UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics


PhD Opportunities

We offer a range of research degrees, including PhDs in Space Science, Astrophysics and Systems Engineering at MSSL. We offer a limited number of funded positions each year.

Applications for funded PhD studentships starting in 2024/25 academic year are now closed.

MSSL is located in remote countryside in Surrey. There is limited public transport to reach the site. Before you apply to study for a PhD in our department, please check our location carefully and consider how you will commute regularly to MSSL. 

We apply the following Place of Tenure from the UKRI training grant guideline to all our research degree students.

"Students are required to be resident in the UK for the majority of their studies. The Student must live within a reasonable travel time of their Research Organisation or collaborative organisation to ensure that they are able to maintain regular contact with their department and their Supervisor. This is to ensure that the Student is not isolated and receives the full support, mentoring, training and access to facilities required to complete their research successfully and to a high standard. The only exceptions to these requirements are to cover periods of absence that are an essential part of their study e.g. fieldwork, study visits or conference attendance. "

Applications for UCL's Research Excellence Scholarship are now closed. The deadline was 12th January 2024. Please find more information below.

Applications for STFC studentship are now closed. The deadline was 26th January 2024. Please find more information below.

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics, is a world-leading space science laboratory. It offers a unique environment, with scientists at the forefront of space science research working alongside top engineers building and testing instruments for space missions. 

Our PhD students develop skills in public speaking, data analysis techniques, innovation and motivation that make them highly atractive to potential employers. The close contact that the Laboratory enjoys with Space Agencies such as ESA and NASA, and with industrial research teams also encourages the development of transferrable skills such as project management which enhance job prospects post-PhD, both in academic circles and beyond. While over 50% of past MSSL PhD students still work in the field in which they did their PhD studies, many others have found employment in related disciplines.  Please watch Day in the life at MSSL by our alumnus, Dr. Sheila Kanani for information about life at MSSL.

The Department of Space and Climate Physics is a Practitioner of Project Juno, which recognises and celebrates good employment practices for gender equality and an equitable working culture.  UCL has a Silver Athena SWAN award from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), and a Bronze award under ECU’s new Race Equality Charter for higher education. The Department embeds equality practice at the centre of all that it does making it an excellent place to study. 

Application Process 

Your application has to be submitted through the central UCL admission application system. For information on the application submission, please read the "Applying for Graduate Research Study at UCL" page carefully. To apply, please visit the Online Application page. Please choose full-time or part-time and then click "Apply for this course". Please make sure that you are applying for "Research Degree: Space and Climate Physics" and the course code of "RRDSPSSING01". For some specific scholarship applications, you may need to submit additional documents to the department. Please read the guideline for the scholarship funding below. 

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.
English level expected for the students whose first language is not English: Level 1

Funded Studentships

MSSL Research Opportunity Scholarship (Deadline 30th November 2023, closed)

The MSSL Research Opportutnity Scholarship (MSSL ROS) is made available for a research student who wish to study for their PhD degree at MSSL and who is from groups that ar currently under-represented in space science or astronomy. This scholarship is for a UK-permanent resident only. The scholarship's aim is aligned with the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship. The awardee will be asked to apply for Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship with us and we will fully support your application. If you are interested in MSSL ROS, please see this page

We know making an application is a daunting process. However, if you wish to apply for this scholarship to undertake your PhD degree at MSSL, we are very happy to support you. Please first feel free to contact your prospective supervisor(s) and discuss with them a potential project. They will support your application for the scholarship once they have agreed to support you. You can find the list of academic staff here

STFC Studentships (Deadline: 26th January 2024, closed)

Applications from both UK and non-UK students for a Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) studentship remain open until 26th January 2024. The STFC studentship will cover your fee and stipend plus a Research Training Support Grant towards computing costs and travel to conferences of £1,200 per annum for the 3.5 years of your research degree study. The number of STFC studentships available for non-UK students is limited, but the additional support from UCL's International Scholar Award for Doctoral Training (ISAD) will fully cover both the overseas fees and stipend.

After we receive your application, we will assess whether to invite you for an interview. Our selection criteria are academic performance, research potential and motivation for the relevant research project. If you are shortlisted, you will be invited to visit MSSL for an interview or we can arrange a remote interview if you are unable to visit the department. Interviews will take place in the week of 26th February -- 1st March 2024. You will also have the opportunity to talk to your prospective supervisor(s) and the PhD students in the research group you have applied to. The studentships are for the advertised projects only. Please look at the STFC PhD project page. In your application, please specify which project(s) you wish to apply for. You can choose multiple projects, but please clearly list them with the motivation for each project.

UCL Research Excellence Scholarship (Deadline 12th January 2024, for prospective and current students, closed)

UCL's Research Excellence Scholarship (RES) covers the full tuition fees (home or overseas), a cost of living allowance at a similar rate to the STFC studentships and research costs of £1,200 per annum for 3 years. Competition for this scholarship is very high. We advise only students with a top level academic record to apply.

Please note that RES awards are allocated across UCL by the Graduate School Selection Panel. While individual departments are invited to submit a shortlist of candidates, we have no formal role in the allocation of awards. The RES requires the support of your prospective supervisor at MSSL. Before you apply, please contact your prospective supervisor(s) and make sure that you have agreed a project proposal with them. You can find the list of academic staff here

If you apply to our department to be nominated for this scholarship, please submit your scholarship application (a single pdf file, including Research Scholarship cover sheet, CV, a lay summary and arrange two references using the requested form) via email to Philippa Elwell (p.elwell AT ucl.ac.uk) by 12th January 2024. In addition, you must submit a UCL admission application. Please see this page for more information. If you are shortlisted for our nomination, you will be invited for an interview. Our interviews will take place TBD.

UCL Research Excellence Scholarship for Cross-disciplinary Training (One-year: Deadline: 12th January 2024, for prospective and current students, closed)

 UCL's Research Excellence Scholarship for Cross-disciplinary Training (RXD) covers the full tuition fees (home or overseas), a cost of living allowance at a similar rate to the STFC studentships and research costs of £1,200 per annum for 1 year to spend a year in another department in UCL acquiring new cross-disciplinary skills. If you are a prospective student, you must also apply for RES or STFC studentship and secure your funded studentship for your main research topic. 

If you apply for this scholarship from our department, please submit your scholarship application (a training proposal outline, detailed description of training programme, your CV, one-page outline of your PhD research project) via email to Philippa Elwell (p.elwell AT ucl.ac.uk) by 12th January 2024. In addition. Please see this page for more information. If you are selected for our nomination, you will be notified and asked to provide more information for our nomination to the UCL student funding office before 26 January 2024. 

Self-funding students

We welcome applications from students who have their own funding.  We accept applications from self-funding students at any time. After we receive your application, you may be invited for a remote interview on an individual basis. Please note that students are still required to meet the academic entry requirements in this case. We strongly encourage applicants to contact their prospective supervisor and discuss the proposed PhD project prior to their application. You can find the list of academic staff here


Holmbury St Mary and surroundings

MSSL is set in the middle of the Surrey Hills, a designated Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, between Guildford and Dorking. The lab is surrounded by countryside, with hundreds of local walks and great views to the South coast and London from the nearby Leith Hill. 

Getting to London is easy, with fast trains leaving Guildford every 15 minutes and taking just over half an hour. The south coast is also only about an hours drive away. 

Locally, the village is within walking distance and has 2 pubs, both with lovely people and great food. The nearest town is about a 10 minute drive away, with plenty of banks, shops and supermarkets. 

Social Activities

The Lab has its own social club, which any student or staff member is welcome to join.

The club offers plenty of opportunities to play sports on an informal basis, with weekly football and badminton sessions organised locally, as well as a summer croquet championship.   Ad hoc events such as kayaking have also taken place.  Members of the social club enjoy the onsite swimming pool throughout the summer months and occasional barbeque lunches by the pool are very popular.

Pub trips give the chance to meet the other students at the lab, or the other people in your particular research group. The committee has also organised additional events such as a Christmas party and bonfire night. 

Accomodation (Ariel House)

Accommodation is usually available for first year PhD students in the student house on site, Ariel House, a short walk from the laboratory. It has seven bedrooms, a large lounge, 2 shared kitchens and 2 shared bathrooms along with great views over the surrounding countryside. 

In subsequent years, students generally have no difficulty in finding accommodation in nearby towns and villages. 

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.