• The University of Western Australia (M468), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth

    Australia

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Personal profile

Biography

Simon received his PhD from the University of Tasmania in 1996. He was promoted to Professor in Physics in 2015 and was the Dean of School for the School of Natural Sciences from July 2019-March 2024.  He commenced as Executive Director at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in April 2024. 

Roles and responsibilities

  • Executive Director (ICRAR)
  • Chair of Astronomy Australia Limited's Industry Engagement Advisory Committee
  • Chair of Working Group 3.4 (Research Funding) for National Committee For Astronomy Decadal Plan 2026-2035

Research interests

Simon's major areas of research are in the formation of massive stars, in particular through the study of interstellar masers. He has used the a continental-scale array of radio telescopes to make measurements of the scale and structure of the Milky Way with unprecedented accuracy. He has also been working with research and industry partners to enable them to develop unique sovereign space domain awareness capability.

Current projects

The Dark-side of the Milky Way: Australian Research Council Discovery Project ($432,000); Astronomers have long sought to determine the 3-dimensional structure of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, with limited success owing to its immense size and obscuration by dust at optical wavelengths. We know more about structure of tens of thousands of other galaxies than we do about the structure of the Milky Way on the far-side of the Galactic Centre. This program will use Australian infrastructure to make the most accurate distance measurements to date of the far-side of the Milky Way visible from the Southern hemisphere, completing the 3- dimensional picture of our Galaxy. These results will be leveraged to yield accurate distances, providing fundamental information on the stellar masses, luminosities, and ages. 
 
Next-level, Robotic Telescope-based Observing Experiences to Boost STEM Enrolments and Majors on a National Scale: US Department of Defence ($500k); The Skynet Robotic Telescope Network operates out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and includes more than two dozen telescopes in five different countries, spread over four continents. It consists mainly of small optical telescopes, but as part of a STEM education program funded by the US Department of Defence they are looking to expand their network of radio telescopes to Australia. This interface can be used to provide access to astronomical research facilities for groups from middle-school through to professional astronomers. 

Industrial relevance

Simon has had a long involvement of working with industry partners to utilise astronomical research infrastrcture for niche activities. This has included using radiotelescopes to support communications for both scienctific and commercial space missions. Since 2018 Simon has been working in collaboration with the Australian Space Agency to improve Australia’s capability to support space missions. This includes the construction of a new dedicated satellite tracking antenna at the Greenhill observatory at Bisdee Tier in the southern-midlands of Tasmania. Simon has also been working with HENSOLDT Australia to develop unique sovereign space domain awareness capabilities.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Education/Academic qualification

Astrophysics, PhD, Class II Methanol Masers in Star Formation Regions, University of Tasmania

Award Date: 5 Apr 2024

Industry keywords

  • Space
  • Defence

Research expertise keywords

  • Star formation
  • Galactic strucutre
  • interstellar masers
  • very long baseline interferometry
  • Space Domain Awareness

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