Professor John O’Connor

Professor, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
The University of Newcastle
ERA 2018 Chair

Professor John O’Connor has been Head of the Department of Physics for eight years at the University of Newcastle and was Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences from 2002 to 2015. Previous roles have included President of the Australia Institute of Physics, and Secretary of the Federation of Australia Scientific and Technological Societies. As secretary of the Vacuum Society of Australia, Professor O’Connor served on the Council of the International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique and Applications over a period of nine years. 

Professor O’Connor is a fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Australian Institute of Physics and the UK Institute of Physics. He has been a panel member for reviews of research centres of excellence in Australia and New Zealand, the ARC Future Fellowship scheme, program and institutional accreditation reviews in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and an ARC Research Evaluation Committee member for three ERA evaluation rounds.

Professor O’Connor’s research experience is in materials analysis (including Editor of Surface Analysis Methods in Materials Science), with particular emphasis on ion beam techniques ranging from 100eV to 1GeV. Professor O’Connor has made fundamental contributions to the study of surface structure and composition contributing to over 200 refereed publications which have an average of 15 citations per paper. He has supervised 50 higher degree research students and was awarded University of Newcastle Teaching Excellence Award for postgraduate supervision. He has been a recipient of an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship and a Bede Morris Fellowship (Australian Academy of Science).

Professor O’Connor has taught a range of core and service physics courses including sports physics and medical physics. He has been a member of the NSW HSC Physics Examination panel and was a member of the steering committee (involving the Department of Education, NSW Science Teachers Association and the Australian Institute of Physics) for the production of a Secondary School Physics Laboratory Manual Getting it to Work – Physics Equipment for High Schools. Professor O’Connor has a strong engagement with science communication and outreach including his involvement in the establishment of the national Science and Engineering Challenge program which was recognised by the Sir William Hudson Award for Outstanding Engineering Excellence in 2003. He has received the Public Awareness of Physics Award by the Institute of Physics (UK) and the Award for Outstanding Service to Physics from the Australian Institute of Physics.