There will be several PhD positions open for application with a deadline of December 1, 2018. For details of the application procedure see this page. The positions are available in all the research areas in which the Observatory is active. This page will give a broad overview of possible research projects . However, research in different areas is possible and not all projects that might be offered are listed. The faculty research interests provides more background information.
A 4-year fully funded PhD student position in the field of experimental and computational astrochemistry is available in the Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics. Chemical reactions of interstellar relevance will be characterized by means of imaging photoelectron photoion coincidence spectroscopic measurements at the Vacuum Ultraviolet Beamline of the Swiss Light Source (SLS). Supplementary quantum chemical computations will be performed to characterize the reaction path. Frequent visits to the SLS at Paul Scherrer Institute are integral part of the project. Candidates with a background in (physical) chemistry and strong affinity with astronomy/astrochemistry are strongly encouraged to apply. Basic knowledge of quantum chemical computations and spectroscopy is beneficial.
This project will use existing and future ALMA line surveys of low- and high mass protostars to probe simple and more complex organic molecules on solar system scales: which molecules are associated with disks, outflows or envelope? How do abundances change from low to high mass?
The embedded protostellar and disk formation phase is a critical period in the evolution of a young star, when the final mass of the star, the initial chemical composition of the disk, its size and mass are determined. At the same time, jets and winds from the star‐disk system drive outflows which disperse the natal envelope. Many physical processes occur simultaneously in the immediate surroundings of the protostar which can only be probed at infrared and mm wavelengths. This project willl use JWST guaranteed time observations together with complementary ALMA data to study this critical phase in star formation.
One of the central aims of cosmology is to understand the growth of large scale structure. This project will use gravitational lensing, galaxy clustering and photometric redshifts from the Kilo-degree Survey and the corresponding VIKING survey to trace LSS growth over the last six billion years, and derive cosmological parameters. It is also essential preparation for the upcoming ESA Euclid mission (launch 2022).
KiDS+VIKING mapped 1350 square degrees of sky, and provide unique u- to K-band wavelength coverage for weak lensing and galaxy clustering measurements. The multi-wavelength imaging data permits deriving accurate photometric redshifts which can be used study the clustering signal. However, variations in data quality complicate the analysis, and new tools for handling these inhomogeneities need to be developed.
The immediate aims of the project are to use simulated data to explore ways to deal with inhomogeneous data; examine the impact on the covariance matrix for probe combination; and to work within the KiDS/VIKING data analysis to use Gaia data to improve the data processing and calibration. Finally the KiDS + VIKING data will be used to determine the clustering signal and combined with the lensing measurements. This will result in improved cosmological constraints from KiDS through clustering measurements using the full survey area, out to higher redshifts.
The group led by Joop Schaye has an opening for a PhD student to work on simulations of the formation of galaxies and/or the evolution of the intracluster and intergalactic medium. Possible projects include the development and analysis of new simulations, varying from large volumes for observational cosmology to high-resolution models of small volumes. Comparisons with observations are foreseen. The PhD student will become part of an international team.
The Solar System appears to be rather unique when compared to other currently observed planetary systems. This may in part be caused by selection, but it could also be the result of formation and evolution.
The majority of stars are thought to form together with hundreds to tens of thousands of other stars in clustered environments. The Solar system was probably also formed in a star cluster.
The degree by which planetary systems are affected depends on internal planetary dynamics and on the dynamical evolution of the cluster. The chaotic nature of the underlying dynamical processes prevents us from reversing time and calculate backward. Instead, we will iteratively evaluate new initial configurations until simulations match with the observations. In these calculations, the various mechanisms by which planetary systems are affected have to be taken into account self-consistently, in the sense that stars and planets affect each other throughout the lifetime of the star cluster.
In this PhD project, you will use the Astrophysical Multipurpose Software Environment to simulate star clusters with planetary systems, and study their self-consistent origin by means of simulations. One of the main objectives is to understand how unique the Solar System really is, how planetary systems form and understand if there are specific characteristics that could be observed in planetary systems that inform us about their birth environment.
This project requires outstanding computational skills, and affinity with numerical methods is of an essence.
The influence of supermassive black holes at the heart of the largest galaxies in the Universe is known to extend over tens to hundreds of kiloparsecs, sometimes well beyond the range of the host galaxy itself. Supermassive black holes disturb and heat the gaseous haloes, drastically impacting the rate at which stars can form, redistributing chemical elements through space, affecting the dynamics of the diffuse gas around galaxies and in galaxy clusters, and leading to various plasma instabilities that affect the multi-phase structure of the observed regions. This project will connect multi-wavelength observations from X-ray to radio with numerical simulations in order to understand in more detail how supermassive black holes in galaxies and galaxy clusters impact the dynamics of the surrounding X-ray plasma, and provide predictions that will be tested by upcoming high-resolution spectroscopy missions.
A 4-year fully-funded PhD position is available in the exoplanet group of Ignas Snellen. It will focus on high-dispersion spectral observations of exoplanet atmospheres using the new CRIRES+ spectrograph on ESO's Very Large Telescope. Many new aspects of exoplanet atmospheres can be probed, such as planet spin rotation, temperature structures, molecular abundances, and the influence of clouds. The aim is to push these studies from the hottest planets now, towards cooler and smaller objects - eventually planets like Earth.
Galaxy clusters form by violent mergers with other galaxy clusters and groups. Radio observations of clusters have revealed the existence of large megaparsec-size, diffuse synchrotron emitting sources. The synchrotron radiation implies the existence of cosmic rays and magnetic fields. With their enormous extent, these radio sources trace the largest particle accelerators in the Universe. The LOFAR group of Dr. Reinout van Weeren and Prof. Huub R?ttgering has a PhD project to work on deep radio observations of clusters to determine the nature of the underlying particle acceleration processes. LOFAR is the world's most powerful low-frequency telescopes and ideally suited to study merging galaxy clusters. The PhD project will focus on constructing the first low-frequency sample of galaxy clusters with matching radio and X-ray data. The work will involve the data reduction, analysis, interpretation, and publication of the LOFAR observations. An additional aim is to obtain and analyze higher frequency radio observations from other radio telescopes (VLA, GMRT) through competitive open-time proposals.
Radio mode feedback in galaxy clusters is a crucial mechanism to provide energy to the intracluster medium. This feedback prevents the intracluster medium from a runaway cooling catastrophe. AGN radio lobes, associated with the supermassive blackhole from the central brightest cluster galaxy, have been identified as the main source of energy. The LOFAR group of Dr. Reinout van Weeren and Prof. Huub R?ttgering has a PhD project with the aim of determining the evolution of radio-mode feedback, up to the epoch when the first massive galaxy clusters formed. With LOFAR's international stations, for the first time, cluster radio galaxies will be imaged at subarcsecond resolution. In addition, the PhD will work on numerical models and high-frequency radio observations that trace the poorly understood cluster magnetic fields. The work will involve data reduction, analysis, modeling, interpretation, and publication of the results. Follow-up observations will be requested through competitive open-time proposals.
Description: Understanding the detailed processes by which newborn stars emerge from a galaxy's interstellar medium is one of the ultimate goals of modern astrophysics. We know from detailed studies of nearby galaxies that stars form out of molecular gas, and yet our understanding of the gaseous properties of distant galaxies - which form the majority of stars in the universe - is still in its infancy.
The group led by Jacqueline Hodge has an opening for a PhD student in the area of extragalactic observational (radio/submillimeter) astronomy, with a focus on understanding the gaseous interstellar medium in early galaxies. The student will lead projects utilizing the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the brand-new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) with the aim of advancing our understanding of molecular gas in the early universe and its implications for the history of cosmic star formation.
Luminous high redshift radio galaxies and radio loud quasars are important laboratories for studying the formation and evolution of massive galaxies, rich clusters and supermassive black holes. At high redshifts, into the epoch of reionisation (z > 6), these source have the potential to become unique beacons against which absorption by the neutral gas that pervaded the very early Universe can be seen in the HI 21cm line. Since the 21cm HI line remains optically thin at z > 6, it is the only tool that enables the bulk of the EoR to be studied in detail.
LOFAR, the Low Frequency Radio Array, is new pan-European radio telescope that is surveying the entire northern sky at 150 MHz mapping 30 million radio sources. In the context of the LOFAR-WEAVE project the WEAVE multi-object spectrograph on the 4.2m WHT will take half a million spectra of LOFAR sources with the main of obtaining a sample of powerful radio galaxies at z>6. For these, LOFAR 21 cm absorption spectroscopy will give unprecedented information on the characteristics of the distribution of neutral hydrogen at this important epoch when the first stars formed.