The Charlene Heisler Prize

During her short but highly productive career, Dr Charlene Heisler became an internationally-renowned astronomer. She moved to Australia in 1993 to take up a postdoctoral position at the Anglo-Australian Observatory and continued to work in Australian astronomy until her death in 1999 at the age of 37. Charlene was known for her encouragement and guidance of her students, demonstrating that good science is fun and good scientists can be warm, sincere, people. A brief outline of Charlene's astronomical career has been written by Ray Norris.

Charlene Heisler

Charlene Heisler

CHP medal

The Charlene Heisler Prize
medal featuring a
multi-wavelength view of CEN-A.

The Charlene Heisler Prize is awarded annually by the Astronomical Society of Australia for the most outstanding PhD thesis in astronomy or a closely related field, accepted by an Australian university. The thesis research must show outstanding excellence and originality.

The Prize consists of a medal together with an award of $500 and ASA membership for the following calendar year. The recipient is invited to present a paper on their PhD research at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia, where the prize will be presented.

To be eligible for the Prize, the applicant's PhD thesis must have been accepted by an Australian university in the calendar year prior to the award. 'Accepted' is understood to mean all requirements for the degree have been completed, including any viva or similar, and that the applicant has been admitted to the degree by the appropriate university authority. It is not necessary for the degree to have been conferred. The research topic can be in any area of astronomy or a closely related field. There is no restriction on the nationality of applicants.

A request for submissions for the award in a given year is usually emailed out to the ASA membership in December each year, with the closing date for nominations in February (February 9, 2018 - noting that the applicant's degree must have been accepted in the previous calendar year).

Nominations must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Each Australian University Department can submit a maximum of 2 nominations per year.
  • Nominations must be endorsed by the department head, in consultation with their academic staff. The department head should also certify that the PhD thesis has been accepted by the applicant's institution during the previous calendar year.
  • Nominations must be submitted by the candidate's supervisor.
  • A nomination will consist of a copy of the thesis, preferably in electronic format for ease of distribution, together with a statement from the principal supervisor outlining the thesis results and why they are exceptional. The statement should also include details of the specific contributions of the applicant to the research.
  • Other material such as examiners reports and/or referee reports on any associated publications can also be included with the nomination, where appropriate. Again electronic form is preferable for ease of distribution.

Submissions should be emailed to the ASA Prizes and Awards Coordinator, Dr Tanya Hill: thill - @ -

The assessment committee nominated by the ASA Council will evaluate the submitted materials to determine the prize recipient. The decision of the assessment committee is final, including any decision not to award the prize in any given year.

Limited travel funds to support attendance at the ASA science meeting may be made available at the discretion of the ASA Council. The prize winner will also be encouraged to submit a synopsis of their thesis research to the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. A full paper on the research would also be welcomed.

List of Past Winners

(based on year in which the award was made.)

The Charlene Heisler prize was instituted in 2000 by Charlene's colleagues, with the generous support of many members of the ASA. It was originally offered as a prize to reward excellence at the undergraduate level, on the basis of an essay on astronomical topic. The prize was awarded in 2000 to Ewan Cameron from ANU for his essay on 'Gamma Ray bursts'.

Low student interest in subsequent years led to no awards and a reassessment of the program. In 2005 a new attempt was made, targetting high school students, but the response was again disappointing. The first award of the Prize for a PhD thesis was made in 2006.

Charlene Heisler Prize awards for PhD theses:

2016 - Vikram Ravi (University of Melbourne)
Evincing the histories of the cosmic massive black hole and galaxy populations with gravitational waves
2015 - Morag Scrimgeour (UWA)
Cosmology with Large-scale Structure and Galaxy Flows
2014 - Justin Bray (University of Adelaide)
Lunar Radio Detection of Ultra-High-Energy Particles
2013 - Emily Wisnioski (Swinburne University)
The Kinematic Properties of Clumpy Star-Forming Galaxies
2012 - Anthony van Eysden (University of Melbourne)
Superfluid spin up and pulsar glitch recovery
2011 - Max Spolaor (Swinburne University)
Radial Gradients in Elliptical Galaxies
2010 - Adam Deller (Swinburne University)
Instrumentation, algorithms and pulsar parallax
2009 - Brendon Brewer (University of Sydney)
Applications of Bayesian Probability Theory in Astrophysics
2008 - Simon Campbell (Monash University)
Structural and Nucleosynthetic Evolution of Metal-poor and Metal-free Low and Intermediate Mass Stars
2007 - Anna Frebel (RSAA)
Abundance Analysis of Bright Metal-Poor Stars from the Hamberg/ESO Survey
2006 - Michael Ireland (University of Sydney)
Optical Interferometry and Mira Variable Stars

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