PhD Position Using Surface Science Techniques to Investigate Reactions in Space

Professor Wendy A. Brown
A PhD position is available from Autumn 2013 to work in a newly established research group in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sussex with Professor Wendy Brown. 

The interstellar medium (ISM), the space between the stars, contains vast clouds of gas and dust. These clouds have very low densities and are very cold (10 – 20 K). Despite this, they contain a wide range of atoms and molecules, and observations show that they support a rich chemistry, with more than 150 different species having been identified to date. At the cold temperatures of the ISM, molecules also freeze out on the surface of dust grains to form interstellar ices. The gas clouds play a crucial role in star formation, as the molecules and dust in the cloud radiate away the excess energy produced during the collapse of the cloud to form a star, allowing the collapse to continue.

Initial models of the chemistry of the ISM considered only gas phase processes. However, it is now apparent that surface processes are crucially important in the synthesis of many of the molecules observed in interstellar clouds, especially those found in molecular ices. Surface processes are also thought to play a role in the ultra-violet (UV) and cosmic-ray induced processing of ices to form larger species (including the so-called “molecules of life”). The desorption of molecular ices from dust grain surfaces also provides astronomers with a crucial tracer of the evolutionary age of a star.

Also Read  Postgraduate Studentships

This project will use a range of surface science techniques, including reflection absorption infrared spectroscopy (RAIRS) and temperature programmed desorption (TPD), to investigate molecular formation and reaction (thermal and electron and ultra-violet induced) on dust grain analogue surfaces including graphite, water ice and silicates. The experiments will be performed under low temperature and pressure conditions to simulate the environment of star-forming regions. The data obtained will be used to provide data for astronomers that can be incorporated into astronomical models.

For further information, and to apply for this position, please contact Wendy Brown by email ( or Note that Wendy Brown will be at Sussex with effect from 1st May 2013. 

Please apply formally through our online application system via the Apply button below.

Apply for Sept 2013 entry, PhD in Chemistry and mention Prof. Wendy Brown as the suggested supervisor in the application.

Include a brief statement of interest in the project, full CV, transcripts and two academic references. 

Deadline: 30th April 2013 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *