UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics


STFC PhD Projects 2021

Available PhD projects in astrophysics, space plasma and solar physics of our STFC studentships 2021 are listed below.

Our STFC studentships starting in September 2021 are open for the application for the following research projects. 

For more information on the application process, please visit the UCL Graduate Degrees pages and read the "guidelines for research programmes" carefully. To apply, please visit the Online Application page, select department of "Space & Climate Physics" and programme type of "Postgraduate Research". After pushing "Search Now" button, select "RRDSPSSING01: Research Degree: Space and Climate Physics" for Full-time or Part-time mode. 

Entry requirements

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

Additional eligibility requirements

The STFC studentship will pay UK tuition fees and a maintenance allowance for 3.5 years (subject to the PhD upgrade review).

Magnetars and neutron stars emission – model development in the IXPE/eXTP era

Supervisor: Prof. Silvia Zane

Neutron stars (NSs), the end points of massive stars, are the most magnetic objects in the Universe. The project will study two unique type of NSs – XDINS and  magnetars. Their ultra-strong magnetic field (up to 1E14–1E15 G) makes them unique laboratories to test fundamental physics under conditions not reproducible on Earth. Several issues are still unresolved: dedicated model atmosphere codes do not exist to simulate the emission from the star surface when the neutron star is surrounded by an active magnetosphere and current back bombard the surface. Also, the issue of modeling a realistic thermal map taking into account for the very anisotropic conductivity of the code is open. The emission generate from the surface is expected to be highly polarized, and further polarization is expected to be acquired through scattering as the light travel across the magnetosphere. The student is expected to tackle part of these points, readapting and extending dedicated codes to simulate the expected spectrum, lightcurve and polarization degrees, to be compared with existing observations. Results are expected to contribute to the scientific working groups of next generation X-ray polarimetric space missions, as IXPE (NASA) and eXTP (CAS).

Desired Knowledge and Skills

  • Undergraduate in astrophysics
  • Strong computational skills, radiative transfer knowledge, background in neutron stars and compact objects
    Euclid Cosmic Shear

    Supervisor: Prof. Thomas Kitching

    Euclid is a paradigm-changing European Space Agency (ESA) mission due for launch in 2022 Euclid will observe 15,000 square degrees of extra-galactic sky to a limiting magnitude of 24.5 in a broad optical band (RIZ), and 24 in three near-infrared bands. The resolution of the optical imaging is similar to that of the Hubble Space Telescope. This resource will provide astronomy with a vast data set that will benefit many areas of UK astronomy, and will be explored for decades to come. However, the primary objective of Euclid, upon which its design and launch is predicated, is to measure the dark energy equation of state. No one knows what dark energy – that is causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate – is, but one explanation is that we made need to tweak our theory of gravity i.e. Einstein might have been wrong.

    This project will prepare for, and then use, a likelihood-free analysis of the Euclid data to measure and the constrain modified gravity models, that extend General Relativity in several ways, from the Euclid data. A likelihood-free approach will avoid many of the problems associated with likelihood-based methods; notably the modelling of the full likelihood and the covariance matrix. We will build upon the density-estimation likelihood free inference approach (DELFI) which when compared to the standard likelihood-based Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) approaches, has several advantages: it is highly parallelizable, there is no need to assume a possibly incorrect functional form for the likelihood. We will extend the likelihood-free approach to enable model comparison (Bayesian evidence calculations) and will integrate this with the Euclid Science Performance Verification pipeline which is a forward model for Euclid that can propagate the performance of the data reduction pipelines and detector uncertainties through to cosmological parameter inference.

    We will then apply this to the Euclid data. We will either find Einstein was right all along, or he was (perhaps a tiny bit) wrong. Either way, this project will produce results of international, and likely historical importance.

    Desired Knowledge and Skills

    • Undergraduate in astrophysics

    • Strong computational skills

    Other PhD opportunities in UCL

    There are similar PhD projects available in other departments in the UCL, which are sometimese (co-)supervised by our academic staff. Such opportunities are listed below. Please note that you need to submit an application to the other department or Centre for Doctoral Training, if you are also applying for their projects.