Extra-Solar Gas Giant Planets, theories meet observations
Prof S Nayakshin
Dr M Burleigh
No more applications being accepted
Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
The census of close separation exoplanets now exceeds thousands of planets around stars of different masses, metallicities, and binarity. These observations drive a significant re-evaluation of theories of planet formation. For example, the most massive gas giants were recently found  to follow metallicity correlations "like stars", in contrast to an earlier  2005 study that is dominated by lighter hot Jupiters.
Additionally, we start to resolve protoplanetary discs and even planets themselves directly. High resolution observations by ALMA, a revolutionary interferomer, show the presence of young giant planets in annular disc structures [3,4]. That, and the census of young discs show that at least some planets can form surprisingly fast because by about 1-2 Million year the discs are only about as massive as the planets we observe .
Related to this, a large number of theoretical studies have found in the last decade that gas giants born in the outer cold disc do not stay there but migrate inward rapidly [see Review 6]. We have recently showed  that this process provides promising theoretical interpretations for the puzzling observations mentioned above. We have recently led a large collaborative theoretical study [submitted] of these processes which allows us to develop numerical tools to predict the outcome of this scenario statistically.
In this project we shall further develop these theoretical tools. Our eventual goal is to release the population synthesis code for free public use to allow observers world wide to test this scenario against their or archival data. This would be the first code of this kind both in terms of public access and also the physics involved. Leicester is an ideal test ground for this project because of the Department’s close association with the Next Generation Transit Survey  that become operational recently and is currently discovering new planets. NGTS ability to find or follow up planets around M dwarf stars is especially relevant since it provides a new test bed to constrain theories.
An ideal candidate for this project will be interested in using theoretical or numerical work, in conjunction with analysis of exoplanetary populations, in order to understand how planets form.
This project is eligible for a fully funded STFC studentship which includes :
· A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years
· An annual tax free stipend of £14,777 (2018/19)
· Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)
· Conference Fees & UK Fieldwork
Studentships are available to UK/EU applicants who meet the STFC Residency Criteria; if you have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years you will normally be entitled to apply for a full studentship.
How good is research at University of Leicester in Physics?
FTE Category A staff submitted: 49.33
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