Alan Wood

Alan Wood

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer

School of Science & Technology

Role

Dr Alan Wood is an inquisitive physicist, who seeks to inspire his students as he teaches about the world around us. He is an accomplished researcher in the field of Space Weather and conducts experiments using the EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter) radars, an international research facility based in the high arctic. He has been awarded a number of research prizes, including a Best Paper Prize at the prestigious International Beacon Satellite Symposium in 2016. But his real enthusiasm for physics lies within teaching. He teaches about astronomy, space science, environmental physics, image processing and laboratory instrumentation within our physics courses.  He also runs the first year lab where students do experiments including investigating at the structure of crystals with our CT scanners and observing the structure of the galaxy with our radio telescope. He currently teaches on the following modules:

  • PHYS12632:  Laboratory Instrumentation & Physics Skills
  • PHYS12123:  Ideas of Motion
  • PHYS12113:  Matter: Evidence for Quantisation
  • PHYS12313:  Concepts of Astronomy & Cosmology
  • PHYS22513:  Digital Techniques
  • PHYS22233:  Thermal & Environmental Physics
  • PHYS34611:  BSc Project
  • PHYS36611: MSci Project

Career overview

  • Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University, (2012-date)
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Liverpool, (2010-2012)
  • Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Planetary Magnetospheres and Ionospheres, Aberystwyth University, (2007-2010)
  • PhD student, Aberystwyth University, (2004-2008)

Research areas

Initially Dr Wood was based at Aberystwyth University and his research focussed on the effects of space weather on the terrestrial ionosphere (Wood and Pryse, 2010; Wood et al., 2009; Wood et al., 2008; Pryse, Wood et al., 2006). Space weather can cause, and structure, large plasma density enhancements called polar cap patches and boundary blobs. These structures can disrupt practical navigation systems such as GPS. A summary paper presented at the URSI (International Union of Radio Science) Festival of Radio Science in 2009 (a national meeting hosted by the University of Birmingham) was awarded a York EMC Services Ltd Best Paper Prize (Wood et al., 2009b).

While at Aberystwyth University, Dr Wood developed the PLASLIFE (PLASma LIFEtime) simulation (Wood, PhD thesis, 2008; Wood and Pryse, 2010) to assist with the interpretation of space weather observations. This code has been invaluable for delivering the science results; for example it has been used to determine the origin and evolution of plasma enhancements (Wood et al., 2008; Pryse et al., 2006) and quantify the relative importance of the driving processes under a limited range of conditions (Wood and Pryse, 2010).

Dr Wood's first PDRA appointment also included studies of Venus. He presented the first observations of a day-to-night plasma flow in the Venusian ionosphere at solar minimum (Wood et al., 2012a).

Dr Wood subsequently moved to the University of Liverpool to work on statistical models of road accidents. These models were developed 20-30 years ago but are still used in industry standard packages for road design, and to identify high-risk sites for targeted interventions. The project team demonstrated that these models do not give a good fit to recent data (Wood et al., 2012b) and have determined the optimum updating strategy (Connors et al., 2012). This updating strategy is data intensive and a simpler, more robust methodology was shown to perform almost as well (Wood et al., 2012c). This simpler methodology is of practical use to the project partners and other practitioners. A detailed assessment of accident risk at key sites has been provided to the project partners and another ten local authorities (Wood et al., 2012d).

Dr Wood has successfully applied statistical methods from road safety research to large-scale structures in the ionosphere (Wood, 2012). This novel approach delivered two key outputs simultaneously:

  • Quantifies the relative importance of the various physical processes causing variability in the ionosphere.
  • Provides real-time predictions of the amount of structuring. This method has a strong advantage over other types of models in that it addresses these questions simultaneously and thus it can be applied at locations where numerous, competing physical processes occur. He has demonstrated that this technique is feasible and desirable in a pilot study at Svalbard (78.2°N, 16.0°E, 75.2° MLAT, 112.9° MLON) (Wood, 2012). The numerous physical processes at Svalbard make it a particularly challenging location in which to develop a statistical model.

The advent of Galileo, Europe’s version of GPS (initial service by 2014 and completion by 2019), means that there is an urgent need to understand, quantify and predict space weather effects which can disrupt the signals. Dr Wood's research is addressing one part of this puzzle.

Opportunities to carry out postgraduate research towards an MPhil / PhD exist in the School of Science and Technology and further information may be obtained from the NTU Doctoral School.

Sponsors and collaborators

While working for the University of Liverpool on a road safety project, Dr Wood was the main point of contact for partners at Lancashire County Council. Lancashire County Council supplied much of the data required for this project, advised on the modelling strategies developed and advised on the scope and the detail of the final report. Dr Wood was the first author of this report which was supplied to Lancashire County Council and another ten local authorities who contributed data for this project.

Publications

Selected peer-reviewed publications:

Updating outdated Predictive Accident Models for modern rural roads. Wood AG, Mountain L, Connors R, Maher M, and Ropkins K, Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2013, 55, 54-66

Methodology for fitting and updating predictive accident models with trend. Connors R, Maher M, Wood A, Mountain L, and Ropkins K, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2013, 56, 82-94

The transterminator ion flow at Venus at Solar Minimum. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Grande M, Whittaker IC, Coates AJ, Husband K, Baumjohann W, Zhang T, Mazelle C, Kallio E, Fränz M, McKenna-Lawlor S and Wurz P, Planetary and Space Science, 2012, 73 (1), 341-346

From the Sun to the Earth: the 13 May 2005 Coronal Mass Ejection. Bisi M, Breen A, Jackson B, Fallows R, Walsh A, Mikić Z, Riley P, Owen C, Gonzalez-Esparza A, Aguilar-Rodriguez E, Morgan H, Jensen E, Wood A, Owens M, Tokumaru M, Manoharan P, Chashei I, Giunta A, Linker J, Shishov V, Tyul’bashev S, Agalya G, Glubokova S, Hamilton M, Fujiki K, Hick P, Clover J and Pintér B, Solar Physics, 2010, 265(1-2), 49-127

Seasonal influence on polar cap patches in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere. Wood AG and Pryse SE, Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2010, 115, A07311

Modulation of nightside polar patches by substorm activity. Wood AG, Pryse SE, and Moen J, Annales Geophysicae (ANGEO), 2009, 27, 3923-3932

Multi-instrument observations of nightside plasma patches under conditions of IMF Bz positive. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Middleton HR, and Howells VSC, Annales Geophysicae, 2008, 26, 2203-2216

The role of the tongue-of-ionization in the formation of the poleward wall of the main trough in the European post-midnight sector. Middleton H, Pryse S, Wood A and Balthazor R, Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2008, 113(A2)

Llif yr atmosffer drydanol dros begwn y gogledd: arsylwadau tomograffi radio a SuperDARN. Pryse S, Middleton H and Wood A, Gwerddon, 2007, 2, 35-50

Reconfiguration of polar-cap plasma in the magnetic midnight sector. Pryse SE, Wood AG, Middleton HR, McCrea IW, and Lester M, Annales Geophysicae, 2006, 24, 2201-2208

Selected formal report:

Predictive Accident Models: Final report for Lancashire County Council. Wood AG, Mountain L, Connors R, Maher M and Ropkins K, 2013

Selected presentation:

Modelling plasma structures in the high-latitude ionosphere. Wood AG, Shahtahmassebi G, Halls B and Campbell M, International Beacon Satellite Symposium BSS-2016, Trieste, Italy, 26 June – 1 July 2016

Modelling large-scale structures in the high-latitude ionosphere using 15 years of data from the EISCAT Svalbard Radar. Wood AG, Shahtahmassebi G, Hebden S and Pryse SE, Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, European Geosciences Union, 12 -17 April 2015

Determining decay rates of polar cap plasma using observations of polar cap patches. Hardwick L and Wood AG, Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, European Geosciences Union, 12 - 17 April 2015

Predicting the amount of large-scale structuring in the high-latitude ionosphere. Wood AG, TRANSMIT workshop, University of Bath, 12 - 14 February 2013

Updating Predictive Accident Models for GB roads. Wood AG,  Mountain LJ, Connors RD,  Maher MJ and Ropkins K, 45th Annual UTSG Conference, Oxford, 2 - 4 January 2013

A new model to predict large-scale structuring in the high-latitude ionosphere in real time. Wood AG and SE Pryse, TRANSMIT, University of Nottingham, 20 - 21 March 2012

Updating Predictive Accident Models of Modern Rural Single Carriageway A-roads. Wood A, Mountain L, Connors R and Maher M, 44th Annual UTSG Conference, Aberdeen, 4 - 6 January 2012

A new model to determine the relative importance of processes influencing polar cap patches. Wood A, MIST, RAS, 25 November 2011

PLASLIFE: A tool to assist in the interpretation of ionospheric observations at the Earth and Venus. Wood AG, Pryse SE and Grande M, EGU General Assembly, Vienna, 2 - 7 May 2010

Patch formation in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere. Wood AG and Pryse SE, EGU General Assembly, Vienna, 2 - 7 May 2010

The transterminator ion flow at Venus at Solar Minimum. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Grande M, Whittaker IC and the ASPERA team, EGU General Assembly, Vienna, 2 - 7 May 2010

Comparative Ionospheres: Venus, Earth and beyond, ESF Putting our Solar System into Context. Wood AG, Pryse SE and Grande M, Obergurgl, Austria, 26 - 30 April 2010

Comparisons of plasma transport in the high-latitude ionospheres of the Earth and Venus. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Grande M and Middleton HR, National Astronomy Meeting, University of Glasgow, 12 - 16 April 2010

Ion loss to the Solar Wind from Venus at Solar Minimum. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Grande M and the ASPERA team, National Astronomy Meeting, University of Glasgow, 12 - 16 April 2010

Characteristics of polar cap patches in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Whittick EL and Middleton HR, URSI Festival of Radio Science, University of Birmingham, 15 December 2009

Solar wind influences on plasma transport in the high-latitude ionospheres of Venus and the Earth. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Grande M, Whittaker IC and Fallows RA, RAS Specialist Discussion Meeting “Solar Wind-Magnetosphere-Ionosphere interactions within the Solar System”, RAS, 11 December 2009

Update on studies conducted at Aberystwyth using VEX IMA. Grande M, Wood AG, Pryse Se, Whittaker IC, Guymer G and the ASPERA team, ASPERA team meeting, University of Bern, 6 - 7 December 2009

Seasonal variation of polar cap patches in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere around solar minimum and solar maximum. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Kidd P and Grocott A, MIST, RAS, 30 November 2009

The Trans-Terminator Ion Flow in the Venusian Ionosphere Near Solar Minimum. Wood AG, Grande M, Pryse SE, Whittaker IC and the ASPERA team, 7th Early Careers Scientists Meeting, University of Manchester, 6 November 2009

The trans-terminator ion flow in the Venusian ionosphere near solar minimum. Wood AG, Grande M, Pryse SE, Whittaker IC and the ASPERA team, EPSC Abstracts Vol. 4, European Planetary Science Congress, 2009

Promoting astronomy, solar system science and particle physics to the disengaged: Radio and online outreach. Wood AG, Dunbar S, Dorrian G, Whittick EL and O’Neill IJ, EPSC Abstracts Vol. 4, European Planetary Science Congress, 2009

Seasonal variation of polar cap patches in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere around solar minimum and solar maximum. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Kidd P, Fallows RA and Grocott A, 14th International EISCAT workshop, Norway, 3 - 7 August 2009

The Venus ionosphere in the polar region, ASPERA team meeting. Wood AG, Grande M, Pryse SE, Whittaker IC, Shane N and the ASPERA team, ESTEC, The Netherlands, 11 - 13 May 2009

The high-latitude ionospheres of Venus and Earth at solar minimum. Wood AG, Grande M, Pryse SE, Kidd P, Whittaker IC, Fallows RA and the ASPERA team, European Space Agency: International Conference on Comparative Planetology: Venus – Earth – Mars, The Netherlands, 11 - 15 May 2009

The Venus ionosphere in the northern polar region. Wood AG, Grande M, Pryse SE, Whittaker IC, Coates AJ, Shane N and the ASPERA Team, Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 11, EGU General Assembly, 2009

Seasonal dependency of polar cap patches in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere. Wood AG, Pryse SE, McCrea IW and Grocott A, Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 11, EGU General Assembly, 2009.

odulation of polar patches in the high-latitude nightside ionosphere by substorm activity. Wood AG, Pryse SE and Moen JM, Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 11, EGU General Assembly, 2009

PLASLIFE for Venus: A code to assist in the interpretation of ionospheric observations. Wood AG, Grande M and Pryse SE, 6th UKFP Early Careers Scientist Meeting, University College London, 3 November 2008

Seasonal dependency of the occurrence of polar cap patches in the nightside ionosphere. Wood AG, Pryse SE and Middleton HR, National Astronomy Meeting, Queen's University Belfast, 1 - 4 April 2008

Promoting astronomy to the disengaged: Radio and online outreach. Wood AG, Holmes D, O’Neill IJ, Whittick EL and Dunbar S, National Astronomy Meeting, Queen's University Belfast, 1 - 4 April 2008

Large scale structuring of polar cap plasma in the nightside ionosphere: the influence of the orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field. Wood AG, Pryse SE, Middleton HR and Howells VSC, 13th International EISCAT workshop, Finland, 6 - 10 August 2007

Influence of IMF Bz on the ionospheric plasma distribution at high latitudes in the European sector: radiotomography observations and the CTIP model. Pryse SE, Whittick EL, Wood AG and Middleton HR, International Beacon Satellite Symposium, Boston, 11 - 15 June 2007

Polar Cap Patches around Magnetic Midnight. Wood AG, Middleton HR and Pryse SE, RAS NAM-UKSP-NAM, University of Central Lancashire, 16 - 20 April 2007

Footprints of Space Weather in the Upper Polar Atmosphere. Wood AG, SET for Britian: House of Commons, London, 28 November 2006

Large-scale plasm structure in the polar and auroral ionosphere: experimental observations and modelling. Pryse SE, Middleton HR, Dewis KL, Wood AG, Whittick EL, NATO/URSI Specialists’ meeting/symposium on “Characterising the ionosphere”, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 12 - 16 June 2006

Polar cap plasma on the nightside: evidence for seasonal dependency. Wood AG, Middleton HR and Pryse SE, MIST, University of Wales Aberystwyth, 10 - 13 April 2006

Large-scale polar-cap ionospheric structure: EISCAT and radiotomography observations. Pryse SE, Wood AG and Middleton HR, 12th International EISCAT Workshop, Sweden, 29 August – 2 September 2005

Evolution of a boundary blob from the polar tongue-of-ionisation. Wood AG, Middleton HR and Pryse SE, 12th International EISCAT Workshop, Sweden, 29 August – 2 September 2005

Evidence for the Tongue-of-Ionisation in the European evening sector. Wood AG, Middleton HR, Pryse SE and McCrea IW, MIST, Cambridge, 5 - 7 April 2005

See all of Alan Wood's publications...

Press expertise

  • Space weather
  • The Northern Lights
  • Impacts of space weather on technology such as GPS

Dr Wood's main area of expertise is space weather. A summary of his public engagement of science activities is as follows:

Public Engagement of Science

Dr Wood has substantial experience of public engagement of science activities. He was PI of a STFC Public Engagement of Science Small Award for a novel project using commercial radio and online media to showcase astronomy, space science and particle physics ("Selling STFC Science to the Disengaged: Radio and Online Outreach", STFC, £12,564.32, 2007-2008).

Prior to undertaking his Ph.D. Dr Wood was employed as a journalist. He has applied these skills in the scientific environment by presenting research at all levels (MPs, Lords, opinion formers, public, school groups and funding bodies) and in many formats (Royal Society Summer Exhibition, a formal evening for opinion formers in west Wales, online and schools visits). He also ran staff development sessions entitled "What Journalists Want: Science and the Media" for PhD students and PDRAs at Aberystwyth University and at the University of Liverpool.

Dr Wood has written press releases and conducted interviews with local and regional media. He frequently gives public lectures on space weather and runs activities with visiting schools groups.