UNSW Canberra’s Fiona Panther to attend Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting


A UNSW Canberra astrophysicist has been invited to attend this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in June.

Fiona Panther is among 580 young scientists who have been selected to attend the meeting with 42 Nobel Laureates.

The annual meetings focus alternatively physiology and medicine, physics and chemistry – the three natural science Nobel Prize disciplines. This year’s focus is physics.

“Physics is so diverse, and the Lindau meeting is all about bringing together people who have an interdisciplinary background,” Dr Panther said.

Dr Panther has always been attracted to interdisciplinary studies and it’s one of the reasons she ended up pursuing astronomy.

“When I started out in physics as an undergrad, I couldn’t decide what I liked,” she said.

“I liked particle physics and nuclear physics and lasers and mathematics and computers, and I didn’t know how to bring it all together and just pick one area of physics, so I picked astronomy to focus on because it was the best place to do interdisciplinary science.”

Dr Panther was selected for her PhD work on antimatter in the Milky Way, which was completed at the Australian National University. She began working at UNSW Canberra's School of Science in February.

The young physicists represent 88 countries and Dr Panther will travel with an Australian contingent of 10 scientists, selected by the Australian Academy of Science. She said connecting with other scientists is one of her favourite parts of the jobs.

“One of the amazing things that I’ve found about science is the opportunity to connect with people from so many different cultures and backgrounds and it’s a way of bringing everyone together,” she said.

“It doesn’t mean there are not challenges for people who are underrepresented, such as women and different racial minorities. It’s still challenging, but we can bring everyone together out of this common umbrella. One of the things that the Lindau meetings do is they bring people together.”

Seven of the 10 Australia participants are women. Dr Panther said this is an outstanding achievement in a field where women are underrepresented.

“The Academy of Science has done a really good job of making sure we are picking people who can be role models to women who are coming up and can see themselves in someone who has just done this amazing thing.”

The Australian scientists will be supported with a grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF). 

The group will also take part in the SIEF Research Innovation Tour in Germany. The tour will showcase some of Germany’s finest research and development and encourage scientific collaboration between the two countries.

The meeting’s key topics will be cosmology, laser physics and gravitational waves.