In his quest for knowledge, Dr Simon Mutch is trying to find out how the universe’s first galaxies formed and how they evolve over time.
“We all want to understand how we came to be here,” Dr Mutch said
“The first galaxies are the ancestors of all the galaxies we see in the universe, and if we want to understand how the Milky Way evolved, we need to study them.”
Dr Mutch is one of the inaugural STEM Ambassadors, and is working with Member for Gellibrand, Tim Watts, to connect science and politics. He has identified two main challenges in his field that would benefit greatly from science and policy working together more effectively.
“Looking at these early galaxies, we need really big telescopes that collect a lot of light, and these are expensive endeavours,” he said.
“These used to be built by individual countries, but now we’re seeing more multinational collaborations to build these facilities.”
“The other challenge is dealing with the huge amount of data coming from this new research infrastructure.”
He said that the data and technology that is built to explore space has made many contributions to technologies we use today – such as the study of black holes helping to drive the development of Wi-Fi, and the creation of sensitive X-ray detectors for studying the universe being adapted for use in medicine.
He said the need to see further and to process more data would lead to similar developments in new technology.
“A lot of the time we have to develop new industrial procedures, or even new materials to build new facilities,” he said.
“These can often go on to have uses in areas like medical imaging, satellite technology and monitoring.”
As an Ambassador, Dr Mutch serves as a connector between Parliament and the local STEM community. He said one of his earliest successes in his role as an Ambassador was during the delays to ARC funding in late 2018.
“I was able to give first hand accounts of how the delays were effecting researchers, particularly those with visas to work in Australia,” Dr Mutch said.
“Mr Watts is very understanding of the value of STEM, and has been very happy to discuss these issues.”
He hopes that following this early success, he can begin to expand his influence and approach other decision makers to widen his impact.
“Science provides us with an opportunity to make decisions based on facts and our best knowledge, it can help us make predictions for the future and give Australians the best chance for success.”