Funded PhD opportunities

The evolution of basaltic magmatism on Mars: new insights from accessory minerals

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (International students only)
  • Department: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr James Darling, Prof Craig Storey, Dr. Desmond Mose

Project code: SEES4080218 - This project is only open to International (non-EU) students

Project description

Martian meteorites offer unique insights into the planet's lithosphere that complement observations from orbital and landed spacecraft. Over 100 distinct martian rocks are known, and the largest group are basaltic to lherzolitic igneous rocks (shergottites). These provide unique petrological records of magmatism, geochemical records of planetary differentiation and insights into the global budget of volatiles (e.g. water) on Mars. However, understanding of these processes is severely restricted by the fact that only a handful of shergottites have unambiguous absolute age constraints. This is partly due to the extreme deformation and heating that occurs during earthward launch of these rocks in meteorite impact events, which can disturb the isotopic systems of even the most refractory elements.

Our recent work has shown that is possible to resolve this challenge by linking U-Pb isotope analyses of the accessory mineral baddeleyite (monoclinic ZrO2) with detailed micro- to nanostructural analysis using electron microscopy and spectroscopy (Moser et al., 2013, Nature; Darling et al., 2016, EPSL; White et al., 2017, Nature Geoscience). This allows the timing of primary magmatic crystallization and impact events to be resolved from individual highly-shocked samples. Building on these findings, this project will study a range of shergottites in order to place robust new age constraints on martian basaltic magmatism and help test models of secular evolution in lithospheric processes. This will be achieved by combining petrological analysis of accessory minerals (baddeleyite and Ca-phosphates) in thin-sections with detailed scanning electron microscope imaging, nanostructural analysis using electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) and Raman spectroscopy, and in-situ U-Pb geochronology (laser ablation ICP-MS; SIMS). The project will also explore trace element and isotopic (e.g. Lu-Hf) records in the least shocked accessory minerals using laser ablation ICP-MS. Extensive training will be provided in all analytical techniques, and the student will benefit from research visits to the University of Western Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Supervisor profiles

Dr James Darling

Prof Craig Storey

Dr. Desmond Mose (University of Western Ontario, Canada)

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.  


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr James Darling at (02392 842237) or Prof Craig Storey at (02392 842245).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: SEES4080218.

Interview date: TBC

Start date: 1st October 2018.

Funding notes

This project is only open to International (non-EU) students.

Eligible applicants will be considered for the Portsmouth Global PhD scholarship scheme.

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