Dr John O'Sullivan with a revolutionary detector-receiver array for the ASKAP radio telescope.

Dr John O'Sullivan with a revolutionary detector-receiver array for the ASKAP radio telescope.

Dr John O'Sullivan: working on a next generation radio telescope

Dr John O'Sullivan is a research scientist with CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science Division developing novel receiver technologies for radio astronomy.

  • 29 October 2009 | Updated 3 July 2012

Dr John O'Sullivan's scientific career spans more than 30 years. He led the CSIRO team that invented the high speed wireless computer networking technology now in laptops, games and phones all over the world and was awarded the 2009 Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

Current activities

Dr John O'Sullivan's energies are directed towards developing an innovative radio camera with an unusually wide field of view for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope.

ASKAP will be able to quickly capture radio images of large areas of the sky with unprecedented sensitivity, giving it vastly improved survey speeds compared with existing radio telescopes.

Dr O'Sullivan's chequerboard design for the phased array feed (as the camera is known) increases its information gathering capacity by more than ten times. The prototype receiver is already delivering world-leading performance. 

His work is crucial in terms of ASKAP achieving its science outcomes and it has the potential to influence the design of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – a huge international project to build a €1.5 billion radio telescope. 

Outside CSIRO, Dr O’Sullivan is a Director and consultant on algorithm development for Taggle Systems, a company developing low power tags for long distance tracking of objects.

Background

Prior to joining CSIRO in 1983, Dr O’Sullivan led the engineering group at the Foundation for Radio Astronomy in the Netherlands (now ASTRON) that developed a broadband digital receiver for the Westerbork Synthesis Radio telescope.

He left CSIRO in 1995 to join News Limited as their Australian Director of Technology.

His other positions include:

  • Vice President of systems engineering, Radiata Communications, 1999–2001
  • Director of integrated circuit systems engineering, Cisco Systems, 2001–04
    Dr John O'Sullivan was awarded the 2009 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
  • Lead signal processing architect, G2 Microsystems, 2004–06.

Dr O’Sullivan returned to CSIRO in 2005.

Academic qualifications

Dr O’Sullivan was awarded a:

  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1967
  • Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, The University of Sydney, 1969
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering, The University of Sydney, 1974.

Achievements

Among other recognition throughout his career, Dr O'Sullivan has received:

  • The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Clunies Ross Award, 2010
  • Prime Minister's Prize for Science, 2009
  • CSIRO Chairman's Medal, 2009
  • CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement, 2000
  • University Medal, The University of Sydney, 1969.

He has published over 60 scientific papers and holds 12 patents in the areas of special purpose fast Fourier transform (FFT) processors, wireless local area networks (WLANs) and antennas.

His technical achievements include:

  • an eight-fold increase of the bandwidth processing capacity of the Westerbork Radio Telescope
  • developing an intellectual underpinning for adaptive optics in light telescopes and redundant baseline interferometer in radio telescopes
  • creating a computer chip that could perform FFT rapidly enough to process audio and video signals in real time (a later version of this chip held the record for the fastest single chip FFT for many years)
  • conceiving the design of the receiving system for the Australia Telescope
  • leading the CSIRO team that developed high speed wireless local area networking (WLAN).

Dr O'Sullivan is a member of the following professional bodies:

  • IEEE
  • Institute of Engineers Australia
  • Optical Society of America.

Find out more about Dr O'Sullivan's current work in the ASKAP overview.