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Stars align for USQ’s newest astronomy student

At a small cattle property on the Granite Belt a teenage boy looked up at the endless stars above searching for answers.

Nathan Brentnall was in his final year at Stanthorpe State High School and like many Year 12s was trying to decide what to do with his life.

“The Universe and what else is out there is something that has always fascinated me,” he said.

The stars aligned when Nathan discovered the exact course he was looking for was available at his hometown university – the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

“It took me to my senior year to figure out what I wanted to do,” he said.

“I was studying physics at the time and was interested in space and astronomy. I went online and discovered that USQ was a leader in astrophysics.”

This semester he made the move to Toowoomba and started studying a Bachelor of Science (Astronomical and Space Sciences).

The course combines Nathan’s fascination of astronomy with the opportunity to develop in-demand expertise in physics, mathematics, statistics, and computer and data science.

He is learning from internationally recognised astronomers and has access to Mount Kent Observatory, a $6 million facility which includes an array of new telescopes and technology. 

“It is really exciting to be here to see researchers and students at the forefront of planet discovery work,” he said.

“I hope to continue my studies and be a researcher here as well, and who knows - the next thing I do could be discovering a new galaxy.”

Home is less than two hours away for the astronomy student and he visits regularly to help on the family property and work shifts at the local restaurant.

While at home he has access to the USQ student hub at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism (QCWT).

“It is so handy to have the USQ Hub at Stanthorpe,” he said.

“I’ve been to the wine college many times for social events but it is great to have a place to go when home to access computers, a study space, print and ask questions if I need.”

QCWT is a joint venture between USQ and the Department of Education, Training and Employment and opened in 2007.

Four students
Nathan Brentnall (front) with fellow first-year students Dylan Lihou, Caitlyn Mooney and Maddy Spencer.