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
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
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
Note regarding PhD supervision at RSAA: The Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) has introduced a new policy relating to the supervision of RSAA PhD students. According to this policy applicants to the RSAA PhD program are not required to select a supervisor prior to commencing the PhD program with RSAA. Please read the Policy before applying for the RSAA PhD program. When applying for the PhD program in Astronomy and Astrophysics, you do not need to enter a supervisor name in the respective field on the application form. You can submit a research proposal if you wish, however, a short two-page statement about your prior research experience and why you wish to undertake PhD studies with RSAA will be sufficient for your application to be assessed.
Deadlines for HDR Scholarship applications
Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) Scholarship round (including University Research Scholarships):
- Application deadline for domestic and international students for commencement in 2020 is 15th April 2020 (NEW additional scholarhsip round).
- Application deadline for international students for commencement in 2021 is 31st August 2020.
- Application deadline for domestic students for commencement in 2021 is 31st October 2020.
In order to be considered for an Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) Scholarship or University Research Scholarship (both include the offer of a fee waiver for the respective program), applicants must submit an application through the official ANU application portal. Please go to the Programs and Courses page relating to the Astronomy & Astrophysic PhD and start the application by clicking the black "Apply" button.
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) scholarship round for international PhD applicants ("Pre-Application Round"):
- Application deadline for international students is 30 November 2020 for commencement in the second half of 2021.
- Domestic PhD students who have missed the AGRTP deadline in October may also submit an application by 30 November 2020.
Please see more information about the School-funded PhD scholarhsip here: pre-applications for program commencement in Semester 2.
Professor Helmut Jerjen
HDR Program Convener
T 61 2 6125 8038
F 61 2 6125 0233
RSAA Student Administrator & HDR Student Coordinator