University of Western Australia: UWA astronomer and archaeologist awarded Australian Laureate Fellowships

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An astronomer studying the evolution of mass, energy and structure and an archaeologist whose research is focused on Indigenous archaeology and heritage, native title, rock art and maritime archaeology have been awarded Australian Laureate Fellowships.

Professor Simon Driver, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at UWA, and Professor Peter Veth, from UWA’s School of Social Sciences, received the Fellowships.

The pair are two of the 16 Australian Laureate Fellows to be recognised nationally this year, with all 16 to share nearly $50 million for their five-year research projects as part of the first 2022 round of the program.

Professor Driver’s project, Unveiling the mass of the Universe: stars, gas, plasma and dark matter, was awarded $2.6 million. It would use unique Australian-built fibre-positioning technologies to measure the distances to two million galaxies to transform our understanding of dark matter at ‘galaxy scale’, the largest known structures in the universe.

Professor Driver said the two goals of the project were to test precise predictions of the leading cold dark matter model by constructing dark matter halo catalogues based on the motions of galaxies measured to unprecedented accuracy and to solve a long-standing “missing mass” problem.

Awarded $3.2 million, Professor Veth’s project Desert people: Australian perspectives would bring together innovative science and Indigenous knowledge to develop new understandings of the 60,000 year custodianship of Australian deserts.

Professor Veth said the research would focus on the Ningaloo coast, Pilbara and Western Desert, a region experiencing resource extraction, energy production and tourism and a key to Australia’s post-COVID recovery, where “globally significant human record is poorly documented and at risk”.

The Desert People program will work with Traditional Owners and would use novel techniques to document places of highest value for their management and protection, with the aim of improved planning outcomes and the underwriting of new regional economies.

UWA Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Anna Nowak said UWA’s new ARC Laureate Fellows were outstanding researchers, each internationally recognised for their contributions in their fields.

“The ARC Laureate scheme recognises cutting-edge research in Australia by world-leading researchers and the University congratulates Professors Driver and Veth on receiving this well-deserved recognition,” Professor Nowak said.

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