While PhD student Anna Frebel was surveying the Southern sky one evening, trying to weed out all the stars younger than 10 billion years (including those young stars such as the Sun which is 4.6 billion years old), in an attempt to find the few stars left over from the Big Bang, she made an exciting discovery - a red giant star. Red giants are very old and rare stars that are in the last 10 per cent of their life.
The star Anna found was especially notable as it turned out to be approximately 13 billion years old; the oldest known star in the Milky Way. Considering that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old, the discovery of the red giant was significant.
The star is now known colloquially as 'Anna's Star', though its technical name is HE1523-0901.
Anna's discovery has earned her three prestigious prizes from astronomical societies in Australia, Germany and America.
During her studies Anna was awarded the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Supplementary PhD Scholarship, the Alex Rogers Travelling Scholarship, an ANU PhD Scholarship and ANU Tuition Fee Scholarship.
Anna believes that these scholarships enabled her research by allowing her to concentrate entirely on her academic work instead of having to focus on finding funding.
"It's hard to imagine what my life would be like today if I had not received the generous support given to me through ANU and its donors. It would certainly be a lot different and most certainly less successful."
"Receiving additional financial support enabled me to present at international conferences during my PhD. This was very important for drawing international attention to my results and certainly helped me to win my highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship in the US," she explains.
Anna is now an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA.