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Scholarship details

2024 RTP round - All-sky real-time searches for low-frequency Fast Radio Bursts

Status: Closed

Applications open: 7/07/2023
Applications close: 25/08/2023

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) are one of the most intriguing transient phenomena discovered just over 15 years ago. Recent localisations and redshift measurements of several FRBs confirmed their extragalactic origin and extreme energies of the order of 10^39 ergs, which are typically emitted over an interval of just a few ms. However, full understanding of FRB sources and physical mechanisms powering these extreme events still awaits full explanation. FRBs were discovered and initially observed at frequencies around 1.4 GHz but in the last few years several FRBs have been detected down to very low frequencies (event 110-MHz). Multiple detections by Candian CHIME telescope extending down to 400 MHz, the LOFAR detections of FRB 20180916B down to 110 MHz, and Green Bank Telescope discovery of FRB 20200125A at 350 MHz demonstrate that there exists a population of FRBs, which can be detected at frequencies below 350 MHz. Predictions based on the data from other low and high frequency instruments show that it may be possible to detect even hundreds of FRBs per year in all-sky images using just a single station of the low-frequency Square Kilometre Array (SKA-Low). Hence, the main goal of the project is to use the existing prototype station of SKA-Low, Engineering Development Array 2 (EDA2) to perform an all-sky survey of low-frequency FRBs. Depending on specific interests of the candidate the project can be steered more towards Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), as similar data processing and analysis techniques are applicable to both. 

The new SKA-Low stations, currently being built at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, open a possibility of using them for all-sky FRB and SETI surveys. Thus, the main goal of the project is to demonstrate this capability using the EDA2 station and perform an all-sky FRB survey, detect FRBs in all-sky images, and interpret the results. Even if no FRBs are detected, the project will firmly establish the daily rate of FRBs at low radio frequencies, which is currently highly uncertain. Both detections or non-detections of low-frequency FRBs will have meaningful scientific interpretation and will help to better understand the progenitors and local environments of FRBs.  Finally, successful demonstration of this capability will justify deployment of similar real-time systems on the future stations of the SKA-Low telescope. 

Develop real-time image-based software pipeline for Fast Radio Burst (FRB) searches in images of the entire visible hemisphere. Deploy this pipeline on EDA2 and perform real-time searches over thousands of hours in order to detect low-frequency FRBs. Analyse and interpret the results, i.e., either positive detections or non-detections. Firmly establish the daily rate of FRBs which can be detected at low radio frequencies. Contribute low-frequency data to multi-wavelength observation campaigns of FRBs, gravitational wave events and gamma-ray bursts, which will ultimately lead to explanation of these (possibly closely related) astrophysical transients. 

Although, dish radio telescopes (operating at GHz frequencies) in Australia (Parkes and ASKAP) have been in the forefront of the FRB research, there have not been positive detections of FRBs with Australian low-frequency telescopes such as Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) or prototype stations of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA-Low). Nevertheless, these instruments with their huge fields of views (FoVs) have massive potential for FRB science. Moreover, due to southern sky location and frequency coverage they have access to an unexplored parameter space. Due to small number of low-frequency FRB detections to date, every single low-frequency FRB "counts", as it provides new insights into these mysterious events leading to scientific breakthroughs and resulting in high impact publications (Nature or Science). 

This project may provide an internship opportunity. Please discuss with the project lead for more information.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Science courses
    • Engineering courses
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • 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 at the 2023 RTP rate valued at $32,250 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3 years, with a possible 6-month completion scholarship. Applicants are determined via a competitive selection process and will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2023. 

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

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

The main  focus of the project will be on data analysis and physical interpretation of the all-sky FRB or SETI survey, and we look for candidates with strong problem solving, data analysis, and  software programming skills. Candidates with interests in software programming (GPU programming) and/or algorithms are also encouraged to apply as they will be able to contribute to acceleration and optimisation of highly computationally demanding FRB and SETI searches. The specific software skills we are looking for include:
- Experience in Linux environment
- Programming in scripting languages such as Python, bash or other
- Software programming in C/C++ or other object oriented languages

Desirable skills include :
- Parallel programming
- Programming Graphical Processing Units (GPUs)
- High-Performance Computing (HPC)

The eligible candidate is expected to have completed Honours, Masters or an equivalent degree either in Astronomy/Physics, Computing or a related field by the time of the commencement. Documented prior experience in software programming and computing from the University lectures/tutorials, final degree project, industry experience or other avenues is particularly desired.

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. ahead of the closing date. Please note you should apply as soon as possible, as once a suitable candidate has been identified this opportunity will no longer be available to receive an EOI.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2024.

Recipients must complete their milestone 1 within 6 month of enrolment and remain enrolled on a full-time basis for the duration of the scholarship.


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead  Marcin Sokolowski  via the EOI form above.

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