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Centre for Advanced Instrumentation

Postgraduate Opportunities

CfAI has a number of PhD places each year in the fields of astronomical instrumentation, adaptive optics, atmospheric turbulence monitoring, astrophotonics, biophotonics and fusion diagnostics. UK residence is required for STFC/EPSRC/NERC funded positions, but we are also always open to applicants from overseas who have their own funding.

Details of how to apply are here. You should specify Advanced Instrumentation as your field of interest.

STFC funded PhD studentship in Astronomical Instrumentation.

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship in astronomical Adaptive Optics (AO) to work with Dr Richard Wilson and Dr James Osborn in the Department of Physics at Durham University.

The studentship is funded by a grant (“The programme for the European Extremely Large Telescope") from the Science and Technology Facilities Council for a period of 42 months, covering tuition fees and a stipend of £14,057 per year.

The next generation of Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs), with apertures of the order of tens of metres, are currently under construction. These telescopes will enable new insights into many areas of modern astronomy. In order for these telescopes to function they require Adaptive Optics (AO) systems to correct for the detrimental effect of the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere. Modern AO systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated and extremely proficient, however, some challenges still remain. Many of these challenges require a better understanding of the Earth’s dynamic and turbulent atmosphere.

The candidate will exploit archive and on-sky data from Stereo-SCIDAR, a turbulence profiling instrument on the 2.5 m Isaac Newton Telescope, and Canary, an AO demonstration instrument on the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope, both located at the Observatorio Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma.

The concurrent data from the Stereo-SCIDAR and Canary will enable the candidate to understand the effects of the Earth's atmosphere on modern astronomical AO systems.

In addition, an automated Stereo-SCIDAR is soon to be commissioned at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. The site of the VLT is only 50km from the site of the 38m European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). As yet, very little high altitude resolution data exists for this observatory. By applying knowledge and procedures developed with on-sky data from Canary, it will be possible to accurately predict the performance of the E-ELT and actively influence the function of these systems.

The project will include numerical and analytical computer simulations and analysis as well as laboratory work and could involve travel to the observatories.

Applicants should have or expect to attain a good (first or upper second class) honours degree in physics, mathematics or a related subject.

The closing date for applications is 11th September 2015 and the start date will be as soon as possible after 1st October 2015.

Further details about Dr. Wilson’s research group can be found at and about the department at

Informal enquiries are welcome and should be directed to

Applications can be made online at