PhD by Research in Astronomy
Why Study @ Swinburne CAS?
Staff, Research, Keck telescope access, Supercomputer access.
The CAS PhD Program
PhD topics, CAS PhD student support summary, Swinburne
Research Post-Graduate Studies.
Masters by Research
Swinburne scholarships, , External scholarships.
Expression of Interest, Finding a supervisor, Formal applications, Timing, Eligibility,
Higher Degrees Policy and Procedures.
Why Study @ Swinburne CAS?
Because we're focussed on research!
Excellent researchers, cutting-edge astrophysics
With around 18 research faculty, 20 postdoctoral
researchers and 32 PhD students from over two
dozen different countries, CAS offers a vibrant, diverse and
research-focused atmosphere where PhD students help conduct – and
learn how to lead – cutting-edge research.
With expertise in optical,
infrared and radio astronomy, computational and theoretical
astrophysics, we observe, imagine and simulate the most exciting
astrophysical phenomena. Our research
strengths cover all major areas of astronomy, from cosmology and
the large-scale structure of the Universe, to quasars and the most
distant known galaxies, to clusters and groups of galaxies, down to
our own Milky Way, its structure and fascinating contents: stars,
planets, pulsars, neutron stars and globular clusters. We also
research 3-D visualisation techniques and applications of advanced
scientific computing. Our latest research results are highlighted in
our news section.
The world's best telescopes
access to the Keck twin 10-metre telescopes! The Keck Observatory in
Hawaii comprises the world's largest optical telescopes and CAS
astronomers are now observing there for 15 nights per year. You
could too! Read more
about it in Swinburne
Magazine. CAS astronomers are also regularly awarded
observing time at major national, international and space-based
observatories covering the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
CAS is also home to 'The Green
Machine' and the GPU-based 'gSTAR', two of
Australia's most powerful supercomputers. These are
excellent research tools in key areas of astronomy ranging from simulations
of large-scale structure formation to the processing of enormous
data volumes collected from radio telescopes. They are also used to
animations and movies promoting and explaining astronomy to the
broader community. CAS is the only astronomy department in the
southern hemisphere with its own supercomputers.
|High-achieving, worldly PhD
CAS's student body is well beyond "critical mass":
around 30 high-achieving students are currently undertaking their
PhD studies at CAS. They are a friendly, knowledgable group of
independent-minded astronomers who help each other become experts in
their fields. CAS students come from all over the world, not just
Australia: as the map indicates, current CAS students come from more
than two dozen different countries. They speak about 20 different languages
We encourage applications from high-achieving students anywhere in
the world who are strongly motivated to complete a PhD in astrophysics
and/or supercomputing with an emphasis on astrophysical applications.
A larger CAS Staff
Map is available here.
We welcome and encourage (real,
physical) visits to CAS by prospective PhD students! It's really
the best way for you to see who we are, what we do and what doing a
PhD here is all about. Please contact Dr. Chris Blake by phone or email
to arrange a visit.
The CAS PhD Program
The primary postgraduate degree we offer is a Doctor of Philosophy
(PhD) by Research in Astrophysics. Academically high-achieving students
work with leading astronomers to research important questions in
astrophysics, data analysis and visualization. The 3.5 year program
enables students to conduct independent research at a high level of
originality, relevance and quality. Swinburne PhD graduates often take positions in leading
astrophysics institutions around the world, and pursue a diverse
range of other careers.
A wide range of potential PhD topics
are on offer. Students interested in particular projects are strongly
encouraged to contact the relevant supervisor(s). Summaries of current thesis work by CAS students are
CAS PhD students are provided with a powerful workstation and
access to the considerable computational resources of the The Green
Machine and 'gSTAR'. Students
have access to internal funding to help support travel to telescopes,
international conferences and/or collaborative meetings. A summary of
PhD student support at CAS is available here. CAS also provides a social
fund, to be used and administered by the student body as a whole for
social events of their choosing.
We also encourage students to take advantage of the Centre's Swinburne
3D Productions staff and facilities to produce state-of-the-art
representations of their data.
CAS maintains links with astronomers at the Anglo-Australian Observatory and the
Australia Telescope National
Facility. Potential PhD projects on offer at the AAO
and ATNF are
also available to incoming Swinburne students. CAS PhD students also
have numerous opportunities to be involved in outreach and education.
Research administers all of the University's research and graduate
studies. For more information, see their Post-graduate
Studies website. The full Research Degrees Policies and Guidelines
can be found there.
Please note that we do not offer PhD programs online or by distance
Masters by Research
Formally, we do award Masters by Research degrees in Astrophysics,
but this is not the preferred route for postgraduate study at CAS.
Scholarships are preferentially given to PhD
applicants and, given that the competition for PhD positions and
scholarships is already high, scholarships for Masters by Research
applicants are almost never awarded.
If you believe your situation is exceptional, please
contact Dr. Chris Blake by phone or email to discuss your case.
Please note that we do not offer Masters by Research programs
online or by distance learning. CAS does offer an online Master of
Science (Astronomy) course via Swinburne Astronomy
Online, but this is not a research degree.
At CAS we normally only accept PhD students
who receive a scholarship to support them during their
studies. Fortunately, Swinburne offers a range of
different scholarships (see here for the latest rates) for both international and domestic
students (typically SUPRA and APA scholarships respectively). All scholarships include a tuition-fee waiver, and
reasonable relocation and thesis preparation allowances.
Access to travel/research funds is
available upon application and CAS provides a high-end desktop
computer for all new students. See the CAS PhD student support summary for
We call for Expressions of
Interest in our PhD program once or twice per year. See below for
instructions on How To Apply. All PhD
scholarships are highly competitive, so CAS first assesses the
qualifications of each candidate to ensure they stand a good chance of
receiving a scholarship of one kind or another.
Note: External scholarships. Some countries and
external agencies offer scholarships for students wanting to study a PhD
in Australia. We encourage students to apply for these
opportunities in addition to applying for a scholarship from Swinburne;
students applying for external scholarships need to complete the three
stages listed in the How To Apply section
below. They should also contact Dr. Chris
Blake as early as possible in the process.
How To Apply
Applications for PhD positions and
scholarships at CAS proceed in four important stages:
- An online Expression of Interest (EoI) to CAS. Next deadline: 31st January, 2017.
- If your application is short-listed following the EoI, searching for a PhD supervisor at CAS.
- A short, formal interview with representatives from CAS, either
in person, skype or phone.
- A formal application to Swinburne for PhD candidature and
a scholarship about 1.5 months after the EoI deadline.
These four stages are described in more detail below. They are
designed to help us assess which students are best-suited to
undertaking a PhD at CAS, and check eligibility requirements.
Expression of Interest (EoI)
As a first step,
you must submit an Expression of
Interest (EoI) via the online system here. The EoI
provides the information required for CAS staff to fairly and
accurately compare you against other students and to assess your chances
of gaining a PhD scholarship at Swinburne. Please read the eligibility
criteria and timing information below before starting an EoI.
Our selection panel will shortlist the best candidates who
have a good chance of obtaining a PhD scholarship at Swinburne. The
selection panel will notify shortlisted candidates about 2 weeks after
the EoI deadline.
Shortlisted candidates can then proceed to the next stage,
i.e. finding a supervisor.
Finding a supervisor
If your EoI is shortlisted by the
selection panel, you will be invited to start searching for a PhD
supervisor. This normally involves discussing potential PhD projects with CAS
This is a very important stage! Both the student and
supervisor must commit to 3.5 years of research together on a given
topic. We hope all students find a supervisor but, understandably, this
is not always possible.
After matching with supervisors, we interview all CAS scholarship
applicants to assist us and Swinburne in fairly and accurately ranking
them. Such interviews are normally held by skype, phone or in person
about a month after the EoI deadline.
Once a CAS staff member agrees to supervise
your PhD studies, you've agreed on a PhD project, and have passed the interview, you will prepare
a formal application to Swinburne for PhD candidature and a
scholarship. Your supervisor will provide you with a form which
enables you to simultaneously apply for all PhD scholarships you are
eligible for. Your supervisor will submit the formal application to Swinburne Research,
the University's administrative body which deals with all postgraduate
study, by the formal application deadline.
Applicants are strongly advised to prepare their applications
as soon as possible after finding a supervisor. Copies of some
documents must be certified (by the relevant authorities) as part
of the formal application.
Timing of applications and PhD start dates
Scholarship winners are informed about 1 month after the formal
application deadline. Students requiring a visa to study in Australia
may then apply for one, taking typically 1 month (sometimes longer),
and then make arrangements to travel to Melbourne to begin their PhD
The eligibility requirements for
undertaking a PhD at CAS are detailed in Swinburne Research's
Higher Degrees Policy and Procedure document. In summary, PhD
applicants must have completed at least 4 years (or part-time
equivalent) of university studies, at a high level of achievement, in
a subject area related to their proposed PhD project. For most CAS PhD
applicants, this translates to having completed a BSc with first or
upper second class Honours or a Masters (with a research component)
awarded at a similarly high grade.
IMPORTANT: There are also English language requirements for
If English is not one of your native languages then at least 24
full months (or part-time equivalent) of your formal university studies must have
had English as the language of instruction and assessment.
If that is not the case and if your Expression of Interest is
shortlisted, you must submit the results of an English language
examination with any formal PhD scholarship application. You do
not have to take such exams before submitting an Expression of
If you have previously taken a language exam, the results must have
been issued no more than 2 years prior to the formal application
The only external language exams recognized by Swinburne are the
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test Of
English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). For the latest requirements you
Swinburne IELTS and TOEFL
Recently, the minimum grade requirements have been:
- IELTS overall band of 6.5 (Academic Module) with no individual
band lower than 6.0; OR
- An equivalent TOEFL score, eg internet-based score of 79 with no
band less than 18, or a paper-based score of 550 with no band less
- Alternatively, students must have completed the Swinburne College English for
Academic Purposes (EAP) Advanced level Certificate at the postgraduate
level (EAP 5: PG-70%).
International students must study full time.