PhD scholarships - Understanding diversity: chemokinematic tracers of galaxy evolution

University of Queensland


September 27, 2021


PhD scholarships - Understanding diversity: chemokinematic tracers of

galaxy evolution

Apply now Job No:516178 Area:Faculty of Science Salary (FTE):RTP Scholarship NON-BANDED ($28,597.00 - $28,597.00) Work type:Full Time - Scholarship Location: St Lucia

Research Environment

UQ ranks in the top 50 as measured by the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University also ranks 46 in the QS World University Rankings, 42 in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings, 66 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 54 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The award

Supervisor – Dr Sarah Sweet

Understanding galaxy formation and evolution is a fundamental unresolved goal of Astrophysics today. Three of the six major questions outlined in the Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy 2016–2025 advance the field of galaxy evolution: ‘How do galaxies form?', ‘What is the nature of dark matter?', ‘How are elements recycled through galaxies?' These questions can be summed up in the specific motivation for this project, ‘How do the clumpy, irregular galaxies at the peak of cosmic star formation (cosmic high noon) become the familiar Hubble types we see today?'

The aim of these projects is to understand the fundamental physics behind the morphological evolution of galaxies. We are investigating the angular momentum and chemical abundance across the face of galaxies throughout the Universe, to construct a framework of chemokinematic diagnostics that can trace the evolution of galaxies of all kinds.

There are two PhD projects on offer.

Project 1 is on galaxy angular momentum. A galaxy's morphology is quantified by the ratio of light in its central bulge compared with total luminosity. This 'bulge-to-total ratio' works reasonably well for nearby, well-resolved and regular galaxies, but not as well for distant galaxies which are more difficult to observe and are more often clumpy and irregular. The distribution of angular momentum within a galaxy fundamentally encodes information about that galaxy's evolution and morphology and consequently is a new physically-grounded method for classifying galaxies. This project involves developing this classification method for galaxies of all morphological types and at all redshifts.

Project 2 is on chemical abundance diagnostics. Chemical content is an important signature of a galaxy's lifecycle, as the buildup of elements from hydrogen and helium to heavier 'metals' is intimately linked to its history of star formation. There are two equally-justifiable methods for measuring chemical content based on regions of active star formation within galaxies, but the methods are not properly calibrated, so they do not agree. Moreover, they are valid in different regimes, so that we cannot accurately compare distant galaxies with those nearby, or massive galaxies with small ones. This project involves working with 3D spectroscopic data to obtain a complete three-dimensional picture of star-forming regions, and recalibrate the chemical content measurements.

A working knowledge of programming languages such as Python and/or R would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Selection criteria

To be eligible to apply, you must also meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ.

This scholarship is open to Australian citizens, permanent residents and International students who are currently in Australia at the time of application and commencement.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of astrophysics and the potential for scholastic success.


The 2022 Research Training Program (RTP) living allowance stipend rate is AUD$28,854 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for 3.5 years, with the possibility of 1 extension in line with UQ and RTP Scholarship Policy (conditions apply).


For further information, please contact Dr Sarah Sweet at 0402 089 803

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

  • check your eligibility
  • prepare your documentation
  • contact Dr Sarah Sweet ( to discuss your suitability for this scholarship
  • When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  • Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative'
  • Select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'.
  • Select ‘Other', then ‘Research Project Scholarship' and type in ‘GALAXY-SWEET' in the 'Name of scholarship' field.
  • See an example of what you have to do

    Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

    Applications close: 27 September 2021 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time


    Advertised: 15 Sep 2021 Applications close: 27 Sep 2021 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time

    Apply now

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