Understanding the effects of thermal metamorphism on the water and organic contents of primitive carbonaceous chondrites

A meteorite on a white background

Meteorites Siena LL5 meteorite © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

The effects of thermal alteration on the structure, concentration and chemistry of organic matter have been studied in both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial material.

This study aims at providing a quantitative account of the impact of these processes in order to determine the primordial composition of the rocks, and to properly address the nature of the precursor material of their organics and volatiles.

The successful candidate will conduct heating experiments, and observe how the mineralogy and organic content of meteorites and organic-rich mudrocks change when subjected to heating (at RHUL).

Data of the mineralogy, chemical, isotopic and organic compositions of the samples will be analysed by techniques such as X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), infrared (both Natural History Museum), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy (at RHUL), and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS).

This study offers crucial insights into the ongoing sample-return space missions, Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx, as they are both heated asteroids, and the project supervisors (Chan, King) are on the sample analysis teams.

This project will also support King's UKRI funded Future Leaders Fellowship programme. The study of carbonaceous chondrites and their role in the formation of planets is a key goal of the Planetary Materials Group and the Natural History Museum's wider aim to understand our unique place in the solar system


ARIES studentships are available to UK and EU applicants only.

Residency rules apply. In general, UK and EU nationals who will have been resident in the UK for three years or more at the time when their PhD begins will be eligible for a full ARIES studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident outside the UK but within the EU during the qualifying period will usually be eligible for a ‘fees only’ studentship, which pays research costs and tuition fees but gives no help with living expenses.

In case of uncertainty, the planned university of registration should be contacted for eligibility advice; or the ARIES administrators.

All applicants need to comply with the registered university's English-language requirements.

Applicants should have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a master's degree. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

How to apply

Applications for the PhD are processed through the Natural History Museum.

To apply please send the following documents to the Postgraduate Office at postgradoffice@nhm.ac.uk:

  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Covering letter outlining your interest in the PhD position, relevant skills training, experience and qualifications for the research, and a statement of how this PhD project fits your career development plans.
  • Names of two academic referees.

The application deadline is 23:59 on 8 January 2021

Apply for this project

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then send your application to postgradoffice@nhm.ac.uk.

Application deadline: 8 January 2021

Any questions?

Natural History Museum

Main supervisor: Dr Ashley King


Royal Holloway University of London

Dr Queenie Chan

Dr Alex Dickson

ARIES Doctoral Training Partnership

The ARIES (Advanced Research and Innovation in the Environmental Sciences) doctoral training partnership draws together expertise from five universities and nine research centres, as well as over forty other research-users.

Funded by