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Gas and Dust to Stars – Understanding Star-formation in our Closest Neighbouring Galaxies

Project Description

The key process to understand how galaxies evolve is the process of star-formation, where clouds of gas (which also contain cosmic-dust) collapse to form stars. Nearby galaxies are the perfect laboratory to investigate this process, as their proximity allow us to resolve giant molecular clouds (the individual building blocks of star-formation), while still getting the full picture across the entire galaxy. While we get a closer view of these regions of the Milky Way, being situated in the disk, our view is restricted to the regions surrounding us.

Our group in Cardiff has been leading international teams to obtain the best possible data in the submillimetre and millimetre to complement our existing maps from the Herschel Space Observatory. This includes large surveys ongoing on the James Clark Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii, IRAM in Spain, the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) in Mexico, and ALMA in Chile, to observe M31, M33 and other local galaxies (for example the Dustpedia survey). The student would have the opportunity to join these survey teams.

The PhD project will investigate what regulates the star-formation process, whether its dominated by local properties (e.g., local density or radiation field), or larger-scale properties (e.g, galaxy morphology, disk dynamics). How global galaxy relations, like the correlation between surface-density of star-formation and gas (Schmidt-Kennicutt law), are built from the small scale giant molecular clouds will be investigated.

Another potential aspect to the project is to investigate the cosmic dust in galaxies. Dust is often considered a nuisance in galaxies as it has absorbed half the light ever emitted by stars and re-radiated the light in the far-infrared, but it plays a vital role in the conversion of atomic to molecular gas (as well as many other chemical reactions), and provides a way for gas to cool. However, we recently discovered that the properties of this dust vary significantly across a galaxy, but our lower-resolution studies were unable to identify the cause. With our new data we can resolve dust on the scale of giant molecular clouds and so investigate what are the important processes (for example grain-growth in the interstellar medium or shielding) that influence the dust properties.

This project will be funded by the STFC.
Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2020.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. If you are applying for more than one project, please list the individual titles of the projects in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select ’I will be applying for a scholarship/grant’ and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the STFC.

Applicants will need to submit the following documents with their application:
- post high school certificates and transcripts to date
- academic CV
- personal statement
- two academic references. Your references can either be uploaded with your application, or emailed by the referee to or

Funding Notes

Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

You should have obtained, or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree in Physics , or a related subject, Alternatively, applicants with equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK will also be considered. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree.
Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS)

Related Subjects

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

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

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