• Min-Kai Lin

Research opportunities in planet formation theory

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Numerical simulation of the interaction between a planet and its dusty protoplanetary disk.

I am looking for motivated graduate students at the Masters/PhD level or postdocs to work on projects in planet formation theory. Potential topics are described below.


Dust-gas dynamics in protoplanetary disks

Planets are built planetesimals, themselves built from tiny dust grains immersed in a disk of gas surrounding young stars. The interaction between dust and gas is crucial to planetesimal formation. However, several barriers exist between growing from micron-sized grains to km-sized planetesimals, such as turbulence. We will explore under what conditions can planetesimal formation take place in turbulent protoplanetary disks.

Click here for a recent blog on this topic.

Disk-planet interaction and orbital migration

After they form, young planets continue to interact with the surrounding disk. Disk-planet interaction can result in a variety of structures, such as rings, gaps, and asymmetries. See the figure above. Such features have indeed been observed in real protoplanetary disks. We will study both planet-induced structures in protoplanetary disks; as well as disk-induced planet migration, which is important for shaping the final architecture of planetary systems.

Click here for a recent blog on this topic.

Fluid instabilities and structures in accretion disks

Accretion disks such as protoplanetary disks host a wide variety of fluid instabilities. Understanding the physics of these instabilities is important in modeling disk evolution as well as planet formation. We will study hydrodynamic instabilities in accretion disks, focusing on how the presence of dust and/or magnetic fields affect the development of large-scale, observable structures in protoplanetary disks.

Click here for recent blog on this topic.


The student or postdoc will employ analytical methods and/or numerical simulations to investigate these problems. A background in mathematical/physical sciences is necessary. Some experience in programming would be advantageous.

Those interested should contact me with a CV, transcript, and a brief description of past research experiences if applicable.

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