Lisa Harvey-Smith was born in Harlow in Essex, England. She left school at the age of 11 and taught herself at home, where she developed a passion for astronomy. She joined her local amateur astronomical society in 1992, where she first learned to use a telescope. Her early space heroes included Patrick Moore and Britain's first astronaut Helen Sharman.
Harvey-Smith earned a Masters degree in Physics with Honours in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a Ph.D. in Radio Astronomy from Jodrell Bank Observatory at the University of Manchester, before embarking on a professional career in astronomy. A two-month research project at the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany was followed by a two-year position as a researcher at The Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands, where she studied star-formation and cosmic magnetic fields. She then moved to Australia, where she has been based since 2017.
Lisa has spent much of her career developing professional astronomical observatories. She was formerly the project scientist for the $188M Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope at CSIRO and led a group of 30 scientists at Australia's radio telescope national facility. She retains an active program of research, alongside her PhD students and collaborators, and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers on topics as varied as the birth and death of stars, cosmic magnetic fields and supermassive black holes. She serves on scientific advisory committees including the advisory group to the Australian Space Agency and Questacon.
Lisa is the Australian Government's Women in STEM Ambassador and a Professor of Practice at the University of New South Wales. She works to drive gender equity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and careers on a national scale. For more information visit the Australian Government Women in STEM Ambassador's website. Harvey-Smith is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of Chief Executive Women.
Harvey-Smith is a prolific speaker and presenter on science, technology and space.
She was a presenter on the popular ABC television show ABC Stargazing Live and has appeared as a guest on numerous documentaries and series including BBC Stargazing Live, Brian Cox: Life Of A Universe and Todd Sampson's Life on the Line. She has fielded science questions on radio phone-in shows including science hour with Dr. Karl on ABC's Triple J and BBC Radio 5 Live. She has given keynotes at countless major conferences and events including the National Press Club address, TEDx Melbourne, Expo2020 Dubai, SXSW in Austin, Texas, the World Science Festival, Singapore Writers Festival and the Sydney Science Festival. In 2018 she MC'd the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science at Australian Parliament House.
Lisa has published six popular science books; When Galaxies Collide and The Secret Life of Stars for adults, and children's books Under the Stars (winner of the Singapore Book Awards Best Education Title 2021), Universal Guide to the Night Sky, Little Book, BIG Universe and Aliens and Other Worlds. She was also a contributing author to Patrick Moore's Yearbook of Astronomy 2016 and wrote the foreword for The Best Australian Science Writing 2019.
Harvey-Smith toured with her live astronomy show When Galaxies Collide across Australia in 2018. She appeared live on stage to sold-out theatres in Buzz Aldrin: Mission to Mars and Gene Cernan: Last Man on the Moon and An Audience with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Lisa was named in the Sydney Morning Herald's 100 Most Influential People in 2012 and has been awarded both the CSIRO Chairman's medal and the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.
- Research Group Leader (2017-18)
- Head of Science Operations (Acting) (2017)
- Australian SKA Pathfinder Project Scientist (2012-17)
- SKA Project Scientist (2009-12)
Books and Publications