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$6.6m awarded to Future Fellowships

30 July 2020
Seven up-and-coming research leaders recognised
Australian Research Council funding supports Australia's most outstanding mid-career researchers in Humanities and Sciences at the University of Sydney.

Seven academics from the University of Sydney have been recognised as up-and-coming research leaders, with more than $6.6m in funding awarded to investigate new approaches to countering terrorism and developing nanomedicines, among other projects.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced the Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships. He said: “This research will lead to commercial, economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits for the nation and the world. I congratulate the 100 Future Fellows, who have been recognised for their innovative, internationally competitive research.”

ARC Future Fellowships are designed to attract and retain Australia’s most outstanding mid-career researchers, funding their projects over a span of four years, and supporting enquiry into areas of critical national and global importance.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said it was pleasing to see the range of research areas supported this year, including to fund social science research.

“Future Fellowships support outstanding emerging academics who are working at the forefront of their disciplines. We are delighted to see seven colleagues from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Science recognised in this way - all working in areas of research strength at our University,” he said.

“I’m particularly thrilled to see the important topics our Future Fellows will tackle - including globally important issues such as terrorism and how humans have previously adapted to environmental change.”

Associate Professor Sarah Phillips, from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was awarded a Future Fellowship to look at how people living in communities affected by terrorist groups tend to understand these groups in profoundly different ways to international counter-terrorism practitioners.

Professor Phillips will conduct in-depth interviews with people from Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia to gain insights into local understandings of al-Qa’ida, ISIS, the Pakistani Taliban and al-Shabaab. 

The project is expected to generate new approaches to conceptualising violent extremism and will create two PhD scholarships for students from conflict-affected states or refugee backgrounds to study international security at the University of Sydney.

Other Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences successful Future Fellows include Dr Patrick Faulkner, who will look at how early humans in Sri Lanka adapted to environmental change, which could inform how we might adapt to climate change today.

Also recognised are Associate Professor Holly High, who will examine lessons from reproductive health policy rollout in Laos and Professor Megan MacKenzie who investigates how we can better understand and reduce sexual violence in the military.

Associate Professor Peter Kim from the School of Mathematics and Statistics plans to use his Future Fellowship to apply mathematical modelling to unravel the mystery of human evolution.

“Two million years ago, climate change and other factors led ancestral primates to engage in greater cooperative behaviour. This led to longer lives, more complex interactions and higher intelligence – a process that eventually produced Homo sapiens.

“I will use the Future Fellowship to build a research group to grapple with our species’ emergence in novel ways. We will build quantitative models to investigate narrative theories of human evolution, using the latest mathematical modelling and computer simulations.”

Other Faculty of Science successful Future Fellows are Dr Markus Muellner who will develop new technologies for use in nanomedicines and Associate Professor Daniel Huber will pursue discoveries into the formation, composition and evolution of giant exoplanets.

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