SAO Instructors

Semester 2/Study Period 3, 2019

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

Note: This is a preliminary allocation and may change prior to semester start.
  • AST80004 Exploring Stars and the Milky Way: Giovanna Pugliese
  • Dr Giovanna Pugliese received her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Bonn, working on high energy neutrinos and theoretical modelling of GRBs at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. She received her Master in Physics from La Sapienza University in Rome, working on high energy cosmic rays and neutrinos, and her Master in Astronomy from the University of Bologna, working on astroparticle physics. Her fields of research range from the modelling and photometric study of GRBs and their link to UHE cosmic rays and neutrinos, to Adaptive Optics photometry of Galactic globular clusters, to the spectroscopic study of extragalactic GCs and stellar populations. After working as a researcher at several universities both in California and in Europe (UCSC, ESO, Utrecht university, Radboud university in Nijmegen), she is now a researcher at API, the astronomy department at UvA, the university of Amsterdam. At API she works in the GRBs group that study the environment / galaxies in which high redshift GRBs occur. During the last 10 years, she has also been involved in astronomy outreach and activities to bring her knowledge into schools.

  • AST80005 Exploring the Solar System: 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.

  • AST80008 History of Astronomy: Katrina Sealey and Peter Verwayen
  • Dr Katrina Sealey studied astrophysics at UNSW receiving her PhD in 1997. Katrina's major focus was in observational cosmology and she has spent considerable time observing on optical telescopes all over the world including Australia, Chile and La Palma, undertaking her southern sky quasar survey. During these years Katrina gained specialist astronomical IT skills resulting in her recent appointment as the Australian Astronomical Observatory's IT Manager. Katrina shares her time between the AAO offices in North Ryde and the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran.Over the last 20 years Katrina has also worked as an astronomy educator at Sydney Observatory and has taught many general and undergraduate astronomy courses, and for the past 10 years, Katrina has taught the SAO Short Course. Katrina has a keen personal interest in the History of Astronomy and is about to begin her own research into some historically significant astronomical sights in Australia and around the world.

    Peter Verwayen has degrees and post graduate qualifications in Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and has undertaken specialist studies in Cryogenics, Optics and Astronomical Instrumentation through ANU, UNSW and NASA. Peter worked for the ANU at Siding Spring Observatory as the Technical Operations Manager for the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He is actively involved in astronomy outreach and has worked at Sydney Observatory as an astronomy guide and educator. Peter has taught astronomy courses over the last 25 years and is currently working at the University of Sydney where he teaches undergraduate physics and manages the Physics Teaching Laboratories. He is also undertaking his PhD in Theoretical Cosmology studying the nature of gravity. Peter has a keen interest in archaeoastronomy and likes nothing more than travelling around Australia, and the world visiting historical astronomical sites.

  • AST80011 Major Project: Computational Astrophysics : Adam Deller
  • A/Prof Adam Deller studied electronic engineering at Swinburne University as an undergraduate before receiving a PhD in astrophysics from Swinburne in 2009. Since then, he has been awarded postdoctoral fellowships at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ( and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy before taking up a staff astronomer position at ASTRON and then returning Swinburne as a staff member.

    His research focuses on the physics of compact objects (neutron stars and black holes) primarily by way of observations with radio telescopes. A current focus is uncovering the origin of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which are enormously powerful millisecond-duration radio flashes that appear to be generated outside our own Galaxy. Closer to home, he also studies 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). His specialty is performing astrometry on these systems, using radio telescopes spread across continents to make carefully calibrated images with extremely high angular resolution. This links with his interest in radio astronomy instrumentation: he has developed the "DiFX" distributed correlator that is used by a number of operational radio interferometers, and is involved with a number of working groups contributing to the design of the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

  • AST80013 Major Project - Observational Astronomy: 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 Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) where she now works full-time as an Astronomy Programs Coordinator. 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 and the St George and Sutherland Community College. She has been an active member of Sutherland Astronomical Society for over 15 years with her main interest in astro-imaging. She initiated the formation of the Astro-Imaging group which she coordinated for ten years before stepping down at the end of 2014. 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. 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.

  • AST80016 Stellar Astrophysics: Duncan Forbes
  • Prof Duncan Forbes has been a faculty member in the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing since August 2000. A New Zealander, who did his PhD at Cambridge, Duncan has also spent time at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Lick Observatory in California and most recently as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham in England. Over the years, he has worked on various aspects of galaxy evolution with a recent fondnes for globular clusters in external galaxies.

  • AST80018 Tools of Modern Astronomy : Tayyaba Zafar

    Dr Tayyaba Zafar has done her PhD in astrophysics from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark working on spectroscopy of Gamma-ray busts and quasar absorbers. She works on studying the Interstellar medium of distant galaxies by studying the presence of gas, metals and dust together with their interactions. After her PhD she worked with Laboratorie d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France, European Southern Observatory, Germany, and Australian Astronomical Observatory, Australia. She is currently working as a lecturer at Australian Astronomical Optics, Macquarie University, Australia. She has observed on various optical/near-infrared telescopes and had served as a support astronomer for the European Southern Observatory/ Very Large Telescope and Australian Astronomical Telescope. She is capable of using X-ray, UV, optical and near-infrared data. She has a keen interest in astronomy and astronomy outreach.

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