ANU Spaces – Dr Liz Williams

1 June 2018

Meet Dr Liz Williams, who is a Research Fellow with the 3A (Autonomy, Agency and Assurance) Institute.

Along with her colleagues in the 3A Institute, Liz is currently working towards building a new applied science aimed at managing artificial intelligence, data, and related technologies.

Thank you for talking to us Liz! We understand your area of expertise is nuclear physics. Can you tell us a little bit about what, within nuclear physics, your research is focused on?

I previously did research aimed at improving our ability to predict nuclear fusion - a process where we collide two atomic nuclei together with enough energy that they combine to form a new nucleus. I still have some ongoing collaborative projects in the field. Here at 3Ai, I'm actually pursuing a completely new area of research on artificial intelligence, data, and cyber-physical systems, which I'm really excited about. Opportunities to get involved in creating an entirely new discipline don't come along very often.

You completed your PhD in experimental nuclear structure at Yale in 2010 and in applied nuclear science at CSIRO in Sydney (2010-2011). Can you tell us about your steps from there that led you to ANU?

My path to ANU actually began before I came to Australia. While I was at Yale, I was doing research on the structure of atomic nuclei. Nuclei can have shapes-like basketballs, frisbees, American footballs, and all sorts of variations in between-and the ANU Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility had a detector system that allowed me to access some unique properties of a deformed nucleus I was interested in studying. I asked if I could come do an experiment, and they said yes. I kept coming back to collaborate with people here as a result of that experiment, and eventually got an opportunity to come work in the Department of Nuclear Physics as a researcher. I've been at ANU ever since.

The ANU Spaces profile is traditionally where we ask the student or staff member profiled what their favourite 'space' is on campus. What is your favourite space and can you tell us why?

The landscaping all over campus is gorgeous, but I particularly love biking or running along the path next to Sullivan's creek. When I get stuck with a piece of writing or code, I'll go walk along there and usually come up with some good ideas.

Who is your favourite author and why?

I don't have one answer to this question, but a couple of standouts that come to mind are Annie Dillard and Haruki Murakami. Dillard's prose is breathtaking and Murakami creates such captivating worlds that I have trouble putting his books down.

What are you excited about that the 3A Institute is currently working on?

Everything! It's amazing to be at the start of something like this. We're in the start-up phase, so I am currently spending a lot of time working out exactly what might be involved in creating a new applied science. This means I'm doing everything from reading about the history of the first industrial revolution to learning about new developments in the field of social robotics. I find it fascinating to see what people developing these technologies are talking about, but am particularly intrigued by what they're not talking about (and maybe should be).

For people wanting to know more about the 3A Institute, where can they go for more information?

Our website and twitter feed (@3AInstitute) are both great places to start. The 3A Institute website ( features a video of the 3A Institute launch talk that's well worth watching.