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  , , Dr Joshua Snape  Monday, February 06, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project overview. The Moon’s surface has been shaped by multiple impacts and so records the impact history of the inner solar system. Any individual fragment of material from the lunar regolith (“lunar soil”) has potentially had a complex history since its initial formation (perhaps crystallization from a melt). The aim of this project is to develop and validate a model of this evolution and test its predictions with information about the histories of individual regolith particles.

Project description. The lunar regolith (surficial soil) consists of a distribution of rock and mineral fragments (particles) that were produced by impact processing of the lunar surface. In particular, many such particles were originally derived from basaltic rocks emplaced close to the surface by magmatic and volcanic events. Each such particle in any given sample of the regolith has a distinct individual history of regolith transportation after an individual formation event, so the statistical distribution of crystallization and exposure ages encodes information about the history of the lunar surface around the area it was collected. The aim of the project is to decode this record combining a model of regolith evolution with analyses of individual regolith particles to understand the variation through time of magmatic activity, impact flux, and other processes affecting the lunar regolith.

The project will develop an existing regolith cycling model, and use it to understand the distribution of crystallization and exposure histories determined for grains within selected lunar samples, thus, providing constraints on the evolution of the lunar surface.


·     Develop the model of regolith evolution and benchmark it against models from the literature.

·     Output predictions of the range of particle histories expected within a single soil sample.

·     Select target regolith samples of varying maturity and request aliquots from the Apollo curatorial facility.

·     Select and petrologically characterise a suite of basaltic grains from targeted samples. Where possible select a subset for age dating using in situ methods.

·     Perform noble gas analyses to determine cosmic ray exposure history, including investigating the potential for single grain xenon analyses using resonance ionization mass spectrometry.

Suggested skills needed. The project is open to a range of candidates with backgrounds relevant to planetary science. Some experience developing and programming a numerical model and knowledge of the history of the Moon and wider solar system would be an advantage.

Please contact in an email to discuss the project before you apply. 

Application process – essential information you need to read:


·        You are applying for a fully funded PhD project for which, if you are successful in your application, you would receive a monthly stipend, have the university fees paid for, and be awarded some money to support lab costs and travel.

·        Read the information on the DEES webpage to ensure that you understand the funding eligibility requirements for the award.

·        Contact the supervisors to discuss your interest in the project – this is an essential step so that you can ask questions and find out more about the supervisory team before you apply.

·        Your formal application must be made online at (please note you will not need to upload your own research proposal for this project during this stage of the application as you are applying for a specific project). In your application, we want to see how your experience is relevant to the project that you have applied for. Please ensure that the people you have asked to submit references for you do this by the requested date. You are applying for an STFC-funded project (PhD STFC Earth and Environmental Sciences). Please check with the project supervisor(s) that your application has been received by the university a few days before the deadline.

·        As this is a funded position, the application process is competitive. The applications received will be initially reviewed by the project supervisory team and they will put forward their preferred candidates for a panel review process. An STFC DTP academic panel will then review all the nominated students and decide who to shortlist for an interview. An interview with shortlisted candidates will then take place remotely so that the panel can meet the short-listed candidates and decide who to offer the studentship to. The interview normally lasts about 20-30 minutes. Candidates are normally informed within a few days of the interview if they have been offered a funded studentship. If you are offered a studentship, you are more than welcome to come and visit the department and group research facilities and meet with our current STFC students and staff. 

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

All appointments are made on merit.

Funding Notes

Funding will cover UK tuition fee and stipend at current UKRI standard rate for a September 2023 start. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarships that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


• Costello, E. S. et al. (2021). Secondary impact burial and excavation gardening on the Moon and the depth to ice in permanent shadow. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 126, e2021JE006933.
• Costello, E. S. (2018) The mixing of the lunar regolith: Vital updates to a canonical model. Icarus 314 327-344.
• Crow et al. (2020) Xenon systematics of individual lunar zircons, a new window on the history of the lunar surface. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 286, 103-118
• Gault, D. E. et al. (1974) Mixing of the Lunar Regolith. Proc. of the Lunar Sci. Conf. 5, 2365-2386.
• Gilmour J. D. and Filtness M. J. (2019) Nature Astronomy 3, 326-331.

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