Science Team

Exoplanet Science
  • A/Prof. Michael Ireland (Australian National University, Australia)

    A/Prof. Michael Ireland A/Prof. Michael Ireland is an ARC Future Fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) at the Australian National University (ANU).

  • Dr. Christopher Burke (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

    Christopher Burke Dr. Christopher Burke’s research focuses on the discovery and characterization of rocky extrasolar planets providing detailed answers to the question of “How many and what kinds of potentially habitable rocky planets like Earth exist in the Galaxy?” As a Support Scientist on NASA’s Kepler spacecraft mission at NASA Ames Research Center, he employs the unprecedented population of Kepler’s planet discoveries in order to answer this question. Understanding the potential for life inside and outside the Solar System is an area of immense curiosity to the scientific, engineering, philosophical, and sociological endeavors of humanity. SkyHopper’s extrasolar planet mission component will further identify new worlds to explore their potential for life.

  • Dr. Nikku Madhusudhan (Cambridge University, UK)

    Nikku Madhusudhan Dr Nikku Madhusudhan is a University Lecturer in Astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is an expert in exoplanet research, and is the exoplanet lead of SkyHopper. His research interests include understanding the atmospheres, interiors, and formation conditions of exoplanets. He is widely known for pioneering the inverse techniques to measure atmospheric properties of exoplanets based on their atmospheric spectra observed using a wide array of observational facilities in space and from ground. His other notable studies include estimations of chemical compositions of exoplanetary atmospheres and interiors, and using them to investigate the formation mechanisms of exoplanets. Before his current faculty position at Cambridge he held postdoctoral positions at MIT, Princeton, and Yale (where he was the YCAA Prize Postdoctoral Fellow), after obtaining his PhD in Physics from MIT.

  • Prof. Peter McCollough (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA)

    Peter McCollough Peter is an American astronomer, founder of the XO Project, and discovered of extrasolar planets. He earned a PhD in astrophysics in 1993 from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an adjunct professor of Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore MD USA, where also he is employed by the institute that operates the Hubble space telescope. With the assistance of many colleagues, he led the development of an observational technique that has enabled Hubble to obtain infrared spectra of the upper atmospheres of transiting extrasolar planets. He is a member of the science team of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a NASA Explorer Mission due to launch in 2018.

  • Prof. Chris Tinney (University of New South Wales, Australia)

    Chris Tinney I head the Exoplanetary Science at UNSW research group within the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, in the School of Physics. My research interests are centered on “exoplanets” (planets that orbit other stars), as well as the very cool low-mass “star-like” bodies known as brown dwarfs (which share many properties with exoplanets). The study of both these classes of object tell us how stars and planets form and evolve, which is key to understanding how prevalent habitable environments are near the Sun, throughout the Galaxy and elsewhere in the Universe. I have worked at Observatories and Universities in Australia, Europe and the USA, and carry out my research with in concert with collaborators across Australia, Europe, the UK, USA and Chile.

  • Prof. Brad Carter (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)

    Brad Carter Brad Carter teaches and conducts research in physics and astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland. His current research focus is on stellar astronomy and planetary systems, and he is working on the use of robotic and remote-access telescopes to support the education and research training of distance education students.

  • Dr. Ian Parry (Cambridge University, UK)

    Ian Parry An astronomer who specialises in instrumentation. Personal scientific motivations are exoplanets and cosmology. His instruments relate to optical and NIR spectroscopy, multi-object spectroscopy (MOS), integral field spectroscopy, NIR imaging and coronagraphs. He has built instruments for the VLT, Gemini, the WHT, the AAT, the Hale 5-m, UKIRT and the INT.
    He invented the automated fibre positioner Autofib for multi object spectroscopy which was used on the AAT from the late 1980s and spawned many other similar multi object fibre systems at major observatories around the world including 2df on the AAT. Has also developed integral field spectrographs and NIR spectrographs and pioneered NIR multi object spectroscopy with optical fibres.

  • Dr. Nicholas Rattenbury (University of Auckland, New Zealand)

    Nicholas Rattenbury Dr. Nicholas Rattenbury astrophysics research interest is the detection of extra-solar planets using small space telescopes. Increasing the number of known extra-solar planets will inform our theories on how and where planets form, and will provide additional targets for follow-up observations with instruments capable of detecting planetary atmospheres.
    Dr. Nicholas Rattenbury is one of a team of researchers working towards fostering the New Zealand space industry. My particular interest is in the development and use of nanosatellites. I am part of a larger interdisciplinary team of researchers developing new methods and antenna technologies to enable synthetic aperture radar observations from a nanosatellite platform. Our broader interests include developing propulsion subsystems for nanosatellites, low delta-v trajectory optimisation and space-to-ground optical communications. I also help guide our cross-disciplinary undergraduate student teams to design and develop space missions as part of our regular mission design competition, the Auckland Programme for Space Systems.

Gamma Ray Burst Science
  • Dr. Michele Trenti (University of Melbourne, Australia): Principal Investigator

    Dr Michele Trenti

    Michele is an astrophysicist with a broad range of research interests spanning from the formation of star and galaxies in the infancy of the Universe to high energy phenomena such as Gamma Ray Burst explosions and tidal disruptions of stars by black holes. He received his PhD in 2005 in Italy Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and after traveling around the world he is now a Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Michele authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has a strong experience leading astronomical observations from space. In fact he is among the most successful users of the Hubble Space Telescope as measured by observing time awarded as Principal Investigator (primarily for the multi-year Brightest of Reionizing Galaxies "BoRG" survey). As keen fan of the Star Trek Universe, with SkyHopper Michele now aims at developing a cubic spacecraft.

  • Dr . Jochen Greiner (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Germany)

    Dr. Jochen Greiner Greiner is an astrophysicist with prime interest in Gamma-ray astronomy, in particular Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRB), Microquasars, and X-ray binaries. In addition to a focus on multi-wavelength observations and data analysis, he also had a previous role as principal co-investigator of the GRB-Monitor on NASA’s Fermi satellite. The most direct connection to Skyhopper comes from his background in designing, building and operating the GROND instrument, a dedicated multi-channel near-infrared/optical imager for GRB afterglow observations. Commissioned in 2007, GROND was the first to systematically observe GRB afterglows at near-infrared wavelengths.

  • Dr. Sylvio Klose (Thueringer Landessternwarte Sternwarte, Germany)

    Dr. Sylvio Klose Sylvio got his PhD in astrophysics in Jena, Germany, in the early 1990s. After working in the field of cosmic dust he moved into the GRB business some years later, which remained his main research interest since then. He is CoI of the GROND project, a multi-channel imager mounted at the 2.2m telescope on ESO/La Silla, Chile. Currently he is working at the Thuringer Landessternwarte (Thuringian State Observatory) in Germany.

  • Gianpiero Tagliaferri (Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, Italy)

    Gianpiero Tagliaferri Gianpiero holds the position of Director of the Brera Astronomical Observatory as an astronomer at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics. His main areas of interest include high energy physics, particularly that of Gamma-Ray emission by extragalactic sources.
    He has led and participated in numerous space missions, including the Swift mission, of which he is currently the Italian principle Investigator.

  • Dr. Brad Cenko (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA)

    Dr. Brad Cenko Brad is a Research Astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD (USA), as well as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research interests are varied but largely fall under the rubric of observational time-domain astronomy, including gamma-ray bursts (he is currently serving as Principal Investigator for the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer), supernova, and tidal disruption flares (he is a member of the Palomar Transient Factory and Zwicky Transient Facility collaborations). He is also intent on developing instrumentation and software to enable novel observations of such time variable phenomena. He received his PhD in 2008 from the California Institute of Technology and before coming to Goddard was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Prof. Nial Tanvir (University of Leicester, UK)

    Nial Tanvir Nial Tanvir is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Leicester. His main areas of research are gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the structure and content of nearby galaxies, the extragalactic distance scale, and galaxy evolution.
    In 2002 he was a member of the research group which won the Descartes Prize for their discoveries of GRB afterglows. In 2009, Prof Tanvir headed the team that discovered the infrared afterglow and measured the redshift of GRB 090423, the most distant event recorded to that date.

  • A/Prof. Emma Ryan-Weber (Swinburne Institue of Technology, Australia)

    Emma Ryan-Weber A/Prof Emma Ryan-Weber is an observational astrophysicist, she leads the intergalactic medium research group at Swinburne. This science focuses on detecting atomic elements in absorption in the early Universe. Ryan-Weber and her team conduct this research using near-infrared spectroscopy towards distant quasars on the world’s largest telescopes including Keck and the VLT. Ryan-Weber’s team also work on observations of distant galaxies and examine their influence on reionization, including their escaping fraction of ionizing radiation. SkyHopper will enable the use the Gamma Ray Bursts to probe intervening elements in the early Universe without the ionizing influence of quasars.

  • Prof. J. Michael Shull (University of Colorado, Boulder, USA)

    Prof. Michael Shull Dr. Michael Shull is Professor of Astrophysics and past-Chair of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his B.S. in Physics from Caltech (1972) and his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University (1976). He is an expert on both theoretical astrophysics and astronomical observations from space. He has been a science team member for two NASA projects: the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) on the Hubble Space Telescope. Shull has extensive experience in governance of complex projects and institutions and one highlight is his service as Chair of the Space Telescope Institute Council.

  • Prof. Andrew Hopkins

    Andrew Hopkins Prof. Andrew Hopkins is the Head of Research and Outreach at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). The AAO is Australia's premier optical and infrared telescope facility, and supports world-leading astronomy and technological research groups. Andrew's role includes coordinating the astronomy research and public outreach activities and expanding the research capabilities of the AAO. Andrew has 20 years experience in professional astronomy research, having held a Hubble Fellowship (University of Pittsburgh) and an Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship (University of Sydney), before moving to the AAO in 2008. He received his PhD in Physics from the University of Sydney in 1998, is a Fellow of the Astronomical Society of Australia, and holds an Adjunct Professor appointment with the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the evolution of star formation in galaxies over cosmic history. At the AAO he has been successful in doubling the size of the astronomy group and promoting gender equity through leading the AAO's Diversity Committee. Among other projects he is currently leading a major new 5-year observational program, the 'Taipan Galaxy Survey', using AAO's unique 'starbug' technology for high-precision parallel positioning of hundreds of optical fibres, in order to make significant breakthroughs in cosmology and galaxy evolution.

  • Prof. Rosalba Perna (Stonybrook University, USA)

    Rosalba Perna Rosalba Perna is a theoretical Astrophysicist with a variety of research interests within High Energy, Cosmology, and Exoplanets. Among her main areas of focus are transient phenomena, and in particular gamma-ray bursts.
    Rosalba got her PhD from Harvard University; she was then a Harvard Junior Fellow and a Lyman Spitzer Fellow for a year at Princeton before joining the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
    After about 10 years there, she joined the faculty at Stony Brook University, where she is currently a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
    During her career, she has received numerous awards, including the SIGRAV prize for her work on General Relativity. She was nominated APS Fellow in 2014, and has been invited to deliver over 100 talks at international conferences and Universities.

Cosmic Infrared Background Science
  • Dr. Lee Spitler (Macquarie University, Australia)

    Lee Spitler Dr. Lee Spitler uses innovative observing technology to study distant galaxies in order to how they grow and evolve. He is current leading the Huntsman project, which uses an array of Canon lenses to detect extremely faint structures around galaxies. He led efforts to launch the SpaceEye cubesat, which has now merged into the SkyHopper mission.

  • Prof. Matthew Colless (Australian National University, Australia)

    Matthew Colless Professor Matthew Professor Matthew Colless is Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) at the Australian National University (ANU). He was for nine years previously the Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). He obtained his BSc at Sydney, his PhD at Cambridge, and has also held positions at Durham, Kitt Peak and Cambridge. His research uses large redshift and peculiar velocity surveys of galaxies to understand their evolution and the large-scale structures they form, and to measure cosmological parameters. Prof. Colless led the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, which provided the first precise measurements of the total density of matter in the universe and established the amounts of dark matter, baryons and neutrinos. He also led the 6dF Galaxy Survey that mapped the local density and velocity fields and played leading roles in the WiggleZ dark energy survey, the GAMA survey of galaxy mass assembly, and the SAMI survey of galaxy structures and kinematics. He is currently leading the Taipan survey, which is using Starbug fibre positioner technology to measure the Hubble constant with 1% precision and test theories of gravity. He led the OzPoz fibre positioner project for the VLT FLAMES instrument and is leading the design of the MANIFEST fibre system for the Giant Magellan Telescope. Prof. Colless is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an ISI Citation Laureate, a member of the ANU Council and the ESO Council, the ANU Founders’ representative for the Giant Magellan Telescope project, and a former Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union.

  • Prof. Simon Driver (University of Western Australia, Australia)

    Simon Driver Professor Simon Driver (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia) leads the Galaxy And Mass Assembly and Wide Area VISTA Extragalactic Surveys which aim to measure and model the evolution of all mass, energy and structure from the Big Bang to the present day. A particular aspect of this work is to place Astrophysical constraints on the properties of Dark Matter. As part of the SkyHopper team Driver will measure the extragalactic background light to model energy production in the Universe, while on the technical side will lead the ground-support segment out of Western Australia. Driver is connected to a number of ongoing and planned space missions including those led by NASA and ESA, including Hubble Space Telescope, eROSITA, JWST, EUCLID and MESSIER.

  • Prof. Duncan Forbes (Swinburne Institute of Technology, Australia)

    Duncan Forbes Prof. Duncan Forbes is an astrophysicist interested in the Universe at low surface brightness levels. In particular, he focuses on understanding the recently discovered ultra diffuse galaxies. After working at the Space Telescope Science Institute, he obtained his PhD from Cambridge and has been a staff member at Swinburne University since 2000. He has previously been an ARC International Fellow and DORA Fellow.

  • A/Prof. Chris Power (University of Western Australia, Australia)

    Chris Power I am a computational astrophysicist working on a broad range of problems in galaxy formation and cosmology. My particular interests are in dark matter and in how feedback from stars and black holes (i.e. deposition of energy and momentum into their surroundings) impact the formation and evolution of galaxies. Most of this work requires powerful supercomputers, and so I also have an ongoing interest in scientific high performance computing.
    I obtained a BA in Theoretical Physics from Trinity College Dublin in 1999, and a PhD from Durham University in 2003. Between 2004 and 2011, I held postdoc positions in the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing in Melbourne (2004-07) and with the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the University of Leicester (2008-11). I have been at ICRAR/UWA since 2011, initially as a research assistant professor and, since 2014, as a research associate professor and ARC Future Fellow. Here at ICRAR/UWA, I lead the Computational Theory and Modelling Group, a team of approximately 20 staff, postdocs and students working on a variety of simulation, modelling, and statistical problems in galaxy formation and cosmology.
    I am an associate member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), and am a Chief Investigator for the new ARC CoE CAASTRO3D. I also serve on various committees, including the Astronomical Society of Australia council, the Australia Telescope Time Assignment Committee (TAC), the Astronomy Supercomputer Time Allocation Committee (ASTAC), and the Australian e-Research Advisory Committee (AeRAC).

Infrared Transient Science
  • Prof. Virginia Kilborn (Swinburne Institute of Technology, Australia)

    Virginia Kilborn Virginia Kilborn is a radio astronomer with the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University. Her primary research interests include tracing galaxy evolution by studying the neutral hydrogen gas in galaxies, and she is now working towards preparations for surveys with the next generation radio telescopes, such as the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the SKA.
    She is currently Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Swinburne University.

  • A/Prof. Katherine J. Mack (North Carolina State University, USA)

    Dr Katie Mack Dr Katherine (Katie) Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist. Her work focuses on finding new ways to learn about the early universe and fundamental physics using astronomical observations, probing the building blocks of nature by examining the cosmos on the largest scales. Throughout her career as a researcher at Caltech, Princeton, Cambridge, and now Melbourne University, she has studied dark matter, black holes, cosmic strings, and the formation of the first galaxies in the Universe. Katie is also an active science communicator and is passionate about science outreach. As a science writer, she has been published by Slate, Sky & Telescope,, and other popular publications, and is a regular columnist for Cosmos Magazine.

  • Prof. Michael Skrutskie (University of Virginia, USA)

    Prof Michael Skrutskie Prof. Skrutskie directs a laboratory for the construction and application of instruments operating at near-infrared (1-5um) wavelengths. He was the principal investigator of the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) and is now deeply involved in the space-based mid-infrared equivalent, WISE. Common scientific themes for both missions are the detection and characterization of sub-stellar objects (brown dwarfs) and delineating the structure of the Milky Way. The laboratory has recently delivered instruments for the world’s largest telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope, and for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

  • A/Prof. Jeff Cooke (Swinburne Institue of Technology, Australia)

    Jeff Cooke A/Prof. Jeff Cooke is an astrophysicist leading research in high redshift supernova discovery, galaxy evolution and cosmic reionisation, absorption-line system investigation, and fast transient detection and study. He received his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 2005 and is currently an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, an Associate Professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, and Chief Investigator for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav). Jeff has pioneered the technique to detect and study supernovae in the early Universe and has discovered all of the farthest known supernovae. In addition, he has made ground-breaking discoveries in understanding the evolution of galaxies and has identified a new population of distant galaxies that are likely responsible for reionising the Universe. Furthermore, Jeff has conceived and developed the Deeper, Wider, Faster program to detect and study explosions on millisecond-to-hours timescales. The program searches this previously unexplored time domain by using state-of-the-art supercomputing, visualisation techniques, and by coordinating over 20 major telescopes worldwide and in space, from radio to gamma-ray observatories, to perform simultaneous deep, fast-paced observations and real-time analysis. Many fast transients are predicted to be associated with gravitational wave events.

  • Prof. Stuart Wyithe (University of Melbourne, Australia)

    Stuart Wyithe Professor Stuart Wyithe is Head of Physics at The University of Melbourne. His research focus is on the evolution of the earliest galaxies and how this evolution may be studied with the next generation of telescopes. Professor Wyithe was awarded his PhD from The University of Melbourne in 2001. He was a Hubble Fellow at Harvard University before returning to Australia in 2002. Professor Wyithe has received several awards recognising his contribution to cosmology, including the 2009 Pawsey Medal for physics from the Australian Academy of Science, and the 2011 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. Professor Wyithe was Chair of the Australian National Committee for Astronomy and led development of the Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy 2016-2025.

  • Prof. Karl Glazebrook (Swinburne Institute of Technology, Australia)

    Karl Glazebrook Karl Glazebrook is a Distinguished Professor at the Swinburne University of Technology and Director of the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing there.
    Karl originally studied at Cambridge and received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1992. His career has spanned the U.K., U.S. and Australia including a time as a Professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA where he received a prestigious Packard Fellowship. In 2006 he was appointed as a Professor at Swinburne. His most notable scientific accomplishments are the development of the ‘nod and shuffle’ spectroscopic technique, characterising the bimodal colour and environmental distributions of local galaxies, the study of the morphological and spectroscopic evolution of galaxies over cosmic time using Gemini, Hubble and Keck telescopes and the development of innovative cosmological techniques such as the use of ‘Baryonic Acoustic Oscillations’.

Planetary Formation Science

Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix (Curtin University, Australia): Planetary Science lead

  • Prof. Phil Bland (Curtin University, Australia)

    Phil Bland Phil is a planetary scientist with a research focus on the origin and early evolution of the Solar System, asteroids and comets. His ARC Laureate project was focussed on the identifying the source regions and parent bodies for meteorites in the Solar System by recovery of samples with known orbits. The Desert Fireball Network that his team developed to achieve this goal has now expanded to a global facility. Phil is Director of the Space Science and Technology Centre at Curtin University. SSTC has 38 students and staff covering all aspects of space and planetary science, with an even mix of scientists and engineers. Staff are represented on science teams for 7 current space missions. SSTC is also the Australian node for NASA SSERVI, representing the Australian planetary science community to NASA. In 2017 the centre initiated a small satellite engineering program. Their first spacecraft will be launched early 2021.



Australian Astronomical Observatory ∙ Australian National University ∙ Cambridge University ∙ Curtin University ∙ Istituto Nazionale Di Astrofisica ∙ Macquarie University ∙ Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics ∙ NASA Goddard ∙ NASA Ames ∙ Space Telescope Science Institute ∙ Stonybrook University ∙ Swinburne Institute of Technology ∙ Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg ∙ University of Colorado ∙ University of Leicester ∙ University of New South Wales ∙ University of Southern Queensland ∙ University of Virginia ∙ University of Western Australia