TSP: Inspirer and the Inspired

Alison Hammond
Inspired TSP student

Her first year TSP project in physics inspired Alison Hammond to change the course of her studies in her double degree of Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Law, to end up majoring in and doing her Honours year in physics.

“I had originally planned to double-major in history and maths within my Bachelor of Arts degree and I thought I would probably do Honours in history. By midway through second year, though, I was enjoying physics more – largely due to my first year TSP project, so I decided to pursue a major in physics,” said Alison.

“By the end of second year, I'd pretty much decided to do Honours in physics, having had another good TSP project experience.”

Alison became interested in astronomy in Year 12 as she completed the HSC Cosmology distinction course. Finding that astronomy is a particular research strength in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, her passion for astronomy was fuelled by fascinating TSP projects with astronomers Professor Peter Tuthill, Professor Geraint Lewis and Dr Julia Bryant.

“I especially enjoyed the second semester TSP projects where we were able to work on real problems or questions under an academic supervisor. These projects really developed my ability to work individually or in a pair, without constant supervision and instruction. There was both a need and a freedom to be self-directed, self-motivated, organised and able to clearly articulate what I was doing. All of these skills are important ones I now use every day,” explained Alison.

“The process of working under a supervisor and to a timetable mirrors the reality of many jobs and was relatively new to me. I think the TSP projects were valuable for this experience they gave me, whatever job I am in later on.”

Alison chose Professor Bryan Gaensler, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), as her Honours supervisor for her research in astronomy.

“I was inspired by Bryan's vision for the Honours project I undertook with him – the idea of investigating anything over the lifetime of the entire Universe was exciting! He emphasised how the work was new, why it was important, and how helpful it could be to the astrophysical community,” said Alison.

“During Honours, I found that Bryan asked excellent questions. He would ask me about something, and it would spur me on to investigate further, look at the data differently or to try something new. I was inspired by the way he led his research group, which met weekly, encouraging people to collaborate and share what they were working on.”

Alison’s successful Honours research with Professor Bryan Gaensler won her the University Medal for her Honours in Physics work and the 2012 Bok Prize from the Astronomical Society of Australia for the most outstanding Honours research in astronomy in Australia.

“I made wonderful friends through the TSP – in first and second year I did my physics projects in a pair with other students and both my project partners remain close friends. The entire TSP physics and maths cohorts were also small enough to be real communities, which extended into Honours. Spending time with so many like-minded people was amazing!”

Read about Alison's inspirer, Professor Bryan Gaensler.