Faculty of Science

Detecting nanohertz gravitational waves using pulsar timing arrays

This project will search for nanohertz gravitational waves from binaries of supermassive black holes using Australia-based Parkes Pulsar Timing Array data.

  1. Summary of the project
  2. Eligibility criteria
  3. Readings
  4. Contact the research team
  5. How to apply
  6. Scholarships

Summary of the project

A passing gravitational wave will affect the local space-time metric along the travel path of a radio wave emitted by a pulsar and can lead to observable fluctuations in its arrival time at the Earth. Pulsar timing arrays provide a unique means for the detection of gravitational waves from about 1 to 100 nanohertz. The first detection in this band is possible within a decade.  The Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA) in Australia observes 26 millisecond pulsars at 2-3 weeks interval with regular monitoring commenced early 2005.  PPTA is the world leader in nanohertz-frequency gravitational wave science.  PPTA and its international counterparts in Europe and North America have also joined together to form the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA) collaboration.

The prospect student will join the PPTA collaboration and work on the following aspects

  • Develop new methods to detect and localize gravitational waves in pulsar timing data
  • Analyze data from the Parkes telescope and from the IPTA to search for gravitational waves from binaries of supermassive black holes
  • Study the capacity of future radio telescopes, including FAST in China, and pathfinders for the Square Kilometer Array co-hosted in WA and South Africa in detecting gravitational waves and constraining the galaxy evolution model

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Eligibility criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

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Contact the research team leader

Once you have ensured that you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact the research team leader to identify a potential supervisor.
Research team leader: Professor Linqing Wen
I am the leader of the gravitational wave astronomy research group at School of Physics. My research interests include gravitational wave detection in audio and nanohertz band. I am interested in analytical and numerical modeling, algorithm design, supercomputing and multi-messenger astronomy.  My team is currently an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array collaboration.

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How to apply

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader you should be in a position to proceed to step two of the UWA application process: 'Lodge an application'.

Different procedures apply to domestic and international students.

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Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students

Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.

Forrest Foundation scholarships

All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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