Clark will focus on evaluating the potential for unconventional gas to play a role in Australia's reduced carbon footprint energy mix.
It will include an assessment of the environmental impact of shale gas extraction and the development of responsible strategies and policy recommendations.
Clark was appointed Australia’s chief defence scientist and chief executive officer of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in 2008, a post he held until October last year.
As CDS, he was a member of Australia’s Defence Committee and the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.
He was previously head of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology, based at UNSW.
Clark gained his bachelor of science from UNSW and the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay in 1973.
After 10 years Navy service he completed a PhD in physics at UNSW and the University of Oxford and went on to hold the combined faculty position of a lectureship at Oxford and fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford.
He headed a research group in experimental quantum physics at Oxford’s Clarendon laboratory before returning to Australia in 1991 to take up the chair of experimental physics at UNSW.
In 2000 he established the ARC Special Research Centre for Quantum Computer Technology, one of the world’s largest centres devoted to the science which became an ARC Centre of Excellence in 2003.
UNSW deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Les Field said he was delighted to be welcoming Clark back to the university.
“Bob is one of Australia’s most distinguished scientists, with an outstanding record of achievement,” Field said.
“He also has a long standing relationship with UNSW.
“UNSW is a leader in the energy area – we see this new chair making a substantial contribution to the ongoing debate about how Australia can best meet the challenge of a clean energy future.
“No one is better equipped to take on this challenge than Bob Clark.
“He brings to the role not only impeccable academic qualifications but an impressive track record in strategic management and policy development as well as a close knowledge of the workings of government and industry.”
Clark is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, has the rare distinction of being twice named as an Australian Government Federation Fellow, and has received both the Australian Defence Medal and the Australian Centenary Medal.
In 2008 he was awarded the Eureka prize for leadership in science for his pioneering role in making Australia a world leader in nanotechnology and quantum computing.