Ground-breaking research awarded ARC Laureate Fellowships

22 August 2014

Advances in our understanding of the brain using maths and physics concepts and the creation of a new Australian technology to discover the formation of galaxies will result from two Australian Laureate Fellowships awarded to the University of Sydney.

The outstanding research records of Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn and Professor Peter Robinson, both from the University's School of Physics, have been recognised with the highly prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) fellowships, announced today by the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne.

The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme supports ground-breaking, internationally competitive research that builds Australia's research capacity. It encourages innovative research considered essential to Australia's development of new ideas, job creation, economic growth and an enhanced quality of life.

The University of Sydney Fellowships will, combined, receive more than half a millions dollars in funding. Sixteen Fellowships have been awarded to researchers across Australia.

Congratulating both fellows, Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), said, "The Laureate scheme recognises the best research in Australia and from around the world. I am very pleased to see that two of our research leaders have received recognition of their work."

"Both Peter and Joss were Federation Fellows and it is a testament to the sustained excellence of their research and leadership that they have again been awarded the ARC's most prestigious fellowships. It is a wonderful thing for them individually, for those who will benefit from their mentorship and example, and for our University."

Professor Bland-Hawthorn's project looks at the unresolved question of how the gas that forms stars gets into dark matter halos to make galaxies, and why these galaxies spin. His fellowship project will assemble a team to build Hector, an Australian astronomical instrument that uses fibre bundles. Positioned by robots, they will be able to look at a hundred galaxies simultaneously for the first time.

Hector's imaging of 100,000 galaxies will be combined with new Australian radio observations.

"Australia is the world leader in using photonic technology to allow many galaxies to be seen in one go, but now the US is catching up fast. I am delighted that this fellowship will allow Australians to take another huge stride and dominate this field into the next decade," Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn said.

A transformation of our understanding of the structure and function of the brain as a complex physical system is the aim of Professor Robinson's research. It will reveal and unify new aspects of information processing and transitions in conscious state. Concepts and methods from physics and mathematics will be translated and applied.

The project will treat brain structure and dynamics together. Innovative predictions of brain phenomena will be verified against data and used to understand brain networks, dynamics, and the physical phenomena underlying information processing and consciousness.

Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn is an astrophysicist whose research interests include Galactic and extragalactic astronomy, and in developing astrophotonic instrumentation for telescopes and satellites.

His main area of interest in astrophysics is galactic archaeology. In 2003, he discovered the galaxy's superwind, recently confirmed by the NASA Fermi satellite, and first explained the origin of the mysterious 'high velocity clouds.'

Professor Peter Robinson works on a range of complex systems topics spanning brain dynamics, imaging, biological physics, computational neuroscience, plasmas, and other areas.

His core research focus is on interdisciplinary research with an emphasis on translation of results into real-world applications. This involves a range of theoretical, computational, and experimental collaborations, including strong commercial and industrial interactions. His industry involvement includes patents, collaborations, and the float of Brain Resource Ltd on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

Phone: 02 9351 4312

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