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Investigating the formation and evolution of the most massive galaxies and galaxy clusters in the Universe

Project Description

Elliptical galaxies are the most massive galaxies we observe in the Universe today and they are believed to have formed via a giant dust-obscured burst of star formation when the Universe was less than 2 billion years old. Elliptical galaxies are usually found in the core of galaxy clusters, suggesting a close link between the formation of those galaxies and that of galaxy clusters.
Detecting elliptical galaxies and galaxy clusters in their forming process requires observations at far-infrared to sub-millimetre and millimetre wavelengths in order to "see" the dust-reprocessed starlight from the new born stars.
Cardiff University is at the forefront in the study of the dusty Universe. Over the past decades our School of Physics and Astronomy has provided a key contribution to both the construction and the data exploitation of instruments like the Herschel space observatory and the SCUBA-2 camera, which, together, have delivered the largest samples of dust-obscured galaxies to date.
New upcoming facilities, like the MUSCAT millimetre camera (built in Cardiff) on the Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT) in Mexico, the Simons Observatory (SO) in Chile (Cardiff is an SO partner Institute) and the ESA Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA; Negrello is one of the coordinators of the SPICA working group on proto-clusters), just to cite a few, will allow us to extend the detection of forming ellipticals and of dusty proto-clusters out to the highest redshifts and to characterize both existing and new sources.
In this project, the student will investigate the formation and evolution of massive ellipticals, and of the cluster core they inhabit, by contributing to the analysis and interpretation of both existing and new data. He/she will measure the statistical properties (number counts, luminosity functions, redshift distributions etc.) of dust-obscured galaxies and interpret the results using a physical semi-analytic model developed by our Italian collaborators. Currently, the theoretical models are challenged, in particular, by the measured abundance of the highest redshift dust-obscured galaxies. In this respect, the student will implement in the model a redshift dependent Initial Mass Function (IMF), and will change the spectral energy distribution (SED) of proto-ellipticals consistently, in order to investigate the effect of a changing IMF on the statistics of the highest redshift proto-ellipticals. He/she will also populate dark matter halos in N-body simulations consistently with the output of the equations of the model in order to generate realistic maps of the large scale distribution of proto-ellipticals and proto-clusters. He/she will then compare such maps with observations to further constrain the model and will use them to make forecasts for clustering studies with e.g. SPICA. During the project the student will also contribute to the writing of follow-up proposals to characterise interesting sources detected with MUSCAT, TolTEC and the Simons Observatory.

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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