Senior Principal Research Fellow in the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
As a kid obsessed with science and space TV shows, he was destined to end up in astronomy.
His early dreams of working on a space station matched with an overactive imagination and constant wondering of ‘how did we get here?’ and ‘what does it all mean?’ fuelled a desire in Simon to examine the universe in greater detail.
Now, as Senior Principal Research Fellow in the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Simon leads an international team of about 100 scientists across 30 worldwide institutions.
Studying the evolution of mass, energy and structure in the universe, Simon constructs databases of galaxies using the latest ground and space-based facilities.
"I’d like to build a blueprint which describes how mass got from the uniform distribution of neutral atoms shortly after the Big Bang, to the tremendous diversity of structures we see in the nearby universe, such as the elements of the Periodic Table, planets, stars and galaxies."
Simon is a great example of following your dreams, no matter how out of reach they seem.
“If someone had told me, or my teachers or parents, that one day I would be a Professor of Astronomy, it would have seemed impossible.”
Simon is most proud of understanding energy production in the universe since the aftermath of the Big Bang.
“We’ve recently measured it from the ultraviolet to the far-infrared, and constructed a model which seems to do a good job of explaining all the photons we’re currently receiving from space,” he says.
“When I stop and think, I find it humbling to realise I may just understand how the universe has made most of its energy over the last 13 billion years.”
Thinking ahead, there is a drive to involve our home country much more in upcoming space missions.
“Right now I’m trying to set up a deep space downlink station somewhere in WA,” Simon says.
“Many new space telescopes are being launched into deep space and these missions very much need ground-based radio dishes to receive their signals.
“At the moment the European Space Agency and NASA have stations in Australia where they pipe the data straight out of the country to Europe and the US. I’d like to change that and for Australia to take over the operation of downlink stations and, in doing so, ensure Australian scientists are involved in these space missions.”
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