest airlines – to discuss how data science can help direct the most efficient use of this data to the airlines. This was an incredibly useful, albeit mildly terrifying, experience for me. The differences between an industrial conference setting and those in academia are not very large, in fact it was much of the same; small talk over lunch, hurried technical conversations between talks and a few pints in the pub afterwards. One noticeable difference, for me at least, was that I was given an optimistically large stack of business cards to disseminate between attendees, and in return I ended up with a surprisingly colourful stack of others for myself. Finally, out of fear of this becoming a travel blog, I will not say too much about the time I got to spend exploring the city of Chicago. I will simply say that it is a cool city and I would highly recommend a drink or two along the canal/riverwalk if you ever get the chance!

Final Note

All in all I would definitely say I had a positive experience on my industrial placement working with Snowflake Software. It turned out to be an extremely eye opening and instructive five months - a lot of the skills I have developed during the course of my degree and PhD proved not only to be useful but also extremely valuable and interesting to a variety of companies. On top of that I was introduced to new experiences and opportunities to develop skills working within a larger team and operating in a more formal manner. I would recommend!

To find out more about Snowflake Software then check out their website here: https://snowflakesoftware.com

If you would like to find out more about David’s experience with an industrial placement then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..