The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON names 2014 Alumni Awards ‘gamechangers’

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

University of Newcastle (UON) graduate Dr Alison Thorburn, who is traversing new ground in asthma research, is UON's first recipient of the Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award.

alumni finalist widget

The announcement was made tonight at the University of Newcastle's annual Alumni Awards gala presentation dinner.

Dr Thorburn, a postdoctoral research scientist at Victoria's Monash University, discovered that a maternal diet high in fibre prevents the development of asthma in offspring in both mouse models and humans.

The PhD graduate's findings have the potential to prevent the development of asthma in the western world, and are also applicable to other diseases such as food allergy, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

The inaugural Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award recognises outstanding research achievements and contributions by a graduate aged 35 years or younger and honours the late Professor Beryl Nashar, the Foundation Professor of Geology at UON; the first Australian to be awarded a PhD in geology from an Australian university; one of the first women in the country to be appointed a professor; and the first female dean of science in an Australian University.

Presented annually by UON's Alumni Advisory Committee, the Awards celebrate and showcase the outstanding quality and diversity of UON graduates.

The Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence was jointly awarded to PhD graduate Professor Patricia Davidson, and Arts graduate Geoffrey Bentley.

Professor Davidson is Dean of the School of Nursing at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in the US. Her research focuses on chronic cardiovascular disease, heart failure, palliative care and non-malignant conditions, women's health and Indigenous cardiovascular health.

Mr Bentley was UON's first graduate to enter the Australian Diplomatic Service and spent 20 years assigned to the high commissions and embassies of Malaysia, India, Cambodia, Singapore and New Zealand. His stellar international service career culminated in his appointment as Australia's Ambassador to the Russian Federation in the late 1990s.

Seven other alumni were recognised at the 2014 Alumni Awards tonight:

  • Young Alumni Award – Jacob Cass, BVCDes
  • Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service – Dr Judith White AM. PhD, Hon MA
  • Alumni Award for Regional Leadership – Susan Ivens, MBA, GDipEd, BArts
  • Alumni Award for National Leadership – Paul Graham, BEc (Hons)
  • Alumni Award for International Leadership – jointly presented to Colonel Leonard Brennan AM, BMed; and Glenn Kellow, MBA, BCom                        
  • Newton-John Award – Dr Christian Heim, BMed

"The Alumni Advisory Committee was overwhelmed with the high calibre of nominations for the Alumni Awards and all categories were very difficult to judge," the President of Alumni, Belinda Smith, said.

"Tonight we are in the presence of an exciting blend of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, authors and finance and health professionals from all around the world who have each excelled in their field.

"Our graduates are a testament to the truly international, world-class institution that the University of Newcastle has become," she said.

Read about the recipients and learn about all the finalists online.

  • Manager – Engagement and Communications, Katie Porritt
  • Phone: +61 2 4921 5972.

Related news