Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS, who is a University of Arizona alumnus, was appointed vice-chancellor and president of Australian National University (ANU) in January 2016.
Professor Schmidt received undergraduate degrees in astronomy and physics from the University of Arizona in 1989, and completed his astronomy master's degree (1992) and doctorate (1993) from Harvard University.
Before becoming vice-chancellor and president of ANU, Schmidt received many academic awards and distinctions for his work. The most recent awards include the Breakthrough Prize in Physics in 2014, Elected Honorary Fellow of Indian Academic of Sciences in 2014, an Honorary Citizen Award from the city of Padua in 2013 and Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa award from the University of Queensland in 2013.
Professor Schmidt is the 12th Vice-Chancellor of ANU and the 2011 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Schmidt was also an astrophysicist at the ANU Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics before becoming vice-chancellor.
“My job is to make sure that it delivers great research, a great teaching program, and gets out and shares its knowledge with the rest of the world, transforming society in the process,” he said.
As ANU being one of the world’s greatest universities, and holding a special status in Australia as the "national university," Schmidt said becoming Vice-Chancellor was a “big step up” for him to run a billion dollar organization, but he is ready for the challenge.
“My biggest challenge is to make sure we remain competitive in a global environment – and this means changing culture to get people to think that if we are not in with the best universities in the world, we are not in the game. This is a many year project,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s first goal has been to set the “vision” for ANU and deliver for Australia as the national university in 2016, 70 years after the university was born.
More than anything, Schmidt wants ANU to do great things. Whether it is, along with the UA, to help create the first giant optical telescope, The Giant Magellan Telescope, and use it to discover the first stars in the universe or to bring about understanding indigenous Australians to all of Australia and the world.
“Business as usual is not what is needed, being prepared to tackle and answer the big questions of the universe, of humanity, that is what I am after,” Schmidt said.