The ESRs and their projects

Overview of ESR Research projects

The individual research projects are performed by PhD students, the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs):
ESR   Project description
Matthias Heumesser (ESR 1)

Measurements from the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) allow for simultaneous recording of high energy photons of from Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes (TGFs) and optical radiation from lightning. Matthias’ research contributes to understanding the production mechanisms of TGFs in a thunderstorm environment and how strongly they are connected to lightning. Especially the questions which phase of a lightning promotes TGF generation and if TGFs are always connected to optical radiation is of interest for the community.


The project should also contribute to the overall understanding of lightning and its initiation. Measurements from NASA’s Lightning Imaging Sensor (ISS-LIS) and the ground network GLD360 are taken into account to close the gap to previous research and long-term statistics.

Krystallia Dimitriadou (ESR 2)

Currently, she is working on an exceptional thunderstorm that was captured by ASIM over Darwin, Australia. She is working on the interpretation of ASIM optical observations and comparisons with ground based lightning systems.
She is also coupling my analysis with geostationary satellite data, atmospheric soundings and studying the thundercloud evolution with radar data (in collaboration with Australian Bureau of Meteorology). Besides her research activities within SAINT, this semester she is attending two PhD courses at DTU: 1) ‘’Journal Club in Geophysics, Astrophysics and Space Physics’’ which is focused on learning methods for exploitation and communication of research and 2)  ’’Mie scattering and image processing methods for remote sensing analysis of lightning interactions in clouds’’ which will contribute in strengthening her knowledge in both light scattering physics and image processing , in order to help her improving the processing and analysis of data from narrow band cameras for remote sensing of clouds and lightning. She is happy that she is pursuing a research career at DTU Space because she works with experienced scientists within the field and grow as researcher in a healthy working environment. She has significant support of her supervisors regarding scientific stuff and feels very comfortable and productive when working with them.Life in Denmark, met all of her expectations in both professional and personal matters. She fitted from the early days because she believes that although she is a Greek, she has many things from the Danish mentality in her life. Denmark in general and the Technical University of Denmark offers a work-life balance and opportunities to learn and gain experience, which are fundamental for her. SAINT gave her the opportunity to be part of a research project that upgrades my knowledge and skills, train her to become a researcher within the scientific community and pursue a life and a career in a country that fits with her characteristics.

Carolina Maiorana (ESR 3)

Carolina Maiorana graduated in physics and astrophysics at the University of Torino. She is currently at the University on Bergen / Birkeland Centre for Space Science, working on the connection between Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs) and lightning discharges.

TGFs are burst of gamma radiation associated to lightning; they are detected most often by particle detectors on satellites. They are usually observed over big tropical storms, but recently the ASIM instrument was placed on the International Space Station, allowing us to observe them also at higher latitudes. Her current project is about those high-latitude events: she is studying the characteristics of both the TGF itself and the parent thunderstorm, to see how they relate to the tropical ones. She is collaborating with the Universities of Bath and of Touluse for this project, since it involves data of different nature: high-energy radiation, meteorology, radio waves. It is possible that those TGFs will tell us something new about the physics of high-latitude thunderstorms.

Before that, she redesigned the selection criteria for TGFs used by the AGILE satellite and produced the 3rd TGF catalogue for the mission. With more than 2700 events over 3 years, this is currently the most complete catalogue available for the equatorial region; it will be very useful for the study of seasonal and geographic variations in TGFs production without the influence of different climate zones.

Simon Ghilain (ESR 4)

Simon Ghilain works currently on sprite and lightning flashes observation. Measurements led this summer during our field works have given a lot of sprite and lightning flashes events. Different photometers characterize the rise time and other parameters at very high frequency: 1 Mhz. The sprite is identified with a camera. The photometers give a very precise time which allows to find the parent lightning flash detected by a local lightning detection system. After the analyze at 1 mus - 1 ms scale, the convective structure and meteorological conditions are analyzed using cloud satellite data and all the data recorded from the ground during the night of observation. Satellite observation from ASIM have been analyzed during a placement, however the case where both ground observation and low orbital satellite observation cover the same case remain very rare. It explains we need a lot of campaigns and data to find similar cases. Data is processed with Python.

Zaida Gomez (ESR 5)
  Zaida Gomez Kuri, M.Sc. is a data scientist, aerospace engineer and currently pursuing a PhD in the Analysis of Thunderstorm Related Electrical Discharges from Ground and Space Observations at the University of Toulouse III- Paul Sabatier. As ESR 5 of the SAINT project, she is working with data from three different lightning detection systems (LDS) that work in the low, very-low and extremely-low frequencies on order to get an improved accuracy of the relation between lightning activity and Transient Luminous Events (TLEs). She analyzes the detection efficiency of these LDS by validating their data with empirical observations from a camera network located across southern France (Pic du Midi, Lannemezan, Rustrel, Clermont and La Reunion). Furthermore she utilizes satellite data to characterize the meteorological conditions, including cloud properties, prior to and during TLE producing thunderstorms. This data involves satellite radiances, GPS-Radio world-wide networks, and measurements from the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) onboard Meteosat Second Generation (MSG). Soon she will be able to use her current algorithms to correlate lightning activity measurements and ground observations with ASIM data during a secondment at Denmark Technical University. She will also work at Thales to validate the lightning detection algorithms for the Lightning Imager (LI) aboard Meteosat Third Generation (MTG).
Adam Peverell (ESR 6)
  Currently working on implementing very small arrays for ELF/VLF remote radio sensing. The main focus is on sensing emissions from lightning and Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) in conjunction with the Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) mission. Array sensor hardware and software has been developed and tested in the laboratory, and in field conditions in Exmoor in South-West England. Single station deployment of the new hardware was undertaken in central Colombia, and preliminary deployment of the full array was conducted during the SAINT ground observation campaign during summer 2019 near Rustrel in southern France. Full array deployment preparation is underway for October 2019 in northern Colombia. 
Michele Urbani (ESR 7)
  Michele Urbani received the M.S. degree in physics from the University of Padua with an experimental thesis in high-energy astroparticle physics. Currently, he is involved in the SAINT project as Ph.D student in electrical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. The main focus of his reasearch is study the high-energy radiation from lightning and the attachment process. In order to lead his research the first accomplishment of his work was the development of a new 3D VHF interferometry system able to map lightning discharges with nanosecond resolution. The second phase includes the installation of this instrument in a lightning hotspot area in Colombia and the simultaneous measurements of the high-energy emissions with NaI(Tl) detectors. Due to the exponential absorption of the high-energy radiation in atmosphere, these measurements are rare and challenging. Thanks to the analysis and interpretation of these new data the hope is to do some step forward in the understanding of this phenomenon.
Ny Kieu (ESR 8)
  Ny Kieu is a PhD student at IAA- CSIC Granada, Spain. She is working with an ultrafast spectrograph named GALIUS - GraAnada Lightnigh Ultrafast Spectrograph. GALIUS can record images and spectra of sparks up to > 2 million frames per second (Mfps) using four interchangeable volume phase holographic (VPH) diffraction gratings from the near-Infrared (NIR) to the near- ultra violet (NUV)   
So far, she has been working with some laboratory discharges: 2 – 10 cm sparks produced by a small electrostatic (300 A – 60 kV) at IAA,  and 1 m long  sparks generated by a MARX generator at LABELAB, Terrassa, Barcelona. The MARX generator was operated in Switching (125 A – 800 kV) and Lightning modes (2.5 kA – 800 kV).
In the future, GALIUS will be used to work with triggered and/or natural lightning in different posible locations in the USA (New Mexico) or Europe (Switzerland, Germany). The goal of this study is to be able to characterize important properties in lightning discharges at different temporal phases so that we can understand the key mechanisms underlying the dynamics and chemical influence of lightning in the atmosphere.
Hani Louie Francisco (ESR 9)
  Hani Francisco is a PhD candidate at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in the Netherlands working on computational models in lightning physics. One of the goals of the research he is doing is to develop mesoscale models for the heads and channels of streamer discharges and lightning leaders. To accomplish this, the effects of consequential parameters on positive streamer dynamics in air are examined. Analytical approximations for streamer properties that may prove useful for model reduction are also investigated.
Andy Martinez (ESR 10)
  Andy Martinez obtained his MSc. at the University of Antwerp in theoretical and computational physics with a focus on solid state physics. In August 2017 he started a PhD at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam. The research involves modeling of high-energy radiation from streamers and leaders in the context of lightning physics. Currently, much work is done on discharge inception using particle-in-cell (PIC) models and comparing them to experimental results.
Mojtaba Niknezhad (ESR 11)
  Mojtaba Niknezhad is a PhD student at technical university of Denmark (DTU) . He is working on developing a 3D fluid model to simulate streamer discharges in unsteady air flow. The focus is on long duration electric discharges were the air flow can have significant effect on the discharge. The goal is to understand how lightning attaches to moving structures. This is important as lightning strikes are a major problem for wind turbines. 
Miguel Gomes (ESR 12)
  This work investigates the dynamics of nonthermal electrical discharges called streamer coronas.  These are common precursors of hot discharges such as lightning and are composed of a multitude of thin filaments called streamers that propagate thanks to strong electric fields at their tips.  To understand how each of these streamers interacts with its neighbours, we are building microscopic models that follow the simultaneous evolution of a few of them.  Because this is a computationally demanding problem, we are using state-of-the art programming in General-Purpose Graphical Processing Units.  Our final objective is to derive knowledge about streamer interactions in order to build macroscopic models of a full corona containing hundreds or thousands of them.
Andrea Pizzuti (ESR 13)

Currently pursuing a PHD at the University of Bath, in partnership with the UK manufacturer of meterological sensors Biral Ltd. The main objective of this research is to improve the performances of a recently developed single-site lightning location system, including hardware upgrades, and investigate the potential for research applications. The project uses data collected from multiple Biral thunderstorm detector sensors deployed in UK and southern France, concurrently with broadband EM measurements and optical observations of transient luminous events (TLE) with low-light CCD cameras. Satellite and radar reflectivity data are also utilised to further characterize the storm conditions leading to superbolt lightning, distributed in northern Europe especially in the winter season, which are related to distinctive large amplitude signatures detectable on the sensor up to several hundred kilometres away from the source.

Marcelo Sousa Arcanjo (ESR 14)   Marcelo Arcanjo is a PhD candidate at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), in partnership with the lightning protection services company INGESCO ltd. He holds a master's degree in Electrical Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG/Brazil). The main goal of his project is to develop a novel lightning rod that integrates protection with information on lightning. He has been investigating features of corona discharges, leader discharges, and lightning strikes at grounded rods, mainly focusing on the electric current signature of these phenomena. For that, he is developing sensors capable of detecting and characterizing minimum corona emissions, lightning leaders, and lightning strikes from conductive rods. He conducts experiments in the laboratory with high voltage power supplies and outdoor, under thunderstorm conditions in different sites for observations.
Shahriar Mirpur (ESR 15)
  Shahriar is a PhD candidate at Eindhoven university of Technology in the Netherlands working on experimental study of lightning inception. One of the main goals of the research is to elaborate more on the role of hydrometeors on the electric field enhancement in the thunderstorms. This may unravel the mystery of lightning initiation which has been under discussion for a long time.  On his way, comparing experimental data with modelling is very promising. To discover more you can watch the introduction video of the project :