Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt
Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt is an internationally prominent radio astronomer working in the space between astrophysics, computer science and big data. She holds 2 undergraduate science degrees – one a double major in theoretical and experimental physics and the other in mathematics and computer science – as well as a PhD in radio astronomy.
Her research interests span the intersection between radio astronomy, signal and image processing, and big data analytics. She previously led the galactic and extragalactic science team at the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy, which is exploiting the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and other telescopes to uncover the mysteries of the Universe.
Prior to transitioning to data and space science, Professor Johnston-Hollitt had a 20+ year career in radio astronomy that focused on the design, construction, operation, and governance of several major international radio telescopes. She was a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Square Kilometre Array Organisation, which was tasked with funding, designing and constructing the world’s largest radio telescope. She is the immediate past director of the MWA telescope and spent 9 years with the project, including 6 years on the international executive board – 4 years as board chair – and 3 as director.
Currently, she is both the Director of the Curtin Institute for Computation (CIC) and the Australian Space Data Analysis Facility (ASDAF). Taking on the role of CIC Director in August 2020, Professor Johnston-Hollitt leads a multi-disciplinary team of data scientists investigating how to best meet the increasing demand for computational modelling, data analytics, and visualisation. This involves working closely with small to medium-sized enterprises and researchers to tackle problems that are both fundamental in nature as well as industry-focused. Her leadership has seen the CIC expand by a factor of four to become Australia’s largest university-based data science institute. In July 2021, Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt took over the directorship of ASDAF, where she quickly defined a concrete vision. Preliminary steps towards this vision have been largely successful, with ASDAF’s visibility and accessibility already significantly raised through the final 6 months of 2021. Part of achieving this vision involved doubling ASDAF’s staff and increasing its ties to the CIC, allowing ASDAF to better achieve its remit by leveraging the resources of the CIC.