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Meet Dr Love, our resident Business Services Organisation space whizz

19 June 2023

Dr Richard Love, BSO Programme Data Analyst in the Directorate of Legal Services, was recently invited to speak at an event at Oxford University. Have any questions about life on Mars? He’s your man. We stole a moment to ask him about his academic career and what brought him to present at Oxford on 19th May 2023.

Tell us about your studies and what lead you to doing your PhD?

I began my research as an undergraduate student in Liverpool Hope University. My first academic publication examined patterns of gentrification in Valletta, Malta, while my undergraduate dissertation involved working with Dr Thomas Smyth, looking at patterns of coastal erosion over dunes on the Formby coast. After graduating, I joined BSO as a graduate intern within the FPS team and during my time in BSO I was invited to apply for a PhD with Ulster University, University of Huddersfield, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and California Institute of Technology (Cal-Tech) titled ‘Surface wind flow modelling on Mars’.

This research involved examining patterns of dune evolution on Mars and the overriding theme of this research was to try and understand the rates and patterns of dune field migration on Mars, by using a numerical modelling process called Computational Fluid Dynamics. This process essentially uses very complex mathematics to simulate fluid flow at a very high spatial resolution (in my case the Martian atmosphere) to examine the processes occurring on a planet which is, on average 140 million miles away.


How did this lead you to be invited to Oxford?

This year saw me invited to attend and present at a conference called ‘Windy Day’ at Oxford University. A group of specialised aeolian researchers from Italy, France and Brazil come together to discuss contemporary advances in aeolian research. My talk was discussing a comparison between sediment transport rates from my numerical modelling, and rates calculated using images from the HiRISE camera on Mars. The presentation was very well received, and led to some interesting discussions which I’m hoping to take forward as new research publications with some of the best aeolian researchers in the world.

For us deep space novices can you explain how this research is having an impact?

This research feeds into our understanding of rates of change on the planet. It will hopefully be used in the future to examine potential landing sites which would help avoid placing a Rover in an area that is very dynamic and could lead to the rover getting stuck, or solar panels blocked by sediment which it can’t clean off itself.

How does your research help your work at BSO?

Although my research seems very niche, the skills I learned during my time there (particularly time management and statistical analysis of very large datasets) put me in a strong position to re-join BSO as a data analyst working for the Directorate of Legal Services. I’m continuing with my research in my spare time, with the aim to publish two other papers from my PhD research.

With all this work, what do you do in your downtime?

Travelling is one of my favourite ways to spend my time off, which works well with an academic career which has seen me travel to all ends of the UK for research and conferences, Malta, Vienna, California and hopefully Washington D.C next year. I’m aiming to see visit each of the European countries and with 14 countries already ticked off, hopefully I can get a couple more in this year.

~ Richard