Exoplanet Direct Imaging with the James Webb Space Telescope

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Solar systems like our own form within vast disks of gas and dust around newborn stars. The process of planetary growth cannot be understood only from study of mature systems - we need to observe the detailed in-situ physics of planet-forming disks themselves.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which at $10B USD is history's most expensive single astronomical project, is finally in operation. Our team are involved in three approved JWST proposals in Cycle 1 and Guaranteed Time Observations. We will observe disks spanning a range of ages, exploiting the only Australian-designed instrument on the spacecraft: the Aperture Masking Interferometer. 

As part of an ARC Discovery project co-led by the AMI designer Peter Tuthill (Sydney), we are offering a PhD project to work on JWST exoplanet imaging with AMI, and the related kernel phase and coronagraphy modes of JWST. We are especially interested in applying automatic differentiation and machine learning more generally to enhance images' fidelity and resolution, extending team member Louis Desdoigts' existing PhD work on the code dLux.

There is ample potential to take ownership of projects on AMI, coronagraphy, or kernel phase; applications of these methods to existing Hubble Space Telescope or future Roman Space Telescope data; and ground-based observations or simulations in support of this overall project.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Benjamin Pope

Faculty of Science

Email: b.pope@uq.edu.au

Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of exoplanet and stellar astronomy, interferometry, machine learning/Bayesian statistics, and/or Jax or other automatic differentiation frameworks would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of physics and astronomy and the potential for scholastic success.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 3, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process