The lifecycle of supermassive black holes

Degree type


Closing date

1 July 2023



Citizenship requirement


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 the radio jets and the surrounding gas in both the host galaxy and larger-scale galaxy cluster. Calibrated RAiSE models will be applied to next generation surveys from Australian and international SKA pathfinders to constrain the duty cycle of jet activity and feedback, and form the basis of techniques to constrain the distance to these objects.

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 Dr Ross Turner


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 $31,500 per annum (2023 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.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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, applied mathematics, or a closely related area
  • Scientific programming experience ideally in Python or C/C++
  • Proficiency in advanced mathematics units including differential equations and numerical methods
  • 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 any of: high performance computing, computational fluid dynamics, radio astronomy

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Ross Turner to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • 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.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 1 July 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

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

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