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PhD in Geographical and Earth Sciences - Feldspar behaviours baffle scientists: SHOCK!

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Luke Daly
    Dr A Pickersgill
    Prof Martin Lee
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Meteorite impact craters are the dominant surface feature on most terrestrial planetary bodies and, as such, they provide important information about planetary evolution [1]. As the crater is excavated, the rocks and minerals of the target material are deformed in characteristic ways, this solid state deformation results in microscopic shock metamorphic effects which are indicative of the pressure to which material was exposed during impact. Feldspars are some of the most common minerals on the surfaces of planets, including Earth, Earth’s moon, and Mars, and in meteorites.
Feldspars respond in a variety of ways in response to hypervelocity impact [e.g., 2]. These responses depend on the direction of the shock wave propagation, the chemistry of the felspar, the surrounding mineralogy, and its pre-existing microstructures. However, studies of shock effects in feldspar group minerals have been limited due to the optical complexity of the crystal structure and the comparatively rapid rate at which feldspars weather, making them difficult to study using traditional optical techniques. This has resulted in a limited, purely qualitative, shock scale for feldspar.
This project aims to classify shock microstructures in feldspars to determine their response to shock and in so doing generate predictive models of the shock wave propagation to infer the orientation of the rocks in space and the shock pressures they experienced.
Project Description: This project will focus on how feldspar minerals respond to shock metamorphism on a variety of planets protoplanets and asteroids. In particular, the project will focus on feldspars from the Chicxulub (dinosaur killer) impact structure, shock experiments, and lunar samples; either meteorites or anorthosite samples returned to Earth from the Moon by the Apollo missions.
Shock generated microstructures will be characterised by correlative microscopy techniques including the large area electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) crystallographic technique, transmission kikuchi diffraction, optical microscopy, and universal-stage measurements.
Training: The student will work with a dynamic team of planetary scientists at the University of Glasgow where they will gain a suite of skills in mineralogy, petrology, planetary science and science communication. The student will work within a vibrant planetary science research community in the UK and internationally, and will have the opportunity to travel widely in order to undertake research and present results at conferences.

This project is one of 5 advertised projects that are eligible to receive 3.5 years of funding available through an award from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to the University of Glasgow (note: only a single scholarship is available). Please apply by sending the following documents to Prof Deborah Dixon, [Email Address Removed]

Degree transcripts.
One reference (sent directly by the referee to [Email Address Removed]).
A two page CV.
A statement of interest that indicates how your skill sets and research experience fit with the project, and how you plan on taking the project forward as an independent researcher (maximum of 1000 words excluding references).

The application deadline is April 3rd, 2020 (5pm), and a shortlisting for interview will take place by April 10th. The funded PhD will start in October 2020.

Information on the graduate school, and the application process can be found here:

Funding Notes

Project funded by the Science and Technology Funding Council, which has specific eligibility requirements. See:


[1] French B.M. and Koeberl C. (2010) Earth-Science Rev., 98, 123-170. [2] Stöffler D., et al. (2018) Meteorit. Planet. Sci., 53, 5-49.

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