ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt AC. Photo by Stuart Hay.

New ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt AC. Photo by Stuart Hay.

New chief takes the reins

With an acclaimed academic career most researchers would be proud of new ANU Vice-Chancellor PROFESSOR BRIAN SCHMIDT AC is ready for his next challenge.

He has big plans and even bigger dreams for the future of ANU and he sat down with RICHARD FOX to explain.

You can hear more of this interview by clicking on the Soundcloud link on the right hand side.

ANU nearly missed out on Brian Schmidt.

More than 20 years ago, with a PhD in his hand, Schmidt applied three times for astronomy jobs at the University.

He was successful on the third attempt.

"ANU has one of the top 10 astronomy departments in the world. I really wanted to be here," he says.

"When I did get the job, it was a three-year contract. It was three years where ANU gave me the support I needed to do this crazy experiment to measure the future of the universe by looking into the past.

"I didn't have a lot of money but I did have all of my time and a lot of support in a great environment. That is what I want every staff member to have at ANU."

That experiment ultimately led Schmidt - the new ANU Vice-Chancellor - and his team to win the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

However, he admits he was close to not being at ANU when his renowned discovery occurred.

"At the beginning of 1997, there was another ANU job opening and I applied for it. I didn't get it; I was fourth on the list. So I started thinking about what else I was going to do," he says.

"I was thinking about becoming a high school teacher because that appealed to me. Then, three people turned down the job and I took it.

"My initial position finished on 31 December 1997 and on 8 January, eight days later, I realised the universe was accelerating. We published our findings two months later.

"Research is a close run thing. I would have been fine, I would have had a great life and I would have done something else but I wouldn't have won a Nobel Prize.

"That's the way research is, you don't know when the next breakthrough is. All you can do is back people as best you can."