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PhD Fellowship in Disequilibrium Dynamics of Galactic Dark Matter Halos and its Impact on the Milky Way

Institute of Cosmos Sciences
Fecha inicio solicitud: 
Mar, 01/11/2022
Fecha límite solicitud: 
Mié, 25/01/2023


The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spanish or Portuguese territory. Sponsored by ”la Caixa” Foundation, it is aimed at supporting the best scientific talent and fostering innovative and high-quality research in Spain and Portugal by recruiting outstanding international students and offering them an attractive and competitive environment for conducting research of excellence.

The Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona is a research centre accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence María de Maeztu in 2020, the perfect place to carry out your PhD project through an INPhINIT Incoming fellowship.


Research Project:

The stars in our Milky Way (MW) only constitute about 6% of the total mass in the Galaxy. The rest of this mass is invisible to us, the so-called dark matter (DM) and distributed in a halo that surrounds the Galaxy. In the current LCDM model galaxies grow hierarchically through mergers of smaller units into large ones. The recent Gaia satellite has revealed that our Galaxy underwent a massive merger event 10 Gyr ago with the Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus (GSE) galaxy and that the disc is currently reacting to recent perturbations whose origins are still highly debated. When satellite galaxies merge into bigger ones, they generate gravitational density wakes as they orbit within the DM haloes of their hosts, causing their orbits to decay over time.

Wakes have been noted to be important to understand the interaction of both the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and Sgr with the MW (and likely the GSE). However, little is known about the dynamics of wakes: How long do these last (in the stellar halo, in the MW disc)?  How do they affect large/small scale dynamics of Galactic discs? What is their role in setting the structure of the Galaxy versus that of the self-gravity in discs? This non-linear problem can only be tracked with numerical tools.

This project will be carried out with the Near Field Cosmology group led by Dr. Laporte (currently 2 postdocs and a PI) with funding from an ERC grant who develop numerical simulations to understand the accretion history of the MW and its impact on its formation, and with the Gaia group of the ICCUB. The GaiaUB team (4 staff, 8 postdocs, 4 PhD, and 8 engineers) has a leading role in Gaia at the highest technological, scientific and management levels, as well as in the scientific and technical building of WEAVE, and performs research in Galactic fields including dynamics, open clusters and the LMCs. We have weekly science group meetings and a weekly journal club.


Job position description

How long do DM wakes persist in the Galaxy? How do they affect the dynamics of Galactic discs or stellar halos? What is their role in setting the structure of the Galaxy versus that of the self-gravity in discs?

This PhD will focus on presenting an in-depth study of DM halo wakes harnessing the power of basis function expansions (BFE) to study them in idealised and full cosmological context. In this PhD, the student will use state-of-the-art codes (EXP, Arepo), develop code (integrating a BFE module to Arepo) and design numerical experiments tailored to answer the above questions with applications from stellar halo dynamics to that of the disc to interpret the latest observations (e.g. Gaia, WEAVE, SDSS-V). This will involve use of HPC facilities at the national and European level. The student will interact with Drs. Laporte and Antoja informally practically on a daily basis (weekly formal) and will be expected to participate in the group meetings.

The student will also analyse catalogues from the Gaia mission (ESA) from the releases DR3 and DR4 (2025-2026) and data from large spectroscopic surveys from the ground (WEAVE@WHT, SDSS-V) that will soon provide kinematic and chemical data for a large amount of stars but also use/test results from their numerical experiments to interpret some of these data.

The PhD candidate will create strong collaborations by being integrated in the international network of the joint teams (e.g., Beyond BFE Collaboration, VIRGO Consortium, SDSS-V, DPAC consortium with 450 scientists and engineers, WEAVE science team, MW-Gaia COST and REG networks). The candidate will also benefit from the interaction with the software engineering group at the ICCUB Technological Unit.


More information:

Group leader 

Dr. Chervin Laporte and Teresa Antoja 

Research product / Research group 

Website of the “VIA LACTEA” ERC Project led at the ICCUB

Gaia group site

Relevant paper

Relevant paper


Employment conditions 

The maximum total payment amount will be €122,592, as broken down below: 

- An annual payment of €35,800 to the institution to cover the Fellow’s contract, who will receive a gross annual income around €28.000. This amount might vary if there are modifications in the legal framework.

- €3,500 per year, as an additional amount for conferences, courses, research stays, consumables, equipment, charges for the use of intellectual property, etc. 

The ”la Caixa” Foundation will award a prize of €7,500 (subject to taxes), which will be paid to the  fellows who deposit their thesis within 6 months after the third year of their fellowship has ended.

  • The tuition fees to the official doctoral programme 

In addition to financial support, the fellowship includes a training programme on transversal skills, which has been specially designed by leading international institutions in the sector. 

For more information on the employment conditions, please refer to this document.


Working at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences

The Institute of Cosmos Sciences is a research institute of the University of Barcelona. It is an interdisciplinary centre dedicated to fundamental research in the fields of cosmology, astrophysics, and particle physics. In addition, the institute has a strong technology program through its participation in international collaborations in observational astronomy and experimental particle physics.

Moreover, the ICCUB participates in many key international scientific consortia and projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider, the Gaia astrometric space mission, the MAGIC / CTA high-energy astrophysics telescopes, and the Virgo gravitational wave detector, among others. Additional information about the Institute and the University of Barcelona can be found here.

You will be encouraged to contribute and interact with other researchers in the vibrant and international research environment as well as to participate in our outreach initiatives, more information at serviAstro and serviParticules.

As part of the University of Barcelona, the ICCUB is a recipient of the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research (HRS4R) Award, which recognises, among other achievements, respect for equal opportunities and the capacity to attract talent in a positive working environment that promotes the pursuit of successful research careers. The ICCUB respects the principles of open, transparent, merit-based selection. We strongly encourage women and underrepresented minorities in physical sciences to apply. For additional information please see the Diversity, equity and inclusion Commission.

The ICCUB is located in Barcelona, considered the 8th World's Best Cities 2021: one with near-perfect weather year-round, miles and miles of beaches, iconic parks, striking architecture and colourful neighbourhoods that march to their own beat—artistic, sophisticated, bohemian. Moreover, it is a pole of attraction for the technology sector, a top choice to establish a company in this sector, and it hosts some of the world's major technological events, such as the Mobile World Congress and the Smart City Expo. In addition, Barcelona and its metropolitan area is a leading destination on the map of global technological ecosystems and has infrastructures such as science parks, universities and the 22@ district.



In order to be accepted, candidates must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Experience: At the call deadline, applicants must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree or be in a position to apply for one. 
  • Studies pursued: Applicants must hold a higher education degree that makes them eligible to enroll in a doctoral programme before starting at their host institutions.

The host university will verify, upon starting the admission process to the doctoral programme, that the studies taken up by the selected candidates make them eligible to enroll in an official doctoral programme in accordance with the regulations in force in Spain or Portugal. Should they be found not eligible after verification, the fellowship will be withdrawn. 

Under no circumstances may candidates have previously enrolled in the same doctoral studies for which they are applying for the fellowship.

  • Geographic mobility: Candidates must not have resided or have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the call deadline. Short stays, such as holidays, done in a country other than their country of usual residence (where they carried out their main activity), will be considered as time spent in their country of usual residence.
  • Level of English: Candidates must have a demonstrable level of English (B2 or higher).

For more information on the candidates requirements, please refer to this document.


Application Procedure

All applications must be submitted online through the following link in English. For more information on the application procedure, please refer to this document.

Inquiries about the application submission can be directed to


Deadline: Please submit your applications by January 25th 2023 at 2pm. 


Selection process:

The process is comprised of three phases:

  • Eligibility screening: all applications received are reviewed to check the accomplishment of the eligibility criteria published in the rules for participation
  • Remote evaluation (shortlisting): an evaluation panel will review the applications and those that receive the highest scores will pass to the next stage.
  • Personal interviews: shortlisted candidates are invited to a remotely interview before a multidisciplinary committee on May 23, 35 and 25 2023.

The rating criteria that govern the selection process can be found in the Evaluation of applications section of the ”la Caixa” Fellowship Programme website.

For more information on the selection process, please refer to this document.




Funding: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No713673.

The co-funded part of the programme runs from 01/10/2016 to 30/09/2021 and finances the researchers recruited under Call 2017 and 2018.