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3D simulations for white dwarf atmospheres

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P-E Tremblay
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

A PhD student scholarship is available in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group, Department of Physics, University of Warwick, focusing on theoretical white dwarf research.

The student will lead the unique development of 3D simulations for white dwarf atmospheres based on the first principles of radiation-hydrodynamics. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Assistant Professor Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay and they will be part of the larger stellar astrophysics group within the department, with several staff and post-doctoral research associates. The student will have the possibility to both develop and test his/her models, using state-of-the-art spectroscopic and photometric observations from the Warwick University group, as well as astrometric data from the Gaia satellite (launched in 2013).

The PhD research project will resolve around white dwarfs, the end stage of the life cycle for the vast majority of stars. These stellar remnants are precise cosmic clocks owing to their well constrained cooling rates, and they provide one of the most sensitive probes of the formation of the Milky Way. These compact matter laboratories also unravel the mass-loss in the post-main-sequence evolution and establish critical constraints for galactic chemical evolution models. The student will take an active part in building a new theoretical framework for white dwarfs with 3D model atmospheres. These improved calculations demonstrate that the widely used 1D model atmospheres inadequately describe convection, and therefore lead to incorrect derived masses and cooling ages. The main topics of the PhD project include:

- Simulating magnetic white dwarfs with 3D magnetohydrodynamics and using Gaia parallaxes to understand their origin, leading towards an understanding of the fraction of mergers that produces Type Ia supernovae.

- Employing the all-sky Gaia sample of white dwarfs combined with state-of-the-art model atmospheres to deliver a precise stellar formation history for the solar neighbourhood.

- Studying white dwarfs with evolved planetary systems that are currently accreting rocky material into their convection zones to obtain precise chemical abundances for rocky exoplanets.

For more information, see

Funding Notes

A full 3.5 year studentship for UK or EU students (fees and maintenance) is available. Candidates should hold or expect to hold a 1st (or high 2.1) in Physics or related subject area.

The Physics department is proud to be an IOP Juno Champion and a winner of an Athena Swan Silver Award, reflecting our commitment to equal opportunity and to fostering an environment in which all can excel.

Applications accepted at any time, and start dates are to an extent flexible, but interview rounds are likely to start in January 2017.

How good is research at University of Warwick in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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