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Current PhD Studentships

School of Physical Sciences at The Open University

Based in Milton Keynes

The School of Physical Sciences offers full-time, fully funded PhD studentships available to start in October 2024. The projects cover astronomy, planetary and space science, physics, space instrumentation, and data intensive and multi-disciplinary research areas.

PS1. Preparing for Mars sample return – oxygen isotope analysis of Martian meteorites

(This is a 4-year studentship funded by UKSA for home students only)

We expect to recruit to four of the following 6 projects funded by DISCnet (, an STFC Centre for Doctoral Training:

D1. Forecasting Martian Weather using Machine Learning

D2. Untangling Gas, Dust, and Ice Astrochemistry with JWST Ice-Mapping

D3. Enhancing biophysical models of stroke with artificial intelligence

D4. Ultrafast phenomena in 2D quantum matter

D5. Using Deep Learning to improve Euclid data analysis

D6. The Dispersed Matter Planet Project: Machine Learning applied to space telescope data to find transits and new host stars

(Projects D1-D6 are funded for a total of 4 years: 3.5 years of study plus a 6-month placement)  

We expect to recruit to four of the following 10 projects:

A1. Disentangling the effects of spotty stars from exoplanet atmosphere observations

PS2. Understanding the earliest stages of planetary evolution

PS3. Microbial survival in Martian brines: implications for planetary protection

PS4. Mercury’s Caloris basin rim

PS5. An experimental approach to study the alteration of Venusian surface materials

SI1. Radiation damage in detectors: what really happens to silicon imaging detectors in orbit?

SI2. Lunar Habitat Construction Using Lunar Regolith

SI3. Development of Next-Generation X-ray Instrumentation for Space and Planetary Science

P1. Theoretical approaches to quasi-2D quantum materials

P2. Ab initio Studies of Interparticle Coulombic Electron Capture



How to apply

If you would like to apply then please read the guidance on applying for a PhD studentship here and e-mail the following to by the application deadline 25th January 2024:

  • a completed Application form UK if you are classed as a home student, or Application form non-UK if you are an international student.
  • an up to date CV.
  • a list of individual courses taken and grades obtained.
  • a personal statement.
  • any other relevant information that you think may support your case for consideration.

You do not need to submit a research proposal, as it is already defined by us. You are encouraged to contact the lead supervisor of the project(s) for any informal enquiries.

Interviews will take place remotely on 7-9th February 2024. 

Funding and Eligibility

Unless stated otherwise, the studentships are funded for 3 years and 3 months, attract a stipend of £18,622 per year (2023/24 rate) directly payable to the student, and cover the home-student University fees. 

To be eligible for funding, applicants must meet the UKRI academic requirements. We normally require that the candidates have at least a 2:1 at UK BSc or MSc level, but some projects may differ – please check the project description or confirm with the main supervisor of the project you are interested in. 

 Advice and Guidance

Please contact with any questions about general administration, eligibility, suitability, funding or the nature of the PhD research. Our PhD administrator Debbie Briggs and postgraduate research tutor Konstantin Stefanov will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

If you have questions about specific projects, please contact the lead supervisor named on the project.

We are committed to widening participation and awarding PhD studentships to a diverse community of applicants. We particularly welcome applications from under-represented groups. Equal Opportunity is University policy.

Our researchers are involved in a number of collaborative PhD projects with colleagues from other areas of the STEM faculty, please see projects below to find out more and how to apply for these roles.

The following project is a separate industrial CASE studentship between the OU and Airbus Defence and Space Ltd (Airbus DS) providing both academic and industrial research experience: 

Development and validation of innovative, near real-time analytical tools to enable mitigation of contamination within cleanrooms of the UK spacecraft & satellite industry

The following project is based in the school of LHCS