Professor Sean Smith has been appointed as the new Director of the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at The Australian National University (ANU).

Professor Smith, an internationally prominent computational chemist and nanomaterials scientist, is currently Founding Director of the Integrated Materials Design Centre at UNSW Sydney.

Professor Smith has previously served as Director of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), one of the five major Department of Energy funded nanoscience research facilities in the United States, and as Founding Director of the Centre for Computational Molecular Science at The University of Queensland.

Chair of the NCI Board Professor Michael Barber congratulated Professor Smith on his appointment.

"I am delighted to welcome Professor Smith to the NCI team," Professor Barber said.

"Not only has he been a major user of the NCI in his own right, he brings highly relevant international experience of the ORNL user facilities to the NCI and an admirable track record in fostering collaboration between computational and experimental innovations as well as between the tertiary sector and industry."

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC, whose own research has benefited from the capacity of the NCI, welcomed the appointment and said Professor Smith was a perfect choice for NCI Director.

"I greatly value NCI for its contribution to my own research effort and to that of many other researchers at ANU and around the country," Professor Schmidt said.

"I am proud that we host such a world-class facility on the ANU campus.

"Professor Smith is a highly talented scientist, with extensive research expertise utilising high performance computing and an enviable track record of management, leadership and advocacy for cutting edge research user facilities. This will stand him in good stead for maximising NCI's capability to foster Australian research and innovation."

Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor of the ANU (left) with Professor Sean Smith (centre) and Emeritus Professor Michael Barber (right)

Professor Smith is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers and has received the Bessel Research Award of the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in addition to other national and international prizes.

Professor Smith said he was honoured to be appointed as Director of NCI.

"I look forward with considerable enthusiasm to leading the NCI, Australia's most highly integrated research environment backed by the nation's most powerful supercomputer, to embrace the challenges and opportunities of its next phase of growth," Professor Smith said.

"The advancement of our economy and nation hinges on the effective and symbiotic application of big data and big computing as provisioned by the NCI. Australia's stake-hold in global science, engineering and technology depends critically on maintaining a sharp cutting edge in high performance computing infrastructure and capacity.

"I look forward to ensuring that NCI continues to deliver and indeed expand its mission to support crucial Australian research and innovation."

Professor Smith will take up the position in January 2018.

Dr Chris Pigram, former CEO of Geoscience Australia, has been Acting Interim Director since June 2017 following the retirement of previous Director Professor Lindsay Botten.


For media assistance, contact Chris Wilkinson, NCI Communications Officer on 0435 498 661 or email

About NCI

NCI, Australia's national high-end research computing service, is a partnership between the Australian National University, CSIRO, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, research intensive universities and consortia support by the Australian Research Council, and medical research institutes.  NCI is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), with a large fraction of its operations sustained by co-investment from the partner organisations.

Through its tightly coupled, high-performance computing and data platforms, overlaid with internationally renowned expertise in computational science, data science and data management, NCI provides essential services that underpin the requirements of research and industry, today and into the future.

NCI provides the environment for the hosting, analysis and exploration of the data from the SkyMapper Southern Sky Survey project.