Recipients of our 2022 SOAR prizes

7 December 2021
Our Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) fellows.
Twenty-two of our academics have received a 2022 SOAR Prize.
John Gilroy pictured outdoors in a colourful shirt and with trees in the background.

Associate Professor John Gilroy

The SOAR program helps up-and-coming research leaders build their careers by increasing the scale and impact of their research. 

As part of the two-year program, successful applicants from across the University are awarded $50,000 per year to support their research, innovation and development plans, as well as $25,000 teaching or admin relief if needed.

Associate Professor John Gilroy from the Sydney Indigenous Research Hub and Deputy Director of Indigenous Research at Sydney is the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander scholar to win a highly prestigious SOAR Prize. Professor Gilroy is a Yuin man from the NSW South Coast and is an associate professor of sociology in Indigenous health, specialising primarily in disability studies. 

“Our SOAR Prizes scheme is now in its fifth round of providing targeted support for our early and mid-career colleagues to help them become our next research leaders," said Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

“The University is committed to helping researchers propel into the next stage in their academic journey.

“I look forward to seeing what our 2022 SOAR recipients will achieve in the next two years with the support of this program.”

Since the program began in 2017, 82 researchers have received SOAR Prizes. Fifty percent or more of the prizes have been awarded to women in every round, highlighting the University’s commitment to gender equity. SOAR Prizes have enabled all recipients to enhance and expand their existing research, while also assisting them to pursue personal development opportunities.

SOAR recipients - early career researchers

Dr Yu Heng Lau is a senior lecturer and group leader in the School of Chemistry. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, developing new chemical methods for synthesising peptide-based therapeutics. He then moved to Harvard Medical School as a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in the field of synthetic biology, building recoded synthetic genomes in bacteria and engineering self-assembling protein nanocompartments in yeast. 
Yu Heng's research lies at the interface of synthetic chemistry, synthetic biology and bioengineering. His work takes inspiration from macromolecules found in nature, harnessing the power of biocompatible chemistry to create new medicines, advanced materials and catalysts.

Dr Abdel Shaheed, currently an Academic Fellow, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney is interested in research evaluating the quality use of medicines across a range of conditions.She is particularly interested in better understanding which interventions work for various pain conditions, as currently there is a lack of an evidence-based knowledge source that brings such information together in one document. 


Dr Arianna Brambilla was awarded a Ph.D. with honours In Building Engineering from Politecnico di Milano (IT). Her background in architecture and engineering allowed her to establish her research field at the merging borders of architecture, construction, building physics, and engineering. She draws upon the different disciplines to assess and interpret construction as a holistic concept, with a strong focus on sustainability. Her research interests relate to human-centered design, building performance assessment, low-carbon living, construction and innovative technologies, and healthy built environments. Dr Brambilia is also the co-chair of the Building Efficiencies cluster in the Smart Sustainable Building Network

Dr Chang Xu is Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning and Computer Vision at the School of Computer Science. He obtained a Bachelor of Engineering from Tianjin University, China, and a PhD. from Peking University, China. While pursuing his PhD degree, Chang received fellowships from IBM and Baidu. His research interests lie in machine learning, data mining algorithms and related applications in artificial intelligence and computer vision, including multi-view learning, multi-label learning, visual search and face recognition.


Dr Boichak is a sociologist of digital media and a Lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney. In her research, she fuses ethnographic and computational methods to illuminate the social and cultural implications of the use of digital media in non-Western contexts. Building upon a background in public diplomacy and political activism, she co-led an interdisciplinary research project that explored the role of automated accounts, or bots, in political conversations online.

Dr Barrett is an NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow at the Matilda Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health. Her research centers on building new knowledge on providing innovative solutions to reduce the phychological impact of trauma in young people.

Dr Chen is a law and economics scholar writing in the areas of equity and trusts, civil litigation, and game theory. Inheritance litigation motivates much of his research. In particular, he explores how best to develop and apply the doctrines of capacity, undue influence, and fiduciary duties to resolve inheritance disputes. He also develops contest theory (a branch of game theory) to better incorporate bounded rationality, other-regarding preferences and externalities.


Dr Song's research focusses on the boundary between software and hardware, breaking down abstraction barriers, and rethinking the hardware–software interface. He has a particular interest of holistic system design and software-hardware co-design. His expertise lies in the general areas of computer system architecture and high performance computing (HPC). Dr Song is inspired to push the concept of co-design to create efficient and scalable solutions for emerging systems and applications, including future planet-scale Extended-Reality (XR) system, large-scale AI training, and even future quantum accelerator based heterogeneous architectures.

Dr Seymour has a B Sc. focused on CGI and Pure Maths from the University of Sydney where he also did his Masters (MBA) and his PhD. His research is into using interactive realtime photoreal faces in new forms of Human Computer Interfaces (CHI). He has worked for many years in the visual effects area of the entertainment industry, in R&D and in film production, winning an AFI and being nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the USA. He has worked as a compositor, VFX supervisor and second unit director on various TV shows here and in the UK.


Dr Li is a Senior Lecturer with the School of Electrical and Information Engineering. Her research focusses on delivering the superiority, functionality and capability of integrated nanophotonic sensing techniques to be implemented and applied to a wide range of applications in the Internet of Things, healthcare and defence. 


Dr Malik is a Senior Lecturer in the Integrated Sustainability Analysis group at the School of Physics and in the Discipline of Accounting, Business School. She undertakes big-data modelling to quantify sustainability impacts at local, national and global scales. She has carried out a range of sustainability supply-chain assessments of health care, biofuel production, construction materials, global energy use, global nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions, and tourism. 

Dr Ahmadpour is a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researcher. She is a member of the Design Lab and leads the Affective Interactions Lab. She was awarded her PhD in human-machine interaction from University of Montreal (Ecole Polytechnique), Canada and her MSc in industrial design (specialising in human factors) from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research is interdisciplinary and broadly focused on interactive technologies that support wellbeing in ethical and responsible ways. She investigates how emerging technologies such as virtual reality can enhance wellbeing, motivation for wellbeing supportive behaviors, reflection on daily experiences and self-regulation of affective experiences.

Dr Hunt is a Lecturer based at the Concord Clinical School, within the Faculty of Medicine and Health. He is also a post-doctoral researcher in the Biogerontology Group at the ANZAC Research Institute at Concord Repatriation General Hospital. Dr Hunt is an early career researcher working on the development of nanomedicines for the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents for metabolic disease. His work centres on chemically synthesising quantum dots and nanoparticles, characterize their properties and engineering nano-structures that alter their applications within in vivo models of metabolic disease. 

Dr Carey is a Sydney-based composer, improviser and educator. He makes electronic music using the modular synthesiser, develops interactive music software and creates audio-visual works. Ben’s research and practice is concerned with musical interactivity, generativity and the delicate dance between human and machine agencies in composition and performance. 

SOAR recipients - mid-career researchers

Dr Kebede is Senior Research Fellow in the School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health and lead researcher at the Islet Biology and Metabolism Laboratory. In 2015 she established her own independent career as a Laboratory Head at the University's Charles Perkins Centre, funded by a philanthropic fellowship from the University. Her lab aims to understand the mechanisms of β-cell failure in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. 

Dr Coulembier from the School of Mathematics & Statistics received a Christopher Heyde Medal this year, recognising his early-career achievements. Dr Coulembier works in a branch of mathematics known as representation theory, which explores symmetry in abstract higher dimensions. It does this by transforming problems in abstract algebra into calculations in linear algebra, making them less complex to solve.

Thom van Dooren is Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney, and a Professor II in the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities, University of Oslo. His research is based in the broad interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities, with particular grounding in environmental philosophy, cultural studies, and science and technology studies. His research and writing focus on some of the ]philosophical, ethical, cultural, and political issues that arise in the context of species extinctions and human entanglements with threatened species and places. 

Dr Kumfor is currently an NHMRC Career Development Fellow (2019-2023), Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and registered Clinical Neuropsychologist with AHPRA. Combining her clinical training in neuropsychology and research expertise in cognitive neuroscience her work investigates social cognition in clinical syndromes with a focus on dementia, and aims to improve diagnosis and prognosis of dementia, while also informing neurobiological models of complex human behaviours.

Associate Professor Gilroy is a Yuin man from the NSW South Coast and is an associate professor of sociology in Indigenous health, specialising primarily in disability studies. He has worked in disability and ageing research and community development with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, government and non-government stakeholders for most of his life. Associate Professor Gilroy is passionate about Aboriginal owned and driven research as means to influence policy. He has led many research projects in urban and rural/remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Dr Nguyen's research interest is mainly on employing applied mathematical tools such as stochastic modelling, queueing theory, optimisation theory and game theory to design, analyse and optimise the cutting-edge applications in complexed networks (such as fog/edge computing and data centers, 5G network resource allocation and distributed machine learning for wireless networks).

Associate Professor Jeanne Huang specialises in conflict of laws and digital trade/e-commerce regulations. She is widely recognised as an active and productive scholar in the interdisciplinary study between conflict of laws and data economy. In leading peer-reviewed journals, she has published on conflict-of-laws issues in digital trade/e-commerce regulations in China, Australia, the US and the EU and the relevant free trade agreements. She has also extensively written about dispute resolution involving China and Chinese parties. 

Associate Professor Latty is an entomologist with a special interest in insect behaviour and ecology. She has a BSc. in Biology and Environmental Science from Trent University (Canada), and a PhD in insect ecology from the University of Calgary (Canada). Her highly interdisciplinary work involves local and international collaborations with researchers in a broad range of fields including mathematics, computer science, forestry and operations research

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