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Scholarship details

2024 RTP round - A PanRadio view of the most powerful cosmic explosions

Status: Closed

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

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About this scholarship

 Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most powerful explosions in the Universe. The bright flash of gamma-ray light is caused by the death of a massive star that forms a black hole, launching material at near the speed of light in the form of a jet. This outflow gathers up all the surrounding gas and dust, giving rise to shocks that produce an “afterglow” that is detectable from radio to very high-energy gamma rays. While GRB afterglows have been well studied from optical to gamma-ray wavelengths, only a few have comprehensive and early-time radio coverage. However, radio observations of the afterglow are crucial for understanding the physics of the jet and the lifecycle of the progenitor star. Additionally, the most interesting physics often occurs within minutes to hours of the explosion but few radio telescopes are capable of being on target fast enough to capture the earliest radio light that GRBs emit. Luckily, our international team led by the primary supervisor of this project has been awarded over 500 hours of observing time on the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) to perform radio follow-up observations of all GRBs discovered in the Southern Hemisphere skies. This is the first of a 3-year observing program called “PanRadio GRB”. The PhD candidate will have the opportunity to observe with ATCA and collect exciting radio datasets on multiple GRBs in order to explore jet physics and untangle the early-time radio properties of these powerful events. 

Use ATCA to collect high quality radio observations of a large sample of GRBs to study the true prevalence of radio afterglow emission from GRBs and perform comprehensive multi-wavelength afterglow modelling from radio to gamma-ray wavelengths. These results will probe jet physics in its most extreme regime, allowing us to explore how the physical properties of relativistic astrophysical outflows evolve with time. 

The PhD student will use ATCA to observe and study the radio afterglow of multiple GRBs over the lifetime of the three-year PanRadio GRB program. They will make use of the newly upgraded “rapid response observing mode” on ATCA to perform automated and rapid radio follow-up of all new GRBs detected with the Swift Burst Alert Telescope, a satellite dedicated to detecting new GRBs. On receiving an alert from Swift, ATCA will repoint and begin observing the GRB within minutes of its discovery, allowing us to catch the earliest radio light emitted by these powerful events. The student will help to develop data processing pipelines that will ensure the rapid dissemination of radio afterglow detections to the wider team, who have linked telescope proposals that will provide follow-up across the electromagnetic spectrum. Such a program will connect the student with international astronomers that will allow them to grow their own collaborations. On collecting comprehensive radio and multiwavelength data sets on GRBs, the student will perform afterglow modelling that will reveal the underlying shock physics, with a particular focus on the radio emission emitted at the very earliest times. 

The ATCA rapid-response system is an innovative observing mode that few radio telescopes possess. The primary supervisor of this project is the only current user of the system (having been involved in its development), which can be used to study the very earliest light emitted by transients (explosive and out bursting astronomical objects). As a result, this is an extremely underexplored and therefore exciting regime. Indeed, the radio band is critical for understanding the full GRB relativistic outflow mechanics, which is still poorly understood. The primary supervisor has been awarded a Large Observing program of >500 hrs on ATCA to collect multi-wavelength, high-cadence radio datasets on a large sample of GRBs. We plan for this program (PanRadio GRB) to run for 3 years and will more than double the number of GRBs with comprehensive radio to gamma-ray afterglow modelling. Overall, this program will continue to strengthen Curtin’s growing dominance in the field of radio transient astrophysics, particularly using instruments such as ATCA. 

  • 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 ATCA has recently undergone an upgrade, allowing the student opportunities to be involved in software and pipeline problem-solving and development, and will involve collaboration with International astronomers in the GRB field and radio transient astrophysics. Experience in observational techniques, particularly in radio astronomy, coding and scripting languages, and scientific writing are preferable. We are also looking for a candidate who enjoys a computational challenge with strong programming and problem-solving skills. 

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 Gemma Anderson via the EOI form above.

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