Scholarship winners

2024: Chloe Wilkins

Chloe’s project is titled, “Characterising the Sun’s open-closed magnetic flux boundary towards understanding the acceleration of the slow solar wind.”
Chloe’s research is centred around developing a comprehensive global model of the Sun’s magnetic topology – research which holds immense potential for advancing our understanding of slow solar wind acceleration and its implications for Earth.
The question of the acceleration of the slow solar wind has become a pivotal research area in recent years, motivating the launches of the NASA Parker Solar Probe (2018) and the NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter (2020) flagship missions. The slow solar wind is one of the driving forces behind space weather events such as geomagnetic storms, which can cause radio blackouts and interfere with satellites and GPS technology. It is postulated in severe cases that such events could result in economic losses amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars.
Consequently, Chloe’s PhD project occupies a prominent position in the forefront of space physics research, aiming to deepen our understanding of solar dynamics and contribute valuable insights to the fields of solar physics and space weather forecasting.
Chloe will be using the scholarship funds to travel to Durham University, where she will be introduced to a more realistic global model – a magnetofrictional approach – by Professor Anthony Yeates, a leading expert in this area.
Durham University is a renowned institution with an outstanding reputation in teaching, research and student employability. Chloe’s research in solar physics aligns seamlessly with the University’s expertise. Chloe says, “I am excited for the possibility to expand my professional network through collaboration with Professor Anthony Yeates, members of the Applied Mathematics research group, and academics in solar physics at neighbouring institutions.”

2023: Giulia Cinquegrana

Giulia is a third-year PhD student in theoretical astrophysics and will be using the scholarship funding to visit Europe in August 2023.

Her research concerns the evolution and chemical contributions of stars with very high initial metal content (here, we refer to any element heavier than helium as a ‘metal’). Giulia’s visit will strongly support the pursuit of answers to questions prioritised by the Australian decadal plan for astronomy, including how elements are produced by stars and recycled through galaxies, how galaxies form and evolve across cosmic time, and how stars and planets form.

2022: Trey Guest

Trey’s project is “Wavefront Characterisation of MHz XFEL Pulses” and is a collaboration between the La Trobe University and the European XFEL and aims to leverage Australian expertise in x-ray physics to develop suitable phase-retrieval methods for application at the European XFEL. Trey  travelled to the Hamburg metropolitan region of Germany to implement wavefront sensing schemes designed using wavefront simulations he has performed, as well as preliminary experiments undertaken at the Imaging and Medical Beamline (IMBL) at the Australian Synchrotron.

2021: Alison Campbell

Alison’s PhD project involves fabricating and analysing next-generation organic photovoltaic devices. The CSIRO Alumni Scholarship in Physics allowed her to travel to Cambridge University to study these devices using laser spectroscopy. She performed experiments on the samples using ultrafast spectroscopic equipment to study the relationships between molecular processes and device structure. In particular, she performed experiments to measure the impact of strong coupling on the process of charge formation within optical cavities. The strong coupling of stationary light waves with energy stored in a material in the form of an exciton results in the creation of a hybrid particle, termed a polariton, which is halfway between a photon and an exciton. Polariton formation causes a shift in the potential energy surface of molecular materials, which is predicted to impact nanoscale processes occurring in organic photovoltaic devices such as charge generation and separation. Using strong coupling is likely to provide a breakthrough in organic photovoltaic capability, and therefore it is important to develop a sophisticated understanding of the effect of polariton formation on nanoscale photophysical processes critical to the device function.

2020: Benjamin Dix-Matthews

Benjamin’s project was ‘Coherent optical free-space frequency dissemination’. He developed an innovative system capable of overcoming the complex challenges associated with the stabilised free-space transfer of optical frequencies.

He used the 2020 CSIRO Alumni Scholarship to travel to France to test his prototype system in a practical experiment of an optical transmission between two buildings in Toulouse. The project was in collaboration with the CNES The French Space Agency.

His paper ‘Point-to-point stabilized optical frequency transfer with active optics’ was published in Nature Communications.

2019: Matthew Rendell

Matthew’s project was to develop ultra-high quality germanium heterostructures, as well as the fabrication of working nanostructures on these high quality germanium wafers.

The travel scholarship assisted with expenses relating to Matthew’s research trip to the QUTech group at TU Delft in the Netherlands. This allowed him to access one of the best nanostructure research and fabrication groups in Europe.

Here he gained knowledge and skills in the growth of germanium heterostructures and nanoscale device fabrication which is not available at any facility in Australia. He subsequently brought these devices and wafers back to Australia for characterisation and measurement as part of a continued collaboration between the research group at UNSW and the QUTech group at TU Delft.

2018: Naomi Paxton

Naomi is studying biomedical physics as applied to biofabrication: 3-D printing body parts.

This rapidly evolving research field interfaces medical engineering, science and tissue engineering. She is part of a highly multidisciplinary ‘biofabrication and tissue morphology’ group at QUT, led by Professor Mia Woodruff. The research involves the use of cutting edge medical 3-D printers to create patient-specific implants to treat bone trauma or congenital defects.

Thousands of Australians and millions of people around the world suffer from significant bone loss due to congenital abnormality and diseases such as cancer or trauma.

In many cases these bone defects require surgical intervention to heal properly. The current gold standard treatment is auto grafting and allografting where the bone is taken from the hip or another side of the patient’s body, or from a donor, and transplanted into the defect site to guide healing. There is a large shortage of donor material and grafting procedures are costly and carry significant risks including infection, as well as creating a second surgical site.

The aim of her biofabrication research is to provide an alternative to grafting, by 3-D printing patient-specific scaffold using advanced biomaterials containing the patient’s own cells that will in able regrowth and complete healing of the defect. She uses disruptive technology driven by engineers, biologists, chemists and physicists (like her) to provide a revolutionary step in the trajectory of modern healthcare within Australia and around the world.

Naomi undertook four weeks research with Professor Molly Steven’s laboratory in London to gain access to her world class research and, specifically Raman spectroscopy expertise for biomaterials. This presented an invaluable knowledge transfer opportunity, to extend the capability of rapid biomaterial screening and development Into biofabricated implants. The novel bioglass ‘strontium substituted bio-active glass’ was developed by Stephen’s laboratory and has shown promising results for a range of biomedical applications.

In 2019, Naomi was the winner of the inaugural Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship, which acknowledges the potential impact of an outstanding PhD candidate in polymer science or engineering. The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering wrote a feature on her achievements

2017: Scott Liles

Scott studied the spin coherence time of single holes in GaAs electronic devices.

“The aim of my trip to the University of Copenhagen was to learn the experimental techniques that would allow me to perform measurements of the spin coherence time of single holes in GaAs electronic devices. Spin coherence time is an important property in the field quantum information and quantum computing. Spin based implementations of quantum computers hope to use the spin of single electrons or holes as quantum bits (qubits for short). The spin coherence time is a measurement of how long a spin qubit will be capable of holding ‘quantum’ information for. There have been a number of recent theoretical research papers highlighting that holes in GaAs may have very long spin coherence times, however no one has yet performed the experiments to confirm these measurements.

I gained valuable experience operating the state of the art experimental equipment. Since the equipment was set up and functioning I was able to essentially ‘plug and play’ using our GaAs devices. When I ran into problems Christian Volk, and Ferdinand Kuemmeth were always on hand and happy to help. This meant that I was able to quickly obtain valuable calibration and experimental parameters that would likely have taken several months to achieve here in Sydney. In particular, I now have a measurement of the parasitic capacitance of the GaAs Quantum Dot device, and measurements of the high frequency impedance characteristics of the charge sensor, which is vital for spin coherence measurements.

I am now almost finished designing a similar set up here in Sydney. I have customised our set-up based on the calibration measurements I obtained in Copenhagen. The equipment and design will be valuable for completing my PhD, but will also be used by all the current and future members of the research group.

The funding allowed me to take charge of this design project. Since I am now the only member of my research group with experience using a high frequency spin manipulation set-up, my supervisor has entrusted me to lead the design of the equipment here in Sydney. This has given me a huge confidence boost, and the experience to design a measurement set-up is incredibly valuable for my future as an experimental physicist. On a more general level, while working at Copenhagen I was able to form networks with the international research community in my field. The Neils Bohr Institute has 145 academic staff, 95 technical staff, and 85 PhD students. During the 6 weeks in Copenhagen I attended all of the weekly seminars from visiting academics, and was able to discus physics, career paths, and often football (particularly the upcoming World Cup) with people working in labs all across Europe. I hope that these connections will help me achieve one of my career goals, which is to spend some time working as post-doctoral researcher in Europe.”

2016: Brianna Ganly

Briana’s used the travel scholarship to travel to the University of Guelph (UoG) in Canada to work with their PIXE group, led by Professor J.L. Campbell, a world-leading expert on PIXE and X-ray Physics, and a co-investigator on the Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument at UoG. The APXS instrument analyses the surface of Mars with both PIXE and XRF to determine elemental composition. She has worked with Professor Campbell investigating the APXS instrument’s detector response to PIXE-induced X-rays which give rise to peaks at low energies using APXS spectra from the NASA Public Data Site ( This has been an extremely rewarding learning experience I could not obtain with just XRF data and the work has been successful and submitted for publication.

During her visit to Canada she planned to perform particle size experiments with access to specialised equipment, including a proton beam line which has recently been designed to emulate the Curiosity APXS as closely as possible. The results of these PIXE experiments will hopefully increase the understanding of particle size effects in a way that they can be quantified and corrected for. This research will be applied directly to XRF in the Australian mining industry to help analysis the elemental composition of slurries, ore and bore cores.

Brianna spoke to our team about her career journey so far:

“My love of Physics started in high school, where I was captivated from the first time I saw a cathode ray tube glow. I entered into a Bachelor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales, as I loved how materials science could combine aspects of Physics and Chemistry. My engineering degree led me to a physics internship in my final year with a research and development company: Tomra Sorting Solutions, where I was introduced to the concept of using X-rays to sort ore in the mining industry. After completing my honours thesis I knew an industry based PhD was the appropriate choice, where I could obtain research skills for the development of scientific applications that could be used in industry.

I was extremely fortunate that I was accepted to do my PhD with the CSIRO Mineral Resources Flagship. My project is based at the Lucas Heights site with the Online Control and Analysis group where I conduct experiments to improve portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) techniques for the mining industry. XRF is a useful technique that can be used to determine the elemental composition of a sample. One of the main benefits of XRF is that it can be made portable, giving it many applications for earth and environmental sciences. While the technique itself is quite well established and works excellently in the lab environment, rough samples in the field can cause some analysis challenges. In other words, rocks and dirt out in the field don’t give the same perfect results as a polished rock or a sample that has been perfectly ground into a fine powder in the lab.

My PhD project is attempting to find a way to correct many of the problems found in unprepared samples, especially the particle size effect caused by varying particle sizes of different minerals in rocks and soils that alter the absorption of X-rays in the sample and cause errors in the analysis. A similar technique to X-ray Fluorescence, also effected by the same issues, is Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE).”

2015: Claire Elise-Green

The first CSIRO Alumni Scholarship in Physics was awarded in 2015 to PhD student Claire-Elise Green. Claire’s research is in radio astronomy, especially star formation, molecular clouds, black holes/AGN and magnetic fields.

Claire used the scholarship to travel to the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, a world leader in this niche field, where she worked in the millimetre and sub-millimetre astronomy group under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Karl Menten.

“I was working on a publication with colleagues in Germany and they invited me to Germany to work with them. Funding for students to make international research visits is scarce and I was not able to secure any funds to make the trip. But then I heard about the CSIRO Alumni Scholarship in Physics and with the encouragement of my supervisor I applied and I was awarded a scholarship that made my trip possible. The scholarship covered my flights, my accommodation, food, taxis and trains and all the other incidentals for the whole month. It covered everything.” said Claire.

The group in Bonn has direct access to the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment APEX telescope in Chile. Observing with APEX allows the study of cold dust and gas in the Milky Way and in distant galaxies. The APEX data was invaluable for Claire’s research and she learnt technical skills particular to that telescope so she could use the data effectively.

She was also able to work with her collaborators in person on a paper, which has now been published in an international journal. She also contributed to research occurring at the Institute by introducing the team to new software for the identification of structures in star formation which will speed up their research.

At the end of her stay, Claire was offered a postdoctoral position at the Max-Planck Institute when she finishes her PhD, by the Director of the Institute.

“Postgraduate students like myself have big dreams and big opportunities but little funding to take advantage of them. A scholarship such as this can have a huge impact on a student’s career and I am so grateful to have been a recipient of the CSIRO Alumni Scholarship in Physics” – Claire-Elise Green.