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PhD projects

Here is a summary of some of the PhD projects on offer for a student to start in 2019 (or later):

The effect of planet-disc interactions on observed disc structures

The aim of this project is to understand the morphology of young protoplanetary discs – the birth environment of planets – that are interacting with newly formed planets. In particular, the project will determine what young discs with planets look like when observed through a telescope.

The effect of planet migration on dust rings

Motivated by the recent beautiful images of protoplanetary discs with rings and gaps, astronomers have determined that these could be indirect signatures of a planet in the disc. When planets form in protoplanetary discs, they exchange angular momentum and move within the disc — a process known as planet migration. This project will explore in detail how a migrating planet affects the dynamics of the dust in a disc and will make connections with observations.

Fragmentation of self-gravitating discs

Young massive discs — known as self-gravitating discs — are expected to become unstable and break apart into giant gas balls in the outer regions. These may ultimately evolve into giant planets or brown dwarfs. There are various elements of disc fragmentation that still need to be explored in detail. For example, we have recently found that a fragmenting disc can trigger more fragments to form in the inner part of a disc — a process called Triggered Fragmentation. But how prevalent is this process in real discs? In addition young stars form in clusters and so interactions with nearby stars is possible. Can the interaction with an external perturber cause a disc to fragment? And since stars have varying masses, how likely is it that a disc will fragment around different mass stars to form planets or stellar companions?

With exciting new observations of protoplanetary discs constantly appearing, this research field is fast-developing. Therefore the above projects may evolve over time. In addition I welcome potential students to contact me if they are interested in a particular area that is not listed above but which fits generally within my research field.