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.

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 the Charlene Heisler Medal together with an award of $1000 and ASA membership for the following calendar year. The recipient is 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.

Nominations for the 2025 Charlene Heisler Prize will open in December 2024 with a closing date of mid-February 2025.



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


  • Each Australian University can submit a maximum of two nominations per year (unless a special case can be made for an extra nomination).
  • Nominations must be endorsed by the Head of the nominee’s academic unit, in consultation with their academic staff. The Head should also certify that the applicant’s degree requirements have been completed during the previous calendar year.
  • Nominations must be submitted by the candidate’s supervisor.

A nomination will consist of:

  • an electronic copy of the thesis;
  • 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;
  • an endorsement from the Head of the department/school/institute;
  • examiners’ reports on the thesis.

Submissions should be emailed to the ASA Prizes and Awards Coordinator, Dr Tanya Hill –

The 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 any decision not to award a 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 work was completed in the previous year.)


2023 – Piyush Sharda (Australian National University)
The role of metals from molecular clouds to galactic discs
2022 – Adelle Goodwin (Monash University)
On the Nature of Neutron Stars in Accreting Systems
2021 – Colm Talbot (Monash University)
Astrophysics of Binary Black Holes at the Dawn of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy
2020 – Hayley Macpherson (Monash University)
Inhomogeneous cosmology in an anisotropic Universe
2019 – Adam Thomas (ANU)
The ionising radiation and gas-phase metallicity in the narrow-line regions of Seyfert galaxies
2018 – Anish Amarsi (ANU)
Three-dimensional non-local thermodynamic equilibrium radiative transfer and oxygen abundances in late-type stars
2017 – Paul Stewart (University of Sydney)
Stellar Science with Cassini
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

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.