Self-funded PhD opportunities

New accessory mineral records of early Lunar evolution

  • Application end date: Applications open all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr James Darling, Prof Craig Storey

Project code: SEES4421018

Project description

The Moon's ancient crust preserves a unique record of early planetary evolution that is not accessible on more active planets such as the Earth, Mars or Venus. However, despite over 40 years of isotopic studies of lunar materials there are still major unanswered questions in the chronology and processes controlling the evolution of the Earth-Moon system: What was the timing of lunar magma ocean crystallization? Did the Moon experience a late global magmatic reworking? Did the inner Solar System experience a late heavy meteorite bombardment at ca. 3.9 Ga?

To fully understand the record that lunar rocks provide, it is critical to resolve the effects of extreme compression and heating that occurs during impact events, from the original characteristics of the sample. Such “shock metamorphism” has variably affected lunar samples, and the severity of mineral age and isotopic resetting by impact events remains poorly understood despite major recent advances in geochemical techniques. Our group has been addressing this problem by combining advances in nanoscale structural, mineralogical, chemical and isotopic analysis of dateable accessory minerals. This provides unprecedented shock-metamorphic context to geochemical analyses, opening up new possibilities to robustly apply geochronological and petrological tracers to lunar rocks. This project will study rocks from the ancient lunar highlands, such as ferroan anorthosites, Mg-suite plutonic rocks and/or regolith breccias. The overall aim is to place new constraints on the timing and nature of major events controlling the geological evolution and habitability of the terrestrial planets, and the early dynamical evolution of the Solar System.

The student will undertake detailed petrological analysis of selected Lunar samples, and then be trained in state-of-the-art electron microscopy techniques (e.g. EBSD) and in-situ geochemical analyses (e.g. LA-ICP-MS). It will suit an analytically minded student with an interest in petrology, geochemistry and planetary geology.

Supervisor profiles

Dr James Darling

Prof Craig Storey

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.  


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr James Darling at (02392 842237), or Prof Craig Storey at (02392 842245)

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: SEES4421018

Interview date: TBC

Start date: October 2018.

Funding notes

This is self-funded project, for infomration on fees and funding, please see our webpages.

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