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Probing black hole formation through the observed population of binary black hole mergers

   Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy

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  Prof Stephen Fairhurst, Dr F Antonini  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Cardiff United Kingdom Astrophysics Data Analysis Theoretical Physics

About the Project

Following the first observation of gravitational waves in 2015, we have now observed close to 100 signals from merging black holes and neutron stars. These observations have enabled us to begin to identify, often unexpected, properties in the black hole population. For example, we are beginning to see the emergence of structure in the observed black hole mass distribution, as well as hints that black hole masses and spins are correlated.

This PhD project involves developing and improving techniques to infer the properties of the black hole population from the observed gravitational wave signal. In late 2022, the LIGO, Virgo and KAGRA observatories will begin their fourth observing run, which is expected to yield several new observations of black hole mergers each week. Using these observations, you will be able to more accurately extract the mass and spin distributions of black holes in the universe and use these to probe the astrophysical formation mechanisms of black hole binaries.


The typical academic requirement is a minimum of a 2:1 physics and astronomy or a relevant discipline.

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS) (

Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2022.

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

• your academic CV

• a personal statement/covering letter

• two references, at least one of which should be academic

• Your degree certificates and transcripts to date.

In the "Research Proposal" section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. You can apply for up to three of our advertised STFC projects by listing them in order of preference in the freetext area of the "Research Proposal" section of the online application form.

In the funding section, please select that you will not be self funding and write that the source of funding will be STFC.

Once the deadline for applications has passed we will review your application and advise your within a few weeks if you have been shortlisted for an interview.

Funding Notes

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) fully-funded scholarships cover the full cost of tuition fees, a UKRI standard stipend (£15,609 per annum for 2021/22 and expected to increase in line with inflation for 2022/23), and additional funding for training, research and conference expenses.
The scholarships are open to UK/home and international candidates.
For general enquiries regarding this funding, please contact [Email Address Removed]


The Emergence of Structure in the Binary Black Hole Mass Distribution, V. Tiwari and S. Fairhurst, Astrophys. J. Lett. 913 (2021) 2, L19. DOI:
The population of merging compact binaries inferred using gravitational waves through GWTC-3, R. Abbott et al [LIGO Scientific, Virgo, KAGRA Collaborations],
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