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Prof Rachel Webster

I'm proud I have had the opportunity to encourage and support young women to achieve excellence within a traditionally maledominated field.

Honour Roll

As a leading Australian astrophysicist, Professor Rachel Webster has been a role model for women in this traditionally maledominated field. Her significant research accomplishments are complemented by her work outside astrophysics, particularly on climate change and alternative power. Rachel was Victoria's first and Australia's second full-time female physics professor and today, thanks to her work and example, there are numerous female professors of physics.

In 1997 she won the Australian Institute of Physics inaugural 'Women in Physics' Lectureship in a national campaign. She also initiated and led University of Melbourne's Women in Physics camps and other networking opportunities for young women physicists. She has graduated over 20 PhD physics students, including a number of women, many of whom now hold research positions at leading international astrophysics centres. In recognition of this she received the 2006 Australasian Mid Career Mentoring Award, following a competition run by Nature, the internationally acclaimed science journal.

Rachel has also made a lasting contribution to the administration of the University of Melbourne's PhD programs, in particularly by making the scholarship system more 'female friendly'. "I hope that I have enabled young women to understand that they are capable, and that they have something substantial and different to contribute to science," Rachel says. Rachel's international leadership is demonstrated by her establishment of the University of Melbourne's first astrophysics research group.

Rachel also chairs the Victorian Geothermal Assessment Report which is considering the potential for developing geothermal power in Victoria, a project she almost singlehandedly recognised, fundraised and coordinated.

Rachel has a ministerial appointment to the Australia National Telescope Steering Committee and recently led the Australian Research Council's College of Experts for physics, chemistry and earth sciences, that allocates vital research funding. Never one to stay idle, Rachel plans to continue exploring major scientific questions such black holes and how stars form.