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Dr Alexander Russell

Alexander Russell
Lecturer in Applied Mathematics
School of Science and Engineering
Fulton Building
University of Dundee
Dundee DD1 4HN
Fulton G14
+44 (0)1382 388728
+44 (0)1382 385516

picture of Alexander Russell

Research Interests:

I am interested in the dynamic behaviour of the Sun and Earth's magnetosphere (our immediate space environment, of interest to auroras and space weather). Both of these are astrophysical plasmas in which magnetic fields play a dominant role. My research uses a mixture of computer simulations (often with codes I have developed) and mathematical analysis. I also have experience analysing observational data. My research has mainly focused on:

  • Self-organisation of magnetic fields (non-ideal magnetic relaxation) with particular application to solar activity and fusion-reactor-type plasma experiments.

  • Magnetic helicity including development of field line helicity for studying magnetic reconnection.

  • MHD processes in solar flares and eruptions, especially wave transport (Poynting flux), implosions, sunquake excitation and 3-d reconnection. e.g. see 1851 work here and ISSI team here.

  • Magnetosphere-ionosphere interactions, including the discovery of "magnetosphere-ionosphere waves", a depletion mechanism for the production of small-scale Alfvén waves, and evidence that the ionosphere actively influences the structure of black auroras - e.g. recent ESA science highlight.

  • Solar surface magnetic fields (active regions and quiet Sun).

  • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), MHD waves and magnetic reconnection.

Employment & Education

  • July 2016 to present: Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Dundee.

  • July 2013 to June 2016: Research Fellow in Solar Magnetohydrodynamics, University of Dundee.

  • Oct. 2010 to June 2013: Research Fellow of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, University of Glasgow, “Auroras Shine Light on Solar Flares”.

  • Oct. 2007 to Sep. 2010: Ph.D., University of St Andrews, supervisor: Dr. A. N. Wright, “Coupling of the Solar Wind, Magnetosphere and Ionosphere by MHD Waves”.

  • Sep. 2003 to June 2007: MPhys 1st Class, Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of St Andrews.


This page gives a complete list of my published and forthcoming papers. Published papers are also listed on my ResearcherID and Google Scholar profiles and ADS (with citation statistics, although these services often miss citiations).

My PhD thesis, Coupling of the Solar Wind, Magnetosphere and Ionosphere by MHD Waves (University of St Andrews, 2010) is also available online.

  1. Reep, J. W., Warren, H. P., Leake, J. E., Tarr, L. A., Russell, A. J. B., Kerr, G. S. and Hudson, H. S. (2016),
    "Science Objective: Understanding Energy Transport by Alfvénic Waves in Solar Flares",
    Next Generation Solar Physics Mission White Paper.
    ADS arXiv

  2. Russell, A. J. B, Mooney, M. K., Leake, J. E. and Hudson, H. S. (2016),
    "Sunquake generation by coronal magnetic restructuring",
    The Astrophysical Journal, 831, 42, doi:10.3847/0004-637X/831/1/42.
    ApJ ADS arXiv

  3. Kerr, G. S., Fletcher, L., Russell, A. J. B. and Allred, J. C. (2016),
    "Simulations of the Mg II k and Ca II 8542 lines from an Alfvén wave heated flare chromosphere",
    The Astrophysical Journal, 827, 101, doi:10.3847/0004-637X/827/2/101.
    ApJ ADS arXiv

  4. Pontin, D. I., Candelaresi, S., Russell, A. J. B. and Hornig, G. (2016),
    "Braided magnetic fields: equilibria, relaxation and heating",
    Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, 58, 5, doi:10.1088/0741-3335/58/5/054008.
    PPCF ADS arXiv

  5. Reep, J. and Russell, A. J. B. (2016),
    "Alfvénic wave heating of the upper chromosphere in flares",
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 818, L20, doi:10.3847/2041-8205/818/1/L20.
    ApJL ADS arXiv

  6. Russell, A. J. B., Yeates, A. R. and Eastwood, J. P. (2015),
    "Magnetic reconnection: where now and where next?",
    Astronomy & Geophysics, 56 (6): 6.18-6.23, doi:10.1093/astrogeo/atv197.
    A&G ADS

  7. Russell, A. J. B., Simões, P. J. A. and Fletcher, L. (2015),
    "A unified view of coronal loop contraction and oscillation in flares",
    Astronomy & Astrophysics, 581, A8, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201525746.
    A&A ADS arXiv
    UKSP Nugget

  8. Yeates, A. R., Russell, A. J. B. and Hornig, G. (2015),
    "Physical role of topological constraints in localized magnetic relaxation",
    Proc. R. Soc. A, 471, 20150012, doi:10.1098/rspa.2015.0012.
    Proc. R. Soc. A ADS arXiv

  9. Russell, A. J. B., Karlsson, T. and Wright, A. N. (2015),
    "Magnetospheric signatures of ionospheric density cavities observed by Cluster",
    J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 120, 1876, doi:10.1002/2014JA020937.
    ESA science highlight The Courier St Andrews in the News

  10. Russell, A. J. B., Yeates, A. R., Hornig, G. and Wilmot-Smith, A. L. (2015),
    "Evolution of field line helicity during magnetic reconnection",
    Phys. Plasmas, 22, 032106, doi:10.1063/1.4913489.
    PoP ADS arXiv

  11. Wright, A. N. and Russell, A. J. B. (2014),
    "Alfvén wave boundary condition for responsive magnetosphere-ionopshere coupling",
    J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 119, 3996, doi:10.1002/2014JA019763.

  12. Vidotto, A. A., Jardine, M., Morin, J., Donati, J. F., Lang, P. and Russell, A. J. B. (2014),
    "Planetary protection in the extreme environments of low-mass stars",
    Proceedings of the IAU, Volume 9, Symposium S302, pp 237-238, Cambridge University Press, doi:10.1017/S1743921314002166.

  13. Simões, P. J. A., Fletcher, L., Hudson, H. and Russell, A. J. B. (2013),
    "Implosion of coronal loops during the impulsive phase of a solar flare",
    The Astrophysical Journal, 777, 152, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/777/2/152.
    ApJ ADS arXiv
    UKSP Nugget RAS Press Release

  14. Russell, A. J. B. and Stackhouse, D. J. (2013),
    "Solar flares and focused energy transport by MHD waves",
    Astronomy and Astrophysics, 558, 76, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201321916.
    A&A ADS

  15. Vidotto, A. A., Jardine, M., Morin, J., Donati, J. F., Lang, P. and Russell, A. J. B. (2013),
    "The effects of M dwarf magnetic fields on potentially habitable planets",
    Astronomy and Astrophysics, 557, A67, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201321504.
    A&A ADS arXiv
    RAS Press Release Sky & Telescope Article

  16. Russell, A. J. B., Wright, A. N. and Streltsov, A. V. (2013),
    "Production of small-scale Alfvén waves by ionospheric depletion, nonlinear magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling and phase-mixing",
    J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 118, 1, doi:10.1002/jgra.50168.
    JGR ADS arXiv

  17. Russell, A. J. B. and Fletcher, L. (2013),
    "Propagation of Alfvénic waves from corona to chromosphere and consequences for solar flares,"
    The Astrophysical Journal, 765, 81, doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/765/2/81.
    ApJ ADS arXiv
    News Release University News

  18. Russell, A. J. B. and Wright, A. N. (2012),
    "Magnetosphere-ionosphere waves,"
    J. Geophys. Res., 117, A01202, doi: 10.1029/2011JA016950.

  19. Hudson, H. S., Fletcher, L., Fisher, G. H., Abbett, W. P. and Russell, A. (2012),
    "Momentum distribution in solar flare processes,"
    Solar Physics, 277, 77, doi: 10.1007/s11207-011-9836-0.
    Solar Physics ADS

  20. Russell, A. J. B., Wright, A. N. and Hood, A. W. (2010),
    "Self-consistent ionospheric plasma density modifications by field-aligned currents: Steady state solutions,"
    J. Geophys. Res., 115, A04216, doi: 10.1029/2009JA014836.

  21. Russell, A. J. B. and Wright, A. N. (2010),
    "Resonant absorption with 2D variation of field line eigenfrequencies,"
    Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 517, A17, doi: 10.1029/2009JA014836.
    A&A ADS

  22. Canfield, R. C. and Russell, A. J. B. (2007),
    "Solar active region flux fragmentation, subphotospheric flows, and flaring,"
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 662, Issue 1, pp. L39-L42, doi: 10.1086/519215.
    ApJL ADS ePrint

Public Engagement

I really enjoy opportunities to discuss my research with non-specialists and to share my enthusiasm for space, science and mathematics. My experience in this area includes talks to amateur astronomical and scientific societies, plantetarium shows, observing sessions with small telescopes, school visits, science festivals, science centre events, science-themed stand-up comedy and work with journalists.

The rest of my Predicting Auroras talk can be watched here.

Warning: This one's silly.