Professor Penny D. Sackett took her PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Pittsburgh, and has held positions at Amherst College (USA), the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, USA), and the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute (NL). She has served on Australian, Dutch, European, and US science and advisory panels, including several committees for Next Generation Telescopes. Her career includes science reporting for Science News and program administration for the US National Science Foundation.

Sackett was appointed Director of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories in 2002, serving a five year term. She resigned from the ANU in October 2008 in order to take up the post of Chief Scientist for Australia, although she retained academic status at the ANU to enable her to continue to mentor students. Sackett stepped down as Chief Scientist on 4 March 2011 and is currently exploring other ways in which to contribute.

Sackett is an Elected International Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and has served on the AURA Board of Directors, which governs, among other astronomical centers, the Gemini Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute. Before becoming Chief Scientist, she served on the Board of Directors for the Giant Magellan Telescope, a project to build an optical telescope many times more powerful than any existence in the world today.

Professor Sackett's personal research interests include dark matter, galactic structure, and extrasolar planets.


  • 2008–present
    Professor with Academic Status, Australian National University
  • 2008–2011
    Chief Scientist for Australia, Office of the Chief Scientist
  • 2002–2007
    Director, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, ANU
  • 1995–2002
    Researcher , University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 1992–1994
    J Seward Johnson Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton


  • 1984 
    University of Pittsburgh, PhD in Physics
  • 1980 
    University of Pittsburgh, Master of Science/Physics
  • 1978 
    University of Nebraska-Omaha, Bachelor of Science in Physics, Summa Cum Laude
  • 1978 
    University of Nebraska-Omaha, K -12 Teaching Certification, Science and Mathematics

Research Areas

  • Physical Sciences (02)
  • Astronomical And Space Sciences (0201)