SAO Instructors

SAO is taught by research-active astronomers from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and by PhD-qualified astronomers from various institutions and observatories around the world.

To read about some of our past and current instructors, and their "astronomical inspiration", click here


Note: This is an example allocation and may change prior to semester start.

Introductory Units

  • AST80005 Exploring the Solar System: Assoc. Prof. Glenn Kacprzak
  • Assoc. Prof. Glenn Kacprzak. researches the formation and evolution of galaxies by studying, at low and intermediate redshifts, connections between extended halo gas and the galaxy gas.

  • AST80006 (co-coded AST20003 for undergrads) Galaxies and their Place in the Universe: Alister Graham (SP1). Duncan Forbes (SP3), Michelle Cluver (SP1 & SP3)
  • Prof. Duncan Forbes has been a faculty member in the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing since August 2000. A New Zealander, who did his PhD at Cambridge, Duncan has also spent time at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Lick Observatory in California and most recently as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham in England. Over the years, he has worked on various aspects of galaxy evolution with a recent fondnes for globular clusters in external galaxies.

    • AST80017 Studies in Space Exploration: Rebecca Allen
    • Dr Rebecca Allen completed her PhD in astrophysics at Swinburne University of Technology. Her research focuses on understanding the evolution and growth of galaxies over time, going all the way back to when the Universe was barely a billion years old. To comprehend how these giant systems change with time she uses data from telescopes across the world and even the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr Allen works with the Swinburne Space Office to develop opportunities for students to learn about working in space industry and to participate in hands-on projects with industry partners. Dr Allen has piloted this initiative by leading SHINE a project where University students mentor secondary students as they work together to design, build, and program their own experiment that flies on the International Space Station. When she is not studying space or sending things into space, Dr Allen uses her scientific expertise and enthusiasm to communicate the wonders of the Universe to others and to create inspiring and transformative learning experiences for university and secondary students by coordinating Swinburne Astronomy Online and by managing Swinburne Astronomy Productions.

    • AST80001 (co-coded AST20002 for undergrads) Astrobiology and the Origins of Life: Assoc. Prof. Glenn Kacprzak (see above)

    AST80004, AST80005 and AST80006 are compulsory. To complete the Graduate Certificate (4 units), with either AST80001 or AST80017 is required.

Advanced Units

  • AST80002 Astrophotography & CCD Imaging: Duncan Forbes (see above)

  • AST80003 (co-coded AST30002 for undergrads) Cosmology and the Large-scale Structure of the Universe: Terry Bridges (Past Instructor), Prof. Darren Croton

  • AST80015 Planetary Science: Kurt Liffman
  • Dr Kurt Liffman has a B.Sc.(Hons) in Mathematics from the University of Melbourne and PhD in astrophysics from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University (Houston, TX). Kurt has worked on problems related to the formation of the Solar System at NASA's Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX) and AMES Research Center (Mountain View, CA). Kurt also worked at the CSIRO, where he was affiliated with the astrophysics group at the Australia Telescope National Facility . He currently works at Swinburne as a research scientist and sessional lecturer at SAO. Kurt is also a visiting scientist at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. Around two decades ago, Kurt and Michael J. I Brown published a theory suggesting that the some major components found in meteorites (and, possibly, the planets) were formed or reprocessed close to the early Sun and distributed through-out the early Solar System by bipolar jet flows or accretional flows that were produced close to the early Sun in the first few million years of the Solar System. This theory has obtained some preliminary observational confirmation with observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope that show exactly this process occurring in the protostellar systems Ex Lup and HOPS 68. Kurt is currently working with Prof. Sarah Maddison (Swinburne) and the Swinburne planetary science/astrophysics group on projects to better understand how Stellar Systems are formed.

  • AST80016 Stellar Astrophysics: Dr Chris Flynn (Past Instructor) and Assoc. Prof. Ryan Shannon
  • An expert in time-domain radio astronomy, Assoc. Prof. Ryan Shannon completed his PhD in astronomy at Cornell University, graduating in 2011. Ryan then relocated to Australia (a world leading country in radio astronomy), first holding research fellowship positions at CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility, then jointly with CSIRO and International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University before joining Swinburne. Ryan's main research interests are in studying pulsars and fast radio bursts, both to understand these extreme objects, and use them as astrophysics tools. For example, observations of an array of ultra stable millisecond pulsars can be used to ultra low frequency gravitational waves from binary supermassive black holes, while fast radio bursts can be used to find and map the faint hot gas in the intergalactic medium. Ryan is a principal investigator of the CRAFT project, which uses the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope to search for pinpoint the positions of fast radio bursts and is project scientist for the MeerTime large survey project, which monitors pulsars with the MeerKAT array in South Africa to undertake tests of fundamental physics and search for ultra low frequency gravitational waves.

  • AST80018 Professional Tools for Astronomical Observation: Assoc. Prof. Edward (Ned) Taylor.
    Alister Graham / Tayyaba Zafar / Giovanna Pugliese / Melissa Hulbert / Terry Bridges (Past Instructors)

  • Major Project units

    • AST80011 Major Project: Computational Astrophysics : Prof. Adam Deller
    • Prof. Adam Deller studied electronic engineering at Swinburne University as an undergraduate before receiving a PhD in astrophysics from Swinburne in 2009. Since then, he has been awarded postdoctoral fellowships at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ( and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy before taking up a staff astronomer position at ASTRON and then returning Swinburne as a staff member. His research focuses on the physics of compact objects (neutron stars and black holes) primarily by way of observations with radio telescopes. A current focus is uncovering the origin of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which are enormously powerful millisecond-duration radio flashes that appear to be generated outside our own Galaxy. Closer to home, he also studies neutron stars within the Milky Way galaxy, both in the form of radio pulsars, and X-ray binaries (where the neutron star is accreting gas from a companion object). His specialty is performing astrometry on these systems, using radio telescopes spread across continents to make carefully calibrated images with extremely high angular resolution. This links with his interest in radio astronomy instrumentation: he has developed the "DiFX" distributed correlator that is used by a number of operational radio interferometers, and is involved with a number of working groups contributing to the design of the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA). He has previously instructed both Exploring the Solar System and Computational Astrophysics.

    • AST80013 Major Project - Observational Astronomy: Melissa Hulbert (Past Instructor), Giovanna Pugliese (Current Instructor)
    • Dr Giovanna Pugliese received her PhD in astrophysics from the University of Bonn, working on high energy neutrinos and theoretical modelling of GRBs at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. She received her Master in Physics from La Sapienza University in Rome, working on high energy cosmic rays and neutrinos, and her Master in Astronomy from the University of Bologna, working on astroparticle physics. Her fields of research range from the modelling and photometric study of GRBs and their link to UHE cosmic rays and neutrinos, to Adaptive Optics photometry of Galactic globular clusters, to the spectroscopic study of extragalactic GCs and stellar populations. After working as a researcher at several universities both in California and in Europe (UCSC, ESO, Utrecht university, Radboud university in Nijmegen), she is now a researcher at API, the astronomy department at UvA, the university of Amsterdam. At API she works in the GRBs group that study the environment / galaxies in which high redshift GRBs occur. During the last 10 years, she has also been involved in astronomy outreach and activities to bring her knowledge into schools.

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