Staff Snapshot: Ragbir Bhathal

Profile image of Ragbir BhathalDr Ragbir Bhathal from the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics conducts research on extra-terrestrial (ET) intelligence and is a lecturer based on the Kingswood campus. Ragbir has recently been invited to write for the Australian Dictionary of Biography by contributing profiles on well-known astrophysicists and also recently published a book titled Mount Stromlo Observatory: From Bush Observatory to the Nobel Prize – you can read more about Ragbir's book on the News Centre webpage (opens in a new window).

In 2012, Ragbir featured on the pages of Forbes magazine, which highlighted a potential detection of a laser signal in outer space at the UWS Campbelltown campus observatory using Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) technology. After six months of trying to relocate the signal, they determined the laser signal as most likely caused by wayward cosmic rays.

When did you start working at UWS and what was your first role?

I started working at UWS in the late 1990s as a lecturer and demonstrator in physics in the now defunct Physics Department on the Campbelltown campus. As Director, I was responsible for designing and building the Campbelltown Rotary Observatory at Campbelltown campus with funding from the Rotary Club of Campbelltown, the Rotary Club of Koshigaya, Campbelltown City Council, a Research Grant, the NSW government and the private sector to carry out an international project to search for very fast laser pulses from extra-terrestrial intelligence (the Australian OSETI Project). The Observatory is also used for running science and astronomy programs for schools and the public with the assistance of the Macarthur Astronomical Society. All the programs are free of charge to the public.

I recently proposed that we should build a hands-on Science Centre similar to the Questacon Science Centre in Canberra to get more youth interested in a career in science and engineering. There is great enthusiasm for such a centre from members of the public.

Describe your current role in 100 words or less:

My present role is teaching and research. I teach Engineering Physics to over 350 eager first year engineering students, Design Science to Construction and Industrial Design students, Project Management to third year engineering students, and Radio & Satellite Communications to fourth year students and Masters by Coursework students.

My research areas are searching for the extra-terrestrial in the optical spectrum; sustainable energy systems; physics education; a national project on eminent Australian astronomers and physicists; and a national project on Aboriginal astronomy.   

What's the best thing about your job?

My job is my hobby and my hobby is my job. I love teaching young enthusiastic students who want to become engineers to work on innovative engineering projects. It's great to be able to carry out interesting research projects and meet some of Australia's top scientists, astrophysicists and engineers in the process. I also enjoy being invited to give talks in my area of research expertise, both in Australia and overseas.  

What do you love most about working at UWS?

It has a great location in a semi-rural area away from the hustle and bustle of city life. You can still see cockatoos and kangaroos on the campus. Unfortunately, these are slowly disappearing.

What are you going to be working on in the next 12 months?

I am working on a number of papers in my areas of interest.  I am also researching and in the process of writing two books, viz: The Endless Frontier – a review of the major developments in Australian astrophysics, and a definitive book on Dreamtime astronomy.

I'm also working on using blended learning in a more efficient way in the units I teach.