Undergraduate research

Prospective student enquiries

Overview

RSAA provides a range of opportunities for undergraduate students to take part in research programs with astronomers at the school.

research topic course (ASTR3005) is offered to later-year ANU undergraduates, in which students undertake a research project in any area of astrophysics over the course of a semester.

The RSAA runs an internship program that provides an opportunity for students to do research work at the observatory in parallel to undergraduate study, and hosts a mid-year winter school that provides a select group of ANU undergraduates the chance to experience research and observing activities at the school. 

In addition, ANU summer research scholarship places at RSAA are available to students from around Australia and New Zealand during the university summer break each year.

Projects

A list of potential research projects is available on the potential projects page.

AITC internships

AITC Summer Internship Program / Northrop Grumman Global Externship Program

The Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC), at the Mount Stromlo Observatory, is pleased to partner with the Northrop Grumman Externship Program to offer six summer internship positions for undergraduate students studying engineering, science, computer science or mathematics. Interns will complete a defined research project and participate in activities that develop technical skills and help prepare them for professional employment. They will be supervised and mentored by AITC scientists and engineers and will be required to work as a team in completing set tasks.

This program will be conducted in parallel with the ANU Summer Scholars Program at Mount Stromlo. The Summer Scholars program is better suited for students interested in an academic research career. Application details can be found on the Summer Scholars website.

The Program

Students will complete a defined project under the supervision of an AITC staff member. In addition to completing a specified project, all interns will participate in activities that develop their professional skills and expand their understanding of the Australian Space Industry, including:

  • Tour of the AITC and EOS Space Systems
  • Practical introduction to Systems Engineering, Project Management and Risk Analysis from SHOAL (formerly Aerospace Concepts)
  • Visit to Nova Systems and a briefing on their activities
  • Access to technical experts from Northrop Grumman in Australia and the US
  • Visit to the Space Co-ordination Office with a briefing on the role of government
  • Tour of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
  • Expert speaker program in astronomy, instrumentation and space engineering
  • Development of report writing skills
  • Development of presentation skills

Deliverables

  • Project plan (within one week of start date). This must be approved by the project supervisor and will define the project milestones.
  • Literature review. All references and sources must be cited.
  • Progress reports
  • Written project report
  • Abstract for a conference paper and abstract for public talk
  • Public presentation of project and results

Available Projects

Project 1: Pyrotechnic Shock Test Facility Commissioning*  

The AITC is Australia’s only comprehensive space environmental test facility. The AITC is preparing to test the QB50 satellites and the DSTO satellite. One of the launch requirements for these satellites is to demonstrate that they will survive a defined pyrotechnic shock input. Pyrotechnic shock (or pyroshock), is the dynamic structural shock that occurs when an explosion or impact occurs on a structure, such as during the separation of the stages of a rocket.

Shock Response Spectrum (SRS) analysis is used to measure the acceleration as a function of frequency and the total energy of the applied shock pulse. The SRS is a curve that represents the response of many damped single degree-of-freedom oscillators to a shock pulse.

The AITC is procuring a novel pyrotechnic shock test facility from MIT. This facility is being customized to meet the AITC’s requirements.  It will be constructed in Australia to MIT’s specifications and integrated into the AITC’s Vibration and Shock Test Facility in late 2015. The AITC is looking for an intern to support this process. The successful applicant will work with the AITC Facilities Manager, the MIT representative and the AITC Industry Liaison Engineer on the following tasks:

  • Review the shock test requirements of QB50 and DSTO
  • Develop the test configurations that deliver the required shock profiles
  • Evaluate the performance of the existing AITC Data Acquisition system (DAQ) and software to the MIT DAQ
  • If required, develop software to convert measured acceleration into SRS using the AITC DAQ
  • Develop test procedures and documentation

The intern completing this project will work collaboratively with the intern working on the commissioning of the mechanical shock test facility.

Required skills: mechanical engineering; test and evaluation; data analysis; programing skills.

Attractive skills: vibration and shock analysis; technical writing skills; an understanding of the space environment and space systems; ability to work in multidisciplinary teams.

* This project is only available to Australian nationals

 

Project 2: Mechanical Shock Test Facility Commissioning*  

The AITC offers a range of facilities for the test and evaluation of advanced instrumentation and space systems. As part of its Vibration and Shock Test Facility, the AITC has a Mechanical Shock Test machine. To complete the commissioning of this equipment, the performance of the Mechanical Shock Test Facility needs to be characterised, and procedures and documentation need to be produced.

The successful applicant will work with the AITC Facilities Manager and the AITC Industry Liaison Engineer on the following tasks:

  • Characterise the performance of the Mechanical Shock Test Facility
  • Develop test procedures and documentation
  • Review the shock test requirements for the main launch providers and other users as instructed
  • Evaluate the performance of the Mechanical Shock Test Facility and the Pyrotechnic Shock Test Facility against these requirements

The intern completing this project will work collaboratively with the intern working on the commissioning of the pyrotechnic shock test facility.

Required skills: mechanical engineering; test and evaluation; data analysis.

Attractive skills: vibration and shock analysis; technical writing skills; an understanding of the space environment and space systems; ability to work in multidisciplinary teams.

* This project is only available to Australian nationals

 

Project 3: Attitude Determination and Control Systems (ADCS) for CubeSats

In December 2014 the AITC hosted a workshop to define Australia’s next space-based astronomy mission. The workshop brought together astronomers and engineers to identify missions that would make a valuable contribution to the research interests of Australian scientists within the constraints of the CubeSat platform. Three potential missions were identified, and the 2014/15 AITC Summer Interns contributed to the conceptual design of these missions.

A proposal for Australian Space Eye was submitted to the Australian Research Council (ARC) for funding. This application was supported by Macquarie University, ANU, the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), UNSW, The University of Sydney, The University of Queensland, Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Western Australia, The University of Western Sydney, Cal Poly and Tyvak. The outcome of the proposal should be known by the end of November 2015.

The Australian Space Eye will be a space-based observatory for ultra-faint imaging of astronomical targets. It will use a standard 6U CubeSat platform but will require significant development in instrumentation design and high-stability pointing to achieve its science objectives.

The AITC is looking for an intern to review current Attitude Determination and Control Systems (ADCS) for CubeSats and compare these to the Australian Space Eye Requirements. The successful applicant will work with the AITC Technical team and the instrument scientists to identify a range of solutions and characterize their strengths and weaknesses.

The intern completing this project will work collaboratively with the intern working on the development of a test rig to validate the satellite ADCS.

Required skills: systems engineering; control theory.

Attractive skills: an understanding of space systems and the space environment

 

Project 4: Ground-based Test and Evaluation of Attitude Control

The AITC is Australia’s only comprehensive space environmental test facility. The Mass Properties Laboratory is currently equipped to characterize the moment of inertia and centre of gravity of small spacecraft. To support the development of an attitude control system that meets the needs of the Australian Space Eye, the AITC requires the ability to perform hardware in the loop ADCS testing. As the AITC is a national facility, it is highly desirable that the recommended ADCS test rig also meet the needs of the broader space community.

The AITC is looking for an intern to review current ADCS test rigs for CubeSats and compare these to the Australian Space Eye Requirements. The successful applicant will work with the AITC Technical team and the student working on the onboard ADCS to identify a range of solutions and characterize their strengths and weaknesses.

Required skills: Mechanical engineering; mechatronic engineering; systems engineering; test and evaluation.

Attractive skills: design skills

 

Projects 5&6: Adaptive Optics

The AITC is a world leader in the design and development of adaptive optics systems. Adaptive optics brings together the fields of optics, lasers, atmospheric physics, engineering, material science, and computer science, to develop integrated systems that correct for optical wavefront aberrations in real time. The AITC is developing an adaptive optics system for the Giant Magellan Telescope to be built in Chile in ~2020. This system will correct for atmospheric turbulence and restore the diffraction-limit of the ground-based 25-metre diameter telescope. This technique is also being applied to the ground-based laser tracking of space debris through the Space Environment Research Centre.

The AITC Adaptive Optics Group is offering two intern positions within the following projects. The final AITC summer intern projects will be defined based on the skills of the successful students.

 

Required skills: Basic optics, good mathematical skills; experimental design and implementation; data analysis; computer programming; good communication skills.

Attractive skills: Physics, Optical design/alignment, Laser physics/optics, Programming skills (Matlab, C/C++, Python, IDL); an understanding of a system approach to multi-disciplinary systems.  

General

  • The primary working location will be the Mount Stromlo Observatory.  
  • Students will be given ANU visitor status. They will have access to a desk, computer, printing and phone.
  • All student interns must maintain a high level of professionalism at all times and comply with university regulations.
  • Neat work attire is expected at all times. Students working in laboratories must comply with all safety and cleanliness requirements, including appropriate clothing, gloves and glasses.
  • Duration of internship: 23rd November 2015 – 29th January 2016 (excluding 22nd December – 3rd January).
  • Students must be available for the full duration of the internship
  • Work hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm (with 1hr for lunch) unless other arrangements are negotiated
  • The program offers approximately 280 hours of supervised work. Requests for additional hours will be considered before the Christmas break on a case-by-case basis subject to the availability of supervisors, the availability of a project, and the performance of the student.
  • Transport to and from Mount Stromlo is the responsibility of the student. A free shuttle bus is available to students between the ANU main campus in the morning (arriving @ 9:00 am) and the evening (departing @ 5:00 pm)
  • Thanks to the Northrop Grumman Global Externship Program, scholarships for up to four interstate students are available to cover travel to and from Canberra and accommodation on Mount Stromlo during the program. Return travel will also be covered to allow students to return home for Christmas. Travel and accommodation arrangements will be made by the ANU.
  • These are unpaid positions.

Applications

These positions are highly competitive and reward students that demonstrate a combination of technical excellence, professionalism and initiative within a team environment.

To apply for a position, please send the following documentation to aitc@anu.edu.au no later than 5:00pm (Canberra time) on Thursday 24th September.

  • A completed application form
  • The details of two referees must be provided on the application form. One referee must be able to comment on the technical capability of the candidate
  • Academic transcript
  • Curriculum vitae
  • A statement identifying your relevant skills and attributes for the project and what you expect to gain from the internship. This should be no more than one single sided A4 document, minimum 12-point font with normal margins.

If you wish to apply for more than one project, please submit a separate application for each project.

Please note, if no suitable applications are received, the project will be withdrawn.

Interviews

  • All interviews will be conducted on Thursday 22nd October.
  • All interviews will be conducted via Skype to maintain equal conditions for all candidates.
  • It is the candidate’s responsibility to establish a connection with sufficient bandwidth to support both video and audio.
  • Each candidate will be allocated a 15min interview slot.
  • The interview panel will consist of representatives from the AITC and industry.

Important dates

  • Applications close: COB Thursday 24th September
  • Shortlist announced: Tuesday 13th October
  • Interviews: Thursday 22nd October
  • Students notified: Monday 26th October
  • Program start: Monday 23rd November
  • Christmas break: Saturday 22nd December – Sunday 3rd January
  • Program end: Friday 29th January

Contact

Please direct any enquiries to aitc@anu.edu.au or ring  (02) 6125 0247

A PDF Flyer about the program is available.

This program would not be possible without the support of a number of organisations and individuals. The AITC would like to thank ANU, Northrop Grumman, EOS Space Systems, Space Environment Research Centre, SHOAL (formerly Aerospace Concepts), Nova Systems, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, and the Space Coordination Office.

Summer scholarships

Each summer RSAA offer a number of Summer Research Scholarships, which enable suitably qualified undergraduates to spend 8 to 11 weeks at Mount Stromlo working on a research project under the supervision of an RSAA astronomer. The scholarships provide a first-hand view of the work at a research observatory and scholars have access to state-of-the-art optical, infrared, radio and computational facilities. Areas of research include star formation, stellar evolution, galactic dynamics, observational cosmology, active galactic nuclei, interstellar-medium physics, computational astrophysics and planetary science.

These scholarships are intended for currently-enrolled undergraduate students at universities in Australia and New Zealand completing the third or fourth year of a full-time course leading to an honours degree. Outstanding second-year students who are intending to complete an honours degree may also be considered.

For detailed information about the program and how to apply, see the CMBE/CPMS Summer Research Scholarship page and the ANU Summer Research Scholarship program pages.

RSAA summer research program contacts

Winter School

Australian and New Zealand undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in exciting science at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) Winter School. During the week-long workshop, students will experience cutting edge research and take part in scientific observations on some of Australia’s most advanced telescopes.

The Winter School will be held over seven action packed days and includes real astrophysical investigations, special presentations from leading researchers, and night time access to research telescopes to participate in scientific observations. Participants will travel to Australia’s premier optical and radio astronomical observatories and will carry out their own observations using the ANU 2.3m telescope.

Winter School participants will:

  • Learn about stellar physics, planetary science, black holes & cosmology
  • Tour observatories and research telescopes, including a VIP visit of Australia’s largest optical telescope
  • Have the chance to accompany astrophysicists during scientific observations
  • Receive advice on coursework options, internships and scholarships.

Read about the 2011 RSAA Winter School.

When

27 June - 3 July 2016

Location

Mt Stromlo & Siding Spring Observatories

Cost

Free for selected participants

Information

For details on how to apply, send us an email.

 

Updated:  28 June 2016/Responsible Officer:  RSAA Director/Page Contact:  Webmaster