The lifecycle of supermassive black hole jets

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Supermassive black holes residing at galaxy centres are responsible for the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. Known as Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), these objects launch relativistic magnetohydrodynamic jets which accelerate particles to energies several orders of magnitude higher than those achievable at the Large Hadron Collider. Energy input from AGN jets has fundamentally re-shaped the cosmic history of the Universe, by regulating the heating-cooling cycles of intergalactic gas – the material used to build up stars and planets.

Despite their importance, much remains unknown about the physics of these objects. Fortunately, their synchrotron emission is observable with radio telescopes. In the 2020s, observations with Square Kilometre Array (SKA) pathfinder telescopes will increase the number of known AGN jets more than ten-fold. However, the mapping between physical and observable jet properties is highly non-linear. A major outstanding challenge will therefore be in interpreting these observations.

This project will use the Radio AGN in Semi-Analytic Environments (RAiSE) model to address this issue. Developed at UTAS over the past decade, RAiSE is arguably the most realistic and successful analytical model internationally, accurately describing the dynamical evolution, feedback and radio emission from AGN jets. RAiSE is therefore the ideal tool for interpreting huge (>10 million objects) samples from SKA pathfinders, a task well beyond the more detailed hydrodynamic simulations due to their computational cost. The successful candidate will develop a new generation of the RAiSE model, incorporating the complex interplay between radio jet and lobe dynamics, and the jets’ interaction with the surrounding gas. Calibrated RAiSE models will be applied to next generation surveys from Australian and international SKA pathfinders, and constrain the duty cycle of jet activity and feedback.

This project will be performed in collaboration with colleagues from CSIRO, University of Hertfordshire (UK), and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON).

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Stas Shabala


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements and the following additional eligibility criteria specific to this project:

  • Applications are open to applicants with an Honours or Masters degree in physics, astronomy, or a closely related area

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Honours or Masters degree in physics, astronomy, or a closely related area
  • Capacity for critical thinking and quantitative problem solving
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in High Performance Computing, computational fluid dynamics, Python or C coding, and/or radio astronomy

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, A/Prof Stas Shabala, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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