Research course

Solar System Formation

Open University · Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute - PSSRI

Entry requirements

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

Months of entry


Course content

We are an active grouping of almost 20 members, including academics, researchers and postgraduate research students, based in the Department of Physical Sciences. We use a range of cutting-edge laboratory instrumentation to investigate the geochemical and isotopic signatures of the dust and organic material present at the birth of the Solar System (now contained in extraterrestrial samples of cometary, asteroidal and interplanetary dust) and how this material evolved during the early stages of planetary accretion and differentiation.

Our facilities include unique (e.g. high sensitivity C, N, noble gas mass spectrometer system) and world-leading (e.g. oxygen 3-isotope laser fluorination system, NanoSIMS 50L) instruments as well as many more routine instruments (e.g. Raman, analytical SEM) that permit detailed investigation of such complex materials. A major focus is on investigating the origin and distribution of the astrobiologically important light volatile elements (e.g., H, C, N, O). Most of our research is carried out in collaboration with planetary scientists, each of whom has an international reputation and is actively involved in a wide range of planetary missions such that the results from our projects contribute towards, and benefit from, recent (e.g. Stardust, Hayabusa), on-going (e.g. Rosetta) and future (e.g. OSIRIS-REx) missions.

Current/recent research projects:
  • Oxygen isotopic variation of Wark-Lovering rims
  • Igneous activity in the early solar system
  • Just how fast are the rapid cooling rates of chondrules?
  • The nature of fine matrix in primitive chondrites
  • The volatile inventory of differentiated meteorites

Potential supervisors:

Department specialisms

Oxygen isotope reservoirs in the early solar system Origin of organic matter in cometary dust Secrets of core formation recorded in iron meteorites The fate of volatiles in the hot inner disk Projects mainly involve detailed laboratory investigations of extraterrestrial samples using latest generation of analytical instruments such as mass spectrometers, FIB-SEM, EPMA, Raman, NanoSIMS. Each project provides a good balance between application of existing analytical methods and development of new and innovative analytical protocols ensuring international leadership in the field of planetary geochemistry.

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


full time
15 months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 659036