Young Tall Poppy Science Awards for Astronomer and Volcanologist

11 November 2014


Astronomer Dr Lee Spitler and Volcanologist Dr Heather Handley have been recognised amongst New South Wales’ best young scientists at the prestigious Young Tall Poppy Science Awards today.

Spitler, a joint appointment between the Department of Astronomy and Physics and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, focuses his research on pushing current telescope technology to its limits.

“My research takes advantage of a useful characteristic of our universe: light travels at a limited speed,” says Spitler.

“With new telescope technologies we can observe light produced during an early period of the universe: when it was 3 billion years old and only a fifth of the age it is today. We are working towards completing a historical record of how galaxies like the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way, was created and evolved over the 13.7 billion year lifetime of the universe!”

Handley, from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, also uses innovative new methodologies in her scientific research.

“It is widely observed that volcanoes erupt, mountains erode and landscapes transform,” she says. “However, relatively little is known about the timescales involved in these processes. My current research on the development of new methodologies for accurate dating of soils and sediments delivers a novel approach to understand climate-led landscape changes."

The awards are run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) to honour up-and-coming scientists who combine world-class research with a passionate commitment to communicating science. More than 300 young scientists have been honoured nationally since the award was established in 2000.

Spitler and Handley join a vibrant group of Young Tall Poppy alumni at Macquarie, including Professor Jennie Hudson, Professor Marcus Stoodley, Professor Amanda Barnier, Dr Melanie Bishop, Associate Professor Kirstie Fryirs, Associate Professor Craig O’Neill, Associate Professor Culum Brown, Dr Kira Westaway, Associate Professor James Rabeau, Associate Professor Andrew Barron, Associate Professor Anina Rich, Associate Professor Nathan Daczko and Dr Joshua Madin.

As part of the Young Tall Poppy campaign, award winners will spend a year sharing their knowledge with school students, teachers and the broader community through workshops, seminars and public lectures.

“Astronomy is a great way for children, young adults and adults to think and be inspired by science,” says Spitler. “I’m really looking forward to getting to more schools, astronomy groups and community events throughout 2015.”

"I'm thrilled to have been given the award and look forward to the opportunities it will bring next year to inspire, educate and enthuse the next generation of scientists, their teachers and the public," says Handley.

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