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Meet our Ph.D. students


Poojan Agrawal

I'm Poojan Agrawal a current PhD student at CAS.

What I do: I have always been curious about the lives of stars and what factors govern their evolution. For my research project, I get to simulate not only the lives of massive stars but also study the role they play in the properties of stellar and binary populations. This is important for understanding the incredible physics and chemistry behind these stars and for comprehending spectacular events like the detection of gravitational waves from compact binary mergers.

Why @ CAS: CAS has a flourishing research environment and the opportunities for academic development. Besides a range of active research groups within the centre, CAS has strong ties with other universities and institutes, domestic and international, which is helpful for fostering collaborations. Through CAS I am able to access to the supercomputer OzStar is quite useful for my work. Also, from time to time, I get the opportunity to talk about my work at various outreach events. It’s always fun talking with the curious young minds and seeing things from their perspective.

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Sara Webb

My name is Sara and I'm one of the friendly astrophysicists here at CAS. I am currently completing my PhD in transient astronomy, working towards detecting the fastest bursts in the Universe on the timescales of seconds to minutes. I work on a program founded here at Swinburne by A/Prof. Cooke, the Deeper, Wider, Faster program (DWF), which using multiple telescopes of all wavelengths (we're not kidding, ALL wavelengths) at once to try and detect counter-parts to FRBs as well as some other theorised events that are extremely quick. This program was one of the reasons I choose Swinburne, the uniqueness of my research and the fantastic team I get to be part of. The main driver for me choosing Swinburne was my time spent here as a summer research student when I was an undergraduate. Even though the research I did back then was very different to my career now, it was the environment, the people, the knowledge and inclusivity that made CAS stand out to me. I felt like I was home, even as a visitor. I enjoy my CAS experience everyday in my research and have had amazing opportunities outside my direct research too while being here, like visiting the Keck telescopes in Hawaii, and even working with a local high school to send an experiment to the ISS! Every PhD journey is different, but here at CAS we all feel like we're truly in this together and the friendships and collaborations I've built here will no doubt last my lifetime.

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Daniel Berke

I'm Daniel Berke, a PhD student at CAS, where I search for variation in the fine-structure constant. To do this I use 100% recycled archival spectra of stars from HARPS, one of the most stable and high-precision spectrometers currently in use. I chose to come to CAS after taking several years off after my undergraduate to work as part of a team of astronomers on the JCMT telescope, located on the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. I enjoy the large number of people doing interesting work here at CAS, and the departmental attitude of camaraderie and investment in the success of the students. Having a shortened, more research focused program than many US Universities I came to CAS in order to be able to focus full-time on my research and complete my PhD faster.

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Juan Espejo

My name is Juan Manuel Espejo, I am a Colombian astronomer doing my Ph.D. research in galaxy evolution (more precisely, the role of angular momentum in the evolution of star-forming galaxies). I started my PhD about 6 months ago and so far my time in CAS has been great. I have met important scientists and made good friends in this short period of time; the atmosphere is very friendly which can be related to the friendly spirit of Australians. As far as science is concerned, I am very satisfied with my choice of coming here because I appreciate the rhythm at which I'm learning and developing research skills. I'm receiving the guidance I need but I'm also learning to work at my own pace and with my own schedule. As an international student, with the experience of living in different countries in the past, I truly appreciate that there is a good sense of community and that there is always someone willing to help out with any science/programming queries. Not only this but also with extracurricular activities and relaxed chats outside work, especially when there's so much to share amongst scientists from many different nationalities and backgrounds.

Even though there is this friendly and relaxed atmosphere there is always a hard working spirit that drives our scientists to make this institute an international reference and a producer of high-level competitive science. Another aspect that I like about CAS is that we have a very dynamic institute. Every week there are always many activities happening such as colloquia, journal clubs, code reviews, group meetings, talks, visitors, etc. but also outreach activities that we can be part of.

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