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PhD Fellowship in Astrophysics: From Stellar Nurseries to Rocky Planets

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:

What sets the stage for the formation of rocky planets, potential hosts of life in the universe? Planets emerge from dusty gaseous disks around newborn stars within stellar nurseries, clouds of cold interstellar gas containing thousands to millions of solar masses. To understand ab initio the formation and evolution of protoplanetary disks, we need a computational framework that captures the complex environment of star-forming clouds, including the coupling of turbulence, magnetic fields, stellar radiation, gravity and dust dynamics over a vast range of scales.

The project is composed of two parts (from large to small scales):

1) Simulations of star-forming clouds, to achieve a realistic description of initial and boundary conditions for a large number of young stars and their circumstellar disks.

2) Simulations of dust evolution in circumstellar disks, to study the transport and evolution of dust grains, self-consistently coupled with the gas dynamics.

These are challenging multi-scale and multi-physics computational problems, requiring state-of-the-art massively parallel codes and large supercomputing allocations. Our group is uniquely positioned to tackle these problems, because of the early adoption of the exa-scale hydrodynamic code DISPATCH, developed by our collaborators in Copenhagen, and of our proven track record as awardees of very large time allocations in some of the fastest supercomputing systems. We have pioneered the study of star formation, as well as of the dynamics of dust grains, in the context of interstellar-medium turbulence.

This project will be developed in close collaboration with the computational astrophysics group at the University of Copenhagen. The group in Barcelona will be composed by Prof. Padoan and Dr. Pelkonen (and one more postdoc that we are currently recruiting). The main collaborators in Copenhagen will be Prof. Nordlund and Prof. Haugbølle. We will also collaborate with Prof. Pan, at Sun Yat-sen University, China.


Job position description

A candidate to undertake this project should have a keen interest in fundamental astrophysical processes, a demonstrated aptitude for the development and adoption of numerical codes, and a steadfast motivation to set a new state-of-the-art in the fields of star and planet formation, with seminal and transformational contributions.

Though not a strict prerequisite, expertise in hydrodynamics, plasma physics, turbulence theory and interstellar radiative processes is desirable. Expertise in computer-code development would also be beneficial.

The bulk of the code development and some of the numerical simulations needed for this project will be near completion by the starting time of the project. The student may lead the development of specific code modules and/or the set up of numerical simulations as well as the analysis of their results. She/he will also collaborate in the preparation of supercomputing proposals and will be the leading author of at least two publications per year in the second and third year of the project. The student will attend international conferences, workshops and focused schools on computational methods. She/he will spend part of the time with our collaborators at the University of Copenhagen.

Because of the multidisciplinary nature of this project, requiring expertise in interstellar medium physics, star formation, magneto-hydrodynamics and computational methods, the student is expected to interact with different groups at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences at the University of Barcelona and at other research centers. Within our Institute, the student will interact with observational astronomers specialized in the study of star-forming regions and circumstellar disks. Among the international contacts, and besides our collaborators in Copenhagen, the student will also interact with researchers from the University of Helsinki (implementation of radiative transfer codes) and the Max Planck Institute of Munich (chemistry of protoplanetary disks).


More information:

Group leader 

Prof. Paolo Padoan 

Research product / Research group 

Prof. Padoan’s personal website

The DISPATCH code website.

Website of the Institute of Cosmos Sciences-UB 


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.