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Potential PhD Topics


PhD Supervisors

Below are listed those CAS staff who may be currently looking for PhD students.


PhD Projects

PhD projects are currently being refreshed ready for the September 2017 PhD admissions round. Please check back soon for more details!

Prof. Matthew Bailes

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Chris Blake

A.Prof. Jeff Cooke

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Darren Croton

  • No projects offered at this time

Dr. Adam Deller

  • No projects offered at this time

A.Prof. Alan Duffy

Dr. David Fisher

  • No projects offered at this time

A.Prof. Chris Fluke

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Duncan Forbes

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Karl Glazebrook

Prof. Alister Graham

Prof. Jarrod Hurley

  • No projects offered at this time

Dr. Glenn Kacprzak

Prof. Virginia Kilborn

  • No projects offered at this time

Dr. Glen Mackie

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Sarah Maddison

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Jeremy Mould

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Michael Murphy

A.Prof. Emma Ryan-Weber

Dr. Edward N. Taylor

  • No projects offered at this time

Project Descriptions

The following set of projects have PhD scholarships already provided:


OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery


CAASTRO-3D ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3-Dimensions


Projects associated with other Australian Research Council funding


Galaxy Structure and massive black holes

Supervisors: Prof. Alister Graham


This project will explore how stars are distributed in galaxy images obtained from both ground-based telescopes and satellites such as Hubble and Spitzer. The structure of galaxies reveals much about how they formed, how they are connected with one another and also with the massive black holes that reside in their cores. A feeling for the type of research done with Prof. Graham can be seen in his Press Releases.

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The following set of projects are subject to a competitive allocation process where only a limited number of scholarships are available:


Testing the cosmological model with the Taipan Galaxy Survey

Supervisors: Prof. Chris Blake


The UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory,
where the Taipan Galaxy Survey will take place

One of the most fundamental tasks facing astronomers is to determine the cosmological model describing the physics of the expanding universe, in terms of its matter-energy content and the laws of gravity. Recent observations of the universe show that our current understanding of the relevant physics is profoundly incomplete, forcing cosmologists to invoke a mysterious dark energy, that propels an apparent acceleration in the present-day cosmic expansion rate.

The Taipan Galaxy Survey is a new Australian-based project that will measure redshifts for 1,000,000 galaxies and peculiar velocities for 100,000 galaxies, mapping out the large-scale structure of the local Universe. The resulting dataset will yield the most precise direct measurement of the present-day expansion rate of the universe, the largest maps of the density and velocity fields of local structures, and new and stringent tests of large-scale gravitational physics using galaxy motions, probing Einstein’s theory of gravity and alternatives.

Depending on the skills and interests of the student, this project could involve a focus on observations, data analysis or theory within a key science investigation in the project.

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Understanding Gas Flows in-and-around Galaxies

Supervisors: Dr. Glenn Kacprzak, Dr. Nikole Nielsen and Prof. Michael Murphy


Cool gas (green) from cosmic filaments accretes onto
the galaxy, which drives its rotation and controls the rate at
which it forms stars. Star formation and supernovae expel
gas back into the circumgalatic medium (purple). Background
quasars are used to study these gas flows around galaxies.

Ever wonder why some galaxies form stars while others do not? Or where does all the fuel for star-formation come from and what regulates it? The evolution of galaxies is intimately tied to their gas cycles - the gas accretion, star formation, stellar death and gas expulsion. As galaxies evolve, their gas cycles (known as feedback), give rise to an extended gaseous halo surrounding galaxies. Understanding how feedback works has become recognized as THE critical unknown process missing to fully understand galaxy evolution. Therefore, gaseous galaxy halos are the key astrophysical laboratories harboring the detailed physics of how galactic feedback governs galaxy evolution.

Observationally, galaxy halos are studied with great sensitivity using quasar absorption lines. Imprinted on the quasar spectrum are the motions, chemical content, density, and temperature of the gas. These absorption signatures provide details that are unobtainable using any other method of observation. Here, the student will join an international collaboration and will examine how the host galaxy properties are linked to their circumgalactic gas properties using Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Telescope data.

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Polluting the First Galaxies

Supervisors: A.Prof. Alan Duffy and A.Prof. Emma Ryan-Weber

In the first billion years after the big bang the universe was filled with light as bright new stars formed within the rapidly growing First Galaxies. Due to their enormous distances from us these First Galaxies are incredible faint, accessible only by the most powerful of telescopes. Yet even with these telescopes the picture is far from clear, and instead supercomputer simulations of the early universe are able to inform what we do see. This project will investigate the new elements that are flung from exploding supernovae into the gas around galaxies, polluting the pristine material from the Big Bang, leaving their mark on the early history of our Universe.

A series of hydrodynamical simulations, collectively termed Smaug, has been created on the largest supercomputers across Australia. This catalogue will be used to test the manner in which galaxies in the first billion years of the universe grew, how the products (such as the oxygen we breath) from these early forming stars spread throughout the universe. How these metals pollute the gas around galaxies will then be directly compared with the latest observations at Swinburne of metals around early galaxies found using the giant Keck and Subaru telescopes.

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The fundamental physics behind galaxy formation

Supervisors: Prof. Karl Glazebrook & Danail Obreschkow (ICRAR/UWA) & Roberto Abraham (Toronto)


Simulated spiral galaxy simulated on
the Swinburne supercomputer (Credit: Rob Crain).

One of the oldest and most fundamental observations about galaxies is they spin. Rotation drives the majestic spiral structures but also the properties of elliptical galaxies. Spiral galaxies appear to retain the angular momentum of their original dark matter halos as they form and evolve, in contrast ellipticals seem to lose a lot, giving a direct physical picture of the origin of galaxy morphology. However angular momentum is a difficult measurement requiring deep observations of the dim outskirts of galaxies.

In this project we will provide new measurements of angular momentum in galaxies in the nearby Universe using data from the Australian SAMI survey (to measure galaxy starlight in the optical) and from the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (to measure neutral gas emission). We will then measure the evolution of angular momentum with redshift using the 10m Keck telescope in Hawaii and the ALMA sub-mm array. This will provide some of the most fundamental constraints on galaxy formation and evolution with redshift.

Thus project is part of an extremely active collaboration between Swinburne and the University of Western Australia, funded by the Australian Research Council. It will require hands on observational skills with some of the world’s most advanced telescopes.

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