SAO Instructors

Semester 1/Study Period 1, 2017

SAO has a variety of instructors from both the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing and from various institutions and observatories around the world. Not all instructors teach each semester.

To read about some of our instructors and their "astronomical inspiration" click here

We are currently organising our list of instructors for the next semester.

Note: This is a preliminary allocation and may change prior to semester start.
  • AST80005 Exploring the Solar System: Sarah Maddison and Adam Deller
  • Prof Sarah Maddison is a professor of astrophysics at the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology. Sarah has a BSc(Hons) in applied mathematics and a PhD in computational astrophysics, both from the Mathematics Department at Monash University. Her main areas of interest are star and planet formation, particularly the formation, evolution and dynamics of protoplanetary disks. She spends a lot of her time trying to understand how tiny grains grow to become planets and the observational signatures of (proto)planets in disks. She also studies planetary dynamics. Sarah has worked at New Mexico State University in the USA and at the Observatoire de Grenoble in France. At Swinburne Sarah is part of the Stars & Planets Group and her team work on a range of planet formation problems, using both numerical codes and large telescopes to study dust in planet-forming disks. For ten years Sarah was the SAO coordinator and in 2012 led the team to win a prestigious Citation Award from the Commonwealth Government and the 2012 Swinburne Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Award. Sarah is also involved in a range of outreach activities including AstroTour and Scientists in Schools. Sarah is the Dean of the School of Science.

    Dr Adam Deller is an ARC Future Fellow in the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing. "I explore the physics of compact objects (neutron stars and black holes) primarily by way of observations with radio telescopes. My current research focuses on uncovering the origin of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which are millisecond-duration radio flashes that originate in distant galaxies. We can compare the imprint of the intergalactic medium on the FRB signal against the distance to the FRB host galaxy, as measured with optical observations, and hence use FRBs as a unique probe of tenuous plasma in intergalactic space. Closer to home, I study neutron stars within the Milky Way galaxy, both in the form of radio pulsars, and X-ray binaries (where the neutron star is accreting gas from a companion object). I specialise in performing astrometry on these systems, using radio telescopes spread across continents to make carefully calibrated images with extremely high angular resolution. By repeatedly observing the systems over time, we can discern the tiny changes in position caused by the relative motion of the target source compared to the Earth, which includes the annual motion of the Earth around the Sun. The amplitude of this "parallax" depends inversely on the source distance, and provides a means to obtain an accurate and model-independent estimate of this distance. I have a background in electronic engineering and maintain an active interest in radio astronomy instrumentation. I have developed the "DiFX" distributed correlator that is used by a number of operational radio interferometers, and I am involved with a number of working groups contributing to the design of the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA)."

  • AST80001 Astrobiology and the Origins of Life : Jon Clarke
  • Dr Jonathan Clarke received his PhD from Flinders University in South Australia in 1988 for a thesis on the Early Cambrian geology of Wilkawillina Gorge in South Australia, an area known for some of the oldest metazoan reefs in Australia. Over the course of his career he has worked in the exploration, government, and university sectors. His work has covered mineral and energy exploration, regolith geosciences, marine geology, geomorphology and palaeontology. Jonathan has worked extensively in the Precambrian terrains of Australia, including the Pilbara, Yilgarn and Gawler Cratons, the Mt Isa region, and the Flinders Ranges. This has led to considerable exposure to the record of early life on Earth. He has contributed to over 100 peer-reviewed papers, the most cited of which include papers on the history of aridity in the Atacama Desert in South America, the significance of biogenic opal in the regolith, the evolution of the palaeodrainages of Western Australia, and inverted relief on Mars. Other papers have included research into Pilbara stromatolites and their significance to martian astrobiology. Jonathan has also edited “Mars analog research” (AAS, 2006), and contributed chapters on extraterrestrial aridity in the third edition of Extraterrestrial arid surface processes (Wiley, 2011), extraterrestrial regolith in the Regolith Textbook (CSIRO 2008) and to “Mars expedition planning” (AAS 2004). He is president of Mars Society Australia, an associate of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, and has spent three rotations at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. When he can, Jonathan enjoys scuba diving, reading, movies, and bushwalking.

  • AST80002 Astrophotography & CCD Imaging: Mel Hulbert
  • Melissa Hulbert completed a BSc. (Hons) in Physics at the University of Western Sydney, during which she worked as a night guide/lecturer at Sydney Observatory (part of the Powerhouse Museum) where she now works full-time as an Astronomy Educator. In between, she contributed a column to Lab News Magazine and then later spent some time as Assistant Editor on both Lab News and Today's Life Sciences Magazines. She is a member of the Australia Science Communicators and in 2000 she was part of the 'Science in the Pub' team that won an Australian Eureka Award for Science Promotion. Melissa also teaches astronomy courses at WEA through Sydney Observatory and for the past 15 years at the St George and Sutherland Community College. She has been an active member of Sutherland Astronomical Society for over 20 years with her main interest in astro-imaging. Ten years ago she initiated the formation of the astro-imaging group which she has just stepped down from coordinating. She is also a member of the Astronomical Society of NSW. Melissa's main interests have always been comets and eclipses, but if it's up there and not beyond the range of the equipment she's using then she's happy to snap its portrait. In the last few years Melissa has been learning to read and translate Egyptian hieroglyphs and has been able to combine this with her interest in archeoastronomy. When time allows, Melissa likes nothing better than spending time imaging the wonders of a clear, dark night sky with a few friends.

  • AST80003 Cosmology and the Large-scale Structure of the Universe: Michael Murphy
  • Prof Michael Murphy received a B.Sc.(Hons) in 1999 and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of New South Wales in 2003. He then worked as Research Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge (UK) from 2003 to mid-2007 before taking up a lectureship at the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology.

    Michael's research involves using quasars as background light sources to study the gas in and around galaxies, as well as the intergalactic medium, along the quasar line of sight from Earth. The 'circumgalactic' and intergalactic gas imprint characteristic absorption lines onto the quasar's spectrum; studies of these absorption lines therefore enables the extraction of detailed information about how galaxies accrete gas to form new stars and expel gas as massive stars explode. The absorption lines also carry information about fundamental physics in the distant galaxies. For example, Michael's research has focused on determining whether some of the so-called "fundamental constants of nature" are indeed constant or whether they vary over the huge cosmological time- and distance-scales between the galaxies and Earth. Michael typically gathers his quasar spectra using the world's largest optical telescopes, particularly the Keck and Subaru Telescopes in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescopes in Chile.

  • AST80015 Planetary Science: Kurt Liffman
  • Dr Kurt Liffman has a B.Sc.(Hons) in Mathematics from the University of Melbourne and PhD in astrophysics from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University (Houston, TX). Kurt has worked on problems related to the formation of the Solar System at NASA's Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX) and AMES Research Center (Mountain View, CA). Kurt also worked at the CSIRO, where he was affiliated with the astrophysics group at the Australia Telescope National Facility . He currently works at Swinburne as a research scientist and sessional lecturer at SAO. Kurt is also a visiting scientist at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

    Around two decades ago, Kurt and Michael J. I Brown published a theory suggesting that the some major components found in meteorites (and, possibly, the planets) were formed or reprocessed close to the early Sun and distributed through-out the early Solar System by bipolar jet flows or accretional flows that were produced close to the early Sun in the first few million years of the Solar System. This theory has obtained some preliminary observational confirmation with observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope that show exactly this process occurring in the protostellar systems Ex Lup and HOPS 68. Kurt is currently working with Prof. Sarah Maddison (Swinburne) and the Swinburne planetary science/astrophysics group on projects to better understand how Stellar Systems are formed.

  • AST80017 (formerly HET610) Studies in Space Exploration: Andrew McGrath
  • Dr Andrew McGrath is a senior research fellow in Airborne Research Australia, a research institute forming part of the School of the Environment at Flinders University in South Australia. He has worked in defence contracting (passive microwave sensing), the UK Met Office (remote sensing group, working with air- and spaceborne microwave sensing instruments and working in such exotic locations as Ascension Island and the North Pole), and the Anglo-Australian Observatory (developing optical/NIR instrumentation for large astronomical telescopes around the world). Andrew has Batchelors degrees in Applied Mathematics and Electrical/Electronic Engineering from the University of Adelaide, and a PhD in remote sensing instrumentation from the Flinders University of South Australia (1998).

    In his current role since 2009, he works with all phases of remote sensing data collection and processing, including operating the instrumentation and piloting Flinders' research aircraft on scientific missions across Australia. He spends much of his time processing and calibrating hyperspectral and lidar data collected from these aircraft.

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