INPhINIT PhD Fellowship: Angular momentum of galaxies – a high priority goal for the Square Kilometre Array
The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers of any nationality to pursue their PhD studies in the best Spanish and Portuguese research centres and units with excellence distinction.
Research Project / Research Group Description
AMIGA (Analysis of the interstellar Medium of Isolated GAlaxies) is an interdisciplinary team at
the IAA playing a major role in the SKA project, a next generation radio telescope which will be
the largest scientific infrastructure on Earth, and the largest generator of public data. The PI of
this position coordinates the Spanish participation in the SKA, and her team is strongly involved
in preparatory science and in developing a prototype SKA Regional Centre (SRC), an environment
to provide access and resources to exploit radiointerferometric data. She has supervised a total
of 48 people, including undergraduate and PhD students, postdocs, engineers, communicators
and managers, and 6 PhD thesis. She has formed a group currently composed by 19 people, with
diversity and equality as key values: 9 women and 10 men, maintaining parity at all levels, with
members from 6 countries. Thus, AMIGA team provides an exceptional opportunity for a PhD
candidate to become deeply involved in SKA, a facility that will be transformational for radio
astronomy over the coming decades.
The proposed project falls into the core of AMIGA science, which focuses on comparing the
properties of galaxies in extreme environments, with a special emphasis on atomic gas (HI) as a
tracer of interactions, in which AMIGA has a unique expertise in Spain. The AMIGA sample of
highly isolated galaxies acts as a reference for how galaxies evolve in the absence of external
The angular momentum is a fundamental property of galaxies that may act as a hidden variable
in scaling relations between optical properties and HI mass, and could potentially explain why
such relations have considerable scatter. In the existing studies there are almost no isolated
galaxies neither dense isolated groups. Hence an in-depth study of the angular momenta in these samples and a comparison with numerical simulations is crucially missing, and constitutes
the research context of the proposed PhD work.
Job position description
The proposed PhD project aims to define the role of angular momentum in key aspects of galaxy
evolution (fully aligned with SKA High Priority Goals), by paying a special attention to a careful
definition of the environment of the target sample and its associated characteristics. The
applicant will combine existing radiointerferometric observations with SKA pathfinders and
precursors and numerical simulations such as the IllutrisTNG (Pillepich et al. 2018). We will also
expand the sample to include lower (baryonic) mass isolated galaxies in the analysis.
In collaboration with experts within the AMIGA team the candidate will
• Reduce the radiointerferometric data using the latest software and algorithms, within
the framework of the fully functional IAA SRC prototype.
• Model the kinematics of the galaxies using state of the art modelling software. The
resulting models will be compared using 3D visualisation tools such as X3D.
• Calculate the total angular momentum together with the stellar masses using optical
and infrared data from both AMIGA’s own observations and ancillary data.
• The global stability of the galaxies will be contrasted with the theoretical predictions.
Any deviations must then be investigated to understand both their cause and influence
on the subsequent evolution of the galaxies.
There will also be highly beneficial opportunities for the candidate to expand the sample by
leading proposals as PrincipaI Investigator, e.g by expanding the parameter space to lower mass
galaxies by applying for additional HI observations. S/he would collaborate with teams in other
SKA member countries, such as South Africa, Australia or the Netherlands, with which AMIGA
has established collaborations. In addition, s/he will work following Open Science principles, an
area in which AMIGA team plays a key role at an international level and an area that is
increasingly recognised as essential in scientific careers.