GREAT-ITN Recruitment: Max Planck Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg

Project Title:
Large-scale inference of Galactic structure
Contact: Coryn Bailer-Jones (
Further Details:
This PhD project will examine the problem of how to infer the structure and evolution of our Galaxy from the Gaia data. Our approach is to specify and fit models of the Galaxy to the astrometric data and stellar parameters derived from the Gaia data processing. These models are potentially very complex and involve fitting large amounts of data, so this process may be referred to as "massive inference". The PhD student will use numerical techniques to fit the models, and statistical techniques to control model complexity and compare evidence. The full problem is a large, long-term project; the focus here will be on developing techniques and addressing more specific questions.  One example is a reconstruction of the path of the Sun through the Galactic disk over the past half billion years. Epochs of passages through the disk and spiral arms etc. can be correlated with the geological record to investigate the astronomical impact (if any) on long-term climate change or terrestrial mass extinctions. Prior to the arrival of Gaia data, this PhD project will make use of simulated data and data from other surveys such as SDSS and Pan-STARRS. Schools, workshops, conferences and an extended collaborative visit to Peking University in China are possible parts of the PhD programme.

Important Eligibility Information concerning ESRs:

Early-stage researchers are those who are, at the time of selection by the host institution, in the first four years (full time equivalent) of their research careers. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided, irrespective of whether or not a doctorate was envisaged. Researchers are normally required to undertake trans-national mobility (i.e. move from one country to another) when taking up their appointment. One general rule applies to the appointment of researchers in a network:

At the time of selection by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account. As far as international European interest organisations or international organisations are concerned, this rule does not apply to the hosting of eligible researchers, however the appointed researcher must not have spent more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the selection by the host organisation in the same appointing organisation.