Science Scope

On February 28, 1956, physicist, astronomer, science educator-strategist Penny D. Sackett was born in Nebraska.

Her studies have taken her from theoretical physics at the University of Pittsburgh to the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in the Netherlands to Director of the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Here, she was part of the team overseeing the University’s participation in building the world’s biggest telescope, the Giant Magellan.

Sackett accepted the position of Chief Scientist for Australia to work as an independent advisor on issues of science, technology and related innovation to the Prime Minister and other members of cabinet. Part of her job was to identify national challenges and opportunities that science might address. Additionally, Sackett was a communicator to the Australian public to promote the contribution and joy of science. She served as both promoter and advocate of Australian science to the world community. She identified big challenges ahead for Australian society – in climate change, in food and water security, and in medicine, and established a long-term strategic forum for policy development. She founded the Young Ambassadors for Science Program to link some of Australia’s brightest young science minds to one another, to their communities, and to the larger world of sciences.

Now back into her life of cross-disciplinary science, Sackett will continue mentoring and researching special areas of interest like dark matter, telescope arrays, and solar research from ANU’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Her national and public policy experiences add a suite of skills she already employs in her advancement of science consciousness at every level. Professor Sackett has established a strategic advisory service that provides scientific and sustainability perspectives for groups – from small communities to national governments to global corporations – to better prepare them for their future planning and needs.

Sackett’s portrait is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. Enjoy this short discussion of art and science between painter Andrew Mezei and Professor Sackett.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage

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