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PhD in Geographical and Earth Sciences - Volatiles and Volcanoes on Proto-planets

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  • Full or part time
    Dr LH Hallis
    Dr Luke Daly
    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

Introduction: Achondrite meteorites are derived from the crustal surfaces of proto-planets that were large enough to have differentiated into a core-mantle-crust during the early solar system. These proto-planets were mostly destroyed via collisions with other planetary bodies during the time the terrestrial planets were forming (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars). By studying the debris from these proto-planets that we have here on Earth (in the form of the achondrite meteorites), we can piece together their geological and geochemical evolution. Achondrites were likely erupted onto, or intruded into, the surface of their parent proto-planet. Thus, achondrites provide evidence of the first volcanic systems in the Solar System. The abundance and isotopic signatures of volatile elements (e.g., H, Cl, C) within these meteorites could provide insights into proto-planetary building blocks [1], and potentially geological processes such as volcanic degassing on these small planetary bodies. New quantitative textural analysis of these meteorites can enhance our understanding of the solar systems first volcanoes and the processes of eruptions on small primitive and even volatile rich bodies.

Project Description: This project will focus on both primitive achondrite (e.g., Brachinites, Ureilites Winonaites Lodranites and Acapulcoites) and asteroidal achondrite (e.g., Angrites, Aubrites) meteorites. The mineralogy and petrology of these meteorites will be characterised by correlative microscopy techniques, including the novel large area electron backscatter diffraction crystallographic technique, which has not been applied to primitive or asteroidal achondrites before, but has proved effective and extracting evidence of volcanic, impact, and fluid processes on Mars [2-3]. Hydrogen, chlorine and carbon isotopes will be measured via secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), to determine if each achondrite meteorite group (i.e. each proto-planet) has distinctive volatile isotopic signatures, or if large variation exists. In the case of the former, these distinctive signatures could be used to trace the building blocks of the protoplanets. If large variation exists, this could be traced to volcanic or impact processes.

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 astrobiology, in addition to 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] Sarafian et al. 2017 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 375, 20160209. [2] Daly et al., (2019a) Sci. Adv, 5, 9, eaaw5549. [3] Daly et al., (2019b) EPSL, 520, 220-230.

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