Examples of PhD projects available
There will be several PhD positions open for application
with a deadline of December 1, 2017. 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 and
the general overview of the research at the Observatory
provide more background information.
- Unravelling the physics of particle acceleration in colliding galaxy clusters with LOFAR.
Supervisors: Dr. Reinout van Weeren and Prof. Huub Röttgering
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 Röttgering 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.
- Discovering radio emission from the cosmic web to study the origin of our Universe's magnetic fields.
Supervisors: Dr. Reinout van Weeren and Prof. Huub Röttgering
Elongated filaments of galaxies and dark matter form the cosmic web. The so-called warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM) pervades these galaxy filaments and about half of the Universe's baryons should reside in this WHIM. Galaxy filaments should be surrounded by strong accretion shocks, where the WHIM is first shock-heated. It is expected that these shocks accelerate particles which then emit synchrotron radiation that can be observed with radio telescopes. The LOFAR group of Dr. Reinout van Weeren and Prof. Huub Röttgering has a PhD project with the goal of detecting radio emission from the elusive accretion shocks in the cosmic web. LOFAR is the world's most powerful low-frequency telescopes, enabling ultra-deep imaging studies of galaxy filaments. Detecting radio emission from filaments will open up the opportunity to directly map out the cosmic web and trace the WHIM. In addition, the LOFAR observations of galaxy filaments can put important constraints on origin of our Universe's magnetic fields. The PhD will work on the data reduction and analysis, improve existing calibration techniques, and publish the results. To interpret the results, a comparison with the latest magneto-hydrodynamical simulations of the cosmic web will also be performed.
- The multi-wavelength view of the AGN's star formation relation
Supervisor: Dr. Leo Burtscher
Short description: One of the long-standing questions in astrophysical research is what exactly triggers the onset of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs). The aim of this project is (1) to study the nuclear star formation history in a well selected sample of nearby AGNs with exquisite data and (2) to participate or lead pioneering efforts to study gas, dust and star formation in the parsec-scale environment of nearby actively accreting super-massive black holes using the upcoming infrared interferometer MATISSE on the VLTI. The projects will be supervised by Dr. Leo Burtscher in collaboration with Prof. Bernhard Brandl and Prof. Walter Jaffe.
- Young protoplanetary disks with JWST-MIRI
Supervisor: Prof. Ewine van Dishoeck
The goal of this project is to analyze guaranteed time JWST-MIRI
observations of young disks in the embedded phase of star formation to
determine their physical and chemical structure, and thus the initial
conditions for planet formation.
Funding: NWO TOP-1 (pending) or NOVA NW2 (pending)
- Protoplanetary disk surveys with ALMA
Supervisor: Prof. Ewine van Dishoeck
The goal of this project is to use new ALMA observations of large
samples of disks to probe protoplanetary disk evolution and
disk-planet interactions and address the broader context of the
formation of planetary systems capable of hosting life-bearing
The PhD student would be located for the first 3 years of this
position at MPE Garching and for the final year in Leiden. The PhD
degree would be from Leiden University.
Funding: 3 years MPE, 1 year Leiden
- Simulations of the formation of galaxies and/or the evolution of the intergalactic medium
Supervisor: Prof. Joop Schaye
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 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 that contain more physics than is for example included in our large-volume EAGLE simulations. Comparisons with observations are foreseen. There are also possibilities to analyze new observations of the gas around galaxies. The PhD student will become part of an international team.
- Evolution of galaxies in clusters
Supervisor: Prof. Henk Hoekstra
Galaxy clusters represent a unique environment to study aspects of galaxy evolution. Only recently have we obtained detailed observations that cover a significant portion of the age of the Universe, so that we can reconstruct a proper sequence of events. In particular high-redshift searches such as SpARCS and the subsequent multi-wavelength follow-up can now be compared to detailed observations at low redshift. Importantly, numerical hydrodynamic simulations, such as the Hydrangea suite, have achieved a level of sophistication so that comparison to the data can test various key aspects of our understanding of galaxy formation in these (extreme) environments.
This PhD project will combine state-of-the-art observations and simulations to study the evolution in the mass-size relations from z=1 to z=0. The results will be compared to the evolution in BCG properties. Another key question to be addressed is how do the simulations look in comparison to the evolution of other cluster galaxy properties such as D4000, SFR, SMF, red fraction, etc. The PhD student is expected to spend extended periods visiting Dr. Adam Muzzin in Toronto (to work on the high redshift cluster observations) and the simulation work is co-supervised by Dr. Yannick Bahé.
- Diagnostics of hot cluster gas
Supervisors: prof. Jelle Kaastra and prof. Joop Schaye
The Hitomi spectrum of the Perseus cluster has shown the power of high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy in clusters of galaxies. It challenges the plasma codes and astrophysical modeling of the hot intra-cluster medium. The student will contribute to the necessary updates of the SPEX plasma code and its application to simulated cluster observations. We will use state-of-the-art hydrodynamical simulations to test the diagnostic tools needed to distinguish between the different astrophysical assumptions as well as the reconstruction of the thermodynamic, chemical and kinematic properties. At the end of the project the tools will be applied to data from the new XARM mission. This work will also serve as a preparation for the future observations with XARM and later Athena.
- Project to Use the Atacama Large Millimeter Array to Explore the
Characteristics of Young Star-Forming Galaxies in the Distant Universe
Supervisor: Rychard Bouwens
The first galaxies likely began their formation a few hundred million
years after the Big Bang, but knowledge of their physical properties
is still poorly established. One way of making progress in the
immediate future to leverage the capabilities of the powerful Atacama Large
Millimeter Array (ALMA) to observe distant galaxies. With ALMA,
we can probe the energy output from young stars hidden by dust as well
as the velocity structure of the ionized gas within galaxies.
Our Leiden team will be obtaining sensitive observations of a
uniquely luminous set of galaxies in the first 500-800 million years
of the universe with ALMA thanks to three approved programs.
Observations from these programs will become available over the next
year. We anticipate having funding available for a PhD student to
analyze these data and to identify other promising sources for
targeting with ALMA. The successful studnet will working alongside
Bouwens and other important co-investigators on the project
Hodge, Paul van
der Werf, Renske
Caputi, Mauro Stefanon,
Dayal, we would expect that a student would be able to quantify
the energy output from forming stars hidden by dust and to probe the
velocity structure. The latter would enable some of the first
constraints on the dynamical masses of sources in the first 500-800
million years of the universe. This
accepted paper to
Nature provides an illustration of what can be done.
The availability of
observations over the COSMOS field (PIs: Labbe, Caputi) would allow
for the identification of other bright z=7-8 sources that could act as
valuable targets with ALMA. During the course of this project, we
would expect the incoming ALMA observations to be supplemented by
observations with the James Webb
- Detailed study of photo-dissociation regions (PDRs)
Supervisor: Bernhard Brandl
The group of Prof. Bernhard Brandl has a PhD project to work on
photo-dissociation regions (PDRs) mainly on the basis of data from the
James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The JWST is NASA/ESA's new
flagship mission to be launched in late 2018. It will provide
infrared images and spectra at unsurpassed sensitivity and resolution,
enabling much more detailed studies of the PDR interfaces and the
physical properties of the ISM on the basis of a more comprehensive
set of spectral lines. Observations of two PDR regions with the
instruments MIRI, NIRCAM and NIRSPEC are part of the guaranteed time
observing (GTO) program. The PhD project will mainly focus on the
data reduction, analysis and publication of the GTO observations but
also aim for additional observations from (highly competitive)
- Growing up: from KiDS to Euclid Testing the cosmological model with galaxy clustering and weak gravitational lensing
Supervisor: Henk Hoekstra
The aim of this project is to use the unique u- to K-band wavelength coverage of KiDS and the corresponding VIKING survey on VISTA to combine photometric clustering and weak lensing measurements to improve constraints on cosmological parameters. Multi-wavelength imaging data permits deriving accurate photometric redshifts which can be used study the clustering signal. This is in fact the planned approach for Euclid, as it allows for a consistent modeling of the cosmological and intrinsic alignment signal.
However, variations in data quality complicate the analysis, and the hands-on work that will be done with the 9-band KiDS + VIKING photometry is crucial in this respect. 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 with Astro-WISE 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 combine 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.
- Data mining and modelling hyepervelocity stars in the Gaia catalogue
Supervisor: E.M. Rossi
Hypervelocity stars are stars with very high speed, observed in the halo of our Galaxy but coming from the Galactic Centre. They are important dynamical tracers of dark matter but only ~20 are known to date. Gaia second data release will be available next year and we are developing machine learning techniques to data mining the catalogues in search of these rare objects. The aim is to assemble an unprecedented data set and model it to extract unique constraints on the Galactic Potential and on the Galactic Centre, both sets on constraints are important for understanding galaxy assembly in general.