A highlight of the 2023 OzGrav Retreat was the presentation of the inaugural OzGrav Achievement Awards, recognising our members’ outstanding contributions and achievements. Below are the winners, runners-up, and highly commended individuals, along with brief summaries of their nominations. Congratulations to all the recipients!
Advancing Equity Award
Winner: Sareh Rajabi
Sareh, who joined the ANU OzGrav node in 2017, has played a pivotal role in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) at the ANU node. Through initiatives such as creating a quiet room, establishing a culture bookshelf, implementing an anonymous feedback system, and providing mental health and mentoring support, Sareh has significantly contributed to fostering a cohesive and inclusive workplace culture, transforming the ANU node's environment over the years.
Cross-Nodal Collaboration Award
Winner: Bram Slagmolen
Bram is a unique contributor to OzGrav, having established collaborations with every node, engaging in diverse projects such as student exchanges, site selection studies, and commissioning efforts. His impactful leadership extends to mentoring personnel across nodes and Centres of Excellence, highlighting his broad influence within the gravitational wave research community.
Runners up: Bram Slagmolen, Ju Li, Zhang Ya, Aaron Jones, Sheon Chua, Carl Blair, Jennie Wright, Avanish Kulur Ramamohan
The weekly connections of the Low-Frequency group, a collaborative effort between ANU and UWA, showcase a vibrant and supportive environment where research is shared with enthusiasm. The successful collaboration led to the installation of a displacement sensor from ANU into UWA's Gingin Laboratory, demonstrating the team's commitment to collaborative research and achieving extraordinary results in improving the interferometer performance.
Highly Commended: Ryan Shannon, Valentina di Marco, Andrew Zic
Valentina di Marco's collaboration across Monash, Swinburne, and CSIRO involved co-supervisors Andrew Zic and Ryan Shannon to support her growth and experience in radio astronomy and pulsar timing research. This project uncovered issues in IPTA pulsar timing analyses and led to important improvements to the background estimation code, helping to ensure confidence in subsequent results from PPTA and MeerTime.
Winner: Karl Wette
Since joining OzGrav in 2017, Karl has actively engaged in both formal and informal mentoring, formally supervising multiple PhD and Honours students with empathy and flexibility, particularly navigating challenges posed by COVID disruptions and mental health issues. In addition to serving as a LIGO Scientific Collaboration Continuous Wave working group co-chair, Karl provided substantial mentoring to students and postdocs globally, offering guidance on research aspects, standard software packages, and LVK policies.
Runner up: Dan Brown
The nomination for Dan describes how he consistently and proactively tries to improve the experience of students at the Adelaide node. He listens to concerns and suggestions and acts to make students’ lives better. He willingly uses his connections to create opportunities, like reaching out to potential PhD supervisors or connecting people with LSC colleagues. Dan is regarded as a go-to person for advice, contributing significantly to creating a positive and enjoyable office environment.
Runner up: Andrew Melatos
Andrew is nominated for being a wonderful mentor for his postdocs and students. Apart from the vast and deep knowledge on all the projects, he is a good mentor on a personal level. He incentivises his group to have a good work-life balance and is always promoting good physical and mental health habits.
Andrew brings a wealth of knowledge and resourcefulness to discussions with his research group, contributing significantly to the progress of the mentee's research. His empathetic and understanding nature, along with consistent support in both academic and mental aspects, makes him deserving of acknowledgment and commendation.
Highly Commended: Bram Slagmolen
The nomination for Bram highlights his contribution to creating a positive working culture aligned with the award's spirit. Described as approachable, embodying scientific temperament, and maintaining a friendly nature, Bram is recognized for understanding individual student situations, providing tailored guidance, and consistently supporting the well-being of everyone in the centre. His creativity and innovativeness are also commended, contributing to a positive and enjoyable working environment.
Highly Commended: Magdelena Kersting
Magdalena was nominated for providing valuable guidance on career priorities, navigating challenging work situations, and research practices. Her support, relatable experiences, and introductions to colleagues have enhanced her mentee's experience within OzGrav, offering insights into potential research paths and contributing to a positive mentoring relationship.
Research Translation Pioneer Award
Winner: Zac Holmes, Peter Veitch, and Sebastian Ng
Zac Holmes, Peter Veitch, and Sebastian Ng collaborated with the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility on a pioneering research translation project utilizing their expertise in 2um lasers for an industry application—weed control. The project showed success in preliminary tests, demonstrating the potential of OzGrav technology in providing an economic, organic, and herbicide-free solution for weed control in agriculture, marking a promising application beyond gravitational wave research with implications for the farming industry.
Rising Star Award - Postdoc
Winner: Johannes Eichholz
Johannes, joining OzGrav ANU in 2019, introduced a new research field by designing a stable 2-micron laser architecture that has been adopted internationally. Recognizing the potential of an acquired optical coater, he successfully re-established it in a new clean room, securing a contract to coat main beam splitters for the next LIGO upgrade, showcasing his diverse skill set and hands-on approach in experimental physics.
Runner up: Ryosuke Hirai
Ryo was nominated for being a remarkable young scientist, making significant contributions to understanding high-energy transients through his deep physical insights and innovative computational models. Recognized for his broad knowledge of astrophysics, keen intellect, dedication, and leadership in research, Ryo is anticipated to be a rising star and a leading figure in theoretical astrophysics for years to come.
Highly Commended: Zhang Ya
Zhang Ya was nominated for being a very creative and innovative researcher. She works effectively across multiple projects, and was recently awarded a fellowship for a new project. She never hesitates to share her ideas and support the rest of the team. She is curious, asks important questions and helps the team progress in the right direction.
Rising Star Award - Student
Winner: Isobel Romero Shaw
Isobel, nominated for the Rising Star award, authored eight first-author papers during her impactful PhD, focusing on binary black hole formation and developing methods to measure their eccentricity. Her leadership in Bilby's development and contributions to high-impact LIGO–Virgo papers, along with being awarded the Robert Street Doctoral Prize, exemplify her exceptional promise, making her a strong candidate for the award.
Runner up: Natasha Van Bemmel
Natasha is nominated for her significant achievements during her PhD, including awards, international collaborations, invited presentations, and successful telescope proposals. Her leadership in restarting the Journal Club, active engagement in outreach events, and contributions to teaching demonstrate her dedication and growth as a researcher, making her a deserving candidate for the award.
Highly Commended: Pratyasha Gitika
Pratyasha is nominated for her exceptional promise and significant professional growth within OzGrav. Recognized for sharing knowledge, fostering collaboration, and actively seeking opportunities for learning and skill development, Pratyasha's positive attitude and collaborative mindset position her as a potential influential leader in her chosen field.
Highly Commended: Julian Carlin
Julian, nominated for his outstanding contributions since joining OzGrav in 2019, has demonstrated considerable innovation in linking theory and data, publishing lead-author papers in the fields of pulsar glitches, continuous gravitational waves, and most recently solar flares. Julian is showcasing a novel approach to abstract complex microphysics and actively contributing to collaborative efforts within and beyond the UniMelb OzGrav node.
Scientific Achievement in the Astro Theme
Winner: Ryosuke Hirai
Ryo has published around 30 papers in less than 4 years at OzGrav and has addressed core challenges in theoretical astrophysics, including high-mass X-ray binaries, stripped envelope supernovae, and a novel framework for the common-envelope phase in massive binary evolution. Instrumental to the success of the Monash research group, he provides expert advice, invaluable guidance to junior researchers, and actively leads the OzGrav relativistic astrophysics program.
Scientific Achievement in the Data Theme
Winner: Colm Talbot
Colm is nominated for his outstanding contributions to our understanding of binary black hole populations in gravitational-wave astronomy. Colm developed frameworks for measuring the properties of black hole spins and masses, contributing significantly to gravitational-wave astrophysics and making a lasting impact on population studies of binary black holes.
Runner up: Dana Jones
Dana has significantly contributed to the development of a novel data analysis method for detecting gravitational-wave signals from vector boson clouds around black holes. Leading the publication of a high-quality method paper and assuming key roles in the LVK O4 boson search, Dana demonstrates creativity, initiative, and impactful leadership within OzGrav.
Scientific Achievement in the Instrumentation Theme
Winner: Sheon Chua, Nutsinee Kijbunchoo, David McClelland, Kirk McKenzie, Terry McRae, Bram Slagmolen, Andrew Wade
The OzGrav squeezing team, including Chua, Kijbunchoo, McClelland, McKenzie, McRae, Wade, and Slagmolen, is nominated for their groundbreaking contributions to implementing squeezing technology in LIGO. Their efforts, highlighted by the installation and commissioning of the Advanced LIGO squeezer, resulted in significant sensitivity enhancement, showcasing an exceptional achievement in the field of gravitational-wave detection.
Runner up: Thomas Roocke
Tom is nominated for his exceptional contributions to the development of a new wavefront sensor for LIGO, showcasing remarkable skills in electronics. Notably, he designed and built circuits for multiple photodetector units, played a key role in assembling TSAMs installed at LIGO, and developed a vacuum-compatible quad-quadrant photodetector, surpassing design specifications and demonstrating significant achievements in a short period.
Winner: Ruby Chan
Ruby is lauded as the heart of the UWA OzGrav node, contributing to a positive community atmosphere through her enthusiasm, support, and efficient administrative work, including travel bookings and IT support. Ruby loves to hear about everybody's research and endeavours to help the students connect with each other, creating a warm community.
Runner up: Yeshe Fenner
Yeshe is nominated for her indispensable role in coordinating and managing OzGrav's operations, fostering inclusivity, and advocating for equity. Her commitment to creating a positive work environment and her behind-the-scenes efforts to ensure smooth collaboration make her an integral part of OzGrav's success.
Superstars of Outreach Award
Winner: Kyla Adams
Kyla is a dedicated OzGrav member who has made substantial contributions to science outreach through diverse initiatives, including developing workshops, training students in outreach and science communication, and presenting at various events, such as Pint of Science and the International Astronomical Union's 'Communicating Astronomy with the public' conference. Her multifaceted efforts, spanning public talks, parliamentary presentations, and involvement in international science communication competitions, showcase her commitment to fostering scientific interest and understanding across different audiences.
Runner up: Jennifer Wright
Jennifer has made significant contributions to outreach activities since joining our Centre in 2022, expanding initiatives at the ANU node and raising public awareness of gravitational astrophysics. Passionate about promoting STEM careers, especially for women, she actively engages in outreach events, including panel discussions, media promotions, and LIGO tours, using her expertise, communication skills, and cheerful personality to inspire and connect with students.
Highly Commended: Rowina Nathan
Rowina has made exceptional contributions to outreach efforts. Actively involved in OzGrav events, such as Astrofest Adelaide and video training, she goes above and beyond by independently visiting schools, participating in physics breakfasts, and contributing to the Monash Women and Non-Binary People in Astronomy committee. Rowina's dedication extends to social media, news appearances, and podcasts, making significant efforts to communicate science and inspire others in astronomy, deserving recognition for her outstanding outreach contributions.
Highly Commended: Sara Webb
Sara has significantly contributed to outreach by writing 17 articles for The Conversation, amassing over 1 million reads, and engaging with students in the SHINE program to design experiments for the ISS. Recognized as a Superstar of STEM, her creative TikTok videos, with hundreds of thousands of views, have enhanced OzGrav's visibility, providing a unique approach to science communication and inspiring future researchers.