The Louise Webster Prize

Dr Louise Webster completed her PhD on southern planetary nebulae at Mount Stromlo and went on to hold positions overseas before returning as a Commissioning Astronomer at the AAT and an inaugural staff astronomer at the AAO. In 1978 she joined the University of New South Wales, where she worked as an academic staff member until she passed away in 1990 at the age of 49, after a long illness. In addition to her outstanding research contributions in the fields of planetary nebulae and X-ray binaries, Louise was also passionate about the importance of mentoring her younger colleagues in the early stages of their research careers. A brief outline of Louise's astronomical career has been written by John Storey and Don Faulkner (PASA 9 (1), 6-7, 1991).

Louise Webster

Louise Webster

CHP medal

The Louise Webster Prize
medal featuring the
Helix Nebula.

The Louise Webster Prize is awarded annually by the Astronomical Society of Australia in recognition of outstanding research by a scientist early in their post-doctoral career. The Prize will be awarded on the basis of the scientific impact of a single research paper, which has the applicant as first author. The research paper can be in any area of astronomy or a closely related field. The prize is intended for work carried out primarily after completion of a postgraduate degree.

The Prize consists of a medal together with an award of $1,000 and ASA membership for the following calendar year. The recipient will be invited to present a paper on their research at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia, where the prize will be presented. Limited travel funds to support attendance at the ASA science meeting may be made available at the discretion of the ASA Council.

To be eligible for the Prize, the applicant:

  • must have had their PhD conferred within five years* prior to the nomination deadline.
  • must have published the nominated research paper in a refereed scientific journal, appearing in final published form within five years* prior to the nomination deadline.
  • must be an Australian citizen or resident at the nomination deadline or, if not, the nominated research paper must have been published with affiliation to an Australian institution.
  • must have been a member of the ASA for at least two years prior to nomination for the award.

* Acceptable leaves of absence from active research will be taken into consideration when determining eligibility.

Nominations can be from a Department Head or a colleague. Self-nominations are acceptable.

A call for nominations is usually emailed out to the ASA membership in December each year, with a closing date for nominations in February (February 9, 2018).

Submissions must include:

  • A letter of nomination up to 2 pages in length, outlining in a clear and concise manner the major scientific results in the research paper for which the nomination is made and the subsequent impact of the research paper,
  • A copy of the first author research paper on which the nomination is based,
  • A curriculum vitae including a complete list of publications,
  • The names and email addresses of two professional astronomers who would be willing to write supporting letters for the nomination outlining their view of the scientific impact of the research paper. These referees cannot be co-authors on the research paper, but should be familiar with the nominee's work.

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

An assessment committee nominated by the ASA Council will evaluate the submitted materials and make a recommendation to the ASA Council. The decision of the Council is final, including the decision not to award the prize in any given year.

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List of Past Winners

(based on year in which the award was made)
2016 - David Nicholls (ANU)
Nicholls, et. al. 2012, ApJ, 752, 148, "Resolving the electron temperature discrepancies in HII regions and planetary nebulae: κ-distributed electrons"
2015 - Madusha Gunawardhana (Macquarie University / AAO / USyd)
Gunawardhana, M. 2011 MNRAS 415, 167, "Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA): the star formation rate dependence of the stellar initial mass function"
2014 - Simon Campbell (Monash University)
Campbell, S.W. et al. 2013, Nature, 498, 198-200, "Sodium content as a predictor of the advanced evolution of globular cluster stars"
2013 - Andrew Green (Swinburne University)
Green, A. et al. 2010, Nature, 467, 684, "High star formation rates as the origin of turbulence in early and modern disk galaxies"
2012 - Sean Farrell (University of Sydney)
Farrell, S. et al. 2009, Nature, 460, 73, "An Intermediate-mass black hole of over 500 solar masses in the galaxy ESO 243-49"
2011 - Gayandhi De Silva (RSAA / ANU)
De Silva, G.M., Freeman, K.C., Bland-Hawthorn, J., Asplund, M, Bessell, M.S. 2007, AJ, 133, 694, "Chemically Tagging The HR 1614 Moving Group"
2010 - Michael Ireland (University of Sydney)
Ireland, M.J. and Kraus, A.L. 2008, ApJ 678, L59, "The Disk Around CoKu Tauri/4: Circumbinary, Not Transitional"
2009 - Tamara Davis (University of Queensland / University of Copenhagen)
Davis et al. 2007, ApJ 666, 716-725, "Scrutinizing exotic cosmological models using ESSENCE supernova data combined with other cosmological probes"

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