Hannah Sanderson

Academic Profile

I obtained my integrated master's in Natural Sciences, specialising in Astrophysics, from the University of Cambridge in 2021. I was a scholar at Jesus College and was awarded the college's Benefactors Prize and Gulland Prize for my examination results. For my master's thesis, I worked with Dr Amy Bonsor to investigate whether the Gaia telescope could find planets around white dwarfs. This involved examining the effects of post-main-sequence stellar evolution on planetary systems, running N-body simulations of planetary systems and understanding the sensitivity of the astrometric detection method. One of my other areas of interest is stellar magnetic fields and I was able to explore this in the summer of my third year as a Royal Society of Edinburgh, Cormack Undergraduate Vacation Research Scholar. I collaborated with Professor Moira Jardine at the University of St Andrews to investigate whether dust in magnetic stable points in M dwarf coronae could explain the "scallop-shell" phenomenon observed in some M dwarfs. I won the Cormack Undergraduate Research prize for the best project by a Cormack Scholar that year for this work. Both this project and my master's thesis are currently being prepared for publication. I also enjoy science communication and outreach. I was Chair of the Cambridge University Astronomical Society (CUAS) in my second year as an undergraduate and organised talks on all areas of Astrophysics as well as helping run observing evenings using the telescopes at the Institute of Astronomy. I was also a member of Cambridge Hands On Science (CHaOS), which involved visits to primary and secondary schools to demonstrate exciting science experiments to help students engage with science. Now I am at Oxford I am involved in outreach activities with the Physics and Earth Sciences departments, including Marie Curious and the Physics Summer Roadshow.

Current Research

My current research interest is magnetic field generation in rocky planets. Whilst the Earth currently has a magnetic field and had one for most of its history, the other rocky planets in the Solar System currently do not have magnetic fields (Mars, Venus) or they are very weak (Mercury). Observations from Mars and the Moon both indicate they had magnetic fields for roughly their first 500Myr and 1Gyr respectively, but we do not fully understand the combination of parameters in the interior's of these bodies and their thermal histories that generated these fields and caused their subsequent demise. Whilst the Earth's magnetic field today is driven by compositional convection due to the solidifying inner core, the thermal evolution of the Earth that powered the geodynamo before the solidification of the inner core is also a subject of ongoing research. I am hoping to compare the different rocky bodies in the Solar System to understand which aspects of a rocky planet enables magnetic field generation and understand how the early Earth generated its field. Hopefully, in the future this work could then be applied to the numerous rocky exoplanets that will be discovered and characterised in the next decade by missions, such as PLATO and TESS.


Contact information

Doctoral Training Centre

orchid ID 0000-0001-5842-6985

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