A growing convergence of research lines point to the first massive structures, like groups and clusters, assembling in the distant Universe as rosetta-stone places to try to unveil important unsolved questions in galaxy and structures formation and evolution. This includes understanding the physical processes by which galaxies are fuelled by gas (which allows them to form their stars), by which galaxies change their structures, the role played by galaxy mergers, the feedback with their internal growing black holes, and interactions and the paths through which they eventually stop forming stars.
We propose a PhD project in which the student will participate to this research by working with a large international consortium that is building and will be using the new generation MOONS instrument for the Very Large Telescope in Chile, a giant multi-object spectrograph that will deliver simultaneous observations of 1000 spectra of galaxies selected over large areas. The consortium has been granted 200 observing nights to carry out a large extragalactic survey with many different science aims. The student will be responsible of the selection, observations, data reduction and interpretation of galaxies in the most massive and distant environments probed by the survey. Key science goals will include: 1) the estimate of the evolving number densities of these structures and comparison to theoretic models as a strong constrain to structure formation theory and baryon assembly; 2) the measurement of the statistical modulation of star formation activity in these environments as a test of cold accretion theories; 3) the measurement of the statistical progression of quenching as a function of structure mass and redshift, as a powerful test of quenching mechanisms.
This thesis will potentially provide a solid formation for the student in many aspects of observational cosmology, from observations at one of the best ground-based telescopes to data analysis and interpretation all the way possibly to modeling, based also on the interests of the students and on results.