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Sydney Research Accelerator Prizes

Generous prizes to help Sydney researchers SOAR
Our Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) prizes support outstanding University of Sydney early and mid-career researchers to fulfil their potential.

As part of the two-year program, prize recipients are awarded $50,000 per year to support their research, innovation and development plans. They also benefit from a personalised program of research development support and structured mentoring.

In a three-part documentary series, we’ve followed five of our SOAR prize recipients for two years to find out what makes them get out of bed in the morning, how they balance the pressures of academic life with family and the reality of successes and failures in research.

2020 SOAR prize recipients

Dr Alice Motion – Faculty of Science

Dr Alice Motion is a lecturer in Chemical Education and Outreach, the Citizen Science Node Co-Lead and Outreach and Exchange Coordinator for the School of Chemistry. Her research focuses on open science and Science Communication, Outreach, Participation and Education (SCOPE).
The SOAR Prize will assist Dr Motion with research into the history of chemistry in Australia as well as public engagement with and perceptions of science.

Dr Anne Marie Thow – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Anne Marie Thow is a Senior Lecturer in Health Policy in the Sydney School of Public Health, based at the Charles Perkins Centre. Her research examines multi-sectoral policy approaches to improving diets and nutrition globally, particularly at the interface between economic policy and food systems.

She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to lead the establishment of a new international collaboration on nutrition policy innovation and lead the development of a nutrition policy research group at the University.

Dr Camilla Whittington – Faculty of Science

Dr Camilla Whittington is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and has previously held a Sydney School of Veterinary Science Research Fellowship and a L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship. Her research focuses on the evolution of pregnancy, and she currently holds an ARC Discovery Project examining the placenta in live-bearing reptiles, sharks and mammals.
The SOAR Prize will enable her to consolidate her position as an emerging leader in genomics and evolutionary biology and help translate her team’s fundamental findings into applied advances.

Dr David Martinez-Martin – Faculty of Engineering

Dr David Martinez-Martin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on understanding how cells regulate their mass and size, and he is the principal inventor of several patents internationally licensed to high-tech companies in the fields of materials science, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

He is planning to use the SOAR prize to implement hardware and software developments to advance his cell picobalance technology and conduct research on biomedical applications of real-time cell mass detection.

Dr Ernest Ekpo – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Ernest Ekpo is an Academic Fellow and member of Sydney Catalyst Translational Research and Cancer Research Network. His research focuses on improving cancer risk assessment, early detection, and prediction of treatment outcomes while minimising risk to patients through technology, education, and dose optimisation.  
The SOAR prize will assist him in furthering his research in artificial intelligence for predicting breast cancer treatment outcome.

Dr Gareth Bryant – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dr Gareth Bryant is a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy in the School of Social and Political Sciences. His research explores financial modes of governing different areas of life from an interdisciplinary political-economic perspective.
The SOAR Prize will enable him to expand the scope of his research to include financial innovation in the social housing sector, conduct fieldwork and boost his capacity to translate research into impact.

Dr Kadir Atalay – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dr Kadir Atalay is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics. His current research focuses on the individual and system-level economic concerns of ageing, such as personal behaviour toward pensions, retirement and household savings, and the macroeconomics of population ageing.
The SOAR prize will allow him to expand his research agenda by examining the health consequences of social security reforms, using administrative data on drug prescriptions, hospitalisation and mortality.

Dr Katy Bell – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Katy Bell is a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Epidemiology in the Sydney School of Public Health. Her research focuses on increasing benefits, and preventing harm, from medical tests that are used for screening, diagnosis and monitoring of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.
The SOAR Prize will help accelerate her existing research projects while also providing opportunities to advance her international collaborations and increase her capabilities.

Dr Lining Arnold Ju – Faculty of Engineering

Dr Lining Arnold Ju is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow in the School of Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on understanding how mechanosensory proteins function in our cardiovascular systems. He is also developing new bioengineering technologies for the development of new treatments and preventative measures to combat deadly heart diseases.
He is planning to use the SOAR Prize to establish his mechanobiology research program and bring together the fields of biomechanical engineering, imaging, microfluidics and haematology.

Dr Penelope Crossley – Sydney Law School

Dr Penelope Crossley is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sydney Law School. Her research focuses on the fields of comparative renewable energy and energy storage law, electricity market governance, and the intersection between tort law and the energy and resources sector.
She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to design regulatory principles to govern the adoption of new energy technologies and modes of participation in the Australian energy market.

Dr Renjing Liu – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Renjing Liu is Head of the Agnes Ginges Laboratory for Diseases of the Aorta at Centenary Institute, a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship recipient, and Senior Lecturer at the Sydney Medical School. Her research spans stem cell and cardiovascular biology, and epigenetic regulation of gene expression.

The SOAR Prize will enable her to expand her lab's research into epigenetic mechanisms regulating vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) plasticity, and targeting VSMC plasticity for cardiovascular disease therapy.

Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Amy Conley Wright is an Associate Professor in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work and Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies. She leads a program of applied research focused primarily on building evidence about children and their best interests in open adoption and other permanency pathways in out-of-home care, working closely with government, non-governmental organisations and people with lived experience of the child protection system.
The SOAR Prize will assist Associate Professor Wright in writing a book, extending her industry and professional network through establishing the newly approved University of Sydney Research Centre for Children and Families, and accessing training on research leadership.

Associate Professor Ben Colagiuri – Faculty of Science

Ben Colagiuri is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and has previously received an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. The majority of his research focuses on the placebo effect, associative learning, and psycho-oncology.
He is planning on using the SOAR Prize to pioneer MultiLab fundamental research on placebo and nocebo effects and lead international research translating placebo and nocebo knowledge to clinical practice.

Associate Professor Daniel Dias-da-Costa – Faculty of Engineering

Daniel Dias-da-Costa is an Associate Professor in the School of Civil Engineering within the Faculty of Engineering. His current research interests include both experimental and advanced computational predictive technology aimed to enhance the safety of the built environment.

The SOAR Prize will enable Associate Professor Dias-da-Costa to develop user-ready high-end technology for on-site mapping of existing damage and structural health monitoring and a self-healing concrete which uses bacteria to improve performance and resistance.

Associate Professor Jodie Ingles – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Associate Professor Jodie Ingles is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow and Head of the Clinical Cardiac Genetics Group in the Molecular Cardiology Program at Centenary Institute. Her overall research objective is to better understand the clinical, genetic and psychosocial aspects of inherited heart diseases.
She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to further develop and expand an Undiagnosed Genetic Heart Diseases (UGHD) Program.

Associate Professor Julia Bryant – Faculty of Science

Associate Professor Julia Bryant is an ARC Future Fellow, Director of the University of Sydney node of Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO-USyd) and a member of the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics (ASTRO-3D).
The SOAR Prize will enable Dr Bryant to do a time-critical early data release from Hector, an instrument on the Anglo-Australian Telescope being used to conduct integral field spectroscopy galaxy surveys using optical imaging fibre bundles (hexabundles) she developed.

Associate Professor Lenka Munoz – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Associate Professor Lenka Munoz is Head of the Cell Signalling Laboratory at the Charles Perkins Centre and has successfully commercialised a new brain cancer drug she discovered. Her research focuses on understanding signalling pathways driving glioblastoma, delineating the molecular mechanism of action of cancer drugs and developing effective therapies against glioblastoma.
The SOAR Prize will help Associate Professor Munoz to expand her brain cancer research program into cancer dormancy and further embed herself in current leadership roles.

Associate Professor Nicola Newton – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Associate Professor Nicola Newton is the Director of Prevention at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use and Prevention Lead at the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE). Her research focuses on gaining a better understanding of and preventing the development of substance use and mental health problems among adolescents.
She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to enhance existing NHMRC-funded trials to generate new knowledge and areas of technical expertise, expand and establish new international collaborations, accelerate translation and mentor early career researchers in prevention science.

Associate Professor Sarah Phillips – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Associate Professor Sarah Phillips is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award recipient and a member of the Centre for International Security Studies. Her research interests include investigation international intervention in the global South, knowledge production in conflict-affected areas, and non-state governance.

The SOAR Prize will help her undertake complex fieldwork in Somaliland, Iraq, and Jordan, conduct interviews with counter-terrorism practitioners, and to collaborate with colleagues in Europe.

Associate Professor Shyamal Chowdhury – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dr Shyamal Chowdhury is an Associate Professor in the School of Economics within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. His research interests include seasonal migration, poverty and hunger, microfinance, technology adoption by small and marginal farmers, and formation and intergenerational transmission of economic preferences.
He is planning to use the SOAR Prize to collaborate with international researchers, spend more time in the field to monitor randomised controlled trials and to focus working on two current research projects in the area of the functioning of the rural labour markets, and the formation of economic preferences among children.

Early-career researchers

Understanding how the oral microbiome influences health

Dr Christina Adler – The University of Sydney School of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Christina Adler is based at Westmead Hospital, leading a research program focused on understanding how the oral microbiome contributes to both oral and overall health. Her research is particularly focussing on the role of the oral microbiome in dental decay that affects half of Australian children under 12 years of age.

She plans to use the SOAR Fellowship to translate the findings from two NHMRC studies and use the oral microbiome data to develop new prevention methods for childhood dental decay.

Understanding global trends of smart cities

Dr Tooran Alizadeh – Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Dr Tooran Alizadeh’s research utilises cross-disciplinary knowledge and methodologies to gain new vital perspectives into the ever-growing complexities of cities in the age of advanced technological challenges and opportunities. She has investigated the socio-spatial implications of telecommunication infrastructure in Australia and beyond, and the extent to which smart city initiatives respond to the strategic challenges of each city and its citizens.

The SOAR Fellowship will provide the opportunity to up-scale and accelerate her current research in two main streams of 1) Understanding global trends of smart cities with a focus on India; and 2) Capturing local voices in smart cities in collaboration with local governments in Australia.

Exploring migrant worker exploitation

Dr Anna Boucher – School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

As a global expert on immigration, Dr Anna Boucher is increasingly sought on her specialisation of economic migration and migration data. With the United Nations estimating that there are 258 million immigrants globally, knowledge of the complex nature of immigration policies and their outcomes is crucially needed.

As an applied researcher with links across government, industry and the media, Dr Boucher will use the SOAR to mentor more migration researchers and undertake a visiting fellowship at UCLA to extend her current research to include the case of migrant worker exploitation in California.

The psychology of gambling 

Dr Sally Gainsbury – School of Psychology, Faculty of Science

Dr Sally Gainsbury is Deputy Director of the Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic within the Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology. Her primary expertise is the psychology of gambling to develop and evaluate harm-minimisation strategies, and she’s been investigating new technologies like blockchain and internet gambling and gaming.

With the SOAR, Dr Gainsbury plans to define and understand risk-taking behaviour and decision-making related to new technology and guide policy and strategies to reduce risk-taking and promote healthy decision-making. She will set herself up to be recognised as an international research leader in online risk-taking and addictions – growing fields with strong social and economic impacts but which lack the research to inform theoretical conceptualisation, policy and practice.

Monitoring of seizure activity and drug effectiveness in patients with epilepsy 

Dr Omid Kavehei – School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Dr Omid Kavehei has established multidisciplinary research into chronic monitoring of seizure activity and drug effectiveness in patients living with epilepsy. This research lies at the cross-section of electronics, biomedical, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology.

With the SOAR, he plans to further develop a smart wearable neural-interface for long-term ambulatory detection and prediction of epileptic seizures. This SOAR helps to address the question of how to make a reliable and chronic brain-signal monitoring system which could be used long-term and is non-invasive.

Developing new software to measure information processing in biological systems

Dr Joseph Lizier – School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Dr Joseph Lizier is researching complex systems, the interdisciplinary study of collective behaviour, self-organisation and emergence. He’s currently focused on providing new theory and software tools to enable measuring information processing in biological and bio-inspired systems.

He plans to use the SOAR to deepen his expertise and impact of his work in computational neuroscience, and to lead projects with international collaborators by consolidating ties with the Max Planck Institute, for instance.

Developing tools to measure nerve damage in chemotherapy patients

Dr Susanna Park – Sydney School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Susanna Park’s current research program is targeted to develop objective tools to measure nerve damage in chemotherapy-treated patients, identify sensitive markers to identify patients at risk of long-term nerve damage, and provide a platform for the development of clinical trials of neuroprotective strategies.

Through the SOAR, she plans to develop and implement non-invasive technologies to assess patient function in cancer survivors. She’ll also host an inaugural Neurological Complications of Cancer workshop, to accelerate translation of research techniques into clinical trials.

Conserving indigenous languages of mainland Asia

Dr Mark Post – Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dr Mark Post is a linguist specialising in the documentation, analysis and conservation of Asia’s indigenous languages, and one of the few linguists conducting field research in the linguistically rich and little-studied Eastern Himalayan region.

The SOAR Fellowship will enable Dr Post to advance and expand his current projects partnering with indigenous researchers and community organisations to document and conserve indigenous languages of mainland Asia, develop leadership and communication skills in the modern South Asian cultural context, and complete a three-volume book.

Creating guidelines for detecting musculoskeletal conditions

Dr Milena Simic – Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Milena Simic leads clinical and biomechanical research in the field of knee osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal health. Her research focuses on innovative strategies aimed at preventing the deterioration of joint health in people with knee osteoarthritis.

With the SOAR, she will create international guidelines for clinical gait analysis in musculoskeletal conditions. She’ll also use video analysis and data to automate the detection of gait deviation using machine learning, and will conduct a trial to determine if optimising exercise therapy and reducing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use prevents joint deterioration.

Improving cancer treatments with RNA modification  

Dr Justin Wong – Centenary Institute, Faculty of Medicine and Health

Dr Justin Wong is head of the Epigenetics and RNA Biology Program at the Centenary Institute. As a molecular biologist and epigeneticist, he has a strong focus on cancer research and is currently focusing on ribonucleic acid (RNA) splicing and RNA modification.

Funding from the SOAR Fellowship will facilitate critical work to determine the roles of RNA splicing and modification in diverse human cancers, and identify novel ways to target abnormalities in these processes to improve cancer therapeutics.

Mid-career researchers

Improving the lives of children with developmental disabilities

Associate Professor Joanne Arciuli – Faculty of Health Sciences
Associate Professor Joanne Arciuli’s research program focusses on child development and disability with regard to speech, language and literacy. She aims to improve child outcomes by elucidating the atypical developmental trajectories that underpin communication impairment and their causes, and translating these insights into cutting-edge interventions.

In the next two years, Associate Professor Arciuli plans to leverage recent collaborations to advance science and improve the lives of children with developmental disabilities, and accelerate engagement with community leaders and their disability organisations.

Virtual platform for connecting computer-based linguists

Associate Professor Monika Bednarek – Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Associate Professor Monika Bednarek is internationally recognised for her research on language use in the mass media and for her contributions to computer-based linguistic analysis.

She plans to use the SOAR funding to set up a new virtual lab and develop new research projects. She’ll investigate the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in health news, examine discourses of disability, and establish a new Sydney Corpus Lab, a virtual platform for connecting computer-based linguists across the university and promote the method in other disciplines.

Placebo research in musculoskeletal surgery

Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira – Northern Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health
Surgery for musculoskeletal conditions is among the fastest growing procedures across the world, however, more surgery does not necessarily mean more recovered patients. Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira designed and currently leads the world’s first placebo-controlled randomised trial of surgery for spinal stenosis, an NHMRC-funded project.

With the SOAR, she plans to develop the Placebo Surgery Research Network at the Kolling Institute, as well as continue producing high quality scientific evidence in the field of musculoskeletal surgery.

Migration, labour mobility and cultural diversity in business

Associate Professor Dimitria Groutsis – University of Sydney Business School
In spite of almost five decades of Australia’s multicultural policy and a country which boasts one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations, this is not reflected in the executive teams and boards of Australian public, private and not-for-profit organisations, with the vast majority of board and senior leadership positions held by Anglo-Celtic men.

Associate Professor Dimitria Groutsis’ research focusses on migration, labour mobility, and cultural diversity in business. The SOAR will allow her to scale up her recent research activities, extend her interdisciplinary collaborations with the Sydney Policy Lab, and build on her ground-breaking work with the Diversity Council Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Leading research in effective algorithms and data structures for geometric data

Associate Professor Joachim Gudmundsson – School of Information Technologies, Faculty of Engineering
Associate Professor Joachim Gudmundsson’s research focusses on developing effective algorithms and data structures for geometric data, particularly to support movement analysis in the fields of ecology, animal-behaviour research, sports, defence, GIS and transport.

Associate Professor Gudmundsson leads the newly established Sydney Algorithms and Computation Theory (SACT) group, a talented and innovative team possessing real potential to become a world-leading research group. He will be looking to further strengthen SACT by establishing strong industry collaboration and securing ongoing diverse funding.

Mathematically modelling the regulation of T cell expansion

Associate Professor Peter Kim – School of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science
Associate Professor Peter Kim works in the field of mathematical biology, particularly relating to mathematical immunology and virus dynamics. He plans to help cultivate mathematical biology at Sydney, investing in people by developing into a more effective mentor.

Along with personal development through a course, he intends to work on projects focused on mathematically modelling the regulation and dynamics of T cells, and the affinity maturation and selection of effector and memory T cells.

The asset economy

Associate Professor Martijn Konings – School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Associate Professor Martijn Konings’ research sits in the crossroads of political economy and social theory, focusing particularly on money and finance. He is currently looking into the home as a financial asset and the way it has become linked to major transformations in the logic of economic inequality and social stratification.

With the SOAR Fellowship he plans to lead a cross-disciplinary group of scholars to publish a series of co-authored papers, and a short, programmatic book on the asset economy. There will be interaction with similar groups at University partners Harvard, Toronto, UCL and Utrecht, as well as NYU and Chicago.

Making machine learning of complex systems more robust, accurate, and secure

Associate Professor Ian Manchester – School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering 
Associate Professor Ian Manchester is the Associate Director (Research) at the Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, working on machine learning and robot control systems.

During his SOAR fellowship, he will develop new models and algorithms that make machine learning of complex dynamical systems more robust, accurate, and secure. This will enable the next generation of robot control systems that can learn from experience while guaranteeing safety, a critical element in many applications, such as surgical robots that can learn from human surgeons. His research will also contribute to cybersecurity by helping protect automated systems against deliberate “false data” attacks designed to cause damage.

Low-cost, scalable autonomous systems for seafloor monitoring

Dr Oscar Pizarro – Australian Centre for Field Robotics, Faculty of Engineering 
Dr Oscar Pizarro’s research has focused on improving our capabilities for environmental monitoring using robotics and related disciplines such as computer vision and machine learning.

Through the SOAR, Dr Pizarro will establish and cultivate collaborative relationships with the University of Porto and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, among others, focused on using low-cost, scalable autonomous systems for seafloor characterisation and monitoring.

How ‘Western’ diets affect cognition 

Associate Professor Greg Sutherland – Sydney School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health
Associate Professor Greg Sutherland works in the Discipline of Pathology and is interested in understanding the factors causing unhealthy brain ageing and cognitive decline.

Diets high in protein and fat can modify brain activity and this may be related to changes in the gut microbiome. In the next two years, together with colleagues at the Charles Perkins Centre, he will explore how ‘Western’ diets affect cognition by exploring both human population data and the gut microbiome, metabolic profiles and brain structures of mice fed on these diets.  

Early-career researchers

Age-defying nutrition

Dr Samantha Solon-Biet – Faculty of Science
Samantha’s research is focused on discovering novel nutritional interventions that delay ageing and age-related lifestyle diseases such as obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Her previous work, the most detailed study of macronutrition ever undertaken in mammals, found that in free-feeding environments, diets low in protein and high in carbohydrates are more beneficial for late-life health and lifespan than reducing total calorie intake. The fellowship will allow her to expand this research at the Charles Perkins Centre and via an exchange to the US.

Designing the zoos of 2050

Dr Marcus Carter – Faculty of Arts and Social Science
How will technology change the design and role of zoos in the next thirty years? Marcus’ research looks at how we can use digital technologies and sensors to improve animal welfare, conservation education, and visitor experience at zoos. He has recently worked with Zoos Victoria to develop digital games for orangutan and gorilla enrichment and as part of his fellowship and will build links with other Australian and international zoos.  

Improving our criminal justice system

Dr Garner Clancey – Sydney Law School
Crime prevention and criminal justice expert Garner will analyse some of the recent major developments in the NSW criminal justice system, including the ‘once-in-a-generation’ reforms of the NSW Police Force and the $3.8 billion injection of funding that will almost double the number of adult prison beds in NSW.

Tweaking our built environment to improve health

Dr Melody Ding – Sydney Medical School
As a population behavioural scientist, Melody, a 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Award winner and member of the Charles Perkins Centre, is studying how to make tweaks to our built environment (such as making our neighbourhoods more ‘walkable’) to prevent chronic diseases, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Her fellowship will fund advanced epidemiological training at Harvard and support the translation of her work into public policy.

Transforming drug and spray delivery systems

Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis – Faculty of Engineering 
Agisilaos’ research is focused on understanding and managing multiphase flows, which have far-reaching implications for our environment, our society and our health. His fellowship will spur promising industry relationships, cross-faculty workshops and further his research, which has applications in advanced drug delivery systems for asthma and Alzheimer’s, agricultural sprays, and improving the efficiency of energy conversion systems.

Ethics and politics of emerging medical therapies

Dr Wendy Lipworth – Sydney Medical School
A bioethicist, Wendy’s research centres on some of the most challenging problems facing frontline clinicians, researchers and policymakers, including access to high cost cancer medicines, therapeutics research using biobanks and big data, and the commercialisation of health and biomedicine. Her fellowship will enable the establishment of the world’s first global pharmaceutical ethics network and support the development of the University's Master of Bioethics program.

Understanding the role of metals in health and disease

Associate Professor Elizabeth New – Faculty of Science
Elizabeth develops fluorescent chemical sensors that help visualise biological processes to better understand Alzheimer’s, obesity and cancer, as well as find toxic metals in soils to improve agriculture in remote communities. Already a leader at the forefront of chemical probe development within Australia, the fellowship will assist with the commercialisation of her research.

Cognition and attention in dementia

Dr Mac Shine – Sydney Medical School
Every thought you’ve ever had is intimately linked to the activity of billions of neurons in your brain, yet we still don’t comprehend the basic principles of how the brain works. Mac’s work at the Brain and Mind Centre aims to understand the biological basis of cognition and attention, both in health and disease, to develop new treatments for dementia. 

Governance of emerging gene technologies

Dr Sonja Van Wichelen – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Asian countries are becoming major players in the world of bioscience. Yet the legalities of emerging gene technologies have yet to be explored. As a sociologist, Sonja’s current research examines the socio-legal governance of new gene technologies in Southeast Asian countries, which has important implications for medical tourism and the Australian biotech field. Her fellowship will allow her to conduct interviews with lawyers, bioethicists and judges as part of her pilot studies in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Mid-career researchers

Uncovering the genetics of dementia

Dr Carol Dobson-Stone – Sydney Medical School
By 2050, it is predicted that around 950,000 Australians will have dementia. An expert on the genetics of dementia, Carol has recently discovered a key gene implicated in the neurodegenerative disease. As part of her fellowship, the Brain and Mind Centre researcher will further her research on this gene in the hope that it will provide targets for the development of new treatments and preventative therapies for this debilitating group of disorders.

Creating greener fuels

Associate Professor Jun Huang – Faculty of Engineering 
A 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Award winner, Jun focuses on developing new catalysts to speed up chemical reactions and ultimately ensure 'greener' and more sustainable fuels and industries. He recently developed a way to convert methane and carbon dioxide (this reaction was thought impossible) to an important chemical acetic acid and will expand this research, to ensure it is industry compatible, as part of his fellowship.

Managing memory loss in dementia

Associate Professor Muireann Irish – Faculty of Science
An expert on the neuroscience of human memory and winner of the 2016 NSW Premier’s Early Career Researcher of the Year, Muireann’s work has transformed how we understand and manage loss of memory in dementia and how this affects the capacity for imagination and thinking about the future. Motivated by her grandmother’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the Brain and Mind Centre researcher will continue her research in this area, building links with industry partners.

Life-saving solutions to combat heatwaves

Associate Professor Ollie Jay – Faculty of Health Sciences 
Heatwaves are responsible for more deaths every year than all other natural disasters combined and are only going to increase in frequency with climate change. Ollie’s research looks at cheap and energy efficient solutions to keep us cool and reduce the risk of hyperthermia-related complications during heatwaves and while exercising. As part of his fellowship, Ollie, a member of the Charles Perkins Centre, will integrate his research findings into international public health messaging and work with various sports organisations to develop evidence-based extreme heat policies for professional and community summer sports.

Securing our future drinking water and food

Dr Federico Maggi – Faculty of Engineering 
As an environmental engineer, Federico’s work looks at ways to mitigate the overexploitation and contamination of soil and related water quality issues. As part of his fellowship, he will build links with industry partners and investigate fundamentally novel ways to secure drinking water and food production in the future.

Using data to enhance classroom learning

Associate Professor Nicole Mockler – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
With a background in secondary school teaching, Nicole’s current research looks at how we can encourage teachers to use educational data and evidence-informed practice to enhance their students’ learning. The fellowship will fast-track a monograph on how the media portrays education as well as support her studies in applied statistics and data mining.

Designing energy-efficient surface coatings

Associate Professor Chiara Neto – Faculty of Science
Chiara’s research takes inspiration from nature to design slippery nanostructured surface coatings that have a variety of applications, from increasing the energy efficiency of commercial shipping to alleviating water scarcity in arid climates. The fellowship will expand her leadership at Sydney Nano and enable face-to-face collaborations with leading global experts in her field and industry.  

Improving the health of mums and bubs in the developing world

Associate Professor Camille Raynes-Greenow – Sydney Medical School
Camille’s research concentrates on interventions during pregnancy that can improve the health of both mothers and babies, particularly in the developing world. In a world-first study, she will assess the impact of household air pollution from using solid fuels for cooking and heating. The fellowship will also allow Camille to lead the development of a national institute of maternal and child health in Myanmar.

Better treatments for musculoskeletal pain

Dr Trudy Rebbeck – Faculty of Health Sciences 
Trudy’s research aims to improve health outcomes and service delivery for people with musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain, whiplash and osteoarthritis. Through the fellowship, she will follow 1700 people with musculoskeletal injuries after road traffic injury to test and validate risk assessment tools to identify who needs the most care. She will assemble novel clinical networks of primary health care professionals and specialist clinicians to provide pathways of care matched to the care needs.    

Listening to survivors of sexual violence

Associate Professor Rita Shackel – Sydney Law School
Rita’s research is concerned with giving voice to the lived experiences of survivors of sexual abuse and sexual and gender-based violence to drive improvements in policy and practice. The fellowship will allow her to expand current work on child sexual abuse prosecutions to ensure the needs of Aboriginal victims are heard. She will also investigate the needs and priorities of women impacted by sexual violence after social unrest.

Transforming what we know about physical activity, lifestyle, and health 

Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis – Sydney Medical School
From dog ownership and sedentary behaviour to drinking alcohol and physical activity patterns – Emmanuel’s research looks at how our lifestyle affects our cardiovascular, metabolic, and mental health. The fellowship will enable the Charles Perkins Centre researcher to develop an ambitious international consortium (the world’s largest of its kind) on bodily movement, sleep, and longitudinal health outcomes.

Preserving ancient cultures and music

Dr Myfany Turpin – Sydney Conservatorium of Music
A linguist and musicologist, Myfany’s work examines Aboriginal song-poetry and its relationship to spoken languages. She recently recorded an ancient Aboriginal travelling ceremony known widely amongst elders in central and Western Australia, called wanji-wanji, and as part of her fellowship will ensure this important cultural song lives on.

Early-career researchers

Preparing us for the next global pandemic

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

How should governments and the international community respond efficiently and effectively when outbreaks of diseases, such as Ebola and Zika, occur? How should they act in order to save lives and prevent widespread economic damage? This is the focus of Adam’s research. As part of his fellowship, Adam will conduct further fieldwork with the World Health Organisation on the role of military assistance in health emergencies.

Preventing melanoma

Associate Professor Anne Cust - Sydney Medical School

Anne’s research focuses on identifying the causes of cancer, improving early diagnosis and health outcomes of patients. She is particularly interested in melanoma, the most common cancer in young Australians. As part of her fellowship, she will build a new program to translate research for melanoma prevention and screening as well as improve melanoma risk-prediction models in clinical practice.

Early interventions to boost cognitive abilities and life skills

Dr Stefanie Schurer - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
As an expert in the economics of human development, Stefanie has been working with the Charles Perkins Centre to look at the development of life skills of at-risk populations as well as the role that the public sector and parents play in boosting these skills. The fellowship will allow her to expand a number of research projects, including one focusing on the effect of early-life interventions on skill development of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory.

Developing new materials for energy conversion and storage

Dr Deanna D’Alessandro – Faculty of Science

Deanna is at the forefront of developing new materials that have enormous potential to further sensing technologies and energy conversion and storage, as well as creating new electrochromic devices that change colour with electricity. The fellowship will allow her to build her international profile in the field of materials science.

New early biomarkers for Multiple Sclerosis

Associate Professor Michael Barnett - Sydney Medical School
With a background in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research, Michael has been leading the neuroimaging facility at the Brain and Mind Centre for the past three years. The fellowship will enable Michael to combine his areas of expertise and develop new biomarkers for the early diagnosis of MS using MRIs.

Making research relevant to patients, caregivers and clinicians

Associate Professor Allison Tong - Sydney Medical School

Allison’s work focuses on improving patient-centred outcomes in chronic disease. In 2014, she co-founded the global Standardised Outcomes in Nephrology (SONG) Initiative to establish core outcomes (based on the shared priorities of patients, caregivers, and health professionals) to be reported in all clinical trials across the spectrum of chronic kidney disease. Clinical trials that report relevant and meaningful outcomes can help patients and clinicians make decisions about treatment. As part of her fellowship, Allison will convene workshops at major conferences around the world to bring patients and health professionals together to discuss ways to improve patient-centred research and ultimately patient care and outcomes.

Improving the efficiency and reliability of our energy systems

Dr Yixiang Gan - Faculty of Engineering
Granular materials include everything from sand and rocks to flour and salt, and can display some of the characteristics of gases, liquids and solids. They are of interest not only to children playing on the beach but to mining and pharmaceutical engineers as well as a range of other industries. Yixiang studies how they can affect the efficiency and reliability of our energy systems, such as solar thermal storage systems and lithium-ion batteries. The fellowship will help fast-track his research through building on strong industry partnerships, patent development and commercialisation.

Transitioning from big data to big decisions 

Professor Fabio Ramos - Faculty of Engineering 

Over the next two years, machine-learning expert Fabio will focus on developing new methods for computers to interpret ‘big data’ and make informed decisions under uncertainty. The fellowship will allow Fabio to deepen collaborations with academics in the Centre for Translational Data Science and the Brain and Mind Centre, as well as develop key industry partnerships.

Involving the community in policy making

Associate Professor Anika Gauja - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

As an emerging scholar of democracy, Anika investigates how political organisations can better adapt to social, technological and institutional change, while increasing their capacity to respond to political and policy challenges. Through her fellowship, she will look at the changing nature of party membership in Australia, including the participatory challenges that women and Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds face.

Mid-career researchers

A new pain-free way for diabetes patients to monitor insulin

Professor Xiaoke Yi - Faculty of Engineering 

Xiaoke’s research into photonics has already led to a new pain-free, low-cost method to help people with diabetes monitor their insulin levels. The breath test could replace invasive prick-test methods used today. The fellowship will allow Xiaoke to move her device through to clinical trials as well as advance other research projects, including enhanced radar technology built for the Royal Australian Navy.

Moving Australia towards a circular economy and emission reduction targets

Associate Professor Ali Abbas - Faculty of Engineering 

An expert in process systems engineering who first joined the University as an undergraduate chemical engineering student, Ali studies the intricate behaviour of systems. The fellowship will help boost his transformative waste research targeting low-emissions power generation. His research will look at how algae, specialty concrete materials and the utilisation of gaseous waste emissions can move Australia towards a sustainable circular economy and national emission reduction targets.

Reducing the individual and societal burden of obesity

Associate Professor Amanda Salis - Sydney Medical School

Amanda’s research aims to help people who are overweight or obese to safely attain and maintain an optimum body weight and composition. Through the fellowship, she will progress new and existing clinical trials around weight management, scale-up clinical trials to an international level and expand her research training workshops in manuscript and fellowship writing.

Preventing dementia with brain training

Associate Professor Michael Valenzuela - Sydney Medical School

Leader of the Regenerative Neuroscience Group at the Brain and Mind Centre, Michael’s mission is to better prevent dementia and develop new treatments that reverse the disease. The fellowship will, among other things, help him develop next-generation brain-training software and spend more time investigating the ways in which lifestyle interventions work to change the brain.

Shifting the paradigm for smoke inhalation treatment

Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski - Faculty of Pharmacy

Between 80 to 90 per cent of fire-related fatalities are attributed to smoke inhalation, but current treatments are inefficient. Wojciech hopes to develop a new stem-cell based therapy that speeds up the regeneration of lung tissue. The fellowship will allow him to fast-track this research and develop partnerships with strategic international partners which already have expertise in the area.

Smaller and safer batteries for electric cars

Associate Professor Chris Ling - Faculty of Science

The power-to-weight ratio of lithium-ion batteries has led them to dominate consumer electronics and early electric vehicles. As part of his fellowship, Chris hopes to design and build new materials into these batteries that will improve their performance – making them smaller, safer and more powerful – with a particular focus on large-scale automotive and renewable energy storage applications.

Preventing environmental catastrophes

Associate Professor Susan Park - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

An international relations expert, Susan will investigate the accountability processes of corporations, government and civil society in the prelude to environmental disasters, such as the BP oil spill off the coast of Florida in 2010. By converging accountability standards, she hopes to help reduce the likelihood of future disasters. Such insights could inform BP’s efforts to drill in the Great Australian Bight, for example.

Studying twins to unravel back pain

Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira - Faculty of Health Sciences

Back pain is the highest contributor to disability in the world, when expressed in terms of the number of years those with back pain are affected. It impacts every aspect of a person’s life – from their career, to their leisure time, to their social life, and current treatment options are simply not good enough. Medications are frequently ineffective and carry the risk of addiction, says physiotherapist Paulo. As part of his fellowship, Paulo will bridge the gap between genetics and back pain by examining the relationship between physical activity and back pain in twins.

Using gravitational waves to understand our universe

Associate Professor Tara Murphy – Faculty of Science

The discovery of gravitational waves earlier this year is undoubtedly one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the century, says astrophysicist Tara. It will open up new windows to astronomy and explaining the universe. As part of her fellowship, Tara will collaborate with the international team that discovered gravitational waves to conduct radio follow-up observations of gravitational wave events and develop a pipeline to automatically process datasets for all future follow-up observations. 

Helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in education and beyond

Associate Professor Karl Maton - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Motivated by social justice and knowledge-building, Karl is the creator of ‘Legitimation Code Theory’ (LCT), which reveals the ‘rules of the game’ and helps those from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in education and other fields. As part of the fellowship, Karl will enhance the University’s newly created LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building, form new research partnerships and publish innovative new ideas in LCT.