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Modelling the formation of planetary building blocks, Astrophysics - PhD (Funded)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 27, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Project Description:

The last two decades have taught us that planetary systems are widespread in the galaxy. Moving beyond the detection of exoplanets, an important component of characterising these worlds will be understanding their formation history: Which processes determined a planet’s final size, mass, orbit, and composition? The modern paradigm dictates that the first step of planet formation is the coagulation of small, microscopic dust particles into pebbles, which then come together to form “planetesimals”: gravitationally bound planetary building blocks. The details of these early stages however are enigmatic, and it is not clear where and when in the disc planetesimals can be created, or where the pebbles that form them originated from.

The theme of this PhD project is simulating the beginnings of planet formation inside gas-rich protoplanetary discs. The student will (further) develop novel numerical techniques to model dust coagulation, the chemical evolution of protoplanetary disc materials, and the creation of planetesimals. The goal will be to predict the chemical compositions of the forming planetesimals and understand how these reflect the physical and chemical conditions in the protoplanetary nebula. Where possible, model predictions will be compared to observational constraints such as ALMA observations of gas and dust in young protoplanetary discs, or results from in-situ measurements of left-over planetesimals in our own solar system (e.g., comets, asteroids).

While focused on using and developing numerical simulations, this project is highly interdisciplinary in nature, and the successful applicant will become familiar with and employ concepts from the astrochemistry, observational astronomy, laboratory astrophysics, and theoretical planet formation communities. Depending on the interests of the applicant, international collaborations across these disciplines may be pursued.

Funding Notes

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU/International tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in the Astrophysics Group in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

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