Career Profile

Wilfred Walsh completed a PhD in Astrophysics at UNSW in 1997.

Each morning as I walk from the dome of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station to the observatory where I work, a few hundred meters away on the other side of the world, I try to do three things. First I try to decide how to spend my day, as every day running a sub-millimetre radiotelescope demands its own agenda. Second, I look around at the changing expanses of drifting snow, gently flowing ice "rivers" and peculiar skies that I've only ever seen here in the middle of the Antarctic plateau. If the winds are strong enough, they scatter ice into the air, which forms strange rainbow rings, arcs and patterns around the sun. Third, walking through this crystal mist at perhaps 60oC windchill, I try to ensure that no skin gets frostbitten, that no body parts freeze off.

What got me here was my postdoctoral appointment at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where I will spend two years in addition to my year at the South Pole. Previous to living in Boston, I spent nearly four years in Bonn, Germany, working at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy, and one year teaching at Charles University in Prague. Learning the radioastronomy trade has involved using over a dozen telescopes in Australia, various countries in Europe, the USA and Chile. All this was made possible by my PhD studies (on the problem of dark matter in galaxies) that I completed at the Department of Astrophysics, using the world class research facilities of UNSW and the Australia Telescope National Facility.

Now, for the next year, I have responsibility for a telescope that is unique in the world for its ability to explore the sub-millimetre sky. The challenge of running this project, the experience of living here, and the thrill of the prospect of what new discoveries might come out of my research here, are things that no amount of money and no other degree course - can buy.

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