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The building blocks of planets

Department of Physics and Astronomy

About the Project

Planets form in cold discs of dust and gas around young, newly-formed stars. Solid particles ("dust") represent only a small fraction of the disc mass, but these particles are the initial building blocks of planetesimals and planets. The trace dust component also dominates the disc opacity, so most of our observations only "see" the dust rather than the gas. In this project the student will build new computational models of dust and gas dynamics in protoplanetary discs, looking in particular at the so-called "back-reaction" of the dust on the gas.
We will use a combination of 1-D, 2-D and 3-D calculations to study disc dynamics and evolution over a wide range of time-scales. We will then use radiative transfer modelling to generate synthetic observations, in order to test our models against new data from facilities such as ALMA and the ESO VLT. The overall aim of the project is to build up a detailed understanding the key physical processes that shape the appearance and evolution of planet-forming discs.

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.
The University of Leicester English language (URL:
requirements apply where applicable.

Application advice

To apply please refer to
With your application, please include:
• CV
• Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you
• Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken
• Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable
• In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.
• STFC Research Interests Form 2021, to be completed online at
In the funding section please specify that you wish to be considered for Ref STFC 2021
In the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisors and project title (a proposal is not required)

Project / Funding Enquiries:
Application enquiries to

Funding Notes

This research project is one of a number of projects in the School of Physics. It is in competition for STFC funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding.
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 fund


1. "Gas and multispecies dust dynamics in viscous protoplanetary discs: the importance of the dust back-reaction." -
2. " Rings and gaps in the disc around Elias 24 revealed by ALMA " -
3. "Dust dynamics during protoplanetary disc clearing" -

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