PhD/Master projects

I am always looking for motivated students interested in extragalactic astronomy to work on Masters by research and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) projects.

Deadlines for Expression of Interest are generally twice per year (March/April-September/October).

The next deadline is on April 15, 2017. Please see this link for more details on how to apply.

Below you find some of the highest priority projects offered by our research group, but I am always happy to discuss possible projects on galaxy evolution. Feel free to contact my via email.

Also, at ICRAR suitable prospective PhD Candidates can request a pre-doctoral studentship to visit us and get a feel for the environment and research possibilities in Perth (click here for more info).

 

Galaxy Transformation in the Local Universe

One of the most outstanding challenges in extragalactic astronomy is to identify the astrophysical processes responsible for transforming simple gas clouds into the heterogeneous population of galaxies inhabiting today’s Universe. How did galaxies of different types form and evolve? Does the environment where a galaxy lives influence its evolution?  Inevitably, the answers to these questions entail a detailed investigation of all the components of the interstellar medium (gas, dust, metals) and their relation to stellar properties, kinematics and environment. This clearly requires multi-wavelength information for statistically significant samples of galaxies across the cosmic web, which are becoming available only now. In particular, until very recently, astronomers have struggled to understand the link between stellar and gas kinematics, morphology and star formation.

In this project, the student will take advantage of data from the largest optical integral-field spectroscopic survey to date (the SAMI Galaxy Survey) to determine how the kinematical properties of galaxies influence galaxy evolution. S/He will establish if morphological transformations are always driven by a change in the kinematical properties of galaxies and will quantify the link between stellar and gas kinematics and star formation efficiency in galaxies across environments. This project is mainly observational, and the student will acquire skills in reduction and interpretation of multi-wavelength data. Moreover, the student will have the opportunity to collaborate with the theory group at ICRAR to compare his/her findings with the predictions from the most advanced cosmological simulations.

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Quantifying the importance of gas kinematics in the evolution of galaxies

Determining the physical processes that regulate the formation of new stars out of cold gas clouds is clearly key to understanding galaxy formation and evolution. Despite tremendous progress in this field on both theoretical and observational fronts, there are still major unsolved issues. Particularly challenging is to understand what regulates the efficiency of the star formation process. Work carried out in the past decade indicates that the kinematical state of the star-forming gas (i.e., the balance between ordered and turbulent motions) might be crucial to answer these questions. Unfortunately, the link between star formation and turbulence is still unclear.

In this project, the student will use data from the SAMI Galaxy Survey to investigate the link between gas kinematics, star formation activity and gas content. S/he will quantify how the importance of ordered motions vary with galaxy properties and determine whether there is a casual connection between star formation, gas content and dynamical state of galaxies. This project is mainly observational, and the student will acquire skills in reduction and interpretation of multi-wavelength data. Moreover, the student will have the opportunity to collaborate with the theory group at ICRAR to compare his/her findings with the predictions from the most advanced cosmological simulations.

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Revealing the paths to galaxy retirement

Spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way are known to possess large reservoirs of cold gas, which fuel their on-going star formation. New stars are born in the molecular clouds that dot their spiral arms, adding to the populations of older stars that formed in the past. Eventually, galaxies should consume their gas and stop forming stars, becoming old and passive for the rest of their lives. Or so we thought. Our understanding of galaxy evolution has changed significantly in the past decade, as galaxies no longer appear to be following a one-way route from star-forming to quiescent systems. Instead, galaxies can go through various quenching and rejuvenation phases, or even delay their retirement by greedily holding to their gas, which is consumed at an exceedingly low rate. Thus, the paths leading to the end of the star formation activity have undoubtedly become one of the most outstanding puzzles in extragalactic astronomy.

In this project the student will be responsible for isolating the largest known sample to date of galaxies in transition between the star-forming and passive phase. By combining optical, ultraviolet, mid-infrared and radio data for hundreds of nearby galaxies, the student will try to reconstruct the paths that lead these galaxies to stop forming stars, shedding light on a unique population of galaxies, which holds the key to understanding what will be the ultimate fate of star formation in the local Universe.

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