Oyuki Chang
11 Feb 2020



Space Weather Rutherford Fellow


​​Dr Oyuki Chang, Space Weather Rutherford Fellow

Credit: Phil Perillat/ Arecibo Observatory

How did you arrive at RAL Space?

While I was doing my PhD, I had an opportunity to work with some Rutherford Fellows from RAL Space, we were working on a common project. I decided to apply for a postdoc Fellowship and was successful. I started a two year Fellowship at RAL Space in June 2018.

What is your current role?

I'm part of the Space Weather team as a Rutherford International Fellow. My project is very specific. I'm analysing datasets from the LOFAR radio telescope to monitor solar activity. LOFAR is an integrated European telescope, with its UK station at Chilbolton.

Why is your role important?

Our main objective is to understand space weather and how it affects the Earth. We are really vulnerable to space weather because it can impact our technology and our systems both on Earth and in space, so understanding when and how it will affect the Earth is very important. We can forecast and monitor hurricanes and electric storms, so we should be able to do the same with space weather. At the moment we don't know exactly how the physical processes of the Sun work – we have statistical and historical knowledge about the sun's cycle, flares, etc., but not enough to forecast accurately.

What's the best thing about your job?

My work is really challenging because we actually don't know many things about solar activity, so we're constantly learning. There are many mysteries, so it's a process of testing and trying to explain. We have to formulate the questions and then try to find the answers using theories, models and observations. The physics of solar activity is not very well known because it's hard to have a complete vision of the sun and we can't get very close using spacecraft. My work involves analysing signals from radio telescopes on Earth, which are used as a complementary information alongside telescope images and spacecraft data to provide a bigger picture of what is going on between the Sun and the Earth. 

What do you value about working for RAL Space?

I'm working on science here, as part of a very strong space weather team. Here at RAL, as a young scientist I have had the opportunity to create collaborations and to strengthen my knowledge in many ways. I also have an opportunity to access data from the LOFAR radio telescope and to work with its amazing community.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a Rutherford Fellow?

Don't think too much about it, just do it! Sometimes we don't think we have enough experience or the right background, but the reality is that if you are applying for post-doctoral roles, you will face lots of rejection for posts, so just apply! As researchers we are learning all the time, so we know that it will be challenging, but we're used to learning and we know that we are always able to continue to learn.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That's a hard question! If you think you could do something and you really want to do it, then you can. For a long time I felt limited as a woman, as a scientist, but I felt that I could go further and then I did it! Believe that you can, then you can inspire others that they can. Don't let anything stop you.