Northern stars return home

23 May 2003

World class Australian scientists working in Europe and the US will return to Australia for up to three months to share their expertise under a pilot program proposed by Sydney alumnus Bryan Gaensler, the former Young Australian of the Year.

Under the scheme, sponsored by the University of Sydney, the CSIRO and the NSW Department of Education and Training, the scientists will carry out joint research at the University and CSIRO during the northern hemisphere summer break, and work with high school students in NSW.

The first two academics selected for the NSW Residency Expatriate Scientists Awards Project are Dr Theo ten Brummelaar and Professor Paul Franzon.

Dr Brummelaar, Associate Director of the Centre for High Angular Resolution Astronomy at the Mt Wilson Observatory in California, part of Georgia State University, gained his PhD from the University of Sydney in 1994 and was a key player in the development of the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI) at Narrabri.

"In the burgeoning field of optical/IR interferometry, SUSI and CHARA should be regarded as sister instruments," Dr Brummelaar said. "A collaboration between the two groups will yield more fruitful science than either group can achieve in isolation."

Paul Franzon is professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University. A winner of Science magazine's Breakthrough of 2001, he is an international leader in nanoengineering and molecular memories. He will be working with the Molecular Electronic Group in the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney and others. Bryan Gaensler, currently an assistant professor at Harvard's Department of Astronomy, said: "Together with other card-carrying members of the brain drain, we have come to the conclusion that there is often an unresolvable dichotomy between the professional opportunities on offer overseas and the cultural and lifestyle attractions of the homeland.

"Most people never resolve this dilemma - they either long to return home but never do so, or give up a lot of their professional ambitions in order to get back to Australia.

"The return fellowship program allows excellent expatriate scientists to maintain professional connections with Australia, and lets Australian institutes benefit from the considerable overseas expertise and connections of our expatriates. Everybody wins."

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