Research Fellow in Studies of Solar System Minor Planets

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Monday, April 29, 2019
Archive Date: 
Monday, June 3, 2019
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Institution Classification/Type: 
Queen's University Belfast
Northern Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Job Announcement Text: 

Queen’s University Belfast

Research Fellow in Studies of Solar System Minor Planets                                      

Ref: 19/107440

School of Mathematics and Physics

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship position in the study of the Solar System minor planets, funded by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The post, available up to 31st March 2021 in the first instance with the possibility of renewal depending on performance and  availability of funding, is located in the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast. The nominal starting date is October 1, 2019 or as soon thereafter as possible.

The Postdoctoral Research Fellow will work with Dr. Meg Schwamb to develop and exploit next-generation tools for analysing and interpreting future observations and Solar System moving object detections from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). LSST science operations are planned to begin at the end of 2022, with the Survey expected to discover millions of asteroids and tens of thousands of distant Solar System minor planets. The post will focus on developing software pipelines and utilities for LSST Solar System science and applying these techniques to present-day LSST-precursor datasets. Depending on the interests of the successful candidate, this could include developing:

•    a Survey simulator to enable comparisons of model orbital and size/brightness distributions to LSST moving object detections;

•    automatic algorithms to search the LSST alert stream and LSST Solar System moving object detections for cometary activity, catastrophic disruptions, impacts, significant brightening events, and other signs of activity;

•    a pipeline to find distant Solar System bodies at distances of greater than ~200 au that are not expected to be discoverable with the main LSST Moving Object discovery algorithms.

The successful candidate will also have opportunity to undertake independent research and to collaborate with other astronomers and planetary scientists in the ARC. The Solar System Group is a vibrant research team within ARC, currently comprising 2 academic staff, one postdoctoral researcher and 6 PhD students. Group members make extensive use of a wide range of satellites and ground-based telescopes, including data from Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System), ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System), and Col-OSSOS (Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey).

Applicants must have a PhD in astronomy, planetary science, or a related field, either awarded or with degree requirements completed by the time of taking up the post. They must also have experience in the reduction, analysis, and interpretation of ground-based or space-based astronomical imaging and/or  spectroscopic datasets. A background in Solar System minor planet research is highly desirable. It is also desirable for the successful candidate to have a basic knowledge of orbits and ephemerides, have expertise working with large astronomical datasets, be fluent in python or other high-level language, and have experience in database usage (such as Postgress or SQL).

Applications should comprise a full CV, including a complete list of publications (highlighting up to five most relevant works), and a research statement (maximum two pages in length), describing your previous research experience, skill set, and future professional plans.

Informal enquiries may be directed to Dr Meg Schwamb, email:

Salary scale:                   £33,199 - £39,610 per annum (potential to progress to £43,266 per annum through sustained exceptional contribution)

Closing date:                 Monday 3 June 2019

For full job details and essential/desirable criteria please refer to the candidate information link on our website by clicking apply.  For further information or assistance contact The Resourcing Team, People and Culture, Queen’s University Belfast, BT7 1NN.  Telephone (028) 9097 3044 or email on

The University is committed to equality of opportunity and to selection on merit. It therefore welcomes applications from all sections of society and particularly welcomes applications from people with a disability. 

Fixed term contract posts are available for the stated period in the first instance but in particular circumstances may be renewed or made permanent subject to availability of funding.

Application Deadline: 
Monday, June 3, 2019
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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Queen's University Belfast Resourcing
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Attention To: 
Dr Meg Schwamb