Research course

Planetary Formation and Evolution

Open University · Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute - PSSRI

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) in geoscience or relevant natural sciences disciplines

Months of entry


Course content

We have a thriving community of about 20 members including academics, researchers and post graduate research students working in the field of planetary formation and evolution based in the Department of Physical Sciences at the Walton Hall campus of The Open University in Milton Keynes.

We use a range of cutting-edge laboratory instrumentation to investigate mineralogical, geochemical and isotopic signatures of planetary materials to understand the origin and evolution of their parent bodies. We are one of the leading experts in the world in making high-precision light stable isotope measurements using in-situ techniques, and our Cameca NanoSIMS 50L is currently the only dedicated ion probe facility in the UK for planetary science research.

The planetary samples for our research are allocated through national and international curation facilities as well as through NASA’s Apollo sample collection. Most of our research is carried out in collaboration with planetary scientists, each of whom have an international reputation in their field of expertise. Results from our projects contribute towards development of future planetary exploration strategy of the European Space Agency such as planning of future sample return mission from the Moon, Mars and other bodies in the Solar System.

Current/recent research projects:
  • Abundance, distribution and isotopic composition of water in differentiated meteorites.
  • Investigating the distribution and source(s) of H, C, and N in the Moon.
  • Geochemical signatures of water–rock interactions on Mars as recorded by martian meteorites.
  • Mineralogy/petrology/geochronology of rock samples from differentiated objects (e.g., Moon, Mars, etc.) for understanding planetary formation and evolution.

Potential supervisors:

Department specialisms

Comets and meteorites: the volatile inventory of the early Solar System Tracking planetary accretion and evolution through stable isotope signatures (e.g., O, Si, Cr) Impact survival of organic matter on planetary surfaces Secular evolution of volatiles in the Earth–Moon system

Fees and funding

For detailed information on current fees visit: Fees and funding

Qualification and course duration


part time
72 months
full time
48 months


part time
24 months
full time
15 months

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 659036