Degree projects in Astronomy and Space Physics

Astrophysics is the study of the behavior, physical properties, and dynamical processes of celestial objects and phenomena. Through its study one hopes to understand the formation and evolution of the universe and all its parts. Research at the department focuses on three main areas: our solar system, stars and their environments (including exoplanets), and galaxies and cosmology. The research aims to answer questions such as:

  • How and where did the atoms and molecules that make up our galaxy, our solar system and our planet form?
  • What do they tell us about the early universe and the Big Bang?
  • How do stars and planets form and evolve?
  • Is our solar system special?
  • How did stars and galaxies early in the universe differ from those today?
  • How did they affect the evolution at later times?

Our division offers a range of possible bachelor- and master projects in astrophysics related to these fields of research. We have assembled a list of researchers able to supervise projects with a short description of their fields of research and interests. Please feel welcome to contact any or all of them to discuss possible projects. 

Paul Barklem, atomic and molecular astrophysics

Atomic and Molecular physics lies at the foundation of much of modern astrophysics, since in most cases the only information we can obtain on celestial objects such as stars, comets, galaxies etc., is from the light they emit shaped by atomic and molecular processes (i.e. through spectroscopy). My present research focuses on theoretical modelling of processes of importance for our understanding of stars, supernovae, and kilonovae (neutron star mergers) and their spectra. A particular interest in recent years has been in electron transfer processes between atoms and ions, which are now recognised as a fundamental process in nature. In addition to theoretical calculations we have begun studying such processes with the DESIREE experiment in Stockholm. This research ties predominantly into the larger questions of understanding the origin and evolution of the elements, and how the Milky Way, and galaxies in general, formed.

I can offer projects on atomic and molecular processes and/or their application to a broad range of astrophysical problems as sketched above.

Paul Barklem
+46 (0)18-471 5981

Jon Grumer: Atomic Astrophysics - Relativistic atomic structure and properties

Photons are the fundamental information carriers in the Universe. If we can 'understand' how they are formed, how they are affected on their travels through inter-stellar and -galactic space, and finally how to capture and record their characteristics as spectral distributions, we can learn a lot about the universe. However, without a good knowledge about how photons interact with atoms and ions it is impossible to determine fundamental properties, such as chemical compositions or temperatures, of various astrophysical objects. In my research I work with relativistic quantum mechanical models of complex atoms and ions to describe the uncharted territories in the periodic table.

One of the main astrophysical highlights of the last decade has without doubt been the indication of r-process nucleosynthesis in the kilonova ejecta following the neutron star merger gravitational-wave event on Aug 17 2017 . Unlike the first five gravitational wave detections (see e.g. the Nobel Prize in physics 2017), the discovery of this signal was also confirmed by an electromagnetic counterpart. This unprecedented joint gravitational and electromagnetic observation marked a significant breakthrough in multi-messenger astronomy, opening up for a much deeper picture of astrophysical events, and thus the machinery of atomic astrophysicists presently strives harder than ever to analyze this signal.

I can offer projects on atomic physics with a focus on scientific coding, computations and many-body quantum mechanics, related to astrophysical phenomena such as the neutron star mergers or stellar atmospheres.

Jon Grumer

Oleg Kochukhov, stellar magnetic fields

Observations of the Sun demonstrate that stellar surfaces are far from being quiet, stable environments. Stars have rapidly evolving magnetic field and spots. They vary on many time scales, from minutes (pulsations) to decades (activity cycles). My research is focused on observing these phenomena and building theoretical models of stellar magnetism, variability, and activity, with important implications for stellar physics, effects on terrestrial climate, formation of planetary systems and the origin of life.

I offer a range of projects in studies of stellar variability, magnetic fields, and star spots. This work is coupled with our ongoing research using state of the art space instruments and largest ground-based optical telescopes.

Oleg Kochukhov
+46 (0)18-471 5993

Andreas Korn, stellar spectroscopy 

My research focuses on low-mass stars like the Sun, in particular the outer layers from which we receive stellar photons. This starlight tells us how hot and heavy such stars are and what they are made of. As low-mass stars live for billions of years, they allow us to study the chemical history of the Milky Way. We may ultimately learn when and where the elements were produced that form the basis for complex life.

I offer various projects in quantitative stellar spectroscopy, often combining advanced modelling with observations from the largest telescopes (VLT, Keck).

Andreas Korn
+46 (0)18-471 5994

Sofia Ramstedt, stellar winds

My research focuses on the final evolutionary stages of solar-like stars, i.e. the red giant phase and the formation of planetary nebulae. Red giant evolution is dominated by an intense stellar wind from the surface. The enriched material from the star is recycled, through the wind into the interstellar medium, and eventually used to build new stars. On smaller scales, it concerns the origin, as well as the future fate, of our own Solar system, and on larger scales, it contributes to our understanding of the chemical evolution of galaxies. 

I offer projects analyzing different types of astronomical observations of these stars. The projects are aimed at understanding the shaping and morphology of the outflows in the transition from red giant to planetary nebulae, or at determining the chemical composition of the material (gas and dust) in the wind. Somewhat depending on the project you will learn about stellar evolution, astrochemistry, radiative transfer, observational techniques, data reduction and image analysis. 

Sofia Ramstedt
+46 (0)18-471 5970

Eric Stempels, Meteor observations / Space Situational Awareness (SSA)

During a dark night one often spots fast-moving objects. Some of these are caused by meteoroids entering the atmosphere, and others are due to man-made satellites. In order to understand and monitor these phenomena, several camera networks across the globe perform continuous observations of the night sky. One of these networks is the Swedish Allsky Meteor Network, active since 2015 and coordinated from Uppsala.

I offer several projects related to this network, which include studies of meteors, meteor showers and/or satellites. These projects can be adapted to individual interests, and may, among others, include instrument development, calibration, automated image analysis, and orbit determinations.

Eric Stempels
+46 (0)18-471 5994

Projects within space and plasma physics 

We investigate what goes on in space using instruments we build ourselves and fly on spacecraft, ground based instruments, computer simulations and plasma theory. Also, we focus on the study of the basic small- and large-scale processes and fundamental physical principles which control the Earth's interaction with its space environment. Of particular interest are linear and non-linear dynamical processes involving space plasma and the associated exchange of energy, linear momentum, and angular momentum between plasma and radiation. 

More information

Here you can find more information about projects within space physics:

If you have questions about degree projects in astronomy, please contact: