Brian Schmidt, a US-born astrophysicist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011, is to take charge at the Australian National University in January.
The Harvard-educated scientist moved to Australia in 1994, where he has worked at the ANU’s Mount Stromio Observatory.
Professor Schmidt shared his 2011 prize with US astrophysicists Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for their work showing that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
The Nobel laureate, who holds dual US and Australian citizenship and was named “Australian of the Year” in 2011, was described as an “inspirational leader” by ANU’s chancellor Gareth Evans.
“Brian’s vision, vitality, global stature and communication skills are going to take our national university to places it has never been before,” said Professor Evans, adding that the physicist was “superbly placed to deliver on the ambition of ANU founders – to permanently secure our position among the great universities of the world, and as a crucial contributor to the nation".
Professor Schmidt said that he would work not only to further improve the outstanding research at ANU, but also to ensure that the university provided its students with an education equal to that found at Oxbridge and the Ivy League.
“We’re nearly there, and we’re going to get there over the next few years,” he said. “I am especially looking forward to connecting our students of today with the students of the past, our alumni, for their mutual benefit,” he added.
He said that he was delighted to be offered the post and to lead ANU. “I’ve been at the ANU for some 20 years and it has given me some of the best experiences of my life.
“I really want to give back to the university that has given so much to me,” he added.
Professor Schmidt is speaking at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in Melbourne later this year.