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Philippa Browning


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Personal profile


Professor of Astrophysics  in Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, School of Physics and Astronomy

Research interests in theory of solar and fusion plasmas

Cambridge University: BA 1st Class in Mathematics 1979, Part III Applied Mathematics 1980

St Andrews University: PhD in Applied Mathematics 1983

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Reader at UMIST from 1985, University of Manchester from 2004

Professor from 2009

I was  Chair of the Institute of Physics Plasma Physics Committee 2013 - 2017 and the UK Solar Physics Counci 2013 - 2016l.  I am a member of STFC Astronomy Grants Panel, chairing the Solar System subPanel,  and was formerly Chair of the STFC Women in SET group.

Editor of JGR- Space Physics 2008-2013.

Member of Royal Astronomical Society Council 2008-2011

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Research interests

  • Theory and modelling of solar and laboratory plasmas: magnetohydrodynamic and kinetic modelling
  • The role of magnetic reconnection in solar coronal heating
  • Numerical simulation of nonlinear kink instabilities
  • Models of nanoflare onset in the solar corona using helicity-conserving relaxation
  • Particle acceleration in magnetic reconnection and the origin of high energy particles in solar flares
  • Modelling reconnection in merging-compression start-up in MAST spherical tokamak using Hall-MHD simulations

My group


Solar coronal heating by reconnection and  relaxation  events: A long-standing unsolved problem in solar physics is to explain how coronal plasma is heated to temperatures of millions of degrees. An attractive idea is that the underlying physical process is the same as that causing solar flares, and thus the hot corona results from a superposition of many “nanoflare” events.  The process of magnetic reconnection underlies such events, and  also   occurs widely in other astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. PhD projects are available to model this process, both using analytical and simple numerical models, based on relaxation theory, and using 3D magnetohydirdynamic simulations.

Acceleration of charged particles in magnetic reconnection:Magnetic reconnection is difficult to observe directly, but an important observational signature is the acceleration of charged particles, and a student could develop models of  the energy spectra  and other properties of charged particles in reconnection, comparing these with observational data from the RHESSI satellite. A novel feature of the project will be the study of 3D magnetic reconnection configurations. This is of particular relevance to solar flares, as a significant proportion of the energy release in these events is carried by high energy non-thermal charged particles, whose origin is not well understood. PhD projects are available to model the acceleration of particles using test particles coupled to MHD models, and novel kinetic approaches.

For both projects, there are strong synergies with modeling magnetically-confined fusion plasmas, and PhD projects may include some element of fusion studies in collaboration with Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Areas of expertise

  • QB Astronomy
  • Solar physics
  • QC Physics
  • Plasma Physics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


  • Fusion plasma physics
  • Magnetic reconnection
  • Magnetohydrodynamics
  • Plasma physics
  • Solar corona
  • Solar physics theory


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