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

Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy

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Dr M Negrello , Prof Erminia Calabrese No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Cardiff United Kingdom Astrophysics

About the Project

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 (CU) 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 millimetre cameras MUSCAT (built at CU) and TolTEC (CU is part of the TolTEC consortium) on the Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT) in Mexico, and the Simons Observatory (SO) in Chile (CU is an SO partner Institute), just to cite a few, will allow us to extend the detection of forming ellipticals (several of which will be gravitationally lensed) 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. The student will contribute to improving the model, by populating 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 studies with future instruments/observatories.

During the project the student will also contribute to the writing of follow-up proposals to characterise interesting sources detected with MUSCAT/TolTEC and SO, such as dusty proto-clusters and gravitationally lensed dust-obscured galaxies.

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 2021.

How to Apply:

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University webpages ( including:

• an upload of your CV
• a personal statement/covering letter
• two references
• Current academic transcripts

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy, with a start date of October 2021.

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. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview in February.

Entry requirements:

Candidates 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)
Please see our English Language Requirements guidance ( for more details.

Funding Notes

This research project is one of a number of projects in the Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy. It is in competition for STFC funding with one or more of these projects.

This project is eligible for a fully funded STFC studentship which includes :
• A full UK fee waiver for 3.5 years
• An annual tax free stipend of £15,285 (2020/2021)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)
• Conference Fees & UK Fieldwork fun
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