Research course


Open University · School of Physical Sciences

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 or equivalent grade

Months of entry

October, February

Course content

Astrochemistry is the study of molecules in space, how they form, where they form, and what role they play in shaping the formation and evolution of astrophysical systems, particularly in star and planet formation. The chemical interactions between atoms, ions, and molecules in both the gas and solid phase span from the coldest, darkest regions of space, known as the interstellar medium, through to the surface of planets, where such processes may be key in astrobiology – the study of the emergence of life. This subject therefore encompasses chemistry, physics and astronomy, as well as aspects of planetary science and biology. At the OU there are two thriving areas in this field, led by Professor Nigel Mason and Dr Helen Fraser, within the Astronomy discipline in the School of Physical Sciences. Research students in this field benefit from a wider community of the School of Physical Sciences, and the South East Physics Network (SEPNet), ensuring rapid dissemination of their research findings to a very broad community. Astrochemistry is a valued part of OU research, bridging the astronomy group and planetary sciences groups.

Our research splits broadly into three areas: laboratory astrochemistry, i.e. experimental-based research, observational astrochemistry, i.e. fieldwork and computing-based research, and theoretical astrochemistry, which is computer-based and spans the range from theoretical chemistry to astrochemical modelling.

Potential research projects

We welcome enquiries from prospective students in the following areas:


  • Studies of Ice-Gas Chemistry under Interstellar Conditions
  • Studying the Fundamental Structure of the Bulk & Surface of Interstellar Ice
  • IR and VUV Spectroscopy of Interstellar and Planetary ices
  • Ion molecule chemistry in the interstellar medium and planetary atmospheres
  • Planetary atmosphere chemistry (with emphasis on Mars, Titan and exoplanets)


  • Ices, PAH and Dust to High Redshift: Tracing the origins of interstellar chemistry
  • Gas-Ice Mapping of Star-Forming Regions: A view towards JWST
  • Evolution and Formation of organic material in space


  • Studying the Structures of Interstellar Ices: a Molecular Dynamics approach

Projects currently on offer maybe found here.

Fees and funding

See The Open University website.

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
variable months
part time
24 months
full time
15 months


distance learning
variable months
part time
72 months
full time
36 months

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 659036