Astronomy, Astrophysics & Astrophotonics
PhD projects at MQ AAAstro
|Projects/Scholarships currently available||Supervisor|
PhD Projects Available
|Prof. Quentin Parker|
PNe derive from stars in the range ~1-8 times the mass of the Sun, representing 90% of all stars more massive than the sun. The study of PNe is crucial to understand both late stage stellar evolution, and the chemical evolution of our entire Galaxy. The ionised shell exhibits strong and numerous emission lines that are excellent laboratories for plasma physics. PNe are also visible to great distances where their strong lines permit determination of the size, expansion velocity and age of the PN, so probing the physics and timescales of stellar mass loss. We can also use them to derive luminosity, temperature and mass of their central stars, and the chemical composition of the ejected gas. Their radial velocities can trace a galaxy’s kinematic properties and test whether the galaxy contains a substantial amount of dark matter. The kinematic properties of PNe in galaxy halos also give strong constraints both on the mass distributions and formation processes of giant elliptical galaxies. The PN formation rate also gives the death rate of lower mass stars born billions of years ago and they directly probe Galactic stellar and chemical evolution. Their complex shapes provide clues to their formation, evolution, mass-loss processes, and the shaping role that may be played by magnetic fields, binary central stars or even massive planets. As the central star fades to a WD and the nebula expands, the integrated flux, surface brightness and radius change in ways that can be predicted by current hydrodynamic theory.
|A/Prof. Dan Zucker|
The field of Galactic Archaeology - the detailed study of stars in our Galaxy and its nearest neighbours in order to uncover clues to their formation and evolution - is entering a new era with the commissioning of the revolutionary new HERMES spectrograph. HERMES, being built for the Anglo-Australian Telescope, will obtain detailed elemental abundances and precision radial velocities for over a million stars in the Milky Way in the GALAH (GALactic Archaeology with HERMES) survey. GALAH and other projects now underway or starting soon (e.g., the ESA space mission Gaia) will open new frontiers in our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Galaxy. In this research area, you will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Daniel Zucker and the HERMES Super Science Fellows at Macquarie University, as well as with other members of the GALAH team and collaborators at universities and institutes in Australia and around the world.
|A/Prof. Dan Zucker|
Galaxies like our Milky Way form by accreting smaller systems, and this process of galaxy cannibalism continues to the present day: the dwarf satellites orbiting the Galaxy and M31, its nearest large neighbour, are survivors, while the victims are stretched across the sky in stellar streams. These satellites and streams, many of them revealed by wide-area astronomical surveys like SDSS (the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) and PAndAS (the Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey), probe the conditions of galaxy formation in the early Universe and the behaviour of Dark Matter on the smallest scales. In this research area you will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Daniel Zucker at Macquarie University, as well as with collaborators at other universities in Australia and overseas.
|A/Prof. Orsola De Marco|
When stars interact with one another, or with their planetary systems, the course of their evolution is invariably altered and new star species form. Using a suite of hydrodynamic computer simulations we are in the process of studying such interactions. In collaboration with several international institutes we also study the light signal from stellar interactions and mergers so as to model observations from future wide scale, time dependent surveys.
|Dr. Lee Spitler|
One of the most picturesque galaxies, nicknamed the Sombrero, provides a prime example of a rare class of galaxy sharing properties with young spiral galaxies and older lenticular galaxies. Its relative close proximity to us, just 32 million light years away, means this galaxy can be studied in detail using a unique set of observational tools. In this project, a combination of new and existing observations will be used to understand its dark matter content, star formation history and ultimately provide a complete picture of the how the Sombrero came to be.
Joint PhD Projects with National Observatories
|Dr. Ray Norris|
The Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) survey is one of the two key science survey projects which is driving the construction of the $65m Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope. EMU will be the largest radio continuum survey error, and is expected to discover some 70 million galaxies, increasing the number of known radio sources by a factor of 30. We expect it to answer many key questions about the origin and evolution of galaxies over cosmic time. We also expect to stumble across unexpected new phenomena, which we seem to find whenever we observe the Universe in innovative ways. Pulsars, quasars, and dark energy were all discovered unexpectedly as the result of such surveys. But we face the challenge that the data volumes from EMU will be so large that it will be difficult to find these discoveries. This PhD project aims to develop techniques for discovering the unexpected by mining large datasets of radio sources, rejecting known classes of source, and instrumental artifacts, to identify the nuggets of new information. While focussed on delivering discoveries from EMU the project will use existing radio surveys to develop the techniques, with the possibility of perhaps finding something unexpected before we even start EMU!
|Dr. Ray Norris|
We invite students that wish to pursue a PhD in Aboriginal Astronomy to apply for an MQRES Scholarship. Students will be centred within the Department of Indigenous Studies and have an official affiliation with AAAstro.
|Dr. Caroline Foster|
The outskirts of galaxies retain signs of galaxy assembly that can last for billions of years and are otherwise invisible in the galaxy centres. Recent literature have shown that several galaxies exhibit interesting and dramatic kinematic transitions beyond the usually probed inner regions. This transition to a kinematically distinct halo is predicted theoretically although it has only recently been confirmed observationally. How common this feature is, its possible association with stellar population transitions or as a function of Hubble types remain to be explored using a sizeable samples.
|Dr. Ángel López-Sánchez|
The new observational technique of 2D spectroscopy using Integrated
Field Units (IFU) is providing amazing new results about the kinematics
and the chemical composition of galaxies. In particular, Blue Compact
Dwarf Galaxies (BCDG) are excellent targets to perform such studies,
because their modest sizes allow that all the galaxy can be observed in
just some few pointings. During the last years we have collected some 2D
spectroscopy data of a sample of BCDG using both the WiFeS
instrument available at the 2.3m ANU telescope at Siding Spring
Observatory and the SPIRAL
instrument available at the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope, also at
Siding Spring Observatory. The preliminary analysis of these data are
quite promising. We are offering the opportunity of study a sample of
several BCDG for which we already have good-quality data, as well as
continue our observations of BCDG at these (WiFeS at 2.3m ANU and new
instrument KOALA at 3.9m AAT) or other optical telescopes (GEMINI, VLT,
WHT, CAHA). In particular, this project will give the student a
detailed understanding of the 2D spectroscopy techniques. The student will
then gain expertise in the reduction and analysis of this kind of data.
The aims of this project are to perform a detailed analysis of the
physical (mass, star-formation rate, extinction, electron temperature and
density, excitation), chemical (ionic and total abundances of helium,
oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, neon, argon...) and kinematical (rotation of
the galaxy, distortions due to interactions, existence of outflows or
inflows of gas) properties of the ionized gas within these galaxies. The
analysis of the stellar component underlying the strong starbursts can be
also studies. Hence, we will compare the properties of the stars and the
ionized gas with the properties of the neutral gas (derived using our own
ATCA observations). Finally, the student will also learn to write up the
results not only for his/her Thesis but for subsequent publications. As an
example of this project, please consult the 2D spectroscopical analysis of
the brightest star-forming region of the local BCDG IC 10, López-Sánchez et
al. (2011), this
research image, and the combined optical-radio study of the BCDG NGC
5253, López-Sánchez et
|Dr. Stuart Ryder|
Stars bigger than 8 times the mass of our Sun are doomed to end their lives in colossal explosions we experience as "supernovae". Measuring the rate at which stars explode today is the key to unlocking the star formation history of our Universe, on which so much of cosmology rests. Despite the dedicated efforts of amateur astronomers and robotic surveys, we know we are missing a substantial fraction of supernovae still.
The Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) hosts research staff in areas of optical/infrared astronomy and instrumentation. Strong collaborative links exist between AAO and MQ AAAstro, including a number of joint staff positions between the institutes. PhD projects are available that can be jointly supervised by AAO staff and astronomers at AAAstro. You can view the current listing of AAO PhD projects here. Otherwise you can browse the research interests of AAO staff here
The CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) is the home for a number research staff in areas of radio astronomy and instrumentation. MQ AAAstro is in the process of establishing collaborative links with CASS staff and there are opportunities for joint PhD projects. CASS staff interests can be browsed here.
PhD Application Information
Why a PhD at MQ AAAstro?
- • Generous individual research support budget.
- • Opportunity for observing trips to telescopes (e.g. Magellan in Chile and Keck in Hawaii).
- • Links with innovative instrumentation engineers and astronomers at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science
- • Living expenses and fees included in scholarship award.
- • Fastest-growing astronomy research centre in Australia.
- • High-quality research environment - ranked as an equal among Australia's top astronomy research centres (ERA 2012 rank)
- • Live in vibrant Sydney while working on the beautiful Macquarie University campus.
How to applyPhD scholarships for domestic and international students include nearly $25,000/year for living expenses and all program fees for the duration of the project. Certain projects have an allocated scholarship, others can attract a domestic or international scholarship. Application instructions are available here (international students also see this page), but first please contact the relevant supervisor listed next to the project.
DeadlinesApplications are accepted year-round.
Cotutelle and joint PhD programMacquarie University also runs cotutelle and joint-PhD programs, which allows PhD students to be affiliated with Macquarie and another university overseas. More information is available here.
QualificationsHigh-quality students with strong undergraduate marks and Masters degree completed. Exceptional students with prizes and research publications have a good chance at winning a scholarship.
Don't have a Masters degree? Macquarie has a new Astrophysics Masters program. More information is available here.
Think you might want to do a PhD at MQ AAAstro?For more information on qualifications, deadlines and projects available, contact Lee Spitler. Or come over to the campus for a visit!