Studying at MPA

The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) in Garching invites students to carry out their research at MPA. We welcome applicants from Germany and abroad. In principle there are two options for doing research at MPA:

  • Bachelor/Master Thesis
  • PhD Thesis


Bachelor's or Master's thesis

If you are interested in writing your bachelor- or master-thesis in cooperation with LMU/TUM and the MPA, please contact directly the researcher/s offering the project/s you are interested in. Please note that (co-)supervision from a faculty member at LMU or TUM is required, and that if your potential MPA supervisor is not a faculty at the University, he/she will discuss such arrangements with you.
Here is a list of projects you can work on at MPA:

INFORMATION FIELD THEORY. Advisor: Torsten Ensslin.

Master thesis on information field theory (IF), its application in astrophysics and elsewhere, and related topics are possible for students that are familiar with IFT on the level taught at my university course on IFT. For more information on IFT please see here and for the IFT lectures (script, recordings, and exercises) see here.
GALAXY EVOLUTION IN COSMIC FILAMENTS. Advisors: Daniela Galarraga-Espinoza & Guinevere Kauffmann

Matter in the Universe is assembled under the action of gravity to form a gigantic network of nodes, filaments, walls, and voids, called the cosmic web. The observable building blocks of this web are galaxies, which grow, evolve and flow from the less dense to the denser cosmic structures. During their lifetime, galaxies thus experience strong changes of cosmic environments. These are expected to affect the galaxy properties, such as their star-formation activity. While it is now well established that galaxies located in cluster environments are redder and less star-forming than those in less dense regions, the properties of galaxies in cosmic filaments has become feasible only in the past few years thanks to the advent of large surveys and to the development of filament detection techniques. Galaxy properties in filaments are thus still poorly understood. However, half of the matter in the Universe is expected to be hosted by these cosmic structures, so the study of galaxies in these environments is crucial to better understand the properties of matter in the largest scales. This Master project aims at analysing how the galaxies living in cosmic filaments are shaped by them. Is there a relation between filament gas properties and the star-formation activity of galaxies? How is the galaxy star-formation quenched in the warm/hot and moderately dense environment that is particular to filaments? The candidate will address these questions by the analysis of data from recent galaxy surveys. Guided by recent results from numerical simulations, he/she will explore in observations any potential relation between the properties of galaxies and these of cosmic filaments, which will be extracted from publicly available catalogues.
PROPERTIES OF THE FIRST GALAXIES AND REIONIZATION IN RADIATION-HYDRODYNAMICAL SIMULATIONS. Advisors: Enrico Garaldi & Benedetta Ciardi.

Enrico is a PostDoc and Benedetta is a staff member.

Research fields: first galaxies, cosmic reionization, numerical simulations

Description: the fields of galaxy formation and cosmic reionization are quickly converging. I have developed a state-of-the-art suite of simulations designed to simultaneously understand these two processes. The projects available deal either with the analysis and improvement of these simulations, or other topics related to cosmic reionization.

Example projects:

  • synthetic observations of the mean free path of ionising photons in radiation-hydrodynamical simulations
  • characterization of the CIV absorption from the first galaxies in radiation-hydrodynamical simulations
  • CLUSTERING OF LYMAN-ALPHA EMITTERS AS PROBE OF COSMIC REIONIZATION. Advisors: Max Gronke & Benedetta Ciardi.

    Max is a Max Planck Research Group Leader and Benedetta is a staff member at MPA.

    Research fields: first galaxies, cosmic reionization, numerical simulations

    Description: The 'Epoch of Reionization' was the last major phase transition of the Universe and marks a frontier of research in astrophysics. In this project, you will develop a new probe which will enable us to test models of the evolution of this epoch. You will post-process state-of-the-art simulations and find out a way for observers to differentiate between different morphologies of neutral and ionized regions.

    This is a numerical/theoretical thesis.

    GALACTIC WINDS AS A POWERING MECHANISM OF LYMAN-ALPHA HALOS. Advisors: Max Gronke & Celine Peroux (ESO).

    Research fields: galaxy evolution, circumgalactic medium

    Description: Mysterious `halos' glowing at the Lyman-alpha wavelength (1216 Angstrom) surround most galaxies at the so-called "Cosmic noon" (around redshift 2-3). Where the energy producing this glow is coming from is still unclear. During this project you will investigate in what way powerful "galactic winds" contribute to the energy budged of these "Lyman-alpha halos". This project consists of two parts: in the first you will solve a set of differential equations to find out how much how much Lyman-alpha galactic winds can produce as a function of radius. In the second part, you will analyze actual observational data taken from the European Very Large Telescope in Chile and see if your model is compatible with these observations.

    This is a theoretical and observational thesis.

    THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN RADIATIVE COOLING AND MAGNETIC DRAPING. Advisors: Max Gronke & Ryan Farber.

    Background:

  • The most massive stars explosively end their lives as supernovae, launching a hot, several million degree plasma.
  • This hot phase of the circumgalactic medium is well-understood observationally and theoretically.
  • Puzzle:

  • Shockingly, observers regularly detect much colder neutral and molecular phases that somehow survive(!) embedded in the hot plasma.
  • Because of hydrodynamical instabilities (such as the Kelvin-Helmholtz and Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities) this colder gas should be destroyed rapidly, however, clearly it is not!
  • Example Project:

  • Recent theories suggest the survival of this cold gas may be explained by either (or both!) magnetic draping suppressing hydrodynamic instabilities, as well as radiative cooling transferring mass and momentum from the hot plasma to the cold gas!
  • In this project, you will investigate the interplay between magnetic fields and radiative cooling by runing your own state-of-the-art magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) simulations.
  • A JOINT STUDY OF LYMAN-ALPHA AND IONIZING PHOTON ESCAPE. Advisors: Max Gronke & Benedetta Ciardi.

    Max is a Max Planck Research Group Leader and Benedetta is a staff member at MPA.

    Research fields: first galaxies, cosmic reionization, numerical simulations

    Description: We know that the Universe turned from neutral to ionized in the so-called 'Epoch of Reionization'. However, we do not know yet how the photons that were responsible for this era escaped their host-galaxies as they can be absorbed by gas already inside the galaxies. Luckily for astrophysics, Lyman-alpha photons are susceptible to the same gas as ionizing photons. In this project, you will run your own radiative transfer simulations to figure out a link between the escape of ionizing and Lyman-alpha photons.

    This is a numerical/theoretical thesis.

    DERIVATION OF PHYSICAL PARAMETERS FROM GALAXY SPECTRA. Advisor: Guinevere Kauffmann.

    Fitting template spectra from stellar population synthesis models to galaxy spectra to derive physical parameters such as stellar age, metallicity, dust extinction and recent star formation history, has become standard practice in the field. This project will introduce the student to the techniques used for his purpose and provide hands-on experience in coding up simple algorithms described in the literature. We will then move on to exploring some of the unsolved problems in this field, with particular emphasis on probing the stellar content in galactic environments that differ strongly from the disk of our own Milky Way.
    CONSTRAINING DUST LIFECYCLES USING GALAXY SIMULATIONS AND RESOLVED OBSERVATIONS. Advisors: Qi Li & Guinevere Kauffmann.

    Dust reshapes the observed spectral energy distribution. Understanding cosmic dust is therefore essential for our understanding of physical properties of galaxies. Models of dust processes have been recently incorporated in numerical simulations to study the dust lifecycle. These models typically implement dust formation in evolved stars, grain growth by accreting gas-phase metals, destruction via sputtering, and grain-grain collisional processes include shattering and coagulation. However, they suffer great uncertainties. Grain growth, shattering and coagulation in particular have significant impact on the predicted dust mass and grain size distributions, limiting their predicting power for galaxies with a wide range of properties. Resolved observations on dust emission and extinction in galaxies have provided an ideal proving ground for models under various physical conditions. In this project, we aim to combine these observational results with hydrodynamic simulations of galaxies to put a constraint on dust processes. We expect this project to guide the development of state-of-the-art modeling of dust for multiphase environment in the future.
    DENSITY PROFILES OF COSMIC VOIDS USING DEEP LEARNING. Advisors: Luisa Lucie-Smith, Jochen Weller (LMU), Nico Hamaus (LMU) & Nico Schuster (LMU).

    An outstanding problem in cosmology is to understand the complex evolution of the Universe from its near-uniform early state to the present-day clustered distribution of matter. Cosmic voids are huge empty regions of space surrounding galaxies and filaments, carrying a large amount of cosmological information. The characteristic properties of voids, such as their shapes, sizes and density profiles, have the potential of becoming powerful observables to probe the nature of dark energy. This Master project aims at characterising the density profiles of voids for cosmological models with different types of dark energy using deep learning methods. The student will train a deep neural network to predict the density profiles of voids given the 3D spatial structure of voids from cosmological simulations. The aim of the project is to learn about how dark energy affects the density profiles of voids, comparing our work to existing results based on more traditional analytical results.
    STELLAR ORBITS AROUND SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLES IN MASSIVE EARLY TYPE GALAXIES. Advisor: Thorsten Naab.

    Theoretical/numerical methods.
    ESTIMATING THE STAR-BLACK HOLE MERGER RATES FOR GRAVITATIONAL WAVE DETECTIONS. Advisor: Thorsten Naab.

    Theoretical/numerical methods.
    DUST FORMATION IN DWARF GALAXIES. Advisor: Thorsten Naab.

    Theoretical/numerical methods.
    DARK MATTER PROPERTIES OF MASSIVE STAR FORMING DISKS AT HIGH REDSHIFT. Advisor: Thorsten Naab.

    Theorethical/numerical methods.
    WHAT ARE SPIRAL ARMS? Advisor: Wilma Trick.

    Here you can find more information about the project.

    If you have more general questions, feel free to contact Dr. Thorsten Naab at naab@...


    PhD thesis

    A dissertation in cooperation with MPA can be done as an individually supervised project or through participation in our PhD-programme IMPRS.

    International Max-Planck Research School (IMPRS) on Astrophysics

    In collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), the Observatory of the Ludwig Maximilians University (USM), and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), MPA offers excellent research opportunities in theoretical and observational astrophysics for IMPRS students, covering all wavelengths from radio waves to gamma rays. Students conduct their graduate studies in a very stimulating environment and have the opportunity to develop a broad background in astrophysics beyond their own dedicated research project. The MPA is one of the most renowned institutions for theoretical and computational astrophysics. Graduate students will receive comprehensive training in theoretical and observational astronomy covering the whole spectrum of research activities present in the participating institutes.

    Link to the IMPRS web pages

    You can find more information about the scientific work at MPA on the webpages of the various research areas:

        Computational Structure Formation
        Galaxy Formation and Evolution
        High Energy Astrophysics
        Physical Cosmology
        Subgalactic Astrophysics
        Information Field Theory

    Programs for PhD students:

    Max Planck PhDnet. It’s a network of Max Planck PhD students! This portal serves as a platform for exchange among doctoral researchers at Max Planck Institutes.
    Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard-Foundation. The foundation supports young female scientists with children and aims to enable them to create the freedom required to further their scientific careers.

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