Associate Professor Frank Mills

PhD (Planetary science) California Institute of Technology, MS (Physics) California Institute of Technology, BSE with Honors (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) Princeton University
Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment & Society
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Planetary Science (Excl. Extraterrestrial Geology) 020108
  • Atmospheric Aerosols 040101
  • Tropospheric And Stratospheric Physics 040108
  • Environmental Chemistry (Incl. Atmospheric Chemistry) 039901
  • Atmospheric Radiation 040103
  • Physical Geography And Environmental Geoscience 0406
  • Atmospheric Sciences 0401

Research interests

My principal resarch interests are the transmission of radiation through planetary atmospheres and its impact on atmospheric chemistry.  Recent research includes: atmospheric chemistry on Venus and the Earth, simulation of atmospheric chemistry on extrasolar planets, analysis of data and simulations for Australia's climate, and solar energy forecasting. 


After a decade on a joint appointment in the ANU's Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) and Fenner School of Environment and Society, I moved in 2015 to a position solely in Fenner. Throughout 2015-2017, I served as at least one of Fenner's Acting Associate Director (Education), Deputy Director for Education, and Associate Director (Undergraduate Coursework). I am affiliated with the ANU's Planetary Science, Climate Change, and Energy Change Institutes. I also hold a grant-funded position with Space Science Institute in the USA. For most/all of 2020 I am a visiting researcher at the University of Texas Austin.

I have supervised student research projects in the Astrophysics, Earth Science, Engineering, Environment, and Physics programs. 

I convened the Honours program in the Fenner School from late-2012 until mid-2018. I also have convened and lectured in Thermal and Statistical Physics (PHYS2020), Climatology (ENVS3013/6303), and Climate Change Science and Policy (ENVS3020/6307) and have contributed to Physics for Future Leaders (PHYS2205), Ocean and Atmosphere Modelling (EMSC3029), Fundamentals of Climate System Science (EMSC2021), Planetary Science (EMSC3022), and Weather, Climate and Fire (ENVS2004).

I have been a Supporting Investigator for ESA's Venus Express mission, Guest Investigator for JAXA's Akatsuki's mission, adjunct member of the Japan science team for ASTER, member of an ISSI International Team studying SO2 on Venus, invited participant in an ISSI/Europlanet workshop on exoplanetary atmospheres, and member of ICPAE of the IAMAS. 

Researcher's projects


  • EnVision VenSpec Science Team (ESA)
  • Simulating the spatial distributions of carbon monoxide and oxygen to better understand the chemical stability of Venus' atmosphere (NASA)
  • Chemistry and dynamics in Venus' lower atmosphere and cloud layers in the context of the global sulfur cycle (NASA)
  • Understanding the diversity of planetary atmospheres (ISSI) 
  • Sulfur dioxide variability in the Venus atmosphere (ISSI)
  • Carbon, oxygen, and sulfur chemistry on Venus in three dimensions: Time, altitude, and latitude (NASA)
  • Photochemistry and dynamics of the middle atmosphere of Venus (~70-110 km): Modeling of SO2 and aerosol distributions and comparisons with Venus Express and ground-based observations (NASA)
  • The new Venus photochemistry: Improvements in understanding Venus' atmospheric evolution (NASA)
  • Analysis of photochemical variability in the Venus mesosphere and lower thermosphere (NASA) 
  • Chemistry and dynamics of the Venus middle atmosphere (NASA)
  • Coordinated HST, Venus Express, and Venus Climate Orbiter observations of Venus (STScI, NASA, JAXA)
  • Multispectral and multiangle remote sensing of mineral dust aerosols (NASA) 
  • Modelling and observational support to Venus Express observations of atmospheric composition (ESA)
  • Isotopic fractionation in planetary atmospheres (ARC) 
  • Understanding the chemistry and evolution of planets and their atmospheres: Integrating experiments, observations, and quantum mechanical models (ARC) 
  • Photochemistry of the middle atmospheres of Venus and the Earth (ARC) 
  • Real-time operational distributed PV simulations for distribution network service providers (ARENA) 
  • Machine-learning-based forecasting of distributed solar energy production (ASI, ARENA)
  • Evaluating, forecasting, and managing suburb-scale distributed solar electricity production (ANU)

Available student projects

Undergraduate, Honours, Masters, and PhD research projects are developed in consultation with prospective students.  Many student projects I have supervised were proposed by the student. Some ideas are the following. 

Extrasolar Planets

  • Simulate potentially observable atmospheric composition on terrestrial-like extrasolar planets 

Planetary Atmospheres

  • SO2 and SO from Venus transit, Hubble Space Telescope, and other observations
  • Infrared and visible observations of Venus
  • Compare and synthesise observations of Venus
  • Model Venus' chemistry and evolution
  • Develop atmospheric chemistry models

Earth Atmospheric and Climate Science 

  • Analyse climate data and/or simulations
  • Develop atmospheric chemistry models
  • Analyse Australian weather patterns
  • Retrieve cloud characteristics from photovoltaic data

Solar Energy Forecasting

  • Design remote data collection, archive, and distribution system
  • Design remote data logging system for retrieving data from geographically dispersed photovoltaic and camera arrays 
  • Operate, calibrate, and analyse data from on-campus solar measurement network
  • Analyse data from distributed photovoltaic arrays

Current student projects

PhD Thesis Research

  • Yan Zhang: Occupant behavior and its impact on energy consumption of urban residential buildings (Fenner)

MPhil Thesis Research

Masters Dissertation Research

Honours Thesis Research

Past student projects

PhD Theses

  • Using 3D serious gaming interventions to promote climate science literacy in the 12-13-year age group (Inez Harker-Schuch, Fenner) 
  • City-wide simulations of distributed photovoltaic array power output (Nicholas Engerer, Fenner)
  • Two complementary approaches in refining the search for liquid water and habitable environments on present-day Mars (Eriita Jones, Astrophysics) 

MPhil Theses

  • Modeling the Venus middle atmosphere (Manuraj Shunmuga Sundaram, Physics)

Masters Dissertation Research

  • Characterisation and analysis of solar radiation variability and the resultant power ramps for a rooftop photovoltaic system in Bandung Indonesia (Umar Hanif Ramadhani, Fenner) 
  • Precipitation and atmospheric moisture in the Australian region as modelled by the ACCESS climate model with two separate cloud and condensation schemes (Liam Lilly, Fenner)

Honours Theses

  • Investigating a blended approach to cross-cultural human ecology education: An exploratopry study pairing university institutions in Australia and the Philippines (Louise Blessington, Fenner) 
  • Does valley morphology influence the orientation and form of sand dunes in the Shyok Basin, Northern Himalaya? (Savannah McGuirk, Fenner) 
  • Observed and simulated relationships amongst ENSO, the IPO and rainfall variability in eastern Australia (Sonya Wellby, Fenner) 
  • Public policy for a low carbon economy: A case study analysis of the Australian clean energy future package in the Australian capital region (Jemma Williams, Fenner)
  • Modelling of sulfur oxide and cloud chemistry in Venus' mesosphere (Joshua Petrass, Physics)
  • An investigation of methods for estimating distributed solar energy generation (Junyan Tan, Engineering)
  • The effect of spatial dispersion on photovoltaic intermittency (Ashton Walker, Engineering)
  • Velocity-map imaging of O- photodetachment yielding O(3P) and O(1D2) atoms (Ly Duong, Astrophysics)
  • ANU Spectroradiometry (Patrick Duthie, Engineering)
  • The geothermal energy potential of the Clarence-Moreton Basin, New South Wales (Marcus Haynes, Fenner)
  • Australian precipitation from models and observations (Annette Hirsch, Fenner)
  • Atmospheric aerosols over Australia and New Zealand and effects on surface ultraviolet radiation (Lukas Weber, Physics) 
  • Heterogeneous chemistry in the Venus atmosphere (Manuraj Shunmuga Sundaram, Physics)

PhB, BSc, and MBBS Independent Research Projects

  • Sustainability in ACT schools
  • Assessment of the potential importance for human health of UV reduction due to aerosols
  • Comparison of modelled and measured aerosol spectra
  • Verification of the Caltech / JPL photochemical model
  • Research on Venus' atmospheric chemistry
  • Impact of increasing the SO2 oxidation rate on the oxygen chemistry of Venus' middle atmosphere
  • A comparison of modern sulfuric acid optical constants essential to Venusian atmospheric chemistry
  • An investigation of possible methods of measuring molecular oxygen in the atmosphere of Venus 


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Updated:  30 May 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers