INPhINIT Incoming PhD: "The role of angular momentum in galaxy evolution: A study of neutral gas in isolated galaxies with Square Kilometre Array (SKA) pathfinders"

  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas   Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía   Excelencia Severo Ochoa   HR Excellence in Research
February, 4th 2021
(3) Galaxy Evolution and Cosmology

The interdisciplinary team AMIGA (Analysis of the interstellar Medium of Isolated
Galaxies, Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía - CSIC) plays a major role in the SKA
international project, a next generation radio telescope which will be the largest
scientific infrastructure on Earth, generating data at a rate comparable to the entire
present day internet bandwidth. The PI of this position coordinates the Spanish
participation in the SKA, with her team strongly involved in preparatory science and in
developing a Prototype SKA Regional Centre (SRC), in order to produce first class science
with SKA and its precursors. She has mentored a total of 6 PhD theses, 19 postdocs and
7 other staff. Thus, this project provides a unique opportunity for a PhD candidate to
become deeply involved in SKA, that will be the world’s leading radio astronomy
observatory capable of delivering Nobel-class scientific outcomes over the coming
The proposed project falls into the core of AMIGA science, which focuses on comparing
the properties of galaxies in extreme environments, with a special emphasis on atomic
gas (HI) as a tracer of interactions, in which AMIGA has a unique expertise in Spain, well
recognized at international level. The main AMIGA sample consists of about 700 highly
isolated galaxies in the nearby Universe, acting as a reference for how galaxies evolve in
the absence of external influences.
A fundamental, but little studied, property in regulating the gas content and star
formation in galaxies is their angular momentum (e.g. Obreschkow+2016, Lutz+ 2018).
In the existing studies there are almost no isolated galaxies by the strict AMIGA criteria,
while they are expected to show significantly different properties from galaxies in any
other environment, given their little chances along their history to interchange angular
momentum with external companions. This in-depth study is hence crucially missing,
and constitutes the research context of the proposed PhD work.


The proposed PhD project aims to define the role of angular momentum in key aspects
of galaxy evolution (fully aligned with SKA Prioritized Goals), by paying a special
attention to a careful definition of the environment of the target sample and its
associated characteristics. The applicant will use existing radiointerferometric
observations with SKA pathfinders, the VLA (Very Large Array) and GMRT (Giant
Metrewave Radio Telescope), from AMIGA database.
In collaboration with experts within the AMIGA team the candidate will
• Reduce the VLA and GMRT data using the latest software and algorithms, within
the framework of IAA SRC precursor activities.
• Model the kinematics of the galaxies using both 2D and 3D state of the art
modelling software. The resulting models will be compared using 3D
visualisation tools such as SlicerAstro and X3D.
• Calculate the total angular momentum together with the stellar masses using
optical and infrared data from both AMIGA’s own observations and ancillary
data from other surveys.
• Once the total angular momentum has been calculated the global stability of
the galaxies will be contrasted with the theoretical predictions. Any deviations
must then be investigated to understand both their cause and influence on the
subsequent evolution of the galaxies.
There will also be highly beneficial opportunities for the candidate to expand the sample
by leading proposals as PrincipaI Investigator, e.g by expanding the parameter space to
lower mass galaxies by applying for additional HI observations with the recently
upgraded GMRT. S/he would collaborate with teams in other SKA member countries,
such as South Africa, Australia or the Netherlands, with which AMIGA has established
collaborations. In addition, s/he will work following Open Science principles, an area in
which AMIGA team plays a key role at an international level and an area that is
increasingly recognised as essential in scientific careers.

Period (months): 
36 months

IAA is an equal opportunity institution. Applications to this program by female scientists are particularly encouraged.

Should you need any further information or assistance concerning the application, please contact the IAA at severoochoa[at]