Career in a nutshell:
I am a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at the University of New South Walesmanaging two major astrobiology outreach projects - Pathways to Space(ASRP) and Education 2020 (NBN-EESS). See grants above.
Pathways to Space, is a collaborative, hands-on program enabling year 10-12 students to plan space exploration projects using a 'living laboratory' to simulate realistic scenarios and gain an understanding of space engineering challenge. An intensive three-year study is designed to understand if and how the strategy works in terms of the desired outcome – more students taking up space-related courses at university.
Education 2020 is aimed at using the capacity and capabiitiesof the emerging National Broadband Network together with some new assets and existing ones (Mars Yard and TelePresence in the Powerhouse Museum) to transform teaching in learning in science and mathematics for Years 7-12.
I am also a member of NASA's Astrobiology teams at Arizona State University and MIT where I am project-managing the development of a new technology Virtual Field Trip to the Ediacaran era in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. This VFT will form the backbone of a series of VFT's including two other sites in Australia - the Pilbara and Shark Bay.
Between 2004 and 2007 I assembled a multidisciplinary team under a NASA Space Act Agreement with the ACA to develop the first Virtual Field Trip designed for upper high school students. The Pilbara VFT was created on an international field trip to the Pilbara in Western Australia. The Pilbara contains the earliest convincing evidence of life on Earth. The wiki web site associated with this original VFT has had more than a million full page views. The project attracted a $119,500 grant from the Australian Schools Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics fund.
I gained my doctorate in 2008 with three one’s (highest examiner recommendation - no change required). My supervisors included palaeobiologist and author Professor Malcolm Walter and cosmologist and author Professor Paul Davies. The associate supervisor was evolutionary biologist and author Professor Richard Dawkins.
Although my career has focused on space exploration in the past 15 years, it is an area that engages all science disciplines. For example, projects have required precision communication involving multiple stakeholders in molecular biology, biology, geology, biochemistry, astrophysics, optical and radio astronomy, and palaeobiology. I have a broad interest in all science, in particular as it relates to the systems and processes of our own planet, and as it is applied in science education. I have a particular interest in research into areas surrounding the term 'scientific literacy' - what it means, what we expect of public audiences, and its origins in the primary and high school classrooms.
I have been engaged in the education, media, and outreach programs, teaching, research and postgraduate supervision for the Australian Centre for Astrobiology (ACA), first at Macquarie University between 2002 and 2007 and then at the University of New South Wales from 2008 to present.
Between 1994 and 2002 I was the science journalist at the University of Western Sydney, principally responsible for its then SETI Australia program.
In 2006 I was invited to full membership of the International Academy of Astronautics(IAA) where I am active in astrobiology outreach internationally. I am Deputy Chair of the IAA's SETI Post Detection Task Group led by the cosmologist and author Prof Paul Davies.
In 1999 I won, against France and Iceland, the three-yearly International Astronomical Union's Bioastronomy Symposium. This was held on the Barrief Reef, Australia (Hamilton Island) in July 2002 in tandem with another win - the Fulbright Symposium "Science Education in Partnership".