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Space and Climate Physics MPhil/PhD

Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) is the UK's largest university-based space science group. We offer a unique environment at the forefront of space science research and space instrumentation development, working closely with international collaborators in academia, major space agencies and industry. Alumni have pursued successful careers in academia, industry and finance.

Key Information

Modes and duration

  • Full-time: 3 years
  • Part-time: 5 years

Programme start date

September 2016

Tuition Fees (2016/17)

£4,770 (FT) £2,385 (PT)
£22,180 (FT) £11,090 (PT)

Application dates

Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department or academic unit to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. In most cases you should identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information see our How to apply page.
Fees note: All fees quoted are for new students only for 2016 entry. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase by approximately 3-5%.

Entry Requirements

An upper second-class Bachelor’s degree, or a second-class Bachelor’s degree together with an MSc from a UK university in a relevant subject, or an overseas equivalent qualification.

English Language Requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Standard

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:


The topics for our cutting-edge PhD research projects fall within the research areas of the nine research groups at MSSL: astrophysics, theory, solar physics, space plasma physics, planetary science, imaging, climate physics, detector physics/cryogenics and system engineering. Students are encouraged to become active members of their own group and also benefit from close contact with the wider research community at MSSL.

Research areas

  • Astrophysics: cosmology; galaxy formation and evolution; active galactic nuclei; gamma-ray; neutron stars and magnetars
  • Theory: theoretical and computational astrophysics of systems from planets, the sun, stars and galaxies to the universe and their associated radiative and dynamical processes
  • Imaging: automated 3D vision and applications; spectro-fluorescence and isotopologue imaging for life detection; data mining for planetary surface change detection; climate change from ECVs
  • Planetary science: plasma interaction processes; giant planet magnetospheres; plasma at Mars, Venus, Titans, moons and comets; dust-plasma interactions; ionospheres; surfaces and atmospheres from rovers
  • Solar physics: solar activity and its consequences within the solar system; emergence and evolution of solar magnetic fields; solar eruptions; solar wind formation
  • Space plasma physics: local space environment, including physics of the heliosphere and terrestrial magnetosphere; magnetic reconnection, radiation belt and auroral particle acceleration; space weather
  • Photon and particle detector development: particle detectors; charge-coupled devices; sub Kelvin cryo-coolers for space and ground based applications
  • Weather and climate extremes: drivers, modelling and predictions for tropical and extra-topical storms; precipitation and temperature extremes worldwide; solar activity and cold winters.
  • System engineering: system modelling and optimisation, risk modelling and management, technology planning, project management, defining system engineering.


NERC and STFC studentships may be available.

Scholarships relevant to this department are displayed (where available) below. For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

CSC-UCL Joint Research Scholarship

Fees, maintenance and travel (Duration of programme)
Overseas students
Based on academic merit

More scholarships are listed on the Scholarships and Funding website


Recent graduates have taken up academic posts at NASA, the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Goddard Space Flight Center, European Space Agency and in academia, but others have entered professional occupations, within areas as diverse as IT and finance.

Top career destinations for this degree

  • Specialist Forecaster, Met Office
  • Research Scientist, NASA
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, KU Leuven
  • Consultant Physicist/Engineer, EADS Astrium


All of our PhD programmes require students to develop strong IT skills, manipulate large volumes of data and clearly present their work to a range of specialist audiences. As a result our graduates are highly numerate, technically competent, and articulate, with excellent problem solving skills. This makes them attractive to a wide range of employers, as can be seen from their career destinations. Through international collaborations, interactions with industry and opportunities to work with schools and the general public, they also develop unique insight into the requirements of future employers. This gives them an invaluable competitive edge when beginning their chosen career.


PhD students are actively encouraged to collaborate widely with national and international colleagues through existing departmental links, as well as new ones. Many become involved with space projects, giving them vitally important opportunities to interact with key players and future employers in both academia and the space industry. There are opportunities for public engagement and policy involvement at all levels, including working with schools, the public, applying for funding, sitting on national subject specific committees and meeting with politicians, all of which provide excellent networking possibilities.

Why study this degree at UCL?

Research training takes place at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey, except the System Engineering course where the students may work at the Bloomsbury Campus depending on their project.

MSSL offers a unique environment at the forefront of space science. Scientists work alongside top engineers, designing, building and testing instruments for launch in space and analysing the data from both these instruments and others. Most research projects use data from either ground-based or space-borne instrumentation and students benefit significantly from the laboratory's involvement in numerous space missions. In addition to studying their chosen research topic, students are encouraged to increase their employability by learning other invaluable skills associated with the interdisciplinary nature this laboratory such as space technology, project management and where the data came from

Student / staff ratios › 66 staff including 42 postdocs › 52 taught students › 49 research students

Department: Space & Climate Physics

Degree reviews

Student review

"UCL is among the leading universities in the world and carries out world-class research. In particular, in the department of space and climate physics, there are many experts in galactic astronomy, which was/is my main interest. I believe this has put me in good stead to begin a career in the field."

Robert Grand

Space and Climate Physics PhD
Student review

"I applied to Mullard Space Science Laboratory, part of UCL, because of its excellent reputation, and because it was performing cutting edge research in the field which I was interested in. After meeting my prospective supervisor, and seeing the picturesque location in the Surrey Hills I was sold"

Jason Hunt

Space and Climate Physics PhD

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Application deadlines

Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department or academic unit to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. In most cases you should identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information see our How to apply page.

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

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