PhD & Summer Projects


A list of available Astrophysics PhD projects at the University of St Andrews is provided here.  Please contact potential supervisors to find out more on whose projects you are interested in. For more information about the research done by the Astronomy Group visit the Research page.

Applications can be submitted online.

We encourage potential UK PhD students to apply before the 1st of February each year, to start in September of that year. International applications will be considered when positions with appropriate funding become available.

St Leonard’s College European Inter-University Doctoral Scholarship between the University of St Andrews (UK) and the University of Leuven (Belgium)

PhD position in Exoplanet Atmosphere Modelling

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD position that will be held at the University of Leuven’s Institute of Astronomy and the University of St Andrews’ Centre for Exoplanet Science. The project will be jointly conducted and supervised at these two universities.
Deadline:   15 July 2018
Details:   here



Each summer, staff within the department work with a small number of undergraduate students on individual research projects. These projects allow undergraduates to get a taste of the professional research that takes place here in St Andrews, along with developing key skills that will be of use both during and beyond their degree.

We accept students from St Andrews, the UK and internationally.  If you’re interested, you will need to secure a project supervisor, and a source of funding.  The School of Physics and Astronomy maintains an overview page on vacation placements, and potential sources of funding.

Due to the nature of research, projects evolve and change with time. Therefore, if you are interested in working on a specific topic with a specific member of staff, it is best to contact them directly to see if any projects are available. For an idea of the type of projects on offer here in St Andrews, please see the list below.  All email addresses are completed by ‘’

Summer projects with the LEAP group in the area of exoplanet atmospheres
Supervisor: Christiane Helling

Please see here for summer projects in the LEAP group.

Simulating a past Milky Way-Andromeda flyby
Supervisors: Indranil Banik and Hongsheng Zhao
Email: ib45This project will provide an important contribution to the ongoing debate over whether dark matter (DM) or modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) is responsible for holding galaxies together. It is based on the observation that the Milky Way (MW) and M31 galaxies are each surrounded by a thin plane of satellite galaxies. Although this appears difficult to reconcile with the DM hypothesis, it is unclear if it might arise naturally in MOND.
In MOND, the MW and M31 must have undergone a past close encounter. The resulting tidal debris may well have formed the observed satellite planes. This project will be about conducting and visualising the results of simulations in which the MW and M31 undergo a close flyby, to see where material in their disks is likely to end up. If there is time, the project will also investigate the effect on material in the vicinity of the MW and M31 but not initially bound to them, looking in particular at particles which fall back towards the MW/M31 and are subsequently flung out at high speed in a gravitational slingshot interaction. The emphasis is on visualising outputs and planning which simulations to conduct rather than on coding the simulations, which is already done to a reasonable level. Nonethtless, the candidate should have some programming experience, preferably with MATLAB (which will be used for this project) but this is not essential.

Resolving the Star Formation History of Post-Starburst Galaxies
Supervisor: Vivienne Wild
Email: vw8This 10-12 week project will involve comparing the spatially and time resolved star formation histories of MaNGA ( galaxies, to those modelled in hydrodynamic simulations. Depending on the student’s interest, the project may take either a more statistical, observational or theoretical route. The statistical route would involve the development of our current Bayesian methods for fitting model star formation histories to data, to take into account the fact that neighbouring regions in galaxies are likely to have similar star formation histories. The observational route would involve the investigation of different methods used to measure star formation histories or kinematics in real and mock datasets. The theoretical route would be to develop the simulations, either isolated mergers, or the output from the cosmological EAGLE( simulation to better match the data.

When complete, MaNGA will be the largest ever integral field survey of galaxies in the local Universe. As part of SDSS-IV, the data is being obtained by a large international consortium, and only a handful of departments have access to the data in the UK. We will focus on reproducing a population of galaxies that have recently undergone a starburst, so-called “post-starburst” galaxies in the low and high redshift Universe. Post-starburst galaxies are a particularly interesting and unusual class of galaxies, apparently caught in a transition phase between gas-rich star-forming disks and gas-poor quiescent elliptical galaxies (Wild et al. 2009, MNRAS, 395, 144). The process(es) that cause this transition for the galaxy population as a whole are poorly constrained. One popular model invokes major gas-rich mergers, which are able to disrupt the stellar orbits sufficiently to turn a disk galaxy into an elliptical. Models indicate that these gas-rich mergers drive a massive short-lived starburst, which can subsequently be detected as a post-starburst galaxy before the galaxy enters the red-sequence. Better understanding how star formation occurs in post-starburst galaxies will help us to determine the role of gas rich mergers in galaxy evolution.