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Personal profile


Dr Jo Dawson (BSc 1st class hons UCL, PhD Nagoya University) holds a joint position as a Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Macquarie University and a Research Scientist at CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science (CASS). She was previously an ARC DECRA Fellow at Macquarie, a Bolton Fellow at CASS, and an ARC Super Science Fellow at the University of Tasmania. She has been working at Macquarie since 2014.

Dr Dawson is the current primary supervisor to four PhD students and one MRes student, and has four MRes and one PhD completion. Her strong scientific ties to CASS, which manages the Australia Telescope National Facility, mean that her students enjoy ready access to the associated world-class instrumentation and expertise. She holds a number of service roles in Higher Degree Research: she is Deputy Director of HDR in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, Director of HDR for the MQAAAstro Research Centre, and Departmental Advisor for the Masters of Research Degree, where she has worked to improve the delivery of the second (research-based) year of the programme. She has taught astrophysics units at all levels, including the popular first year Introductory Astronomy course ASTR170, and currently teaches the second year project-based unit ASTR2020.

Dr Dawson has a strong interest in Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, and in evidence-based policy changes that can help level a playing-field that has long been tilted against women and sexual and racial minorities. She has served on the Macquarie University Gender Equity Self Assessment Team, on the Physics and Astronomy Departmental Diversity Committee (which she chaired in 2016–2017), and also chaired the annual Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity in Astronomy (IDEA) workshop.

Research interests

Dr Dawson's core interests are radio astronomical studies of the interstellar medium (ISM). Her research focuses on the evolution of the ISM in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and in particular on the mechanisms by which the atomic medium is processed into molecular clouds. A key highlight of her work has been providing quantitative evidence of molecular cloud formation in giant "supershells" formed by multiple stellar winds and supernovae.

In recent years her attention has turned to the so-called "Dark ISM" - material bridging the gap between the diffuse/atomic and dense/molecular regimes, and which is invisible to most standard radio astronomical tracers. She leads the large radio astronomical survey project SPLASH (the Southern Parkes Large-Area Survey in Hydroxyl), a deep survey of OH molecules in the Southern Galactic Plane which aims to characterise this hidden gas in the Milky Way. She is also investigating the relationships between radio spectral line tracers of the gaseous ISM, and infra-red and optical emission/absorption from interstellar dust. She is an active member of the Australia Telescope Square Kilometer Array GASKAP survey.


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