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PhD Fellowship in Studying close interactions in binary stars in 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 recent discovery of gravitational waves (GW) has shown that most of the detected merging compact binaries were black holes more massive than 20 solar masses. This finding has opened new questions about the progenitors and formation channels for these systems. One of the possible ways to create such compact massive binaries is through the so-called common envelope evolution, when both stars end up sharing a common gaseous layer called the common envelope. The gravitational drag of the stars inside this envelope contributes to its ejection at the expense of tightening the binary. This ejection can be observed as a bright transient source (similar to a supernova) appearing in the night sky. Eventually, the binary components can explode as supernovae, resulting in high-energy phenomena and ultimately becoming GW sources.

This project aims to use data from the Gaia ESA mission to find and characterize binary systems in our galaxy undergoing common envelope evolution, and to explore how the envelope is ejected using multi-wavelength observations of their outbursts. On the one hand, detailed follow-up campaigns will be carried out to determine the physical properties of the systems. On the other hand, comparison of the number of these systems with predictions from binary populations will provide constraints on the most relevant physics for the phases of unstable mass transfer, and envelope ejection.

The student will join the expanding research group led by Dr. Nadejda Blagorodnova, expert in astrophysical transient events, and will become a member of international collaborations associated to time-domain surveys (led by the USA and The Netherlands) and the GW LIGO-Virgo collaboration. In the Department of Quantum Physics and Astrophysics, the student will interact with experts on stellar populations with the Gaia ESA mission, and the members of the gravity and GW group in the interpretation of the results of the observations.


Job position description

One of the key aspects for the job position will be to establish a strong knowledge about time-domain surveys, which is a very dynamic field of research that is expected to grow within the next few years. The imminent start of operations of new large time-domain surveys will offer endless opportunities to discover new transient and variable phenomena.

The identification of suitable common envelope candidate systems will be achieved with the combined analysis of large datasets containing astrophysical properties of the stellar sources (provided by the Gaia ESA catalogues) and their time evolution, which will be obtained from optical and near-infrared time-domain survey catalogues. The student will carry out the analysis of these datasets using distributed parallel computing resources, and employ machine learning techniques to train the algorithms which will allow us to identify past events, and predict the ones that may occur soon.  In addition, the student will also learn photometric and spectroscopic observational techniques in optical and near-infrared wavelengths, which will allow him/her to complement the catalogue data with new observations, shedding light on the physical processes involved in common envelope evolution and its role for the creation of GW sources.

To this end, the student will also broaden the knowledge on stellar binary evolution to interpret the nature and characteristics of the observed systems. Close collaboration with experts in the theory of binary evolution and common envelope will provide further training opportunities in this field. The combined expertise in observational techniques, analysis of large time-domain data, and stellar evolution will put the candidate in an excellent position to further pursue a research career.


More information:

Group leader 

Dr. Nadejda Blagorodnova Mujortova 

Research product / Research group 

Web site containing the bio of the PI and the description of the broader project scope

Gaia ESA project. The student will be working with the latest catalogue, which contains astrophysical data on nearly two billion sources

BlackGEM time domain survey. The student will become part of the collaboration, and will have privileged access to the data

Zwicky Transient Facility time-domain survey. The data from this survey (operating since 2018) will be used in the analysis of the time evolution and discovery of systems


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.