Conor MacBride
Conor MacBride
Astrophysics PhD Student

About Me

I’m Conor MacBride, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. My research is focused on energy dissipation in the atmosphere of the Sun. This involves designing numerical simulations, and processing and analysing large data sets to extract novel insights.

For my doctoral research, I created an open source Python package, MCALF, which extracts velocity measurements from observations of the Sun. By utilising machine learning techniques, the method adapts to the physics present in each region of the Sun.

I actively contribute to open source projects, including SunPy and AstroPy. While my effort primarily involves Python development, I also work on integrating DevOps into open source projects to increase the quality of software and make it easier for new contributors to get involved. I achieve this through the development of Matplotlib’s pytest-mpl plugin and CI/CD pipeline templates, as well as working with open source projects directly.

I am an MPhys Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (first-class honours) graduate of the University of St Andrews. During my time at St Andrews, I co-founded an award-winning science podcast, insight.

Experience

SUNPY
Continuous Integration Maintainer
Nov 2021 — Present
  • Maintaining the CI/CD pipelines across various platforms including Azure Pipelines, GitHub Actions and CircleCI, and investigating and recommending new CI services.
  • Configuring Python testing environments and ensuring unit tests are sufficient.
  • Implementing new functionality, as well as fixing bugs and optimising existing code.
  • Reviewing pull requests to maintain a high-quality, well-tested codebase.

Contributions to the ecosystem

QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST
Teaching Assistant
Sep 2019 — Present
  • Secured funding to host a Software Carpentry workshop for postgraduate researchers within the School of Mathematics and Physics.
  • Supporting and guiding students in the level-one Computational Physics course as they solve problems using Python. Most of the students are new to programming.
  • Marking and providing feedback on assignments for the level-two Mathematical Physics course.
INITIATIVE FOR INTERSTELLAR STUDIES
Web Editor
Jan 2018 — Present
  • Keep online content up-to-date and enhance its presentation.
  • Manage content creation for the organisation’s membership scheme and assist with the scheme’s technical implementation. This involves participating in, and occasionally chairing, teleconferences and email discussions with project stakeholders around the world.
  • Implement custom features into the website using PHP and document extensively. This allows routine tasks to be automated.
  • Provide advice and assistance on procuring service contracts and on business matters.
UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS PHYSICS SOCIETY
Treasurer | Publicity Officer
May 2016 — Apr 2019
  • Worked closely with other committee members to boost attendance at events. Anticipated their needs and took initiative, designing and distributing posters and other media prior to events.
  • Adapted my schedule when old projects changed and when new projects started.
  • Built responsive website with member and events management system using HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL and iCalander as well as Slack and Mailchimp integrations to allow the committee to manage the society better. Used Google Analytics to monitor traffic and assess effectiveness of website content. Made adjustments accordingly.
  • Co-founded and produced a science podcast, managing the technical aspects including the website, radio station, emails, RSS feed and editing and mastering the raw audio. Analysed email and website click-through rates to boost listening figures. I personally interviewed guests on occasions.
  • Assisted with funding applications by recommending new podcasting equipment as well as participating in interviews for society awards. The society won 2nd most innovative society in St Andrews in 2017 primarily for the podcast.
  • Implemented new advertising strategies including advertising through a Snapchat Geofilter and digital displays. Improved the society’s social media presence by migrating to a Facebook Page.
UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS
Solar Physics Summer Student
May 2018 — Jul 2018
  • I spent six weeks working in the Solar and Magnetospheric Theory group within the School of Mathematics and Statistics under the supervision of Prof. Alan Hood.
  • My research project involved exploring the magnetohydrodynamics equations in the context of the Sun, investigating how a magnetic field behaves in the presence of a non-constant Alfvén speed, which introduces the process of phase mixing.
HUMBOLDT UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN
Student Intern
Jun 2017 — Aug 2017
  • Spent three months during Summer 2017 working on a project involving using a convolutional neural network to detect, from videos, fish swimming on the surface of sulfur water.
  • Wrote a program that takes the fish detected by the neural network and connects the fish across frames in the video. It then filters out poor quality detections by setting a minimum number of frames a chain of detections has to be present in before it is considered to be a fish.
  • My program significantly improved the reliability of the output from the neural network. This was proven by comparing the filtered detections with the detections from the neural network using annotated ground truth frames.
  • Studied neural networks and retrained the existing neural network with new training data and different training parameters. I created multiple models then analysed their accuracy to find the optimal parameters.
  • Used the Linux command line extensively and created Bash scripts to automate many tasks. Developed my skills using git and vim.
STUDENT AT ST COLUMB'S COLLEGE
Peer Mentor and Prefect
Jan 2014 — Jun 2015
CERN
Student Intern
Jul 2014

Shadowing the Head of Operations and colleagues in the Beams Department. In September 2013, I was a CERN Mini Expo Guide explaining particle physics to primary and secondary school students in my city.

Education

QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST
PhD Student
Sep 2019 — Present

Specialising in Solar Physics

Astrophysics Research Centre,
School of Mathematics and Physics

Publications

1st author | see all

JOURNAL OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE | May 2021
MCALF: Multi-Component Atmospheric Line Fitting
MacBride, CD; Jess, DB
PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A | Jul 2020
Accurately constraining velocity information from spectral imaging observations using machine learning techniques
MacBride, CD; Jess, DB; Grant, SDT; Khomenko, E; Keys, PH; Stangalini, M
ZENODO (SOFTWARE ARCHIVE) | May 2020
MCALF: Multi-Component Atmospheric Line Fitting
MacBride, CD; Jess, DB

latest version deposited documentation

Talks

ASTROPHYSICS RESEARCH CENTRE, QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST | Dec 2021 | 30 min
Ambipolar Diffusion in the Lower Solar Atmosphere: MHD Simulations of a Sunspot
PYTHON IN HELIOPHYSICS COMMUNITY | Jul 2021 | 1 hour
Introduction to MCALF
ASTROPHYSICS RESEARCH CENTRE, QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST | Apr 2021 | 30 min
Accurately Constraining Velocity Information from Spectral Imaging Observations Using Machine Learning Technique
UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS
MPhys (Hons) Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
Sep 2015 — Jun 2019
ST COLUMB'S COLLEGE
A-levels
Sep 2008 — Jun 2015
PhysicsA
MathematicsA*
Further MathematicsA*
MusicA*
Chemistry (AS only)B

GCSEs: 6 A*, 4 A & 1 B