Institute for Astronomy

PhD Studentships

PhD studentships at the IfA

Each year the IfA admits a new cohort of ~10 PhD students from around the UK and the world. We are now accepting applications for admission in September 2023. In order for your application to be given full consideration for one of our funded places, it must be received by the deadline of 8th January 2023.

The IfA is committed to advancing equality and diversity, welcoming applications from everyone irrespective of gender, age, (dis)ability, race, nationality, carer status, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. Our aim is to ensure that our culture and systems support flexible and family-friendly working. We encourage all qualified applicants to apply for our places. If you'd like to know about our parental leave policies please email Gradschool.Physics@ed.ac.uk.

How to Apply

The deadline for applications in this round is 8th January 2023.

Step 1: Select the PhD projects that interest you

At the Institute for Astronomy, we study every astronomical scale from the solar system up to the large-scale structure of the Universe.

On our PhD project page, you'll find the wide range of PhD projects that are on offer for entry in September 2023. You will also find some short videos from supervisors introducing their projects.

When you apply for a PhD place at the IfA, you must select a minimum of 2 unique supervisors and a maximum of 4 projects in total from this list. We will consider your application for these supervisor and project choices, and if selected for an interview you may update your choices then. After the interview days have concluded, we will make offers matched to a specific project and supervisor, though if your interests change we can consider alternatives later.

Step 2: Review Your Funding Options

The IfA usually has five to six PhD places per year funded by STFC for 3.5 yrs. For 2021 entry onwards, International, European and UK nationals are all eligible for this STFC funding. As part of the application process, it is important to accurately tell us your UK fee status, as there are some funding limitations on students not from the UK or having pre-settled status within the UK.

In addition, we anticipate offering up to three more funded places through our own Institute's funding. In the past, these places have been used for candidates interested in applying for the Bell Burnell Scholarship, the Carnegie Scholarship, as well as joint PhD studentships with our international partner universities. Note that some of these scholarships have earlier deadlines, so please get in touch well in advance if you're interested in those.

We also very much welcome applications from students with external funding. If you are considering alternative funding options, please make this very clear in the Finance section of your application.  Like most UK universities, Edinburgh charges higher fees to some categories of overseas students.

Step 3: University of Edinburgh Application Portal

This is a standard application form for postgraduate study across the whole University, so it includes some sections that are not relevant to your IfA application. Search for "PhD Astronomy" in the Degree Finder, and click through the PhD Astrophysics link. From the following Astrophysics PhD page, select a September 2023 start date and click Apply. (You may notice these webpages erroneously refer to 3-year PhDs when in fact all our funded places are for 3.5 or 4 years.)

You will be taken to our EUCLID webpage to complete your application. Fill in all mandatory information. On the Programme tab, for any mandatory fields (e.g., Personal Statement, etc.) you should simply put "See 1-page IfA form." We do not use this part of the EUCLID application, and you do not need to upload a research proposal document. Submit your application. You should now have a Unique University Number (UUN, the letter S followed by a 7-digit number) to be used in the next step.

Step 4: Complete the IfA Anonymous PhD Application Form

The IfA is committed to advancing equality and diversity, welcoming applications from everyone irrespective of gender, age, (dis)ability, race, nationality, carer status, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. We shortlist candidates for interview anonymously to minimise any unconscious biases in our initial candidate selection.  

Please fill in the IfA Anonymous Application Form (to edit it, you will need to make your own copy of the Google Doc: File > Make a copy) and follow the instructions on the form for submission. This form cannot exceed one page and should be emailed directly to Gradschool.Physics@ed.ac.uk. The filename of the PDF you email in should include your UUN as well as the unique project codes of all projects you are interested in. See the table below for the project codes. For example, if your UUN is S1234567, and you are interested in projects A, E, and N, then the filename of the PDF you submit by email should be: S1234567_AEN.pdf

Your 1-page PDF must be submitted by email to Gradschool.Physics@ed.ac.uk by the deadline of 8th January 2023.

Project codes to use in the file name of the 1-page PDF.
Code Project Supervisor(s)
A A new cosmological residual distribution hydrodynamical solver Sadegh Khochfar
B Co-evolution of the first galaxies and the intergalactic medium Laura Keating
C Contact-binary conundrum – formation processes in small Solar System Bodies Agata Rożek & Colin Snodgrass
D Detecting and Characterising Giant Planets with Direct Imaging Beth Biller
E Exploring early galaxy evolution with JWST and ALMA Jim Dunlop & Ross McLure
F Growing Pains: How do the first galaxies grow? Sadegh Khochfar
G Hunting for Hidden Objects in the Solar Neighborhood with Gaia Accelerations Trent Dupuy
H Lensing and Clustering with the Rubin Observatory Joe Zuntz
I Machine Learning Galaxy Formation Sadegh Khochfar
J Modelling prebiotic chemistry in Early Earth and Exoplanet atmospheres Paul Palmer
K Observing AGN feedback in action with new-generation spectroscopic surveys Ken Duncan & Philip Best
L Planet formation during the earliest stages of star formation Ken Rice & Alison Young
M Probing the distribution of dark matter haloes with galaxy groups John Peacock & Shadab Alam
N Testing General Relativity with galaxy redshift surveys Florian Beutler
O The High-Redshift Galaxy Population in Galaxy Formation Simulations Romeel Davé & Britton Smith
P The spatially-resolved star formation properties of galaxies across cosmic time Philip Best
Q Hybrid methods for redshift-space clustering and cosmological tests of gravity John Peacock & Marcos Pellejero-Ibanez
R Extreme Quasar Variability Andy Lawrence

Step 5: Reference Letters and Transcripts

After our blind review of your application form, we will review two reference letters and your academic transcript to ensure that you are qualified for a PhD programme. It is unusual for us to accept students onto the Astrophysics PhD programme without a strong (predicted) Masters degree in Astrophysics or Physics or its international equivalent. If you have had significant and relevant research experience, however, we will consider your application provided you have a strong BSc degree.

If you have any application-related questions that aren't already answered on this webpage, please e-mail gradschool.physics@ed.ac.uk.

Timetable 

  • 8th January 2023: Deadline for all applications to the PhD programme at the IfA
  • Late January: first round of interviews scheduled 
  • Mid-February: first round of interviews conducted (in person, where possible, for applicants with UK fee status)
  • Late March: decisions (mostly) finalised for funded places

Training

The focus in Edinburgh is on undertaking thesis-related research from the outset of the PhD. This proceeds in parallel with formal training in background knowledge and transferrable skills. In the first year, there is a reading group that covers the basics of astrophysics in a series of tutorial sessions. Also during the first year, students take a variety of advanced courses in physics and astrophysics, as advised by their supervisor. These courses are part of the graduate school of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), which allows access via video technology to a wide range of courses throughout Scotland.