PhD & Summer Projects
A list of available Astrophysics PhD projects at the University of St Andrews is provided on the website of the School of Physics and Astronomy. 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.
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. Note that one common source of funding is the Royal Astronomical Society, who have a deadline of 15th February. Your prospective supervisor will need to submit an application on your behalf, so make sure you let them know you are interested well ahead of time!
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 ‘@st-andrews.ac.uk’
Resolving the Star Formation History of Post-Starburst Galaxies
Supervisor: Vivienne Wild
Outflows in compact binaries
Supervisor: Juan Hernandez Santisteban
Outflows from compact object systems are ubiquitous. Mostly thought to arise from close to the compact object itself (e.g. jets) these can also occur at larger radii, arising from the disc itself in the form of winds. In accreting white dwarf systems, winds have been shown to be necessary to explain the UV spectra of high-mass transfer rate systems and might influence the optical spectrum as well. These winds are thought to be extended structures above the orbital plane. Therefore, by using eclipsing systems we can put constrains on the size of the emitting region by comparing the in- and out-eclipse spectra. In this project, the student will analyse a new optical dataset on the recently discovered system IPHAS J051814.33+294113.0. The student will learn to calibrate spectroscopic data and perform a radial velocity analysis to disentangle the components to the accretion disc in the system. This project will also involve using scripting languages such as python and the development of custom routines to visualise astronomical data.
Finding analogues to the local supervoid in MOND cosmology
Supervisor: Indranil Banik
The region of the Universe within 300 Mpc is significantly less dense than similar volumes at larger distances. This local supervoid (the KBC void) is inconsistent with standard cosmology at 6 sigma significance (MNRAS, 499, 2845). In this project, an interested student would explore an alternative cosmological paradigm known as vHDM in which MOND gravity is used, motivated by the unparalleled success of MOND in galaxies (Symmetry, 14, 1331). vHDM stands for neutrino hot dark matter, which replaces the cold dark matter in the standard LCDM paradigm. In this way, it is possible to extend MOND to cosmological scales. The student would work alongside Alfie Russell (apr8), a PhD student in the group working on large vHDM cosmological simulations. The aim would be to analyse the outputs from these simulations to search for analogues to the KBC void. If any are identified, the properties of the underdense region would be studied to see if outflows from the void might be sufficient to solve the Hubble tension, the observed fact that the local expansion rate of the universe is faster than expected in LCDM calibrated to fit the early Universe. Funding would be through the RAS, so please get in touch in early February at the latest to leave time to prepare the application as this must include a contribution from the student. Note that this summer project would not involve conducting any new simulations as data from large vHDM cosmological simulations are already available thanks to Alfie.