Alan Duffy joins Swinburne as Research Fellow and Science Communicator

Monday 24 March 2014

A low angle photograph of Swinburne University of Technology signage on the Advanced Technologies Centre building in Hawthorn.

Astronomer Dr Alan Duffy has been appointed Research Fellow and Science Communicator at Swinburne University of Technology. 

Dr Duffy will be part of Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing (CAS) participating in research undertaken at the centre while also generating overall awareness of astrophysics and other science-related topics through community outreach. 

“I am thrilled at the chance to work with one of the largest and most successful astronomy centres in not just Australia but the world. The Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing is a natural place for a scientist who creates baby universes inside powerful computers and I can't wait to start giving these machines at Swinburne a work out,” Dr Duffy said. 

Dr Duffy joins Swinburne after having been in a postdoctoral research position for the past two years at the University of Melbourne. Before that he was at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia. 

He obtained his PhD from one of the world's most prestigious astronomy research institutes, the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics in Manchester, UK, and in that time spent a few years studying the Dark Matter properties of galaxies at the Sterrewacht, Leiden Observatory in The Netherlands. 

As an experienced astronomer, Dr Duffy has numerous published articles on a range of topics within general astronomy and cosmology and several of his papers are amongst the top 1 per cent most highly cited astronomy articles in the world of their year. 

However, it is Dr Duffy’s ability to make science accessible to larger audiences that has enabled him to become a prominent figure in the media. He says particular terminology of a scientific discipline can sometimes get in the way of communicating scientific ideas. 

“Getting rid of jargon and simplifying the message isn’t dumbing down, it’s making it accessible and done well doesn't invalidate the science. If I can then convey a story in a way which reaches a new audience who may not have found themselves interested in science before, then that's a great day.” 

To date, Dr Duffy has commented on a range of astronomy topics and given numerous interviews across print, radio and TV, including the ABC and Al Jazeera. He has also been proactive in communicating science by co-writing and starring in a planetarium film called Dark, which is now showing in 16 countries worldwide and co-hosting an online vodcast discussing science set in a relaxed setting, the pub, Pint in the Sky. 

Professor Matthew Bailes, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research said he is looking forward to what Dr Duffy will bring to Swinburne. 

"Alan has an uncanny ability to take complex scientific concepts and translate them into a language easily understood by the general public. 

“A core part of Swinburne's future strategy is to convey a sense of excitement about science, technology and innovation to both undergraduates and the wider public. Alan will excel in this role." 

Dr Duffy has been proactive in the community by giving presentations and visiting schools across Australia to communicate science, which he said is another way to get people excited about science. 

“Science is not just old men with crazy hair scribbling on blackboards. It's a way in which we can all better understand the world around us and begin to answer the mysteries of life and our place in it. Science is a way of questioning the world and the answers it gives are incredible.” 

Follow Alan Duffy @AstroDuff