EYES ON THE STARS, PRIZE IN HER HANDS
With so many other talented students competing for it, Dr Tamara Davis was “stunned” when she heard that she’d won the UNSW U Committee Award for Research Excellence in Science.
The coveted award of $10,000 is given annually to a science student judged to have submitted the best PhD thesis within a calendar year.
“When I first heard I was stunned – I couldn't believe that I had won,” says Dr Davis, who in December 2005 accepted a post-doctoral position at Dark Universe Centre of the University of Copenhagen.
“I've won plenty of small things before, but the prize of $10,000 that came with this award gives it a weight unlike anything I had achieved before.
"I really did not expect to win, because UNSW churns out so many great PhDs each year, and it is difficult to believe that my research could have been the best.”
The selection committee noted that Dr Davis’s doctoral thesis – Fundamental Aspects of the Expansion of the Universe and Cosmic Horizons – addressed the topic with “originality, authority and clarity, to the extent that her work has been published in both prestigious journals, Nature and Scientific American".
Her thesis covered many fundamental issues about the expansion of the universe.
She addressed questions such as:
- is there a limit to how far can we see?
- do the fundamental constants of nature vary?
- what happens to the event-horizons of black holes in an expanding universe?
Is there an unknown type of energy or are the laws of gravity wrong? – "I'd like to figure out which.”
“The Centre for Dark Energy has a brief to investigate the role that ‘dark energy’ plays in the rapid expansion of the universe,” says Dr Davis.
“This is something that was discovered only seven years ago. We knew the universe was expanding, but had always assumed that the expansion was slowing down because of gravity.
"Nothing in our conventional physics can cause the expansion to accelerate. So either there is a new type of matter or energy that was previously unknown, or the laws of gravity are wrong – and I'd like to figure out which.”
Dr Davis has three degrees from UNSW – a bachelor's degree in Science (physics), a bachelor's degree in Arts (philosophy) and a PhD in Astrophysics.
Before her recent appointment in Denmark, Dr Davis worked at the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory, consulting for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US on the design of a new space telescope for telescope for the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA.
Her success isn’t limited to academia. As a UNSW student she competed at the Australian University Games in four sports (skiing, swimming, water polo and Ultimate frisbee), collecting medals in three of them. She was president of the Ultimate frisbee club, served on the Sports Association Executive and won the Sam Cracknell scholarship for sport.
She was also awarded a UNSW Blue, the highest honour the university can bestow for achievement in sport, and was a state medallist in gymnastics and surf lifesaving.
While completing her PhD she represented Australia in two World Championships for Ultimate Frisbee.
See the Dark Cosmology Website here
Learn more about the U Committee here