Thursday, October 09, 2008

Penny Sackett Appointed Australia's Chief Scientist

Australian National University (ANU) Professor of Astronomy Penny Sackett has been appointed Australia's first full-time Chief Scientist. Sackett is a native of Nebraska, who earned a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Pittsburgh. She came to ANU in 2002 as Director of its Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Mount Stromlo and Sliding Spring Observatories. She stepped down from that position last year to fogus on research and mentoring roles.

In an interview with ABC Sydney she talked about how she was inspired to study science, and how she hopes to similarly inspire Australian students:

PENNY SACKETT: Well I'd always been interested as a child in understanding the world around us. Just curious in the way most children are.
And originally I thought I would pick a biological field, perhaps medicine. But I had a wonderful teacher in physics in year 11 who made me realize that physics was much more than pulleys and levers as I'd been previously told and I think that was a turning point for me.
MONICA ATTARD: So you were basically lucky enough to be inspired as a child to study science?
PENNY SACKETT: Indeed. I had very supportive parents and excellent teachers and I suppose that is why I have such a high regard for teachers.
MONICA ATTARD: Well clearly that's the kind of inspiration that was important to you but you've also taken up the cause of getting young Australians into the study of science as well and viewing that as being vital.
PENNY SACKETT: Yes, I hope that that is something that I can do in my new post is create a dialogue with young people in this country so that they can understand how much we look to them in shaping the health and wealth of Australia going forward through the fundamental information that can be provided by science.
Sackett has long been interested in education and has certification to teach science and mathematics at the primary and secondary school level.

The primary focus of her new position is to advise politicians on the science behind the issues. She also hopes promote international scientific collaborations.

(thanks to Julie Clutterbuck for the tip!)

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