14 October 2020

PhD positions in active galactic nuclei and time-domain astrophysics and cosmology

DARK, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen are offering several PhD studentships in transient astrophysics, active galactic nuclei, and/or cosmology. Candidates interested in active galactic nuclei should commence ca. April-June 2021. All other candidates are to commence on a date agreed upon.

About DARK
DARK's areas of research include, but are not limited to: theoretical and observational investigations of dark matter and dark energy, quasars, black holes, supernovae, cosmic dust, particle astrophysics, and gravitational lensing. Several new initiatives focus specifically on the theory and observations of astrophysical transients, including gravitational waves. You can read more about DARK here: http://dark.nbi.ku.dk

Project description
We are looking for talented and highly motivated students who are interested in theoretical and observational astrophysics and cosmology, partly in the area of transient or variable sources such as supernovae, tidal disruption events, gravitational waves, kilonovae and active galactic nuclei.

PhD positions are available in the following scientific areas:

  • dust formation and destruction in and around supernovae
  • cosmographic tests of the cosmological metric – implications for understanding cosmic acceleration
  • the nature of gravitationally lensed (or other peculiar) transients/supernovae
  • tidal disruption of stars and other exotic phenomena around supermassive black holes
  • gas and stellar dynamics, supermassive black hole mass measurements, black hole fuelling
  • high-redshift galaxies with James Webb Space Telescope
  • big data analysis and machine learning in large scale astronomical surveys


PhD students will also be trained in paper and proposal writing, transient survey strategies, massive data handling, presentation techniques, and using super-computing facilities. Students will have the possibility to actively engage in transient surveys such as the Pan-STARRS Young Supernova Experiment as well as modern observational facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the ESO Very Large Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and future facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope, Vera C. Rubin Observatory / Legacy Survey of Space and Time, Euclid, or the Nordic Optical Telescope Transient Explorer. PhD students will have guaranteed access to a high-performance computing cluster, fully reserved to DARK scientists.   

The principal supervisors are professors Christa Gall, Jens Hjorth and Marianne Vestergaard. Candidates interested in active galactic nuclei are recommended to contact M. Vestergaard before applying. PhD students at DARK have the opportunity to also work with DARK’s other senior or post-doctoral researchers, as well as many international collaborators. For more about DARK’s staff, see https://dark.nbi.ku.dk/people/

Job description
The positions are available for 3–5 years depending on the seniority of the student. The key tasks of a PhD student are to:

  • manage and carry out research projects
  • attend PhD courses
  • write scientific articles and PhD thesis
  • disseminate their research
  • conduct an extended stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad
  • help teach bachelor and master student courses


Evaluation criteria
The majority of successful applicants have an undergraduate degree (equivalent to BSc or MSc) in physics, astrophysics or computer science with strong academic performance. A research background in astrophysics is very helpful, although research experience in other fields may also be valuable. We look for strong letters of recommendation and will also base our decisions on a careful reading of the submitted cover letters: Our goal is to identify motivated, driven, and enthusiastic students who are well prepared to thrive in an exciting research environment, and who will make the best use of the particular strengths and opportunities at DARK.

DARK is committed to excellence through diversity and strives to establish a climate that welcomes, celebrates, and promotes respect for the contributions of all students and employees. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to background, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or age.

Formal requirements
Applicants should hold a BSc or MSc degree in physics, astrophysics or computer science with excellent results and good English skills.

For specific information about the PhD scholarships, please contact the relevant principal supervisors, Christa Gall, christa@dark-cosmology.dk; Jens Hjorth, jens@dark-cosmology.dk; and Marianne Vestergaard, mvester@nbi.ku.dk

Application Procedure
The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include (as PDF files)

  • Cover letter detailing your motivation and background for applying for a PhD project. Please indicate if you have a preference for a specific research topic (max 2 pages)
  • CV (preferably 2, max 3 pages)
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc if applicable)
  • Other information for consideration, e.g., list of publications (if any; max 1 page)
  •  2 reference letters

The deadline for applications is 15 November 2020, 23:59 GMT +1. Applications received after the deadline for applications will not be considered.

Terms of employment
3-year PhD: For PhD students with a MSc degree, the starting salary is currently at a minimum DKK 309,109 including annual supplement (+ pension up to DKK 42,699). PhD students with a MSc degree are employees at the University of Copenhagen and as such have full vacation benefits (6 weeks per year), access to generous parental leave, and full social and health benefits (also for partners/family). More on employment conditions in Denmark: https://ism.ku.dk/.

4-5 years PhD: Scholarship and terms of employment for integrated MSc and PhD
The positions are also available for candidates who are eligible to be enrolled as a MSc student. For further information about the study programme please see: www.science.ku.dk/phd, “Study Structures”.

In the period up to the completion of the MSc programme (up to three years), the student is entitled to so-called PhD grant portions. The grant portions are financed by the grant donor but not by the Danish State Educational Grant and Loan Scheme Agency (as is the case for the ordinary study grant portions on the BSc and MSc programmes). They are called PhD grant portions because this kind of remuneration is regulated and described in the Executive Order on the State Educational Grant and Loan Scheme in Denmark (SU-bekendtgørelsen), and because the value of a PhD grant portion corresponds to the value of an ordinary Danish study grant portion. Students are awarded 48 PhD grant portions at each DKK 5,839 during the period of their MSc and PhD studies, corresponding to DKK 280,272.

‘Duty work’ (items listed under the Job Description): As a supplement to the PhD grant portions, the student may, in accordance with the collective agreement of the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC), be offered 'duty work' as part of their employment. In the period up to the completion of the MSc programme, students performing 'duty work' are paid by the hour. UCPH has decided to offer students on integrated MSc and PhD schemes 150 hours of 'duty work' per year during Part A of the programme (until two years of the combined programme of study remain). 'Duty work' during Part A if it has a duration of three years: 450 hours at a rate of DKK 202.64 (+ 12.5% holiday pay), corresponding to DKK 102,586.50.

For further information about Part A please see: https://www.science.ku.dk/phd/studystructure/integratedphd/

Salary in accordance with the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC): In the period after the completion of the MSc programme, the student is employed as a PhD scholar and is remunerated in accordance with the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC). The scheme is arranged in such a way that students graduate from the MSc programme at a time when there are two years left of the integrated programme. For this reason, the salary must be paid for a period of two years in accordance with the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC). The amounts specified include a supplement locally agreed upon as well as pension contributions: Salary as a PhD scholar: 24 months at a rate of DKK 28,955.15 (including pension contributions and supplement), corresponding to DKK 694,923.

Additional information about the recruitment process is available at https://employment.ku.dk/faculty/recruitment-process/.

General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at https://www.science.ku.dk/phd.


Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Application deadline: 15-11-2020
Employment start: 01-06-2021
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Niels Bohr Institutet