Optical/Infrared Astronomy, spectroscopy, extragalactic astrophysics

I am the Laureate Postdoctoral Astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology working on enabling science in the era of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for the Australian community with Dist. Prof. Karl Glazebrook. I am the Australian point of contact for JWST user support and actively lead developing astronomical/computational techniques to enable efficient scientific use of the JWST data by the Australian community through the JWST Australian Data Centre. I investigate galaxy formation and evolution mechanisms by combining deep observations of the early Universe and novel theoretical models. I am an expert in ground and space based observational astronomy, theoretical stellar populations models, and actively engage in machine learning and data science applications in astrophysics research.


I worked at the Leiden observatory as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Rychard Bouwens' and Prof. Jarle Brinchmann's research teams focusing on the spectroscopic study of galaxy properties at z>2. I am a competent VLT/MUSE, KECK/MOSFIRE user and have expertise in using SED fitting techniques, and synthetic stellar population/photo-ionisation models to study and constrain galaxy properties in the high-z universe. I am a member of the MUSE consortium, ZFOURGE, and ZFIRE teams. I have also participated in the Deeper-Wider-Faster survey.

PhD: For my thesis I used the MOSFIRE spectrograph in the KECK telescope along with deep imaging from FourStar in Magellan telescope to study galaxies at z~2. I focus on investigating how the initial mass functions of galaxies are different at z~2 compared to the local populations and the role of environment in determining galaxy evolution properties. I further studied the effects of dust on galaxy spectra at these redshifts.
Institute: Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Supervisor: Prof. Karl Glazebrook
Co-supervisors: Dr. Glenn Kacprzak & Dr. Deanne Fisher

Undergraduate: University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, UK (MPhys in Astrophysics).
Dissertation on "Compact Massive Galaxy studies in the lower Redshift range from GAMA data" with supervision by Prof. Ivan Baldry .

The James Webb Australian Data Centre

Mauna Kea summit overlooking the Keck observatory

MUSE Consortium busy week in Chania, Greece 2018.

ZFOURGE team at the 2013 workshop at Cooks' Branch, Texas.

Me and fellow ZFIRE/ZFOURGE team member Caroline in front of Keck-I

ZFIRE team at the 2015 workshop in Barossa valley, South Australia.

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Conferences and Workshops

Name Date Contribution

The 2nd ESO-Australia Joint Conference: The Build-up of
Galaxies Through Multiple Tracers and Facilities
, Perth, Australia.

February 2020 Contributed Talk

Revolutionary Spectroscopy of Today as a Springboard to Webb
Lorentz Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

October 2019 Contributed Talk

Uncovering early galaxy evolution in the ALMA and JWST era,
Viana do Castelo, Portugal.

June 2019 Contributed Talk

ESO-Australia Joint Conference 2019: Linking Galaxies From
The Epoch of Initial Star Formation to Today
, Sydney, Australia.

February 2019 Contributed Talk

Challenges in Panchromatic Galaxy Modelling with Next Generation Facilities
(IAU Symposium 341)
, Osaka, Japan.

November 2018 Contributed Talk

Understanding Emission-line galaxies for the next generation of cosmological surveys ,
Teruel, Spain.

September 2018 Contributed Talk

Early Science with ELTs (IAU Symposium 347),
IAU General Assembly
, Vienna, Austria.

August 2018 Contributed Talk

Division J: Galaxies and Cosmology, IAU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria.

August 2018 Contributed Talk

Characterizing Galaxies with Spectroscopy with a view for JWST, Lorentz Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

October 2017 Contributed Talk

ESAC 2017 JWST WORKSHOP- Mastering the science instruments and observing modes of JWST, Madrid, Spain.

October 2017 N/A

A Decade of the Star-Forming Main Sequence, Lorentz Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

September 2017 Contributed Talk

From Field to Clusters: HI as a tracer of galaxy evolution.
WALLABY workshop for Science Working Group 3: Galaxy Environments
, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.

March 2017 N/A

The Universal Problem of the Non-Universal IMF.
Lorentz Center Workshop
, Leiden, The Netherlands.

December 2016 Contributed Talk

The Changing Face of Galaxies.
2016 CAASTRO Scientific Conference
, Hobart, Australia.

September 2016 Poster

Australian Astronomical Society Annual
Scientific Meeting 2016
, Sydney, Australia.

July 2016 Contributed Talk

ITSO Observational Techniques Workshop 2016, Sydney, Australia.

May 2016 Invited Talk

Research Bazaar 2016, Melbourne, Australia.

February 2016 Poster

Galaxies at High Redshift and Their Evolution over Cosmic Time (IAU Symposium 319)
IAU General Assembly XXIX
, Honolulu, USA.

August 2015 Contributed talk
Australian Astronomical Society Annual
Scientific Meeting 2015, Fremantle, Australia.
July 2015 Contributed talk
The 2015 Australian Gemini, Magellan,
and Keck Science Symposium, Sydney, Australia.
June 2015 Contributed talk
Massive galaxies workshop, Sydney, Australia. February 2015 N/A
Australian Astronomical Society Annual
Scientific Meeting 2013, Melbourne, Australia.
July 2013 Poster
The Harley Wood winter school 2013, Philip Island, Australia. July 2013 N/A
Teaching and Learning conference, Liverpool, UK. July 2011 Poster
Outreach conference, Nottingham, UK. July 2010 N/A


Institute Date
Geneva Observatory, Switzerland. March 2019
University of Concepcion, Concepcion. April 2018
Melbourne University, Melbourne. February 2017
Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. February 2017
University of Sydney, Sydney. February 2017
University of New South Wales, Sydney . February 2017
CSIRO, Sydney. February 2017
Australian Astronomical Observatory, Sydney. February 2017
Heidelberg University, Heidelberg. December 2016
Leiden University, Leiden. December 2016
Monash University, Melbourne. October 2016
Macquarie University, Sydney. October 2016
University of Sydney, Sydney. October 2016
Australian Astronomical Observatory, Sydney. October 2016
ICRAR/University of Western Australia, Perth. September 2016
Australian National University, Canberra. September 2016
University of Melbourne, Melbourne. August 2016
Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. August 2016


  • VLT UT4: MUSE - 7.5 nights
  • Keck I: MOSFIRE - 20 nights

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I have supervised students from high-school to Masters level and am a lecturer for undergradute physics module. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to involve in many teaching and lab demonstrating opportunities. I have also been involved in multiple programs aimed at developing educational materials at various levels. Some of them include:

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One of my main non-research interests lie in science outreach activities. I am a member of the organizing team of Astronomy of Tap, Leiden I was also a founding member of the Physics outreach group at University of Liverpool (President 2011-2012) and the Universities of Liverpool Astronomical Society (Vice-president 2010-2011).
Apart from the activities of the above organizations, I have also volunteered in multiple outreach activities, some of which I have listed below.

For more information/requests please contact me .


I like to take suitable opportunities to involve in organizing events and serve as a representative in university/faculty committees. Some of my roles include:


I have an interest in data science and programming.

Trying the Didgeridoo in Uluru, Graduation in Liverpool and, Valley of the winds.

Wine in Barossa Valley, Sydney Vivid festival, and College Station pub.

Cricket in Colombo, Australian open, and Hapuna Bay.

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Contact me?

Themiya Nanayakkara,
Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, 1 Alfred Street, Hawthorn, Australia.

Alternatively, click on any of the icons below to link to my profiles or to E-Mail/Skype me.

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