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The dynamical assembly of molecular clouds

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Stars form in clouds of molecular gas, but it is not clear by which mechanism(s) molecular clouds (MCs) form in the first place. Competing theories of cloud formation have significantly different implications on the nature of star formation, from cloud lifetimes to the resultant initial mass function of stars. As a result, one of the most pressing issues in star formation studies is obtaining observational constraints on MC formation.

One of the potentially important observational signatures of cloud formation is the kinematic properties of the molecular gas tracers, such as carbon monoxide (CO). In this project, the student will start by analysing a survey of CO conducted with the IRAM 30-meter telescope of a sample of young, quiescent MCs with the aim to characterise in detail how gas is flowing within the dense structures. Next, in order to determine what effect the outside environment might have, it is also necessary to compare these results to the emission from tracers of gas on larger scales, such as atomic hydrogen (HI), which has been recently obtained by the Very Large Array THOR survey (

Relating the kinematic properties of the CO to the HI has several possible high-impact applications to fundamental physics of the interstellar medium, such as constraining the driving scale of turbulence in the interstellar medium. Although this is a predominantly observational project, the student working on this project will have the opportunity to work with scientists within Cardiff’s star formation group who are conducting state-of-the-art galactic simulations to explore different interpretations of the results and their impact on the prevailing theory of molecular clouds.

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 2020.

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.

Applicants will need to submit the following documents with their application:
- post high school certificates and transcripts to date
- academic CV
- personal statement
- two academic references. Your references can either be uploaded with your application, or emailed by the referee to or

Funding Notes

Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

You 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)

Related Subjects

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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