PhD - The Non-Linear States of Convection in the Earth Core

Coventry University - Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing (EEC)

Coventry University has been voted ‘Modern University of the Year’ three times running by The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide. Ranked in the UK’s top 15 (Guardian University Guide), we have a global reputation for high quality teaching and research with impact. Almost two-thirds (61%) of our research was judged ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. By joining the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing (EEC), you will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities and partnerships with some of the biggest names in industry, including Jaguar Land Rover, GE Aviation, Cummins and Intel.

The project concerns convection under a magnetic field in the so called “tangent cylinder” region of the Earth's core. Much of the mystery surrounding the Earth's dynamics (its magnetic field, plate tecnonics) lies in the nature of the convective patterns within the Earth's liquid core, and in particular in the region called the “Tangent Cylinder”. What are the possible convective states under the combined influence of the Earth's rotation and magnetic field, and how erratic are they? This thesis is part of a theoretical and experimental research program funded by the prestigious Levehulme Trust ( that aims at answering these questions. The purpose of this thesis is to theoretically predict all possible nonlinear convective states for the first time. We will then evaluate which of these states are mostly likely to underpin the Earth's core convection. 

The student will conduct the theoretical and numerical analysis of the problem under the joint supervision of Prof. Alban Pothérat ( and Dr Chris Pringle.  The study will seek the possible structure of convection by means of advanced stability theory and branch tracking method, to unveil the possible states. In the frame of the research program, the PhD work will be conducted in collaboration with an experimental study that will seek to reproduce and visualise these non-linear states in an experimental model of the Earth Core.

  • Our research strategy is underpinned by a £250m investment in research and facilities
  • Dedicated Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability Development deliver high quality professional support for researchers, from PhD to Professor
  • Free training: research career planning, managing your doctorate, research communication skills, research ethics, research impact, research integrity, research methods and research supervision
  • Coventry is a member of the Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA), the largest multi-partner and only nationwide doctoral training initiative of its kind.
  • Entry criteria for applicants to PHD (standard)
  • a taught Masters degree in the required disciplines indicated, involving a dissertation of standard length written in English in the relevant subject area with a minimum of a merit profile: 70% overall module average and a minimum of a 70% dissertation mark


  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a three-year period of study
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Successful candidates are expected to hold or be on course for an MSc or equivalent, with a grade of 70% or above, in fluid mechanics or a related discipline (Physics/ Mathematics), and to have demonstrated excellent abilities in mathematics and programming.

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Midlands of England