Things that Go Bump in the Night

Optical Transient Follow-up of Microlensing Planets and Gravitational Wave Sources from Tasmania

Degree type


Closing date

10 October 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Gravitational microlensing explores a unique niche: discovering cold planets down to Earth mass orbiting around any kind of star (including stellar remnants), at any distance towards the galactic centre, rogue planets & exomoons orbiting planets. These are in very different environments from most known exoplanets, allowing key tests of planet formation theory. We are entering a new era, with focus on planets around stellar remnants, objects in the outer disk of our galaxy and lone black holes, but also preparation for future satellite missions to characterise exoplanets such as JWST, Roman, and Ariel.

The candidate will use UTAS facilities to undertake microlensing follow-up work to discover and characterise the parameters of exoplanet systems in the solar neighbourhood and/or the central regions of the Milky Way. They will start by contributing to the development of the pipeline  of operation for the new fast 50 cm robotic telescope, for fast response to transient phenomenon, microlensing (from GAIA, OGLE, MOA, KMTnet), Gamma Ray Burst or Gravitational Waves alerts.

The next observing run of the LIGO Advanced Gravitational Wave detector is scheduled to begin in the first quarter or 2023. Because of the far southern location of the UTAS Greenhill Observatory, the candidate will be in a unique position to provide optical follow-up observations aimed at detecting the electromagnetic counterparts of these events. This work has strong complementarity with the microlensing follow-up observations. By the very essence of the transient search work, should black holes, white dwarfs be detected in the process, it is very likely that they will become the focus of the thesis work.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Andrew Cole


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 $28,854 per annum (2022 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.

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 degree in physics, astronomy, or a closely-related field

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in scientific computing

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Andrew Cole to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 2 x 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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