Since the 1950s, the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA), Mount Stromlo Obervatory (MSO), has an outstanding, successful Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program. RSAA currently has more than 50 PhD students, with 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, instrumentional, and computational facilities and draws on the expertise of around 50 RSAA astronomers, as well as collaborators from 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, N-body simulations, star formation, and computational fluid dynamics. We also offers PhD topics in astronomical instrumentation associated with optical and infrared telescopes. 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 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), the Parkes Radio Telescope, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) 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, through the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

Career opportunities

The PhD program provides excellent training for a career in many fields involving critical thinking, problem solving skills, data analysis, and computing. Foremost, it is a preparation for research work in the discipline of astronomy itself. Many of the program's graduates proceed to postdoctoral positions (usually overseas), which broadens their range of research experience. This also forms the basis for obtaining 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 teaching 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 PhD research projects is provided on the potential projects page. 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 on the RSAA International PhD Program.

How to apply

Note regarding PhD supervision at RSAA: The Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) has a policy that 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 a PhD with RSAA will be sufficient for your application to be assessed.

Deadlines for HDR Scholarship applications

In order to be considered for an AGRTP Scholarship or URS (both include a tuition 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 "Apply" button.

  • Application deadline for international students for RSAA-funded scholarships for commencement in 2025 is in November 2024.

Please see more information on RSAA-funded international PhD scholarships here: pre-applications

ANU values diversity and inclusion and is committed to providing equal opportunities to those of all backgrounds, identities, and protected attributes. We welcome and encourage applications from minorities and underrepresented groups, affirming our commitment to fostering a richly diverse and equitable community.

RSAA contacts

Sam Slater

Student Administrator & Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Coordinator

T 61 2 6125 0221

F 61 2 6125 0233



Associate Professor Christoph Federrath

Associate Director (AD) Higher Degree by Research (HDR)

T 61 2 6125 0217

F 61 2 6125 0233