Space and Climate Physics MPhil/PhD

Dorking, Surrey

UCL's 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.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2022/23)
Overseas tuition fees (2022/23)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

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.

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

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

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

If you are intending to apply for a time-limited visa to complete your UCL studies (e.g., Student visa, Skilled worker visa, PBS dependant visa etc.) you may be required to obtain ATAS clearance. This will be confirmed to you if you obtain an offer of a place.

Equivalent qualifications

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. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

MSSL is at the forefront of space science research and space instrumentation development. We work closely with international collaborators in academic institutions, major space agencies and industry partners such as NASA, ESA, JAXA and Astrium. Through interaction with colleagues in academia and industry, students build networks nationally and internationally and acquire valuable transferable skills. Former students have pursued successful careers in academia, industry, government-funded research, public policy and engagement, teaching, finance and IT.

Who this course is for

What this course will give you

Research training takes place at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey, except for systems engineering 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 of this laboratory such as space technology, and project management.

The foundation of your career

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


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.

Teaching and learning

Research areas and structure

  • Astrophysics: cosmology; galaxy formation and evolution; active galactic nuclei; gamma-ray; neutron stars and magnetars; exoplanet
  • 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.

Research environment

UCL Department of Space & Climate Physics is based at UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). 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. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 exercise placed UCL Physics (which includes MSSL) second in the UK, judged by Research Intensity, with a 100% inclusion rate, indicating the excellence of the entire academic staff.

Research in the department encompasses a wide variety of topics in the areas of astrophysics, solar and space plasma physics, planetary science, imaging, detector physics, cryogenics, systems engineering, climate extreme and space medicine. Our researches hugely benefit from MSSL’s strong involvement in the space missions. We have many laboratories and test facilities, including several clean rooms and vibration test facilities. The strength and uniqueness of MSSL is that scientists and engineers are working at the same place, together producing new science opportunities supported by technological developments.

You can take full advantages of this unique research environment at MSSL, and pursue original research for your PhD degree. Our supervisors are fully committed to guide you through your research and help you to develop skills and knowledge which will be valuable for your future career. MSSL is an Institute of Physics' Juno Supporter, which recognises and celebrates good employment practices for women working in higher education and research.  

The length of registration for the research degree programme may depend on types of funding received. It is normally between 3 and 4 years for full-time students and 5 years for part-time students. If you are not ready to submit your thesis within this registered period, you may register as a completing research student (CRS) for one year to write up your thesis.  

You will be registered initially as a MPhil degree candidate. Around 12-15 months after your initial registration, you are expected to transfer to the PhD programme after a successful upgrade viva where your progress will be assessed by academic staff other than your primary supervisor.

You are assigned a research panel when you begin your research degree studies, comprising of your primary and secondary supervisor and a panel chair from a different research group. The panel provides support and monitors progress through a series of regular meetings.

You are encouraged to write up your research for peer-reviewed journals during the course of your PhD. You will have many opportunities to attend and present your research at international conferences in the UK and other countries.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2022/23) £5,690 £2,845
Tuition fees (2022/23) £25,730 £12,850

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

There are no programme-specific costs.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

NERC and STFC studentships may be available.

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

Value: Fees, maintenance and travel (Duration of programme)
Criteria Based on academic merit
Eligibility: EU, Overseas

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Value: UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Criteria Based on both academic merit and financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

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.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

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