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Surface science studies of the non-thermal processing of model astrophysical ices

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project will use experimental surface science studies to investigate the non-thermal processing (by electrons and photons) of model astrophysical ices in conditions relevant to interstellar space and to cometary and planetary ices. This research is particularly timely because of the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will allow the detection of molecules in space with much higher sensitivity than previously possible. The student will use low energy electrons or ultra-violet light to irradiate ices and will then use surface science techniques such as temperature programmed desorption and surface infrared spectroscopy to monitor the products of the irradiation. The student will also use a newly developed, novel, reflection-absorption UV-visible spectrometer to measure the refractive index for model astrophysical ices in situ under conditions relevant to various astrophysical environments. These processes will be investigated on various model dust grain surfaces including carbonaceous and silicaceous dust grain analogues to further investigate the role of the grain surface in the observed Chemistry.

Further information about the work in the Brown research group can be found at

The specific objectives of the work to be undertaken during this project are:
• To undertake experimental investigations of the non-thermal processing of model astrophysical ices by ultra-violet radiation and low energy electrons.
• To undertake experimental studies of the refractive index of model astrophysical ices using reflection-absorption UV-visible spectroscopy
• To use data from the experiments to develop models that describe non-thermal desorption under astrophysical conditions

Funding Notes

The STFC award covers Home/EU PhD fees, a tax-free living allowance at Research Council UK rates (currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20 and rising in line with inflation) and research/training expenses for 3.5 years.

Applicants will have an excellent academic record and should have received or be expected to receive a relevant first or upper-second class honours degree in a relevant subject (usually Chemistry or Physics). The full award is available to UK and to EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the previous 3 years. Overseas (non EU) students are not eligible to apply.


How to apply:
Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest and names of two academic referees. On the application system use Programme of Study – PhD Chemistry.

For enquiries about the application process contact: [email protected] .
For enquiries about the project contact Prof Wendy Brown ([email protected])

How good is research at University of Sussex in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 16.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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