Dr Paul Scully-Power AM, DSM, NSM

Dr Paul Scully-Power

Image credit: Evert Ploeg

At the recent ArtSS in the City event held in the Museum of Contemporary Art we were delighted to welcome Australia’s first astronaut Dr Paul Scully-Power AM, DSM, NSM (BSc, DipEd, DSc), who joined us to hear about new research and ideas in the humanities and social sciences. Dr Scully-Power – who had a particularly close involvement with the debating society while studying at the University of Sydney - was the first Australian-born person to journey into space. His passion for continually learning new skills has underpinned the crucial life competences necessary for a career of such high achievement. Indeed, his views about the importance of lifelong learning and career adaptability are extremely relevant for students and graduates of the Faculty.

Dr Paul Scully-Power is now an integrator, strategist and orthogonal thinker with extensive international experience in industry, government and academia. Operating out of Washington DC he is well known for his network of people and institutions around the world. A leader in applying technology, he has broad expertise in defense, security and intelligence, aviation and aerospace, and systems analysis and ICT. An expert in remote sensing - visible, infrared, radar and acoustic - he has worked closely with the intelligence community. He is currently engaged in cybersecurity, nano technology, secure communications, space sensors, and international government relations.

His awards include the US Navy Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Space Medal, Casey Baldwin Medallion of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, United States Presidential Letter of Commendation, US Congressional Certificate of Merit, United Nations Association Distinguished Service Award, Laureate of the Albatross in oceanography, Order of the Decibel in acoustics, and Australia's highest aviation award, the Oswald Watt Gold Medal. He is a Member of the Order of Australia and a Grand Officer of the Star of Ethiopia. A larger than life-size oil painting of Dr Scully-Power hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Australia.

1. What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
There are many happy memories, but perhaps the most poignant are the one-on-one interactions with the Professors, the SRC, the Debating Society, and being part of the University community. I was very fortunate in having an office in the Maths Department as an undergraduate.

2. Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
The most impressive was Professor T.G Room, the Head of the School of Mathematics. I recall him walking across the campus in full regalia of a DSc, and thought that I would never attain such status.

3. What is your proudest achievement?
Most would assume going up into space, but I am very fortunate in that I have been blessed with many opportunities. To have been able to have an impact on technology in the broadest possible sense with applications across the board both nationally and internationally is most satisfying.

4. Who inspires you?
The most impressive person who I have met is Stephen Hawking when I was at Cambridge. His mind is “mind boggling” and his ability to be able to communicate using only two fingers to activate a computer that produces a synthetic voice is an inspiration to all.

5. Tell us more about yourself and how you ultimately became Australia’s First Astronaut
I was fortunate in being sent on exchange from the Australian Navy to the US Navy. At that time I was already a Principal Investigator for a NASA program, and had the opportunity of working with Dr Bob Stevenson at the Office of Naval Research. Bob was a scientific instructor in the Astronaut Office, and took me under his wing. The rest is history.

6. What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?
When you come to a fork in the road – take it. Have fun, and to thine own self be true.

7. What has been the most memorable success you have had?
I have been blessed with an outstanding family of wife Frannie and six children.

8. What are your plans for the future?
To find the lost city of Atlantis. I would also like to contribute in a meaningful way to the advancement of Australia as a nation.

9. What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Change is the only constant. You will probably have about seven different jobs in your career. Graduating from the University of Sydney is the first step. You will need to keep up academically, learn new skills, and apply yourself across a broad range of new endeavours.