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Facts & figures

About us

  • 1952 established
  • $130 million raised over
  • $3 million in Grand Challenges funded
  • $4.5 million committed to education, fellowships & other projects
  • 1000s high school students inspired to take up science
Faculties and schools_

Physics Foundation

The pursuit of excellence is at the heart of our mission
For over 50 years, the Foundation’s philanthropic work in supporting scientific research, education and outreach has continued, thanks to support from science, business, industry and government.

The University of Sydney Physics Foundation, established in 1954 by Emeritus Professor Harry Messel AC CBE, was the first Foundation established within the University of Sydney and the first of its kind within the Commonwealth. 

The Foundation was set up to support the School of Physics as a voluntary philanthropic association of individuals and private organisations dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in science education, research, training and communication. Today, the Foundation still carries out this important role.

About us

  • Inspire senior secondary students to pursue studies in science and science careers through the Professor Harry Messel International Science School and other school education programs.

  • Provide funding to the School of Physics to support the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow as well as strategic and education initiatives run by the School.

  • Increase the resources of the University to assist the Senate and the Vice-Chancellor in the promotion of science, in particular physics.

  • Collaborate with the School of Physics, the Faculty of Science and the University to promote the significance of science, and broaden knowledge and understanding about science in the wider community. 

  • Raising funds from fees, donations, bequests and sponsorships.

  • Building a strong financial position to ensure continuing long-term success.

  • Promoting seminars, courses and workshops in the field of physics and other science disciplines.

  • support for teaching infrastructure, equipment and travel and funding for alumni publications. 

In 1954, Professor Harry Messel established the Nuclear Research Foundation, which is now the Physics Foundation, in order to raise funds to develop and support research in the School of Physics. 

Over the past fifty years the Foundation has raised over AUD $100 million to support the School of Physics, fund the International Science School, and enable public engagement with science through teacher training and outreach programs for the community.

The Foundation’s financial support contributes significantly to the School of Physics, providing scholarships and prizes for students and academic staff, teaching infrastructure and equipment and programs in science education and communication. 

This includes establishing and funding the Physics Grand Challenges.

The Foundation also has a strong history of supporting key educational initiatives including Science Teachers Workshop, the MyScience website, funding the Julius Sumner Miller Fellowship and the International Science School

Over the past 15 years, the Physics Foundation has also provided funding for:

  • Additional academic staff, enabling the School of Physics to explore new and innovative areas of research.
  • Overseas travel, allowing academic staff to present their research to the international community and collaborate with peers around the world.

  • The SEARFE project, a collaborative outreach project so that school students could explore Australia’s radiofrequency environment. 

  • Renovation of major laboratories including the School’s computer laboratories.

  • Modern digital oscilloscopes for the School’s three undergraduate teaching laboratories.

  • The Foundation provides annual scholarships, prizes and awards valued at over $30,000 each year, including the Harry Messel Award for Excellence and School of Physics student scholarships. 

  • The Foundation also funds post-graduation and prize-giving ceremony receptions for Physics students.  

As a University foundation, the Physics Foundation is responsible to the University Senate.  
The Foundation’s Council is made up of representatives of business and industry, community leaders and senior office holders and academic staff of the University of Sydney. Council members are elected at the Foundation's annual general meeting.  
The Foundation's activities are directed by a Strategy and Development Committee and a Finance Committee.


  • Her Excellency the Hon. Margaret Beazley AC QC

Office Bearers of the Foundation

  • Mr Michael Winternitz, President
  • Mr James R Kirby, Deputy President

University Officer

Director of the Foundation

Council Members

  • Emeritus Professor Lawrence Cram AM
  • Professor Gemma Figtree AM FRACP FCSANZ FAHA
  • Mr James R Kirby
  • Mr James Read
  • Mr Michael Winternitz
  • Mr Paul Chadwick

University Ex Officio Council Members

  • Mrs Alexia Nicholson


Foundation Members


Life Governors

  • Dr Gregory Clark AC FAA FAPS FTSE
  • Dr David Mills AM
  • Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO
  • Professor Greg McRae
  • Associate Professor Robert Hewitt 
  • Emeritus Professor Anne Green AC FTSE FASA FAIP FRSN
  • Mr Trevor Danos AM  
  • Mrs Louise Davis AM
  • Mr Jim O’Connor
  • Mr Martin Rogers
  • Mr Paul Slade 
  • Mr Albert Wong AM

Honorary Governors

  • Mr Tony Aveling
  • Emeritus Professor Max Brennan AO FAA
  • Emeritus Professor Richard Collins FTSE
  • Professor Lawrence Cram
  • Mr Raymond Kirby AO

Corporate Members

  • The James N. Kirby Foundation
  • The Nell and Hermon Slade Trust

Check out the latest issue of our newsletter 'The Nucleus'

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