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Investigating protogalaxies using gravitational lensing

Project Description

We have used the Herschel submillimetre surveys to find large numbers of exceptionally luminous galaxies only 1-2 billion years after the Big Bang. The galaxies are so luminous that we estimate stars are forming in them at a rate of roughly 1000 solar masses per year, enough to make a large galaxy in less than 1% of the age of the universe. These are almost certainly protogalaxies, the ancestors of the galaxies around us in the universe today. The sources are also all strongly gravitationally lensed by foreground galaxies. The gravitational lensing magnifies the galaxies, making it possible to study them with high resolution. We have an on-going program to map the interstellar medium and the star formation in these galaxy-building objects with the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA). The student would construct lensing models for each of these objects, measuring the distribution of matter in the lenses, but most importantly reconstructing what the sources looked like before the distortion created by the lensing. The student would use the reconstructed maps of the interstellar medium and the star formation to study the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium and the formation of stars in these galaxy-building objects.

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)


Dye, S. et al. 2015, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 476, 4383

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