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Scholarship details

2023 HDR Curtin round - Relativistic jets from feeding black holes in our Galaxy

Status: Closed

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

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About this scholarship

The release of gravitational potential energy as matter falls onto a compact object such as a black hole powers the most energetic phenomena in the Universe, allowing us to study higher energies and stronger gravitational fields than could ever be reproduced in a laboratory here on Earth.

As matter falls in towards a black hole, some fraction of the infalling material can be diverted outwards in powerful oppositely directed jets moving at close to the speed of light. The jets carry away large amounts of the gravitational energy released by the black hole, which they then deposit into the surrounding environment. The high-energy particles within the jets emit synchrotron radiation, which can be studied using radio telescopes such as the upcoming Square Kilometre Array and its existing precursor facilities in Australia and South Africa.

The jets from the most massive, rapidly-feeding black holes at the centres of galaxies, known as quasars, are powerful enough to affect the evolution of their host galaxies, and even the galaxy clusters in which they reside. However, such massive systems evolve slowly. This makes it difficult to study the physics linking the launching of powerful jets and the inflow of gas in the accretion flow that feeds them.

Happily, smaller, stellar-mass black holes in our own Milky Way galaxy are governed by similar physics, but evolve on much faster timescales (days and weeks rather than millennia). These so-called ‘microquasars’ act as excellent probes of the physics governing the link between accretion and outflow around black holes. We can study explosive outbursts of these systems as they evolve in real time, providing new insights into their radiative and kinetic feedback. These insights can then further our understanding of feedback processes from the supermassive black holes in quasars.

In this project, you will work as part of a large international team conducting multi-wavelength observational studies of the explosive outbursts of stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars in X-ray binary systems. You will use ground-based and space-based astronomical facilities to measure the physical properties of these powerful events, determine how they evolve, and ascertain how the changing conditions in the inflow lead to the launching of relativistic jets.

To probe the jets launched by these stellar-mass compact objects, you will use a range of radio telescopes in Australia and around the world. These could include the Square Kilometre Array precursor facilities, namely the Curtin-led Murchison Widefield Array in Western Australia, and the South African MeerKAT telescope. The large volumes of data generated by these facilities will require the use of high-performance computers (available via the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre) to analyse the observations.

Using these telescopes, you will work with spectral line data, multi-wavelength photometry, and polarization observations to determine the jet properties. This will be coupled with results from high angular resolution imaging observations from Australian and international telescopes. These rich data sets will allow you to determine the jet properties, and understand how the jets carry energy outwards and deposit it into the surroundings. Such studies will pave the way for the higher-sensitivity, higher-resolution observations that will be carried out in the coming years by the Square Kilometre Array and other upcoming international telescopes. 

An Internship opportunity may also be available with this project.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Science courses
    • Engineering courses
    • Western Australian School of Mines (WASM)
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • International Student
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.


Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at approx. $28,800 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022. 


For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

The successful applicant will have a good grasp of basic astrophysics, at advanced undergraduate level. They will have prior research experience (e.g. at Honours or Masters level) in astronomy or a closely-related field, and will have experience using programming languages such as Python. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Professor James Miller-Jones via the EOI form above.

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