2021 RSV Fellows Appointed

The Council of the Royal Society of Victoria is delighted to announce the 2021 Fellows of the Royal Society of Victoria. Fellowship is the highest membership honour the Society can bestow on a person and entitles the Fellow to use of the postnominals ‘FRSV.’ Please join us in congratulating our colleagues on this recognition of their work in furthering the Society’s goals to promote the sciences in Victoria, their contributions to their fields of research and education, and their continued commitment to the public appreciation of science.

The four new Fellows (in reverse alphabetical order) are:

Nicola Williams

Mrs Nicola Williams FRACI FRSV

Having spent 40 years teaching science, mainly chemistry, at secondary and then tertiary level, Mrs Nicola Williams is now retired from teaching in the School of Chemistry at Monash but remains an Adjunct Senior Lecturer.  She is Curator of the Faculty of Science Instrument Collection and continues research in antique scales and balances, especially those made by the London firm of L. Oertling.

A Member of the RSV since 2007, Nick has been a passionate advocate and contributor to the Society’s efforts to communicate science intelligibly to the general community. She has served with dedication on the Society’s Council for many years, serving as Honorary Secretary from 2015 before assuming the role of Vice-President from 2017 to October 2020, stepping down to focus on a new role as President of the Australasian Mining History Association. Nick finished her tenure on the RSV’s Council in May 2021.

Rachel Webster

Professor Rachel Webster AO FAA FRSV

A Member of the RSV since 2008, Rachel is an astrophysicist and international leader in the field of gravitational lensing.

She is a Chief Investigator at the Melbourne node of the national ARC Centre of Excellence for Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO-3D) and a Board member of Australian Astronomy Limited (AAL). She is appointed as a Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the University of Melbourne’s School of Physics, where her varied and diverse research group covers both observational and theoretical research areas. Her observational program utilises world class equipment such as the Australia Telescope Compact Array, the Gemini Telescopes, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory amongst other instruments.

She is a key member of an international consortium involving Australian and American astrophysicists who have designed and built a new low frequency radio telescope at Boolardy in Western Australia, known as the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), which aims to detect the first sources in the universe. Such information is gleaned from her theoretical studies and detection of reionised hydrogen atoms and the structural analysis of neutral hydrogen clouds.

Professor Webster’s other research interests include quasar emission regions, gravitational lensing and cosmology. She has a keen interest in issues around sustainability and climate change, with a side interest in the physics of geothermal energy. Rachel was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia for her service to education in the field of astrophysics and astronomical research, and for her dedication to young women scientists.

Bill Birch

Dr William Birch AM FRSV

A Member of the RSV since 1974, the same year he joined Museums Victoria as Curator of Minerals, Bill’s main roles were to grow and improve the Melbourne Museum’s collections of minerals, rocks and meteorites for use in research projects and exhibitions, and to engage with the wider community across many topics of interest within the vast field of geology. His personal research interests are in the analysis of minerals, especially unusual species, documentation of mineral assemblages, and historical mineralogy.

Travelling widely to collect minerals and rocks from Russia, Greenland, Northern Pakistan and Canada, as well as places throughout Australia, Bill has worked with other experts to describe over 50 minerals new to science. Publishing over 200 research papers and notes, he has also published books on Victorian zeolites, phosphate minerals and gemstones, and edited the 2003 volume Geology of Victoria for the Victorian Division of Geological Society of Australia (GSA). His contributions to the geological sciences were recognised through the award of the GSA’s Selwyn Medal in 1999, and he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for service to geological science, particularly through the study and documentation of the geology of Victoria, and to a range of professional organisations.

Now Curator Emeritus with the Museum, Bill served the Society with dedication and distinction first as a Councillor, then President from 2013 to 2017, and continues to serve as Editor in Chief of the Society’s Proceedings.

Dr Peter Baines FRSV

Dr Peter Baines is a geophysicist whose major research interests have included climate dynamics on the decadal time scale, volcano dynamics and Rossby wave hydraulics. He spent thirty years as a Research Scientist at CSIRO Atmospheric Research, reaching the rank of Chief Research Scientist, in the areas of dynamical meteorology and oceanography.

Peter served as the inaugural President of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in 1988 and was awarded AMOS’ Priestley Medal in 1998. He currently holds an honorary position as Senior Fellow in the Department of Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Melbourne, engaged in research in aspects of climate, stratified flow dynamics and the dynamics of volcanic plumes.

A Member of the RSV since 1996, Peter has earlier served as an RSV Councillor from 1999 – 2004 and is committed to its continued progress through effective administration, the promotion of science and sound financial management in delivering prizes, lectures and building improvements. His most recent term on Council began in 2014 – he was elected Honorary Secretary in 2017 and served with dedication until completing his tenure on Council in May 2021. He was also the Chair of the Society’s Policy and Advocacy Committee.

Our four new Fellows will be formally inducted following the Society’s Annual General Meeting, which will be held on Thursday 26 May from 5pm. Members will receive an invitation with full details in late March; meanwhile, please hold this date in your diary.

On behalf of your Council, please join me in congratulating our four new Fellows.

Rob Gell AM
President, RSV