PhD grant

INPhINIT Incoming PhD Fellowship in Dark Matter and the evolution of the Local Group from cosmological initial conditions

Deadline: 04.02.2021      CLOSED 
Quantity: 1
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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:

A fundamental question in modern cosmology is the nature of dark matter. The ColdDark Matter model, where dark matter has no initial velocity dispersion and collapsed gravitationally from Gaussian adiabatic fluctuations, is so far consistent with available observations. The large number of proper motions, radial velocities and distance estimates obtained recently in the Local Group of galaxies, mostly through the Gaia mission (see e.g., A&A 616 A12), various spectroscopic surveys and HST measurements, is an unprecedented opportunity to study the detailed orbital evolution of the Local Group from cosmological initial conditions.

This project involves developing an innovative method to analyze the dynamical evolution of the Local Group galaxies, globular clusters and stellar streams, using these rapidly growing data sets to constrain the initial cosmological conditions that led to the present configuration. The Cold Dark Matter cosmology dictates that initial conditions of small density perturbations must have peculiar velocities governed by the growing mode with no primordial velocity dispersion in the dark matter, a constraint that must be checked against observational data. This can be done in the Local Group by reconstructing orbital histories with complete3-dimensional data. The aim is to develop a method to fit a global model of the dark matter distribution to all the available data on dwarf galaxies, globular clusters and their stellar streams. In particular, a dynamical model of the recent evolution of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds is needed, focusing on large scales where complex baryonic effects are less important.

Job position description:

The student will benefit from interacting with the group of ICCUB researchers working on the dynamics of the Milky Way and Local Group using Gaia data, who have a long and broad experience participating in the Gaia mission. There is also a wide team of researchers working on large-scale structure and observational cosmology, and the use of N-body codes, that the student will benefit from. This project can involve development of N-body codes that can run rapidly on a very large set of possible initial conditions to find best fits to a set of observational data in the Local Group, with special characteristics for this problem. Among the data to be used is that of stellar streams formed by tidal stripping of globular clusters and other objects that are being detected thanks to Gaia, such as the M68 globular cluster (Palau & Miralda-Escudé 2019). The student will be trained in data science and modeling using large data sets like that of the Gaia mission, with several tools that the Gaia group has developed.

Other researchers in particle physics and theoretical physics at the ICCUB are investigating axion dark matter and its implications on the dark matter distribution, including formation of mini-halos and mini-streams, and dynamical relaxation effects from axion waves in dark matter halos. Gravitational lensing probes into the dark matter small-scale have also been investigated recently by Jordi Miralda-Escudé and collaborators. The student will have the opportunity to participate in these studies.

More information:

ICCUB webpage of group leader: Prof. JordiMiralda-Escudé

Webpage of the group leader

GAIA group website

Webpage of the Institute of Cosmos Sciences

Employment conditions

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

- Three annual payments of €34,800 each. Where applicable, the amounts corresponding to the Social Security contributions payable by the employer (in this case, the host institution), as well as any other compulsory fee, whether current or that may be provided for in a future legal framework, will be deducted from the yearly gross amount of €34,800 to be received by the fellow.

- €3,564 per year, as an additional amount for conferences, courses, research stays, consumables, equipment, charges for the use of intellectual property, etc.

The ”laCaixa” Foundation will award a prize of €7,500, which will be paid in the fourth year, should the fellow be able to deposit their thesis within 6 months after the third year of their fellowship has ended.

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.

This programme includes aspects such as technology transfer, entrepreneurship, commercialisation of innovation, intellectual property, leadership, creativity, communication skills, teamwork, personal development, planning, assertiveness and networking.

Three sessions will be held: at the start of the fellowship, during the second year, and during the third year. Each session will last between 3 and 5 days, and attendance is mandatory for all fellows. The ”la Caixa” Foundation will coverall costs for these sessions, as well as the fellows’ accommodation and travel expenses.

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.

the institute of Cosmos Sciences has 50 professors, 10 ICREA professors, 37postdocs, 23 technicians and 61 PhD students. Postdoctoral staff at the ICCUBis largely international, above 60%.

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.

The institute is situated in Barcelona, which offers an outstanding scientific and cultural environment, entertainment and sports as well as outstanding food and music.

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.

The Institute of Cosmos Sciences is an equal employment opportunity employer. The Institute of Cosmos Sciences promotes a diverse and inclusive environment and welcomes applicants regardless of age, disability, gender, nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. We strongly encourage women and underrepresented minorities in the physical sciences to apply. For additional information please see the Diversity, equity and inclusion Commission.


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.
  • Studies pursued: At the time of recruitment, candidates must comply with one of the following options:

- To have completed the studies that lead to an official university degree adapted to the European Higher Education Area awarding 300 ECTS credits, of which at least 60ECTS credits must correspond to master level.

- To have completed a degree in a university not adapted to the European Higher EducationArea that gives access to doctoral studies. The verification of an equivalent level of studies to the ones mentioned above will be made by the university when the admission procedure starts.

  • 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).
  • Complete applications: Only candidates whose applications meet all the requirements of the call may be accepted.

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

All applications must be submitted online through the following link. 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 February 4th 2021.

Selection process:

The process is comprised of three parts:

  • Eligibility screening: all applications received are screened and applications that do not fulfil the criteria published in the call for applications rules are rejected.
  • Remote evaluation (preselection): each of the eligible applications is sent to evaluation panel made up of two or three professors or researchers with broad experience in the discipline of the application and an extensive list of publications and/or contributions within this field. The application that receives the highest scores from each panel will pass to the next stage. The ”la Caixa” Foundation will notify candidates whether they have been shortlisted or not by e-mail on 22 April 2021.
  • Final evaluation (selection): candidates whose applications have passed the shortlisting stage will be called in for an interview before a multidisciplinary committee comprised of professors and researchers with extensive experience in selection processes by peer review. The interviews will be held in Barcelona on 25, 26 and 27 May 2021. The ”la Caixa” Foundation will notify interviewed candidates of the outcome of the process by e-mail on 7 June 2021.

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.