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New Curtin Professor and MWA Director to help drive WA towards the SKA

Media release

Curtin University has attracted one of the world’s leading astronomers from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

Image of the MWA
Part of the Murchison Widefield Array, a precursor to the SKA.

Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt will commence a Professorship at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy (ICRAR), a joint venture with The University of Western Australia (UWA), in January 2018.

She will also take up the position of Director of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), leading the project into a new phase of scientific productivity with its recently upgraded telescope.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt is known internationally for her research examining cosmic magnetism and distant and massive clusters of galaxies, especially clusters that are colliding and producing radio emission. Galaxy clusters represent the most massive accumulations of matter in the Universe and trace the distribution of mysterious “Dark Matter” on cosmological scales.

As well as being a leading scientist, Professor Johnston-Hollitt has been a long-standing leader in the management and governance of large-scale radio astronomy projects. She has been a member of the SKA Organisation Board of Directors, representing New Zealand, since its inauguration in 2011. She has also been a Board member for the Curtin University-led Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) project for six years, the last four years as Chair.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt said she was greatly looking forward to taking up this appointment at Curtin to further contribute to the development of international radio astronomy.

“The concentration of world-class radio astronomy researchers and industry partners in Western Australia, along with the exciting future of the MWA and SKA make Curtin University a compelling place to be,” Professor Johnston-Hollitt said.

Deputy Executive Director of ICRAR and Executive Director of the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA), John Curtin Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay welcomed Professor Johnston-Hollitt to the team.

“It is really exciting to have Professor Johnston-Hollitt join the team at ICRAR-Curtin, as she brings a lot of energy to her research and a vast wealth of experience when it comes to project governance,” Professor Tingay said.

“Her on-going insights into the SKA will be highly valuable as the billion euro project enters its construction and operations phases.

“Professor Johnston-Hollitt joins a team at ICRAR-Curtin that is ranked at the highest level in the Australian Research Council Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) process and ‘well above world standard’ in Astronomical and Space Sciences.

“We’re a team that is focused on delivering the SKA project for Western Australia, Australia, and the international science community, and we’re looking forward to 2018,” Professor Tingay said.