PhD Opportunities


More information about PhDs and research degrees at MSSL and UCL, including specific research projects, is available in our research degrees pages.

Prof. Andrew Coates and Dr. Geraint Jones are available to supervise PhD students in the planetary group on a range of subjects such as:

  • The surface and atmosphere of Mars
  • Saturn's magnetosphere.
  • The interaction of Saturn's moons with Saturn's magnetosphere.
  • Saturn's moon Titan.
  • The moons of Jupiter.
  • Comets.

PhD research in the planetary group will be varied, exciting and challenging. The planetary group is very friendly, relaxed and informal. Scientists in our group are of all ages and come from a variety of backgrounds. We often have lunch-time BBQs at the open-air MSSL swimming pool during the summer months and enjoy the fresh air and open spaces surrounding the lab. This makes for a very pleasant and friendly working environment. Planetary research almost always involves working as part of large international teams and there are lots of opportunities to travel to conferences and to work with scientists around the world. Some recent conference locations include:

  • Rome, Italy.
  • San Francisco, USA.
  • Nantes, France.
  • Boston, USA.
  • Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
  • Bern, Switzerland.
  • Hokkaido, Japan.

Student Profile: Sheila Kanani

What education and qualifications do you have?
Sheila Kanani

MPhys (Hons) 2.1 in Physics with Astrophysics from the University of Manchester. 5 A levels.

Give an outline of your career so far

I took a year out before university and worked for a company that wrote the software for commericial satellites, starting off as an office junior and growing to learn programming and modeling. I then had various summer placements. My first was at MSSL in the astrophyiscs department looking at gamma ray bursts with Swift. The next was at Jodrell Bank Observatory working in pulsar astronomy. From this I got a great summer placement in Sydney, Australia using radio telescopes like Parkes to search for extra-solar planets using pulsars. I started my PhD in 2009 and hope to go into academia once I finish in 2011. I have also attended UK, Russian and USA space schools.

Why did you choose this career path?

Initially I wanted to be a vet! Then I decided I wanted to be involved in the space industry and at the time my "mentor" was Michael Foale, an astronaut. When I was about 13 I decided I wanted to copy his path - he did a PhD so I decided I wanted to do one too! But as I grew older I knew it was a natural progression because I love learning and space and physics and I have toyed with the idea of becoming a lecturer. I knew I was more interested in the science rather than the engineering so I tried placements in various areas of physics before starting my PhD.

What does your current work involve?

My PhD involves using Cassini data to look at Saturn's magnetosphere, to see how it interacts with the ring system and Saturn's many moons. I do some computer modelling but mostly data analysis.

Why did you come to MSSL?

I knew about MSSL from a visit when I was 16 and a summer placement. I saw the plasma-planetary PhDs being advertised when I had just finished a space plasma course at university, which I had loved. The PhD sounded right up my street and I was excited about the prospect of being able to use Cassini data as well. I also liked the idea of doing a PhD somewhere where the actual hardware is being built and at a place where the students actually mix with the post-docs, engineers and 'real scientists'. The clinchers was that I knew that MSSL had an amazing reputation from ESA and NASA and other large space agencies.

What is it like being a student here?

I like the balance between being a student and doing real work here. No one treats you like you don't know what you are doing and the work I do is important and useful to others. I get to see the same data as NASA scientists and am able to use it in the same way, but at the same time there is a great network of support for students. I like not having to share with undergraduates! The monthly lectures are informative and I do feel that I could become a PI some day. Sharing an office with post-docs rather than students means I learn more and am able to talk to people other than my supervisor about science. Socially there is always something going on; you can spend one lunchtime playing croquet and the next making rockets with eggs as the payload. Everyone is helpful and friendly and I wouldn't chose anywhere else to do my PhD! In total there are about 25 students which makes for a great night out and we don't feel like we miss out on much by being so far away from UCL main campus, in fact we gain a lot by being separate as we interact more with engineers and post-docs and thus get to see other sides of the space industry.

Hobbies and interests outside work

I am involved in the outreach side of physics so teach at schools and mentor at Space School UK. I love sports and have joined the MSSL football team! I also play hockey and tap dance. I like going out, music, movies, scuba diving...all the usual suspects!

Page last modified on 12 jul 18 14:25