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Star clusters and star-forming clouds: finding order in chaos

Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy

About the Project

Context. Interstellar clouds, and the star clusters they spawn, are chaotic systems, due to the
non-linearity of the processes that drive their evolution { it viz. self-gravity and the various thermal,
chemical, radiative and magnetic e ects that regulate their dynamics. It is therefore of limited value
to simulate in detail a particular region, any more than it would make sense to model the formation
of a particular cloud in the sky. Rather one needs statistical descriptors of the observed structures.
These can then be used to compare one region with another, and/or with the results of simulations.
In this way one can determine whether two observed regions that appear di erent in detail, are
actually very similar. One can also test how well simulations are capturing the processes at work;
and devise ways to constrain the intrinsic three-dimensional structures of clusters and clouds from
the two-dimensional images we observe.

Project. There are many algorithms for characterising statistically distributions of points (i.e. star
clusters) and continuum maps (i.e. dust continuum and molecular-line maps of clouds) in other elds
of science. The aim will be to identify and exploit algorithms that can be applied to star clusters and
molecular clouds, to develop and re ne new algorithms, and apply them to star-forming molecular
clouds and young star clusters, so that recent advances in the power of telescopes and in the scope
of computer simulations can be more fully exploited and tested by robust inter-comparison.
Skills. The student will become expert in handling continuum and point data sets, both from
observations and from simulations; in designing, extracting and analysing statistical descriptors of
chaotic systems (for example using machine-learning methodologies); and in tackling the inverse
problems associated with constraining the three-dimensional structure of an astronomical source
that is seen in projection from a single viewpoint.

This project will be funded by the STFC.
Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2021.

How to Apply:

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University webpages (https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/physics-and-astronomy) including:

• an upload of your CV
• a personal statement/covering letter
• two references
• Current academic transcripts

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy, with a start date of October 2021.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. If you are applying for more than one project, please list the individual titles of the projects in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select ’I will be applying for a scholarship/grant’ and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the STFC. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview in February.

Entry requirements:

Candidates should have obtained, or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree in Physics, or a related subject, Alternatively, applicants with equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK will also be considered. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree.

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS)
Please see our English Language Requirements guidance (https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/international/english-language-requirements) for more details.

Funding Notes

This research project is one of a number of projects in the Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy. It is in competition for STFC funding with one or more of these projects.

This project is eligible for a fully funded STFC studentship which includes :
• A full UK fee waiver for 3.5 years
• An annual tax free stipend of £15,285 (2020/2021)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)
• Conference Fees & UK Fieldwork fun

Self-funded applicants can also be considered for this project.

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