Since the 1950s, the work of the ANU Observatories has included an outstandingly successful graduate program. RSAA currently has about 30 PhD students; over one third of them international students. Stromlo graduates found in many of the world's major astronomical centres.
The PhD program offers students access to state-of-the-art optical, infra-red, radio, and computational facilities and draws on the expertise of some 40 RSAA astronomers, as well as researchers at CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility, the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and collaborators around the world.
The main research interests at RSAA include:
Theoretical work is currently being done in the fields of plasma and high energy astrophysics, stellar atmospheres, stellar and galactic evolution, galactic dynamics, and n-body simulation. RSAA also offers a PhD topics in astronomical instrumentation associated with instrumentation for optical and infrared telescopes. The RSAA is leading Australia's involvement in the Giant Magellan Telescope and developing an integral-field spectrograph and adaptive-optics solutions for the project.
RSAA operates the ANU 2.3m telescope at Siding Spring Observatory which is equipped with instrumentation for low- and high-resolution spectroscopy, and faint object imaging from near ultraviolet to infra-red wavelengths. The 1.3m SkyMapper telescope has been constructed at Siding Spring Observatory and will conduct an automated all-sky imaging survey of the southern sky.
Students at RSAA also have access to the 3.9-m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), the Parkes Radio Telescope, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array operated by CSIRO, in addition to international facilities such as the Gemini Observatory and Magellan telescopes. Powerful computing facilities are available for data acquisition and analysis, and theoretical model building.
The graduate program provides an excellent training for a career in many fields. Foremost, it is a preparation for research work in the discipline of astronomy itself. Most of the program's graduates proceed initially to a postdoctoral position (nearly always overseas) which broadens their range of research experience. After four to six years of postdoctoral work at a number of different places, it is quite usual for graduates to obtain a more permanent position, either at an observatory where the work is entirely research based, or at a university with the traditional mix of research and lecturing responsibilities.
The technological expertise acquired in the program is very marketable in other careers as well. A training in image processing, in instrument and computer applications, and in high-level problem solving, is widely applicable and highly valued in business and industry. Graduates of the program are found in meteorology, computer management, the chemical industry, business consultancy, banking and finance, and secondary school teaching.