University of Exeter funding: Numerical simulations of stellar

Numerical simulations of stellar cluster formation and evolution, Physics and Astronomy – PhD (Funded by the European Research Council(ERC) Ref: 3813

About the award


Professor Clare Dobbs, University of Exeter


Physics and Astronomy, Streatham Campus, Exeter

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Physics and Astronomy in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus Exeter.

Project Description:
There is still much we don’t understand about stellar clusters, including how they form, and how they evolve. So for example whilst we know stars form in molecular clouds, we don’t yet know what type of cluster or association will be produced in a given environment e.g. a young massive cluster, cluster, OB association, T association or simply isolated stars. We are also not clear how long clusters take to lose their gas, and how long they typically survive. This project will involve performing numerical hydrodynamic + Nbody simulations to model cluster formation and evolution to try and understand more about young clusters. One possible option with this project is to perform small scale simulations of stellar clusters. This could either be a fairly numerically orientated project improving the stellar feedback scheme in the code, or a more observationally driven project trying to match an observed star forming region. A second possibility is to investigate cluster properties on galaxy scales (see Figure), by performing simulations of different types of galaxy (e.g. barred, spiral) and examining the spatial distribution and ages of clusters and seeing how they compare with recent observations such as the LEGUS survey (

This project will be primarily computational, so having some experience of programming, and in particular working with numerical simulations, is ideal. There will however also be opportunity to work with observers, possibly including external collaborations and surveys.

stellar clusters

Figure caption: The figure shows a hydrodynamic + Nbody simulation of a spiral galaxy. The distribution of young stars is shown on the left, red regions correspond to the location of stellar clusters. The right panel shows the gas distribution.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who qualify for UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees (see in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who qualify for international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award may not cover the full fees and stipend.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in September 2020

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 
• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. Please ask your referees to email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday 20th January 2020.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing [date to be confirmed].

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor Prof Clare Dobbs


Application deadline:27th January 2020
Value:£15,009 per year for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Office +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150