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PhD Studentship Opportunity: Understanding Extragalactic Transients using the Rubin and VISTA Telescopes

   Department of Physics

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  Prof Bob Nichol, Dr Alessia Gualandris  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The international Rubin Observatory in Chile will soon start operations in 2023, opening a new window on the Universe. For the first time, Rubin will be able to scan the whole multicolour sky every few days, building up a movie of our Cosmos over the next few years. Such an incredible data source will detect and identify millions of transients; astronomical objects that change in time not location. Unfortunately, the true nature of these transients will require significant and detailed investigation, and that often requires a spectrum of each object while it is still visible. 

This problem will be resolved by the Time-Domain Extragalactic Survey (TiDES) that is part of the new 4MOST project presently refurbishing the ESO VISTA Telescope. TiDES will industrialise the automatic spectroscopic follow-up of Rubin LSST transients providing a daily stream of new and exotic spectra for detailed analysis. Simulations of TiDES (see Swann et al. ) predict we will obtain spectra for 30,000 live transients: ten times more spectra than any other experiment in history. Such a rich database will contain all types of supernovae spanning over half the age of the Universe, and likely uncover rare types of cosmic explosions (e.g. pair instability supernova,  lensed supernova, kilonova, etc)

We are seeking a PhD student to join the TiDES team at this exciting time as we prepare for first data from 2023. The initial year of the PhD will be familiarising yourself with the details of the target and early data reduction software, even helping with first observations and commissioning of the operations. In subsequent years, the PhD will move into the automated analysis of the transient spectra, determining the chemistry and dynamics of the objects through model-fitting to the spectra. This will aid in the detailed classification of the transients, while testing astrophysical models for different classes of supernovae. Such analysis always has the possibility of the serendipitous discovery of new phenomenon. 

You will learn vital skills for the future, including close team-work and resilience for working under pressure. You will become proficient in data science techniques, advanced programming languages, statistical techniques, and hypothesis testing and reasoning. You will be expected to present their work to international audiences through peer-reviewed articles and conference seminars, and may require travel across the globe. TiDES is ideal training for a future in data-driven astronomy or beyond.

Supervisors: Professor Bob Nichol (Surrey), Dr Chris Frohmaier (Southampton), Dr Alessia Gualandris (Surrey)

This project is open to UK and international students starting in October 2022.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

English language requirements. IELTS Academic 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Physics PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab. Apply no later than 6th March 2022.

Please state clearly the studentship project that you would like to apply for and the name of your intended supervisor.

Funding Notes

Standard UKRI stipend (£15609 p.a.). UK and international fees can be covered. Funding for 3 years.
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