The Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL / Birkbeck

Dr Colin Forsyth

Dr Colin Forsyth

Senior Research Fellow

Dept of Space & Climate Physics

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
6th Oct 2008

Research summary

My primary research focus is on geomagnetic substorms - large-scale disruptions of the Earth's magnetosphere that convert the equivalent energy of 100 nuclear power stations from the solar wind into the Earth's near-space environment and into the upper regions of the atmosphere. Substorms are a key component of space weather and can result in significant disruption to technology on the ground and in space.

Substorms have been studied for over 50 years, but whilst we have built up our understanding of the magnetospheric system, there are still major outstanding questions: when, where and why do substorms occur; how do they disrupt the magnetosphere and what is their impact? I have developed new methods for identifying substorms that, through statistical analysis of tens of years of spacecraft and ground-based observations, will enable me to tackle these questions.

My wider research interests include the dynamics of the radiation belts, understanding the processes that accelerate particles above the aurora, large and small-scale dynamic processes in magnetotails, and the measurement and impact of field-aligned currents in couple magnetosphere-ionosphere systems.

Teaching summary

Lecture on the Space Science and Engineering MSc course run by MSSL.

Supervision of individual student projects on the Astrophysics MSc, Space Science and Technology MSc, and Astrophysics MSci programmes.

Teaching as part of the London NERC DTP

Teaching on Space Weather courses run by MSSL


University of Leicester
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2009
University of Leicester
Other higher degree, Master of Physics | 2005


I am a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (Dept. Space and Climate Physics) studying the occurrence, causes and impact of geomagnetic substorms.

I undertook my undergraduate and post-graduate studies at the University of Leicester between 2001 and 2008. In particular, I studied for my PhD in the Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group between 2005 and 2008.

In 2008, I joined the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory as a post-doctoral research associated working on Sun-Earth interactions. I have subsequently worked as a PDRA on auroral acceleration processes and the energy budget of substorms. In 2016 I was awarded a NERC Independent Research Fellowship to study the timing and impact of geomagnetic substorms.

From 2009 to 2012 I was a member of MIST Council, a body which helps to coordinated the Magnetosphere - Ionosphere - Solar Terrestrial community in the UK.