PhD Opportunity: Multi-messenger Blazars – Searching for the Origins of the Highest Energy Cosmic Rays with VERITAS.


A fully-funded UCD ADVANCE four-year Ph.D. position, starting in September 2019, is available in the High-Energy Astrophysics Group in the UCD School of Physics. A stipend of €15,000 per annum + full fees + research expenses including travel is offered. The deadline for applications is 12th April 2019

The leading candidates for the origin of the highest-energy cosmic rays are active galactic nuclei (AGN) with jets which contain material accelerated to close to the speed of light. Blazars, AGN with their jets oriented towards the Earth, dominate the extragalactic gamma-ray sky and exhibit dramatic variability on timescales as short as minutes. Studies of correlated variability between gamma rays and other electromagnetic and particle messengers are critical to constraining the jet content and radiation production mechanisms. In particular, the recent detection by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica of an astrophysical neutrino event spatially coincident with the flaring gamma-ray blazar TXS 0506+056 has provided the first observational hint of the acceleration of cosmic rays in the jets of AGN.

VERITAS is an array of four 12m atmospheric Cherenkov imaging telescopes for TeV gamma-ray astronomy, located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona. It is operated by an international collaboration of 26 institutions from Canada, Germany, Ireland and the U.S.A. VERITAS is one of the observatories which detected gamma-ray emission from TXS 0506+056 following the IceCube alert.

This project will be, working as a member of the VERITAS Blazar Science Working Group, to conduct observations of blazars with VERITAS, both monitoring, to trigger alerts and intensive observations in cases of enhanced activity, and conducting target-of-opportunity observations in response to multi-messenger alerts from the astronomical community, especially neutrino events. The resulting data will be analysed and combined with multi-messenger data to constrain the physical processes at work in the jets. Whilst the Ph.D. candidate will be based at UCD, annual observing trips to the VERITAS facility will be required, with the possibility of opportunities for extended visits lasting three months or more.

Applicants should send a CV plus a cover letter detailing their interest and suitability for the position to John.Quinn@ucd.ie by 12th April 2019 plus arrange for three references using the provided template (Science_RefereeForm.docx or Science_RefereeForm.pdf) to be received by the 19th April 2019. Selection of a candidate will be based on academic excellence including track record and references and also demonstrated ability for critical thinking and problem solving, as well as communication and teamwork skills.

For more information contact John.Quinn@ucd.ie

For information on Graduate Studies in the UCD School of Physics see here.