Astronomy star to lead RSAA

Publication date
Thursday, 17 May 2012

One of Australia’s foremost astronomers, Professor Matthew Colless, has today been announced as the new Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The Australian National University.

Professor Colless joins the University after a long and highly-distinguished career in astronomy, most recently as Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory. He has published more than 230 articles which have notched up nearly 15,000 citations. Four of his papers are in the 1000 most-cited astronomy papers of all time, and since 2007 Professor Colless himself has been ranked in the top 250 most-cited researchers in space sciences in the previous 25 years.

His awards include the Professor MK Vainu Bappu Gold Medal in 1994, being a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research in 2001 and 2002, receiving the Royal Astronomical Society Group Achievement Award in 2007 and being made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2009 for his work on galaxy structure and evolution.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young said Professor Colless is a star in the astronomical world and will bring excellence and leadership to the school.

“Matthew Colless is a remarkable researcher and one of the world’s most respected astronomers. He will bring immense talent and experience to the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and I welcome him to the team.

“For the better part of three decades, he has been at the forefront of Australia’s input into worldwide astronomical research. There are few astronomy projects around the world that haven’t benefitted from his talents, including the exciting Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), where Matthew serves as Vice-Chair of the Board.

“Matthew joins the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at an exciting time for the school and for astronomy more generally. The school is developing its Mount Stromlo site, including building the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre which will construct part of the GMT. Additionally, the SkyMapper project being run by Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt promises an exciting new area of research for the world’s astronomers.

“Matthew is no stranger to ANU. He spent a decade here from 1993 as a Research Fellow, so we’ll be welcoming back one of our own. These are exciting times in the world of astronomy, and in Matthew Colless the school will be led by one of the discipline’s leaders,” he said.

Professor Colless will join the University in 2013. He takes over from Professor Harvey Butcher, whose five-year contract ends later this year.

“I’d like to thank Professor Butcher for his outstanding leadership of the school,” said Professor Young.

“He joined the school as it began the process of rebirth following the devastation of the Mount Stromlo site by the Canberra firestorm. Under Harvey, the school has gone from strength to strength. He has plotted a course that ensures the school, and Australia, will continue to be at the forefront of worldwide astronomy research. The ANU community and I thank him for his excellent work, and wish him all the best for the future.”