Australian Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt inspires school students

Australian Embassy Thailand
12 January 2015

On Tuesday 20 January, Australian Nobel laureate and Australian National University Professor Brian Schmidt spoke to 800 high school students from the International School of Bangkok about the role of science in the world.

Hosted by the International Peace Foundation, Schmidt's talk, Science: Humanity's Universal Bridge, was part of the 5th ASEAN Bridges series, promoting dialogues towards a culture of peace in Southeast Asia.

In his speech to ISB students, Schmidt emphasised the need for global collaboration in piecing together humanity's place in the universe.

"Science and humanity move forward not because of individuals taking their own steps but it's about us walking forward together," he said.

"When we make a discovery in science, we don't keep it to ourselves."

Uwe Morawetz, Chairman of the International Peace Foundation echoed these sentiments "The problems of our world cannot be solved only by one of these groups, only by politicians, only by scientists, or only by the economy, but only by working together. So we create such a platform of dialogue".

Collaborating with 20 astronomers across five continents in 1994, Schmidt helped discover the accelerating expansion of the universe, earning him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011.

He continues his research on exploding stars and is using ANU's Mount Stromlo Observatory to build the SkyMapper telescope.

Schmidt said the Australian observatory has been "essential" to his research.

"That is the environment where great research is done. Being in great surrounds with great people and resourcing people to do what they need to do," he said.

ISB head of science, Laura Stewart, said hosting an international speaker from Australia helped remind students that all people are connected.

"Hopefully the point is they actually learn that they're not an island. They learn that they connect to other people and what they do matters to other people," she said.

Hearing from a successful astrophysicist encouraged students to think about future career goals rather than focus solely on grades and exams, Stewart said.

"He was very inspiring because when I grow up I want to do research in the field of neurobiology," science student Stefan Stanley said.

For the many students who remain unsure of what future career to pursue, Schmidt encouraged them to follow their dreams.

"You're too young to have to make compromises about what you want to do in life," he said.

On 18 January, Australia's Ambassador to Thailand Paul Robilliard hosted a dinner for Professor Schmidt, providing an opportunity to reflect on science diplomacy and bilateral cooperation with senior Thai guests.

Australia has produced 14 Nobel laureates. Apart from Prof Schmidt (2011), some recent Australian laureates are Elizabeth H Blackburn, Physiology or Medicine, 2009; Barry J Marshall, Physiology or Medicine, 2005; and J Robin Warren, Physiology or Medicine, 2005.