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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

Prof. Matthew Bailes

Prof. Chris Blake

  • No projects offered at this time

Prof. Jean Brodie

  • No projects offered at this time

A.Prof. Michelle Cluver

Prof. Jeff Cooke

  • No projects available at this time

Prof. Darren Croton

  • No projects available at this time

Dr. Rebecca Davies

Prof. Adam Deller

Prof. Alan Duffy

  • No projects offered at this time

A.Prof. Deanne Fisher

Dr. Chris Flynn

Prof. Christropher Fluke

Prof. Duncan Forbes

Prof. Karl Glazebrook

Prof. Alister Graham

Prof. Jarrod Hurley

Dr. Colin Jacobs

A.Prof. Glenn Kacprzak

Prof. Virginia Kilborn

  • no projects offered at this time

Prof. Ivo Labbe

Dr. Ben McAllister

Dr. Anais Möller

  • No projects available at this time

Prof. Jeremy Mould

Prof. Michael Murphy

Dr. Themiya Nanayakkara

Dr. Jade Powell

  • No projects available at this time

Prof. Emma Ryan-Weber

  • No projects offered at this time

A.Prof. Ryan Shannon

Dr. Simon Stevenson

  • No projects available at this time

A.Prof. Edward N. Taylor


Project Descriptions

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

Millisecond Pulsar Hunting and Timing

Supervisors: Prof. Matthew Bailes and Prof. Adam Deller

Millisecond Pulsars (MSPs) are Nature's clocks, spinning up to almost 800 times per second. These neutron stars are being used to explore the stability of the very fabric of space time via pulsar timing arrays. Spacetime is a 4D continuum, and in the distant Universe pairs of supermassive black holes send out cosmic ripples that manifest themselves as nanosecond time delays in pulsar arrival times. Using a bold new digital capture system at the South African Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope, the MeerKAT, this project will pioneer new signal processing algorithms that will purify the 1.6 terabits per second generated by the array to discover millisecond pulsars in the cores of globular clusters, and improve the precision of millisecond pulsar timing, as we define the ultimate stability of the space-time continuum. Students will gain experience in very high speed signal processing on the Swinburne supercomputer and be well-poised to seek employment in both astrophysics and the technical development of the Square Kilometre Array when it comes online in the late 2020s.

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The habitats of the nearest groups in the universe

Supervisor: A.Prof. Michelle Cluver


The galaxies that reside in local large scale structures provide a unique opportunity to study the most recent mass assembly in our Universe. As groups coalesce into clusters, which in turn become assimilated into superclusters, the local universe provides us with a snapshot that encodes how the baryon cycle of a galaxy is being influenced by its habitat. The closest structures provide the most complete view of the mechanisms at work, down to the lowest galaxy masses. In this project we will combine a new state-of-the-art group catalogue from the 2MASS Redshift Survey with stellar mass and star formation measures from the WISE mid-infrared survey, to study how galaxies and groups are pre-processed in the southern large scale structure region spanning the Pavo-Indus Supercluster and the Eridanus and Fornax Clusters.

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Does environment matter and should we be worried if it doesn’t?

Supervisors: A. Prof. Michelle Cluver


Understanding how galaxies are potentially shaped by their small-scale environments and/or their situation within large-scale structure requires us to separately test the impact of each. This allows us to determine if and where the evolution of a galaxy is being influenced by external factors, crucial to identifying the relevant physical mechanisms at work (or play?). Our team has curated a bespoke mid-infrared photometry catalogue for z<0.1 galaxies within 384 square degrees of the KiDS-S region, using data from the WISE telescope. Combining the resulting measures of star formation and stellar mass with state-of-the-art characterisation of local and large-scale structure environment, we can look for signatures of pre-processing, and isolate/characterise potential sites of transformation. These sites will be prime targets for follow-up observations using the SKA Pathfinders.

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Galactic outflows with the James Webb Space Telescope

Supervisors: Dr. Rebecca Davies and A.Prof. Deanne Fisher


Galactic outflows are violent ejections of gas from galaxies triggered by exploding stars. Outflows have enormous impacts on the galaxies they come from. They remove large amounts of hydrogen gas, depriving galaxies of fuel to form new stars. Most galaxy evolution theories predict that this removal of gas plays a fundamental role in regulating galaxy properties. Outflows also transport elements like carbon and oxygen between galaxies and across intergalactic space, sending life-critical elements throughout the Universe. Outflows are difficult to study: they are much fainter than galaxies (see upper picture), so many key questions about their properties and their impact on galaxy evolution remain unanswered. New state-of-the-art observations from the James Webb Space Telescope are now providing us with extroadinarily detailed pictures of nearby outflows. In this PhD project, the student will use the new James Webb data (along with data from the Keck telescope) to make detailed measurements of outflow properties and investigate the relationship between outflowing gas at different temperatures. These measurements will provide crucial tests of leading outflow models. The student will join a vibrant team at Swinburne including 3 HDR students and 3 postdocs, and will also work with international collaborators in Europe and USA.

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Imaging and modelling the aftermath of gravitational wave mergers

Supervisor: Prof. Adam Deller

This project aims to capitalise on the dawn of the era of gravitational wave astronomy by studying the radio afterglows that result from gravitational wave merger events in minute detail.  When two compact objects (one neutron star plus a second neutron star or a black hole) merge, a burst of gravitational wave emission is released, and a violent outflow is launched that can lead to pan-chromatic electromagnetic emission.  By studying the radio emission of the outflowing material, we can determine both the characteristics of the outflowing material, and the viewpoint from which we are seeing the system.  Twin inputs are required: 1) ultra-high resolution radio images obtained with intercontinental radio interferometers, and 2) highly sophisticated computational models of the merger.  To date, this has been performed for just one system, the famous NS-NS merger GW170817, for which our team showed that the merger launched a powerful and narrowly collimated jet of material (Mooley, Deller, et al., Nature, 2018).  In the near future, as LIGO/Virgo detects many more NS mergers, we anticipate applying these techniques to an increasing sample of systems, recovering information about the merger events that cannot be obtained from the gravitational wave data alone and also improving on "standard siren" measurements of the expansion of the Universe.   The successful candidate will work with Prof. Adam Deller and an ARC-funded postdoctoral researcher, along with international project partners at Caltech and Tel Aviv University, focusing on the comparison between radio interferometry data and hydrodynamical models to extract physical parameters of the merger afterglow.


Image caption: Model (left) and VLBI data (right) of the radio afterglow of the NS-NS merger event GW170817 (Mooley, Deller, et al., Nature, 2018).  By comparing the VLBI data to a range of hydrodynamical and analytic models, we were able to constrain the viewing geometry of the system and the jet parameters.

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Mapping millisecond pulsars throughout the Milky Way with Very Long Baseline Interferometry

Supervisors: Prof. Adam Deller

Weighing more than the Sun but only 20 km in diameter, millisecond pulsars spin tens to hundreds of times per second. This combination of high density and high angular momentum lends itself to extreme rotational stability, which means that the radio beams produced in the magnetospheres of these objects can be used like precision celestial clocks spread across the galaxy. Applications include testing Einstein's theory of General Relativity in strong gravitational fields that cannot be re-created in the solar system, studying the end points of massive star evolution, and searching for the nano-Hertz frequency gravitational waves produced by binary supermassive black holes in distant galaxies. In all of these cases, knowing the distance to the pulsar is a huge advantage to interpreting the precision pulsar "timing", but accurate, model-independent distances are hard to come by for sources that are effectively invisible in the optical and located 10,000 light years away or more. That is where this project comes in: using Very Long Baseline Interferometry in the radio, it is possible to measure the tiny apparent motion of a pulsar in the plane of the sky caused by the Earth's orbital motion around the Sun, and use some high school trigonometry to measure the pulsar's distance. Conceptually simple, yet difficult in practise - the angular displacements involved are on the order of nanoradians, or the width of a human hair at a distance of 100 km! This project will build on previous studies involving a handful of millisecond pulsars and measure the distances to at least 30-40 sources that can be used an array of science cases, most prominently to bolster the search for (and hopefully soon the interpretation of) the nHz stochastic gravitational wave background.

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How do exploding stars reshape galaxy evolution?

Supervisors: A.Prof. Deanne Fisher


This PhD uses data from James Webb Space Telescope, and 10 meter optical telescopes to study large scale winds from galaxies. Supernovae are among the most energetic events in the universe, typically outshining the galaxy they occur in. While very uncommon in our own Milky Way, supernovae happen very often in so-called ``star-burst” galaxies that are making new stars at 10-100 times the rate of the Milky Way. In these galaxies, clusters of supernovae explode in the disk, the combined energy and momentum pushes gas up out of the spiral galaxy and into the halo above the disk. This changes the properties of the galaxy, and is considered by most theories to be a linchpin that regulates the growth of galaxies. We view this as faint filaments of gas that extends above star forming galaxies. In this project we will study this gas. The physical properties of the gas directly relate to the physical models of how these large outflows of gas evolve and shape outflows. We have multiple projects on outflows using new observations from JWST, observations from ALMA and a 300+ hour program on the Very Large Telescope to study the outflowing gas. The student will be part of an international team that includes astronomers in Germany, UK, France, USA and Australia. The student will develop skills in python and ``datacube” analysis in astronomy. At Swinburne they will work in a team of 4 HDR students and 2 postdocs, along with myself.

Futher information:

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Ultra diffuse galaxies

Supervisors: Prof. Duncan Forbes


In 2015 a new class of galaxy was discovered - the ghostly Ultra Diffuse Galaxy (UDG). Such galaxies have the same total luminosity as a dwarf galaxy but some reveal a halo of dark matter similar to that of a giant galaxy making them 99% dark matter! Since their discovery they remain a mystery and a challenge to theories of galaxy formation. This PhD project aims to discover more UDGs from deep imaging, determine their stellar population and dynamical properties, and compare them with the latest theoretical models. This project is an observational one, using new data from the world's largest telescopes (Keck and the VLTs) and involving colleagues in California.

Image caption: Ultra Diffuse Galaxies have the same total luminosity as a dwarf galaxy but the same total mass as a giant galaxy. Some UDGs are 99% composed of dark matter and we don't know why! (Credit: Schoening/Harvey/van Dokkum/NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

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Space system real-time data fusion, integration and cognition

Supervisors: Prof. Christopher Fluke


In many application domains, human operators utilise data visualisations to identify, distinguish and classify signals from noise, and perform anomaly and outlier detection – the process of visual discovery. Increasingly, as more data is available than can be looked at by eye in real-time, new systems and strategies are being developed that rely more heavily on automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. With a particular focus on data-intensive, real-time Space applications (including Mission Planning, Space Domain Awareness, Earth Observation, Defence and National Security), PhD Projects are available with Professor Fluke (SmartSat CRC Professorial Chair) in the following theme areas:

  • Human-Machine Teaming, where human performance at cognition and visualisation is enhanced when working in partnership with intelligent agents;
  • Visual Data Analysis, exploring new approaches to multi-modal data fusion and integration that benefit from high-performance and accelerated computing architectures to support visual discovery at scale; and
  • Extended Reality Visualisation and Discovery, leveraging the continued emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance insight and understanding from Space data in all its forms.

Caption: Interactive visualisation of 3D hyperspectral survey data on the Swinburne Discovery Wall (Credit: C.Fluke).

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Cosmology with the Hubble Space Telescope

Supervisors: Prof. Karl Glazebrook and Dr. Colin Jacobs

Using The Hubble Space Telescope) (HST we are observing ~100 new gravitational lens systems. Of particular interest is to look for ‘double source plane lenses’ (DSPL) where a single elliptical galaxy magnifies two different galaxies at significantly different redshifts. Every DSPL provides strong constraints on the cosmological parameters via the ratio of angular distance (from lensing) to redshift, however only three ‘good’ DSPLs are known. In this PhD project we will (1) visually inspect all the HST images to make a catalog of DSPL candidates for redshift measurements (2) carry out a program of Keck observing to get spectroscopic redshifts (3) make simulations of constraints on cosmological models from large DSPL samples - with particular attention to looking at Early Dark Energy models (4) create new large DSPL samples using the critical combination of ground-based LSST+Euclid Space Telescope imaging and 4MOST survey spectroscopy.


Image caption: The top row shows 5 of our HST observed lenses. This is a program led by Swinburne, we have 52 done at the time of writing, but there are more every month and we never quite know what we are going to find. In the bottom the physical effect of gravitational lensing is illustrated and we show a zoomed view of one of our lenses with multiple sources.

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The missing population of intermediate mass black holes

Artists's impression of a black hole. Credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz.

Supervisor: Prof. Alister Graham

There is a largely-missing population of intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) with masses higher than that formed by single stars today (Mbh=1.4 to 120 MSun) and less massive than the supermassive black holes (SMBHs: 105—1010 MSun) known to reside at the centres of big galaxies.  Not surprisingly, astronomers around the world are hotly pursuing the much-anticipated discovery of IMBHs.  This thesis will involve several interconnected projects involving telescope and satellite image analysis and statistical techniques.  Improved methods for estimating both IMBH and SMBH masses will be developed and applied, with ties to the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope expected.  The coexistence of these massive black holes in dense, compact star clusters at the centres of galaxies is also expected to be a source gravitational radiation detectable by the planned eLISA satellite, for which updated predictions will be made.

Students will benefit from membership in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, OzGrav.

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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. This knowledge will be used to pursue a number of exciting topics at the forefront of astronomy. A feeling for the type of research done with Prof. Graham can be seen in his Press Releases.

Image: Artistic impression of a black hole featured on the cover of Swinburne University's 2019 annual report. Credit: James Josephides and Alister Graham.

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Understanding gas flows in and around galaxies

Supervisors: A.Prof. Glenn Kacprzak and Prof. Michael Murphy

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 harbouring 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.

Image Caption: 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.

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The first galaxies and supermassive black holes with the James Webb Space Telescope

Supervisor: A.Prof. Ivo Labbe


This is the dawn of a new era in extragalactic astronomy. From the moment the revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope started observing, roughly one year ago, studies of the early universe have produced one surprise after another: unexpectedly luminous galaxies in the heart of the Dark Ages just 360 million years after the Big Bang, massive dead galaxies only 1 billion years later, and an enigmatic population of faint red sources in the early universe that appear to be a sprawling population of massive galaxies and hidden supermassive black holes (Labbe et al. Nature, 2023).

This is just the beginning. Using the next generation of state-of-the-art imaging and spectroscopic data sets with James Webb, amplified by gravitational lensing, this project will take the next steps to investigate the origins of the first galaxies and black holes and their relation to the familiar galaxies we see at later times. Multiple lines or research are possible depending on the student's interests, as well as opportunities to develop space-based data analysis skills, and data-driven and machine learning techniques. The PhD student will join the active JWST Australian Data Centre at Swinburne and become part of an extensive Swinburne-led international collaboration involving 50 researchers from Australia, USA, and Europe.

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Axion Dark Matter Detection

Supervisors: Dr. Ben McAllister


The nature of dark matter is one of the biggest mysteries in modern science – it makes up five sixths of the matter in the Universe, and is of unknown composition. It surrounds and passes through the Earth at all times.

Axions are a hypothetical particle, and one of the leading candidates for dark matter. Swinburne is building a new axion detector to try and measure small effects induced by dark matter when it passes through the laboratory, and shed light on the mystery. The kind of experiment we are building is called an axion haloscope.

The detector is currently being constructed and will be hosted at Swinburne. There is work to be done on various aspects of the project, from optimal detector design, to manufacturing and characterisation, to advanced readout technology, to control software and data analysis.

This project could focus on any of these areas, tailored to fit the skills and interests of the candidate. There is room for multiple students, and you will be working in a small team with other researchers. For example, this project could include aspects of mechanical and RF design, material science, computational modelling, software to control the detector and associated equipment, or on a pipeline to acquire and tease through experimental data for hints of new physics.

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The velocity field in the nearby Universe

Supervisors: Prof. Jeremy Mould and Prof. Alister Graham


Inhomogeneities in the Universe act on galaxies and perturb the velocities given to them by the expansion of the Universe. These so called peculiar velocities have been used to constrain cosmological parameters and are a test of gravity on very large scales. To measure peculiar velocities we need redshift independent distance indicators, such as the Fundamental Plane, the supernova standard candle and the Tully-Fisher relation.

The Widefield ASKAP L-band Legacy All-sky Blind surveY (or WALLABY) is being conducted on the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), an innovative imaging radio telescope located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. The aim of WALLABY is to use the powerful widefield phased-array technology of ASKAP to observe initially half of the Southern Hemisphere in the 21-cm line of neutral hydrogen at 30-arcsec resolution with sky coverage described here.

The student will measure peculiar velocities for galaxies in the WALLABY survey using the Tully Fisher relation, which connects galaxy luminosities and rotation velocities. The final step is to map the velocities with the aid of Dr. Helene Courtois of the University of Lyon, leader of the CosmicFlows program.

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Mapping electromagnetism's strength throughout the Milky Way with solar twin stars

Supervisors: Prof. Michael Murphy


The constancy of nature's laws, characterised by the fundamental constants, has been mapped out on all size-scales, from the laboratory through to the cosmic microwave background at redshift z=1100, except for one important size-scale: our own Milky Way galaxy. This project aims to make the first check on electromagnetism's strength in our Galaxy with high enough precision that a discovery of variation is possible (i.e. not already ruled out by previous, much less precise measurements). The idea is to use the spectra of solar twins – stars with spectra indistinguishable from our Sun's, and each other – as the probe because this allows for a highly differential measurement that will be immune to all manner of systematic effects that have precluded such a measurement in the past.

Depending on the status of this field at the time, there are both observational and theoretical avenues open for this position. For example, the student may either be making the first measurements on existing solar twin spectra, contributing to an effort to identify very distant solar twins, analysing new spectra of these distant solar twins, or making measurements with them. The new spectra would be taken with a new instrument on the 8-metre Very Large Telescope in Chile. Or they may be using advanced quantum mechanical calculations to determine how solar twin spectra depend on fundamental constants. These and other options will be discussed with the candidate.

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Weighing the Universe with Deuterium

Supervisors: Prof. Michael Murphy and A.Prof. Glenn Kacprzak

This project aims to weigh the universe – i.e. measure the number of baryons it contains – by comparing the amount of hydrogen and its main isotope, deuterium, in distant, almost pristine clouds of gas. The baryon fraction is a fundamental quantity in cosmology, so obtaining new measurements using deuterium is essential for detecting any departures from our standard cosmological model. We observe these gas clouds in the spectra of background quasars – the super-bright accretion discs around supermassive black holes – taken with the largest optical telescopes, such as the Keck 10-metre in Hawaii and VLT 8-metre in Chile. This experimental approach is explained in the video. Cases where an accurate (and precise) measurement can be made are incredibly rare, but we have identified several new examples that could provide competitive baryon fraction measurements. The aim is to analyse these existing spectra, and obtain new spectra if required, to test the standard cosmological model. This is a collaboration with astronomers in the US (Hawaii & California) and travel to work with these collaborators is a possibility. Observations using either the Keck and/or VLT are also possible during the course of the PhD project.

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Towards the dream of Galactic Archaeology

Supervisors: Prof. Michael Murphy and Dr. Chris Flynn


Our Milky Way galaxy was built up by numerous mergers of smaller galaxies over time. But reconstructing this dynamic, complex history remains a challenge. The GALAH survey, using the 4-meter Anglo–Australian telescope in Siding Spring (NSW) has almost completed its mission to observe 1 million stars in our Galaxy, as a first attempt at "Galactic Archaeology": using the detailed chemical composition of stars, plus their positions and motions, to trace them back to their origins. This dream can only be realised if the abundances of many elements – used as "chemical tags" – can be measured very precisely. Our group has recently invented new techniques that should make this possible, but we've only just begun, focussing so-far on stars very much like our own Sun. But there is huge potential! Your PhD work would push these techniques to recover much more precise, detailed chemical tags for many types of stars, not just Sun-like ones. This could make a real leap towards true Galactic Archaeology and understanding the history of our Milky Way. This will be a collaboration with GALAH astronomers, with a possibility to join that team and gain telescope observing experience.

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If we stay very still, can we watch the Universe expand in real time?

Supervisors: Prof. Michael Murphy


The universe is not only expanding, its expansion is accelerating. The evidence for this earned the 2011 Physics Nobel Prize, but we have never actually observed the universe's expansion rate changing with time. Instead we measure the universe's geometry and, through Einstein's equations, infer its dynamics. But are Einstein's equations correct on the global scale of the universe? We don't know – we need to observe the cosmological redshifts of distant objects changing in real time. This "redshift drift" experiment would require exceptionally stable spectrographs and ultra-precise spectroscopy of distant, faint quasars. Can we stay still enough, and watch closely enough to do it? There are many efforts around the world towards this dream.

This project could take many different directions depending on the candidates skills and interests. For example, can we label the wavelengths of light received in our spectrographs accurately enough, using new "laser frequency combs"? We've been performing a new experiment performed with the ESPRESSO spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope in Chile to find out. Another example question is whether we can process the astronomical images of spectra well enough to see such tiny effects. Whichever direction is followed, the candidate will be connected to a network of Australian and European collaborators through the soon-to-be-launched (already funded) ARC Centre for Excellence, COMBS, and working groups of the European Southern Observatory aiming to build a spectrograph on the future, 39-meter Extremely Large Telescope capable of the redshift drift experiment. The possible projects would suit a candidate interested in ultra-precise spectroscopy, data analysis, or astronomical instrumentation.

Image credit: European Southern Observatory

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Exploring the massive stars in cosmic noon with the MAGPI survey

Supervisors: Dr. Themiya Nanayakkara , and Prof. Karl Glazebrook


The ~2 billion year time window between 2<z<4 is one of the most active phases in cosmic evolution. Galaxies in this epoch were evolving rapidly and actively forming most of the observed baryonic mass in the Universe. Constraining the types of the stars and the properties of the inter-stellar-medium (ISM) of these galaxies is of great importance to determine how the most of the observed mass of the Universe was formed. The light from these galaxies are expected to be dominated by massive blue stars, thus their imprints can be observed in the rest-UV part of the galaxy spectrum. The rest-UV has strong emission lines that can provide a wealth of information about the ionising spectra of the stars, ISM conditions, and the neutral hydrogen geometry.

In this PhD project you will use data from the MAGPI survey, a VLT MUSE large program to explore the rest-UV emission line properties in the z>2T Universe. With this project, you will be able to join the MAGPI team https://magpisurvey.org and analyse the deep emission line sources observed in the Universe to demystify properties in the early Universe. During the second part of the PhD, the access to a wealth of rest-frame optical spectra of galaxies with the James Webb Space Telescope will mean that you will be able to extend the analysis further by combining data from deep MUSE surveys with that of JWST to get a comprehensive understanding of stellar populations in this cosmic window.

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Mapping the cosmic web with Fast Radio Bursts

Supervisors: A.Prof. Ryan Shannon, Prof. Adam Deller, and Prof. Matthew Bailes

Fast radio bursts are an enigmatic population of transient astronomical events that are promising to be a revolutionary astrophysical tool. The bursts are exciting because they both represent a brand new and unprecedentedly luminous radio transient but are also now demonstrating the ability to uniquely probe the cosmology of the Universe. This project will utilize the wild field of view of the Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) to rapidly increase the population of the bursts and identify hosts, emission mechanisms and explanations for the bursts. ASKAP has proven itself to be a reliable FRB detection machine and localization machine, able to pinpoint burst locations to within galaxies. The localisations have been used to study the intergalactic medium and find the Missing Baryons . In the next year we will be developing a new FRB detection system for ASKAP that will increase its burst detection rate by a factor of 10.

Your project, which would be undertaken as part of the Commensal Real Time ASKAP Fast Transient collaboration could include:

  • Develop novel methods and pipelines to detect bursts in real time.
  • Study the demographics of the burst population, and synthesizing with discoveries made at other facilities.
  • Determine the magneto-ionic properties of the intergalactic medium and host galaxies for FRBs.
  • Conduct multi-wavelength campaigns to identify hosts and counterparts to the bursts as part of our ESO VLT Large Project.
Specific contributions will depend on your interests. In addition, you will also gain hands-on experience with ASKAP. Through all the of the Ph.D. you will gain experience with computation and signal processing while doing cutting-edge astrophysics.


Caption: The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, located in outback Western Australia, is a radio array of 36 antennas. Credit: Alex Cherney/CSIRO.

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Connecting galaxies to their larger dark matter halos: the stellar-to-halo mass relation

Supervisors: A.Prof. Edward (ned) Taylor


We now understand every galaxy to form and reside at the centre of a larger, diffuse halo of dark matter. As far as we know, the properties of dark matter are very simple: no interactions with itself or other matter except through gravity. This makes dark matter easy to model, but very difficult to observe. By contrast, galaxies are easy enough to find and measure, but disentangling the many and varied mechanisms that influence their formation and evolution is a wicked problem. As the conceptual link between the observed galaxy population and the cosmological population of dark matter halos, the stellar-to-halo mass relation represents a crucial interface between observation and theory: especially in how models are calibrated and/or validated.

The focus of this project will be to map out the connection between galaxies and their halos — that is, the stellar-to-halo mass relation — by combining dark matter statistics from large cosmological simulations with statistics of the galaxy population in the local universe. The work will include measuring the number of galaxies in the nearby Universe as a function of their stellar mass; measuring the clustering statistics of galaxies to constrain their halo mass distribution; and the incorporation of new constraints from weak gravitational lensing from Gurri et al. (2020, 2021).

Image credit: NASA

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