Alexander Cushen

Alexander Cushen

Graduate Student


Alex is a first-year PhD student in CLaSP, working with Prof. Xianzhie Jia and Prof. James Slavin to study the plasma environment around Mercury. As the only terrestrial planet other than Earth with global magnetic fields, Mercury’s magnetosphere bears some similarities to ours. However, its lack of an ionosphere and weaker magnetic field, combined with a different solar wind environment, results in a number of significant differences. The Mariner 10 and MESSENGER missions provided key insights into these unique features, and the BepiColumbo mission, currently en route to Mercury, will represent a new generation of observations. Alex uses high-fidelity global magnetospheric simulations to help contextualize these observations and learn about the plasma acceleration processes in Mercury’s nightside magnetosphere. The role of planetary induction currents, in Mercury’s large core, is also of particular interest.

In 2021, Alex completed their Bachelor of Arts in Physics and Anthropology at New York University, graduating Summa Cum Laude. Alex was awarded the Samuel F. B. Morse Medal and Farres P. Mattar Memorial Scholarship from the NYU Department of Physics in recognition of their academic proficiency.

Alex then completed a Master’s of Physics with Extended Research at Imperial College London in 2023, graduating with high distinction. During the Master’s, Alex worked with Prof. Marina Galand to adapt an existing magnetohydrodynamic code to model the plasma environment around highly active comets. This preliminary model development established a baseline for future refinement and comparison to in-situ observations.


Climate & Space Research Building, Room 2133

2455 Hayward Street Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2143