Looking for summer trainees!

The UH Space Physics Group is looking for several summer trainees! Summer trainees will work with space weather simulation Vlasiator and with the projects investigating solar eruptions in the corona and interplanetary space. Both projects dealing with modelling and data analysis are possible. Experience with Python and basics of plasma physics are a plus, but not required. Summer trainee positions offer an excellent chance also for BSc and MSc theses!

A short overview of some of our offered topics are listed below, full descriptions and staff members who can answer your questions can be found in our thesis section. You may indicate in your application what project/which projects you would in particular be interested in and whether you have any preference between modelling, observations/data analysis or theory. Also, please indicate if you would like to do your BSc or MSc work based on your summer trainee work.

Please apply for these positions through the Department of Physics summer trainee application system!

  • Exploring Properties of Solar Storms Using Radio Observations and Modelling of Magnetic Fields
    This project combines radio observations from ground-based facilitates and UH space physics teams advanced coronal models to study emission mechanisms and origin of radio burst in solar eruptions. The work will be done most in Python. Training will be provided to use the required tools.
  • Energy transfer at the Magnetopause
    The magnetopause separates the Earth’s magnetosphere from interplanetary space. Magnetospheric dynamics such as auroras are driven by energy transferred from the solar wind. This project will utilise Vlasiator to develop a method for magnetopause detection and perform analysis of energy transfer at the magnetopause as a function of driving conditions. Knowledge of Python is recommended.
  • Turbulent fluctuations in CME-driven sheath regions
    This project studies properties of the turbulence in sheaths regions driven by coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CME sheaths are major cause of ‘space weather’ at the Earth. The project will involve a mix of data analysis and theory, some background knowledge of basic plasma physics would be useful but not essential.
  • Magnetic structures at the Earth’s bow shock
    Plasma shock waves can accelerate particles to very high energies. This project will use the four MMS spacecraft to study the structure and properties of SLAMS (short large amplitude magnetic structures) at the Earth’s bow shock. Results will be compared with Vlasiator simulations of the bow shock and SLAMS that form there. Knowledge of python and/or matlab is preferred.
  • Space weather modelling with EUHFORIA
    UH is actively engaged in the development of a novel European space weather tool named EUHFORIA. This project conducts runs with EUHFORIA, in particular with its flux rope module, and assess the accuracy of the space weather predictions. The work includes running the model and analysis of the output. Some experience with coding is desired, e.g. in Python.
  • Numerical analysis of Precipitation of particles from the Earth’s magnetosphere
    Precipitation of particles from the Earth’s magnetosphere into the upper atmosphere is responsible not only for auroral emissions, but also for spacecraft charging and disruption of radio signals. It can be studied using the Vlasiator global kinetic model and compared with an empirical model which is a function of geomagnetic activity. Familiarity with Python is desired.
  • Heliospheric Shock Database
    The Heliospheric Shock Database developed and maintained at the University of Helsinki is a comprehensive database of interplanetary shock database with user-friendly search and data download options. The thesis work is related to the development database, in particular related to its Machine Learning code and conducting an analysis of shock properties. Some knowledge of machine learning, programming, and/or basic plasma physics would be useful but not essential.
  • Programming a new energetic particle acceleration model
    Are you good at programming in C++? Interested in GPU coding? We have an opportunity to develop a new prototype solar energetic particle acceleration simulation tool. Knowledge of plasma and space physics is not required, but excellent coding skills are.
  • Magnetospheric wave activity driven by interplanetary shocks
    Interplanetary shocks cause important space weather effects in near-Earth space and create intense wave activity in the magnetosphere. This Master’s project will characterise the waves generated by interplanetary shocks as a function of the driver’s properties. Measurements will be retrieved from the Heliospheric Shock Database and data repositories of ground-based magnetometers.
  • Particle reflection at a quasi-perpendicular plasma shock
    At a space plasma shock wave, a portion of the incoming supersonic ions are reflected back upstream. This process of ion reflection is the main source of the energy transfer from kinetic to thermal energy. This project consists of analyzing simulation results from the Vlasiator model in a region of the shock which is largely unexplored in Vlasiator.
  • Hamiltonian approach to wave-particle interactions of relativistic electrons
    The Earth’s radiation belts are the site of acceleration of relativistic electrons. This project will use Hamiltonian theoretical and numerical tools to quantify the energisation of electrons. This project is suitable for a student of theoretical physics or applied mathematics.
  • Flux Transfer Events and their interaction with Earth’s polar cusps
    When the interplanetary magnetic field is southward, it can interact with the Earth’s dipole field in bursty phenomena called Flux Transfer Events (FTEs). The goal of this project is to understand and quantify the process of FTE-cusp interaction from global kinetic simulation data, and to compare to satellite and ground-based observations as well as theory.
  • Quantitative analysis of resolution effects in Vlasiator
    This project will compare low and high resolution Vlasiator simulations of a plasma shock to validate the level of kinetic physics resolved at each resolution.

Visiting the Space Physics groups for vocational secondary school training

During the first week of October, Werner Karjalainen from the secondary school Helsingin yhteislyseo visited the space research groups, learning what constitutes a weeks work for a space physicist. He wrote a report of his experiences – read it below!

From left to right: Andreas (helped with spacecraft trajectory analysis), Markus (supervised the week), Werner, Yann, Diana, Lucile, and Urs

Hi, I’m Werner Karjalainen from 9th grade, and I was one week at the University of Helsinki at work practice program in the fall of 2019. During my week in the Space Physics team at the University of Helsinki, I interviewed 6 researchers: Urs Ganse, Emilia Kilpua, Yann Pfau-Kempf, Lucile Turc, Diana Morosan and Adnan Osmane.

I found out that there are three research groups. Adnan’s research group researches Earth’s radiation belts. Emilia’s group focuses on solar eruptions and coronal mass ejections. Vlasiator group researches high performance computing simulations of the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Researchers in one group work together with the same research project. Even though they work with same research in group, still almost everyone wants to find out something else than others. For example Urs wants to know that what are the plasma waves like and Lucile wants to find out that what creates plasma waves at near earth space even though they are in same research group.

Many of them said that their work has not been used commercially. However, Urs said that even though his work has not been used commercially, his simulations have been used at making of fusion reactors. Adnan also told that he will be working on upcoming years on propabilities and information theory that have commercial applications.

Many of them became researchers, because they liked learning and discovering new things. They all have of course studied physics at the university. Emilia’s case was interesting: She had just a summer job at the Space Physics team but after the summer she stayed and continued working there.

Why to become a researcher? Because it’s fun and interesting and you can make your own time schedule, you can be a part of larger space research, it can be challenging and you have a lot freedom to research. They really like their jobs and many of them like that they can work whenever they want and there is good atmosphere in the research group. Urs said that it feels like his job is from the future.

Negative things about job is that they have to apply for funding and there are only a few jobs at research in general and when you get higher up there are lots of administrative work.

Researching is interesting, even too interesting. Emilia said that there are so much interesting things to do that there isn’t enough time for everything. Lucile said that she can’t sometimes get her mind stop thinking about her work because it’s so interesting.

In addition to the interviewing I did, one day I studied the trajectories of the satellites Cluster and Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) based on calculations of where they would be at a given time. I tried to find when those satellites were in conjunction at the Earth’s bow shock. I searched for it from trajectory pictures. So I tried to find good times for the satellites to collect extra “burst mode” data. Thanks to me those satellites will collect additional data for 2 hours and they might find something interesting.

Predicted spacecraft trajectories used for finding potential burst mode data segments

JOB OPENINGS: Postdoctoral Fellow Positions at the University of Helsinki, Space Physics Group, Finland

The Space Physics Group at the University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, is a leading research group specialised both in observations and modelling of space plasmas. We develop the unique global hybrid-Vlasov simulation Vlasiator to investigate the near-Earth space in ion kinetic scales utilising hybrid-Vlasov methods.

We are now opening several postdoctoral fellow positions funded through a European Research Council Consolidator grant, and the Academy of Finland. The positions are focussed on both developing Vlasiator as well as utilising it in investigating kinetic plasma processes (magnetic reconnection and shocks), and coupling with the ionosphere; both from electron and ion perspectives. The applicant should have a PhD in space physics or other relevant field. Other useful skills include: using/developing numerical simulations, Python, C++, data analysis, supercomputer environments.

We are a highly dynamic and international research group, working together as a team in a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. The selected fellows will have excellent opportunities to network and to develop as a researcher. The 2-year positions are available immediately. The deadline for applications is 18.10.2019.

For more information, please visit:

For specifics about the positions, contact Professor Minna Palmroth (minna.palmroth’at’helsinki.fi). Interested candidates should send their informal application, CV, list of publications, and a maximum of three names to act as references to Mila.Hyytinen’at’helsinki.fi, and cc: Minna.Palmroth’at’helsinki.fi.

JOB OPENING: A Postdoctoral Fellow Position

JOB OPENING: A Postdoctoral Fellow Position in Space Physics Group at the Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Finland
The Space Physics Group at the Department of Physics is a leading European space physics group specialised both in observations and modelling of space plasmas. We develop the novel global hybrid-Vlasov simulation Vlasiator to investigate the near-Earth space in ion kinetic scales utilising hybrid-Vlasov methods.

We are now opening a postdoctoral fellow position. The postdoctoral fellow will focus on developing Vlasiator and modeling space plasmas. Prior knowledge in the following areas is required: high-performance computing, supercomputer environments, parallelisation algorithms, version control, C++. Other useful skills include: Python, plasma physics, adaptive mesh refinement. 

We offer a position in a dynamic and international research group, with a possibility to network and to develop as a researcher. The 2-year position is available immediately. The deadline for applications is 31.3.2019.
For more information, please visit:


For specifics about the position, contact Professor Minna Palmroth (minna.palmroth(at)helsinki.fi). Interested candidates should send their informal application, CV, list of publications, and a maximum of three names to act as references to Hanna.Partio(at)helsinki.fi, and cc: Minna.Palmroth(at)helsinki.fi.