Research Group:Astronomy Unit
Number of Students:1
Length of Study in Years: 3-4
Full-time Project: yes
PhD projects are available to study a variety of topics in the formation and dynamics of planetary systems, and to study the dynamical evolution of protoplanetary discs. The research to be carried out is largely theoretical and/or computational, but has applications in explaining observational data.
1. One project focuses on modelling the gravitational interaction between a planet (or system of planets) with the gaseous protoplanetary disc in which the planet(s) form. This interaction normally results in an exchange of angular momentum between the disc and planets, causing the planets to undergo radial migration, a process that is clearly important for explaining many of the extrasolar planetary systems that have been discovered. Work on this topic at Queen Mary normally involves state-of-the-art computation of the disc-planet interaction using 3D hydrodynamic or magnetohydrodynamic codes, in addition to the deployment of mathematical and physical arguments.
2. This project involves studying the formation of planetary systems by means of N-body simulations. Research in this area can focus either on the Solar System, or can be applied more broadly in attemtping to explain the orbital architecture of extrasolar planetary systems. Extensions of the models to include more sophisticated treaments of planetary internal structure could form part of a project, along with improvements to the basic disc models that are currently employed in this research. The long term goal is to develop a tool for modelling the formation of planetary systems and their dynamical evolution so that synthetic populations of planets can be generated for comparison with observational data. We will be heavily involved in ESA's future exoplanet discovery mission, PLATO, as QMUL is the coordinating institution for theoretical modelling of planet formation.
SPA Academics: Richard Nelson