Since the 1950s, the work of the Observatories has included an outstandingly successful Doctor of Philosophy program. RSAA currently has over 40 PhD students; over on third of them international students. Stromlo graduates can be found in many of the world's major astronomical centres.

The PhD program offers students access to state-of-the-art optical, infra-red, radio, and computational facilities and draws on the expertise of some 50 RSAA astronomers, as well as researchers at CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility, the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and collaborators around the world.

The main research areas at RSAA include:

  • Observational and theoretical aspects of extra-solar planets
  • Stellar atmospheres and evolution
  • The interstellar medium
  • Galactic structure and stellar populations
  • The Magellanic Clouds and dwarf galaxies
  • The formation and evolution of galaxies
  • Supernovae and gamma-ray bursts
  • Cosmology

Theoretical work is currently being done in the fields of plasma and high energy astrophysics, stellar atmospheres, stellar and galactic evolution, galactic dynamics, and n-body simulation. RSAA also offers PhD topics in astronomical instrumentation associated with instrumentation for optical and infrared telescopes. The RSAA is leading Australia's involvement in the Giant Magellan Telescope and developing an integral-field spectrograph and adaptive-optics solutions for the project.

RSAA operates the ANU 2.3m telescope at Siding Spring Observatory which is equipped with instrumentation for low- and high-resolution spectroscopy, and faint object imaging from near ultraviolet to infra-red wavelengths. The 1.3m SkyMapper telescope has been constructed at Siding Spring Observatory and is currently conducting an automated all-sky imaging survey of the southern sky similar to SDSS.

Students at RSAA also have access to the 3.9-m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), the Parkes Radio Telescope, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array operated by CSIRO, in addition to international facilities such as the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the Gemini Observatory and Magellan telescopes. Powerful computing facilities are available for data acquisition and analysis, and theoretical model building.

CRICOS Code 048378C

Career opportunities

The PhD program provides an excellent training for a career in many fields. Foremost, it is a preparation for research work in the discipline of astronomy itself. Most of the program's graduates proceed initially to a postdoctoral position (nearly always overseas) which broadens their range of research experience. After four to six years of postdoctoral work at a number of different places, it is quite usual for graduates to obtain a more permanent position, either at an observatory where the work is entirely research based, or at a university with the traditional mix of research and lecturing responsibilities.

The technological expertise acquired in the program is very marketable in other careers as well. A training in image processing, in instrument and computer applications, and in high-level problem solving, is widely applicable and highly valued in business and industry. Graduates of the program are found in meteorology, computer management, the chemical industry, business consultancy, banking and finance, and secondary school teaching.


A selection of graduate student research projects is provided on the potential projects section. You can also filter the list to view other projects that are being undertaken by current students, or view projects related to particular research themes

There are also many possible projects that are not listed here and students who are interested in a particular topic or supervisor should discuss potential projects with our researchers directly.


PhD structure and timeline is described in the structure page.


The courses offered to PhD students are outlined on the courses page.

Information for international students

Information for overseas students about our International PhD Program.

How to apply

Please see the ANU Programs and Courses website for details of application for admission to the ANU PhD program in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Deadlines for entry to the PhD program

International students - pre-applications for program commencement in Semester 2 (August) are due on 1st December each year, while  applications for commencement in Semester 1 (February) of the following year are due 31st August each year.

Australian and New Zealand students - For Semester 1 commencement the deadline is 31st October of the preceding year. Students seeking Semester 2 commencement should follow the pre-application deadline.

RSAA contacts

Professor Helmut Jerjen

HDR Program Convenor

T 61 2 6125 8038

F 61 2 6125 0233


RSAA Student Administrator & HDR Student Coordinator