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PhD and Honours - FAQ
Will I get paid?
Most PhD studentships are funded through scholarships from individual Universities or through grants from the Australian Research Coucil (ARC) to University supervisors. The Australian Astronomical Observatory manages a scheme of top-up scholarships for students at Australian universities who are substantially co-supervised by an AAO staff member. These grants will be $5000 per annum for 3 years. More details (including an application form) are available on our AAO PhD Scholarship Scheme webpage. For visiting undergraduate students, the AAO offers stipends through our AAO Student Fellowships and the Australian Gemini Undergraduate Summer Studentships. There are also Honours and Masters scholarships available. Access to the AAO's computer facilities, and office space at the AAO's Epping offices are provided to PhD/Honours students jointly supervised by AAO staff.
Will I get better access to AAT time?
Observing time on the AAT is awarded purely on the basis of scientific merit in a process of peer review of proposals - so in short, no. Having said that, AAO staff are extremely successful in competing for and winning time on both the AAT and other telescopes, so you will receive the best possible assistance in preparing winning proposals.
There are no hard and fast rules for establishing a joint supervision project. Every case is unique. Your University, however, will have guidelines for when you must select a project, and for the approval of projects (and supervisors) by the University.
The process for establishing a joint supervision project will usually go something like this
- Talk to your prospective AAO supervisor (in fact you should talk to several).
- Talk to your prospective University supervisor, or the supervisor of the PhD or Honours program at your University.
- Establish with the supervisor of the PhD or Honours program at your University that they are prepared to allow joint supervision.
- There will now be a phase where all three of you work out how the project will work, what hoops the University will require you all to go through, and when.
In general the earlier you start making contact with supervisors before your research project would be due to actually start, the better. For example, getting the ball rolling and talking to prospective supervisors in the July-November period before an Honours project starts in February (though not essential) would be a good idea (though exact timing seems to vary from University to University, with students in some departments choosing projects as late as the first week of the academic year).
PhD programs are generally organized somewhat earlier, with the Australian Postgraduate Award deadline of October 31 being a hard limit forcing students to at least choose what University they are going to do their degree at, which may also involve getting a feel for the kind of research they'd like to do. Once you are accepted for a PhD programme, if you are co-supervised by someone at the AAO you can then apply for one of the AAO top-up scholarships (worth $5000 per year for 3 years). The deadline for these is 15 March.
Please feel free to contact us here at the AAO to discuss your interests, concerns or problems. You can either contact a prospective supervisor directly, or make contact through Andrew Hopkins, the AAO's Head of Research and Outreach.