Undertake research with the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG)

We're a thriving and welcoming research environment. If you'd like to join us as a researcher, at PhD level or as a post-doctoral fellow, please explore the opportunities below. 

You can find opportunities on our recruitment portal by visiting our current vacancies page and filtering the Department field to "ICG"

Research fellowships 

The ICG welcomes candidates interested in applying for research fellowships to be held in Portsmouth. A variety of potential fellowships are available, including Royal Society University Research Fellowships, Ernest Rutherford Fellowships (STFC), Marie Curie (EU) fellowships, and possibly national fellowships from the candidate’s country of origin. Expressions of interest for fellowships should be addressed to an ICG staff member with a connection to the proposed research.

We welcome applications from all qualified applicants, but applications are particularly encouraged from traditionally under-represented groups in science. The University of Portsmouth is member of the Athena SWAN charter and an Institute of Physics Project Juno Supporter; these projects show a commitment to introduce organisational and cultural practices that promote gender equality in science and create a better working environment for men and women.

Ernest Rutherford Fellowships are five year fellowships funded by the STFC (formerly STFC Advanced Fellowships). The 2024 Ernest Rutherford Fellowships will open in June 2024 with the final submission deadline to be 1 October 2024. They will be open to candidates of any nationality, but each institution is limited in the total number of applications it can support, at the ICG we are only able to support 3 proposals. We require candidates to send a statement of interest by 27th June 2024 to be considered for one of these fellowships. The expression of interest template can be found here. Please complete the template and send it to icg-recruitment@port.ac.uk. More details about the process can be found on the expression of interest template. We encourage you to contact an ICG staff member, or our Deputy Director of Research (ian.harry@port.ac.uk) if you are interested in applying for an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship with us.

We encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds and those returning to research from career breaks.

For further information see https://www.ukri.org/opportunity/ernest-rutherford-fellowship-2024/

Royal Society University Research Fellowships are eight year fellowships open to researchers of all nationalities. The 2024 Royal Society University Research Fellowships will open on 11 July 2024 with a deadline of 10 September 2024.  Please contact an ICG staff member, or our Deputy Director for Research (ian.harry@port.ac.ukbefore the end of July 2024 if you are interested in applying in the 2024 round. There is no limit on how many applicants we can support in making an application to this scheme but it does take some time to put together an application.

For full details on the University Research Fellowships scheme please see https://royalsociety.org/grants/university-research/

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie scheme includes Individual Fellowships intended to add significantly to the development of the best and most-promising researchers active in Europe. These are for trans-national researchers, including researchers coming to Europe and those moving within Europe. There is currently an open call for 2024 Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows with a deadline to apply of 2024. Please contact an ICG staff member, or our Deputy Director for Research (ian.harry@port.ac.ukbefore the end of July 2024 if you are interested in applying in the 2024 round. There is no limit on how many applicants we can support in making an application to this scheme but it does take some time to put together an application.

Brexit does not affect the eligibility of UK nationals and/or UK institutes to apply for, or to act as a host for Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. As the UK has now rejoined the Horizon Europe framework, we will be fully eligible for any future ERC opportunities, including this one.

For more information on the current round of Individual Fellowships, please see https://marie-sklodowska-curie-actions.ec.europa.eu/calls/msca-postdoctoral-fellowships-2024

For more details on other Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions please see

Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships offer a recognised first step into an independent research career for outstanding scientists and engineers at an early stage of their research career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances, such as parenting or caring responsibilities or health issues. The next round of Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships will open on 03 September 2024 with a submission date of 29 October 2024. Please contact an ICG staff member, or our Deputy Director for Research (ian.harry@port.ac.uk), before mid-September 2024 if you are interested in applying in the 2024 round. There is no limit on how many applicants we can support in making an application to this scheme but it does take some time to put together an application.

For further information see https://royalsociety.org/grants/dorothy-hodgkin-fellowship/

Daphne Jackson Fellowships offer STEM professionals the opportunity to return to a research career after a break of two or more years for a family, health or caring reason. It is the opportunity to balance a personalised retraining programme with a challenging research project, held in a supportive UK university or research establishment. It is possible to apply for a Daphne Jackson Fellowship at any time. If interested in applying, please contact an ICG staff member with a connection to the proposed research.

For more information, please see here https://daphnejackson.org/about-fellowships/

Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellowships and the Norman Lockyer Fellowship provide support for up to 3 years for early career research astronomers and geophysicists. Applications are restricted to candidates who have a recognized PhD (or equivalent) obtained no more than 5 years before the start of their position or who have taken their viva before the application deadline and expect to be awarded the PhD by the time of appointment. These are offered on a 3-year cycle, and the next opportunity will be in 2024 (deadline not yet announced).

For further information see https://www.ras.ac.uk/awards-and-grants/fellowships/2330-fellowship-call

Future Leaders Fellowships will grow the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure a vibrant environment for research and innovation in the UK. The scheme is open to researchers and innovators from across business, universities, and other organisations.

The 9th Future Leaders Fellowship scheme has now closed. We will update this page when the 10th call to this scheme opens. University of Portsmouth is able to submit a limited number of Future Leaders Fellowship applications and so an internal selection process is needed to select these from across the University. If you are interested in submitting a Future Leaders Fellowship application with the ICG, please contact one of our faculty as soon as possible who can guide you in the process.



The Royal Society Career Development Fellowships provide the most talented early career scientists from underrepresented groups in STEM with research funding and high-quality training opportunities to build a strong base for a successful research career.

The first call for these fellowships will opened in 7 November 2023 with a submission deadline of 24 January 2024. The scheme initially ran "as a pilot with researchers from Black heritage. If successful, the pilot may be broadened to researchers from other underrepresented groups." We await news of the next call for this fellowship. If interested in applying please contact one of our faculty who can help guide your application.

For more information see https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes-awards/grants/career-development-fellowship


Royal Society Newton International Fellowships are for non-UK scientists who are at an early stage of their research career and wish to conduct research in the UK. This 2024 scheme is now closed, and we await details of the 2025 call (normally with deadline in February - March). If interested in applying, please contact an ICG staff member with a connection to the proposed research.

For further information see https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes-awards/grants/newton-international/.

PhD Studentships

Funded PhD studentships at the ICG, University of Portsmouth

  • Applications for funded PhD studentships should be received by January 31, 2024 for full consideration. We will consider applications submitted after this date until all positions are filled.
  • Final deadline for self-funded study: July 1, 2024

The Institute of Cosmology & Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth invites applicants for PhD studentships beginning in October 2024.  The ICG is one of the leading groups in research on cosmology and astrophysics in the UK. We are active participants in a wide range of international collaborations, including the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV) and the Euclid satellite.

Multiple funded PhD studentships will be available for research projects in:

  • Astrophysics  
  • Observational cosmology 
  • Theoretical cosmology 
  • Gravitational waves 

Examples of fully funded PhD projects on offer at the ICG

All projects list the first supervisor. All ICG PhD students will be assigned a supervisory team of three academics. Please email the first supervisors for more details.

Gravitational lensing occurs when two galaxies are closely aligned on the sky. The mass of the foreground galaxy warps spacetime and deflects the light from the background galaxy as it passes. If the deflection is large enough, multiple images of the background galaxy are seen. These systems allow us to answer fundamental questions about the formation of galaxies and the large-scale properties of the Universe, but only a few hundred gravitational lenses are currently known.

During this project, you will use new data from the Euclid satellite and the Vera Rubin Observatory to discover 10000 gravitational lenses. Finding these lenses in these huge datasets will be a challenge: there are a million other objects per lens. You will therefore use machine learning methods to accurately identify the lenses and reject the non-lenses.

Email thomas.collett@port.ac.uk for more details.

New cosmological simulations have shown that rocky planets could form around low-mass stars in the debris of the first cosmic explosions 100 Myr after the Big Bang, far earlier than previously thought. These models have also revealed that these explosions could enrich their host halos to high water mass fractions, raising the possibility that terrestrial planets may have predated the first galaxies. We will work with planet formation groups at Kyoto and Vienna to study how water adhered to dust in primordial protoplanetary disks to form such planets and model water emission from Pop III SN remnants with radiative transfer codes to determine if they or water outflows from primordial galaxies could be detected by JWST, ALMA or the SKA. We will also model the rise of water in primeval galaxies and determine potential sites for protoplanetary disk formation in them.

Email daniel.whalen@port.ac.uk for more details.

In May 2023 the LIGO, Virgo and KAGRA gravitational-wave resumed operations and began the fourth gravitational-wave observing run. This will run until late 2025, before upgrades in advance of the fifth observing run in 2027. During these observing runs it is expected that these observatories will observe hundreds of colliding black holes and/or neutron stars. It is also strongly expected that there will be multiple "multi-messenger" observations: neutron star mergers observed both with gravitational-wave and electromagnetic observatories. In this project the PhD student will work with one of the leading LVK analysis codes--PyCBC--to observe these sources. PyCBC will target two types of analysis. The first will be run in real time to identify compact binary mergers within 60 seconds of the data be taken. This rapid analysis will enable electromagnetic telescopes to be pointed at the location of merger events, and potentially observe electromagnetic counterparts. We will also attempt to observe binary neutron star mergers before the the neutron stars have collided to maximize the potential for multi-messenger science. PyCBC will also run an archival analysis, months after the data is taken, to best combine our knowledge of the instruments and the sources we are looking for to provide a definitive list of observations in the data. Later in the PhD, when the instruments are not operating, we will use the skills developed to exploit the science potential of the new observations and explore how they impact our knowledge of the astrophysics behind compact binary mergers.

Email ian.harry@port.ac.uk for more details.

There are several types of Type Ia supernovae, but to date only "normal" and overluminous ones have been used to measure distances to other galaxies and constrain cosmological models. In this project, we will use openly available data collected by wide-field supernova surveys to test whether underluminous Type Ia supernovae could also be used as standardizable candles. Depending on the availability of JWST data, we may also study the environments of normal Type Ia supernovae.

Email or.graur@port.ac.uk for more details.

The cosmic distance ladder describes methods for establishing direct (redshift-independent) distances to astrophysical objects, where each “rung” of the ladder is calibrated on one or more at lower distance. This allows determination of the kinematics of the late-time universe, the first order term of which is the Hubble parameter and the second effectively the density of dark energy. Both of these quantities are problematic: the Hubble parameter inferred from the distance ladder is strongly discrepant with that inferred from the CMB assuming LCDM, and dark energy is fundamentally mysterious. Further, various rungs of the distance ladder disagree (most notably those based on Cepheids and Tip-of-the-Red-Giant-Branch stars), and there are claims that the cosmic kinematics implied by the distance ladder is anisotropic, violating the cosmological principle.

In this project we will tackle these problems by developing various under-explored methods for determining distances and hence constructing the distance ladder, including those based on unusual variable stars, non-Type-Ia supernovae and standard rulers. The aim is to zero-in on the origin of the Hubble tension and assess the systematic uncertainties that the various methods may suffer. We should also be able to develop new local calibrations of the Hubble rate. A second objective will be to explore modified gravity within the distance ladder, both to set novel constraints on deviations from General Relativity and to assess whether new gravitational degrees of freedom might help to ameliorate any of the aforementioned tensions.

Email harry.desmond@port.ac.uk for more details.

If we apply the laws of General Relativity (GR) to the universe, we are forced to conclude that 70% of its energy content consists of an inexplicably small cosmological constant. This bizarre conclusion has led cosmologists to pursue an alternative explanation: that instead the laws of gravity may deviate from GR on some distance or energy scales.

One place such departures from GR may characteristically show up are the nonlinear (small) scales of the cosmic web. In this PhD project, you’ll work on developing key tools to predict how the cosmic web is affected by modified theories of gravity. You’ll use computer codes that simulate the collapse of dark matter in 3D, and implement unusual features of modified gravity models into these codes. We’ll extract observable predictions from these simulations (e.g. weak lensing quantities), and use modern machine learning techniques such as emulators, to connect the output predictions of your simulations to data . You’ll have opportunities to be involved in cosmology with the Vera Rubin Observatory, a world-leading 8.4m telescope due to start operations in 2025, that can put modified gravity to the test. 

Email tessa.baker@port.ac.uk for more details.

The study of galaxy and cosmic evolution largely consists in the analysis of the spectrum of the electromagnetic radiation. Galaxy spectral features, such as emission lines, allow us to directly infer key galaxy properties such as redshift, age, metallicity or dynamic state. Usually, spectroscopic observations are needed to study emission lines, but narrow-band photometry allows to detect the brightest ones at a small fraction of the time and cost. In this project, you will exploit the unique dataset of the PAU Survey (www.pausurvey.org) to stack samples of thousands of galaxies and study their average spectra with narrow-band photometry.

First, you will collaborate in the detection of line emission in the elusive circumgalactic medium, which is poorly sampled yet plays a key role in the exchange of gas between galaxies and their environment. Second, you will study the radial evolution of average galaxy spectra spanning a large range of redshift, stellar mass and environment. Since galaxies form inside-out, the radial dependency of their spectra is directly linked to their evolution, with galaxy centres being the oldest regions and galaxy outskirts being newly-formed. With the large dataset of the PAU Survey, this study will help painting a clearer picture of how galaxies form and evolve. And third, you will also have the chance to experiment with the sonification of the spectra you produce; an innovative technique with applications both for scientific analysis and outreach.

Email enrique.gaztanaga@port.ac.uk for more details.

A key challenge in combining our understanding of Gravity (given by classical General Relativity or GR) with Quantum Mechanics is in deriving the meaning of discrete symmetries. Of particular interest are discrete-time (T) and parity (P) or mirror transformations. For fields with charge (C), we also have C transformations. In classical GR time reversal presents us with some puzzles to understand observed Black Holes and cosmic microwave background. Especially when we address quantum effects, such as Hawking radiation and primordial quantum fluctuations.  Furthermore, to explain the existence of matter (over anti-matter) in the universe today we need to understand CPT violation. Observationally, Large-scale cosmic maps can be used to learn about such discrete symmetries. In this Ph.D. project, you will look for parity violations in wide Cosmic CMB and Galaxy Maps and investigate how those measurements relate to our understanding of quantum fields in curved spacetimes. You will also look for such parity violation signals in astrophysical observations of Black Hole Horizons and Black Hole interactions with matter and with other Black Holes.

Email enrique.gaztanaga@port.ac.uk for more details.

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is a galaxy redshift survey experiment to precisely map the positions of 35 million galaxies and quasars extending back in time to several billions of years ago. Using these maps we can infer the properties of dark energy, gravity, neutrinos, and the physical processes that occurred in the primordial universe. Doing this requires sophisticated data analysis techniques and optimal estimators, as well as development of theoretical modelling to fully utilize the power of the DESI dataset.

In this PhD project you will study new statistical measures of the clustering of galaxies in these maps, in particular a technique called density-split clustering, that go beyond the traditional two-point statistics and thus efficiently extract higher-order information from the data. Analytic modelling for such statistics is hard, so we will develop new machine learning and emulator approaches to forward model the expected signal, and use simulation-based inference to determine cosmological parameters from comparison with data. You will be able to apply the methods you develop to the latest state-of-the-art data from DESI as it arrives.

DESI is a major international collaboration with members from over a dozen countries operating the best instrument of its kind on earth, and the main survey results are expected to be among the most important in cosmology in the next decade. In addition to leading your own new analyses in this project, you will also have the opportunity to contribute directly to the primary DESI science efforts, and to common data collection and processing. 

Email seshadri.nadathur@port.ac.uk for more details.

The Lyman-alpha forest is a series of absorption features seen in the spectra of high-redshift quasars – extremely luminous galactic cores powered by accretion on to supermassive black holes at their centres. These absorption features are caused by the presence of neutral hydrogen along the line of sight between us and the quasar, and so they trace the distribution of matter: effectively the quasar acts as a giant back light illuminating the large-scale structure of the Universe for us. Correlations in the Lyman-alpha forest have been used to measure cosmology in several previous surveys. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is currently collecting the biggest Lyman-alpha dataset ever assembled, which will provide exquisite cosmological results.

This project will study new ways to analyse the Lyman-alpha data to extract precise cosmological information. One such method is by combining correlations in the Lyman-alpha forest with their cross-correlation with quasar positions, and the auto-correlations of the high-redshift quasars, enabling a "3x2 point" analysis that can measure the growth rate of structure at z>2. This could provide a unique observational insight from this redshift range into one of the important puzzles in cosmology today, the so-called "S8 tension". You will also be able to study the possible science gains for such a 3x2 point analysis from using higher-density galaxy samples at z>2 obtained from proposed future surveys, including DESI-II.  

DESI is a major international collaboration with members from over a dozen countries operating the best instrument of its kind on earth, and the main survey results are expected to be among the most important in cosmology in the next decade. In addition to leading your own new analyses in this project, you will also have the opportunity to contribute directly to the primary DESI science efforts, and to common data collection and processing. 

Email seshadri.nadathur@port.ac.uk for more details.

Our Universe developed hierarchically: small perturbations led to stars, then galaxies, which clustered into 'galaxy-groups' and 'galaxy-clusters’, regions where the galaxy density is very high and the gravitational attraction strong enough that galaxies are bound together.  Such dense environments can accelerate the evolution of galaxies. Thus the formation of structure is intimately linked to galaxy-evolution. Dark Matter dominates the overall matter density of the Universe, providing the backbone for structure formation, but we observe only the baryonic matter. Revealing this basic skeleton has been a triumph of the last few decades. This project will help reveal the physics connecting galaxy and super-massive black hole evolution to the large-scale structure. 

Super-massive black holes are ubiquitous in the centers of massive galaxies. They can influence galaxy properties on scales 10,000 or more times larger than their own gravitational sphere-of-influence. How this impact is felt, over what key epochs of the Universe’s evolution, and what affect this has on galaxy evolution or on the larger-scale distributions of matter in the Universe is not know.  

This PhD project uses novel techniques to address fundamental questions: 1.  How are super-massive black holes triggered as a function of environment?  2. Does super-massive black hole growth couple to galaxy growth?  How is energy from the SMBH dissipated? What is the role of the host environment and what effect does the super-massive black holes have on the larger-scale environment?

The student will have the opportunity to work with multi-wavelength datasets and to contribute to the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) survey which is a cutting edge cosmology and astrophysics experiment mid-way through data collection. There is an opportunity to work with data, computational modelling and machine learning, and to contribute at a practical level through DESI observing programs. 

Please email becky.canning@port.ac.uk for more details.

Galaxies are the main organised structures of the Universe. Galaxies chart the Universe and illuminate the dark side. Their formation and evolution mechanisms still have many unknowns. Most of the information on galaxy physics is encoded in their spectral energy distributions (SEDs), which is the energy emitted at the various wavelengths. Stellar Population Models aim at predicting the integrated spectra of galaxies and are a widely used theoretical tool in astrophysics. This PhD will focus on enhancing world-leading, state-of-art population models made in Portsmouth. The project will focus on developing the absorption features of model spectra as a function of chemical patterns, including the exotic ones observed at the highest cosmic distances with the James Webb Space Telescope, just a few hundreds of million years after the Big Bang. Additionally, the project will push our understanding of key theoretical input of population models (e.g. convective overshooting, mixing length, Helium enrichment, etc.) that are still contentious and yet determine the age and chemical composition of galaxies across cosmic time.

Email claudia.maraston@port.ac.uk for more details.

The current standard model of cosmology, LCDM,  assumes Cold Dark Matter  and a cosmological constant Lambda as Dark Energy. It assumes General Relativity (GR) as the theory of gravity, but in trying to explain the formation of structures Newtonian N-body simulations are used. This project will go beyond this approximation, exploring features of nonlinear structure formation where we may expect GR effects. With state-of-the-art cosmological observations reaching a precision of 1%, it is timely to investigate how accurate the standard theoretical predictions are. We recently successfully applied numerical relativity codes (i.e. codes that are fully relativistic) in cosmology for the first time. This PhD project will build on these first pioneering works to further develop a fully relativistic approach to the study of large-scale structure, addressing some of the many open questions. One important goal is to establish how accurate Newtonian and “GR-corrected” codes are, also testing various Newtonian and general-relativistic approximations commonly used to model structure formation. Another open problem is that of accurately implementing relativistic initial conditions derived from perturbation theory into the nonlinear evolution. There is a number of physical questions that need investigation in full GR, from the collapse of the first structures  and  the relevance of spatial curvature, to how the formation of nonlinear structures affects light propagation in cosmology, ultimately affecting observations. In addition, there is a possibility that part of Cold Dark Matter is made of Primordial Black Holes, thus the project could explore the formation of these.The student will be using publicly available codes, in particular the Einstein Toolkit for numerical relativity, developing and extending them, and will have the opportunity for  external  collaborations, , using the relativistic N-body code  GRAMSES.

Email marco.bruni@port.ac.uk for more details.

The standard model of cosmology is based on assuming a homogeneous and isotropic model for the spacetime of the whole Universe. This is well justified, given the success of this model in explaining observations. Perhaps the biggest fundamental problem in cosmology is the fact that, under assumption about the matter content that where considered standard in the past, cosmological  models must have a Big-Bang singularity, a boundary in spacetime where Einstein General Relativity fails.  This is the essence of  Hawking and Penrose singularity theorems. However, since the discovery of the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, theorists have started to explain it using Dark Energy, which typically violates the assumptions of those theorems. It is then natural to revisit the Big-Bang in this light. In recent works, we have shown that if some Dark Energy is present in the very early Universe, then the Big-Bang singularity can be replaced by a bounce between a contracting phase followed by expansion, eventually leading to the Universe we observe. This project with continue to explore this possibility, in particular considering models where Dark Energy and Dark matter interact. In view of this, the student will partly explore new models for the dark sector, partly the goal will be to go beyond the simplest assumption on the spacetime geometry that assume  homogeneity and isotropy, in order to study if these symmetries can emerge naturally as a consequence of the Universe dynamics. Finally, studying inhomogeneities and gravitational waves around the bounce the project will aim at working out possible observable features of these models.

Email marco.bruni@port.ac.uk for more details.

You will use a combination of theoretical analysis, simulations analogous to blast of neutron stars into core collapse supernova and verifying our predictions with observational data to investigate the physical ideas behind the collapse of Black Hole Universe Model (BHU). The theoretical analysis will involve examining the mathematical equations and predictions of the BHU Model, comparing them with the standard Lambda Cold Dark Matter (ΛCDM) Model of cosmology, and identifying any differences or inconsistencies and thereby setting up the predictions of our new model. After that, you will do blast simulations of neutron stars with initial conditions set by the model and verify if the simulations match our predicted results. You will also look at observational evidences to support or refute the BHU model and also to find out its limitations.

Please contact enrique.gaztanaga@port.ac.uk for more details.

Read more about our research

Interviews for funded studentships take place in February / March for entry in October. PhD applicants should have or expect to obtain a good honours degree or equivalent in Physics, Maths or Astronomy. 

Informal enquiries about the studentships can be directed to icg-recruitment@port.ac.uk. Formal applications should be made through the online application form, please quote project code ICG09070124.

We welcome applications from all qualified applicants, but applications are particularly encouraged from traditionally under-represented groups in science. The University of Portsmouth holds an Athena SWAN bronze award and is an Institute of Physics Project Juno Supporter; these projects show a commitment to introduce organisational and cultural practices that promote gender equality in science and create a better working environment for men and women.

The ICG is a member of the SouthEast Physics Network (SEPNet), a consortium of nine world-class universities in the southeast of England. Our post-graduate students have the opportunity to engage with the SEPNet Graduate Network (GRADNet). By channelling this broad research expertise into one central, combined resource, GRADNet provides a wide range of postgraduate training opportunities, including specialised schools and student-led workshops and conferences.