The University of Newcastle, Australia

2014 research highlights

Thursday, 29 January 2015

From enterprising engineers and medical health experts to logisticians and mathematicians, our researchers collectively demonstrated extraordinary scholarship and achievement throughout 2014. Their feats are a testament to the quality and breadth of our research.

2014 Highlights video

2014 reseach highlights
Major Funding

Our researchers received significant funding coups this year, attracting almost $11 million in competitive funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and more than $17 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Funding from the ARC will support 27 projects across disciplines and faculties in 2015, including Professor Daichao Sheng's study on the environmental impact of hard soil and soft rock mechanics, Professor John Maynard's state-wide examination of Aboriginal protection during the 19th and 20th centuries, and Dr Colin Reid's investigation of group theory.

A total of 24 submissions achieved success in the NHMRC's 2014 funding round, placing us well above the national average in the grants process. Among the biggest winners were Professor Mark Parsons and Conjoint Professor Chris Levi, whose ongoing trial of an unconventional stroke treatment received $3.9 million. Conjoint Professor Peter Gibson was also awarded $2.5 million for the establishment of a National Clinical Centre for Research Excellence in Severe Asthma, and Dr Elizabeth Hollidaysecured $1 million for her study targeting optimal thrombolysis outcomes.

Professor Phil Hansbroreceived an NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship for a project aimed at creating new therapies for respiratory diseases and infections. He is set to continue developing 'world first' experimental models of these complex conditions in 2015, leading research in emphysema, asthma and lung cancer.

Prestigious Fellows

UON academics were recognised by their professional academies throughout the year.

The Australian Academy of Science elected Professor George Willis as a Fellow, the most senior honour a scientist can receive in the country. Joining the elite group as one of only 21 new inductees, the mathematician is recognised for pushing the boundaries of traditional research and blending distinct disciplines to offer new insights into otherwise problematic questions.

Peers also honoured Professor John Maynard, electing him as Fellow of the esteemed Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. The Indigenous historian is an internationally respected voice on race relations and is known for research unearthing the links between early African-American and Aboriginal politics.

Professor Hugh Craig, Director of the Centre for Linguistic and Literary Computing, is one of 19 elected new fellows of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, one of the highest national honours in the field.  A world leader in the development and application of quantitative, statistical and linguistic computing to early modern English literary studies, Craig's Centre dispels controversy surrounding authorship in literature.

Awards and Honours

Top individual honours were awarded to our researchers this year in a range of fields and categories.  

Professor Kevin Galvin was recognised for his contribution to the mining and minerals industries, being crowned one of the country's foremost innovators with the Clunies Ross Award from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. The impressive academic received the award for his advanced research in chemical engineering including the development of the Reflux Classifier, an industrial particle-separating machine that attains the highest volume of minerals recovery of any comparable system on the global stage.  

Many oceans away in Cape Town, Professor Reza Moheimani was awarded the prestigious Nichols Medal. The nanotechnology researcher is at the cutting edge of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS), with his latest breakthrough touted as a revolutionary step towards improving the experiences of patients with body implants.

Dr Richard Oloruntoba from the Newcastle Business School received the DB Schenker Award for his dissertation 'The Implications and Limitations of Commercial Supply Chain Management Process Models and Frameworks for Disaster Relief.' The international logistics prize was presented as part of a broad forum that seeks to promote innovative solutions for the irreversible trend towards digitisation of transportation.

Two of our esteemed researchers were recognised at the 2014 NSW Science and Engineering Awards.  World-renowned gastroenterological researcher Professor Nick Talley was the recipient of the Excellence in Biological Sciences award, while Professor Behdad Moghtaderi received the Renewable Energy Innovation accolade for his GRANEXTM heat engine invention.

For his outstanding leadership and research into chronic disease control, Laureate Professor Rob Sanson-Fisher AO was presented with the inaugural Research Australia NSW Government Health Services Research Award. Focusing on improving doctor-patient communication for treatment choices, life expectancy and end-of-life care, the health behaviour scientist is driving initiatives to bridge the gap between evidence and practice.

Professor Brian Kelly, Head of Psychiatry, was heralded Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Researcher of the Year. His distinguished track record spans rural health, palliative care and psycho-oncology, substance use, social determinants of mental health and clinical ethics.  Also at the HMRI awards, neurologist Professor Mark Parsons received the inaugural Director's Award for mid-career research for his pivotal work into acute stroke interventions, instrumental in changing clinical practice and policy.

Dr Kym Rae was honoured with the Kidney Health Australia's Operation Angel Award. As the co-ordinator of the Gomeroi gaaynggal program, the inspiring researcher works in partnership with pregnant Aboriginal women – who have a much higher incidence of preterm birth and in turn, smaller kidneys and fewer nephrons – to improve health outcomes and understanding of the issues that impact on future children.

Professor John Forbes AM, was acknowledged on Thomson Reuters' list of The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014 for his global collaborations in breast cancer clinical trials. As the Director of Research at the Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group, Forbes has chaired and co-chaired many projects over the past 35 years. The results have led to new treatment options for women diagnosed with or at risk of the disease, as well as substantial improvements in survival rates.

Early Career Researchers

Our emerging academics headlined this year's Scopus Young Researcher of the Year Awards accepting honours in three of five categories. Professor David Lubans won the Humanities and Social Sciences category for his leadership in school-based physical activity interventions and Dr Tracy Burrows took out first prize in the Medicine and Medical Sciences category for her research into dietary assessments and food addiction. Associate Professor Daniel Quevedo was runner-up in the Engineering and Technology section for his investigation of network control systems.

A number of the University's best and brightest early career researchers were invited to attend research forums around the world. Associate Professor Jodie Simpson from the Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases was selected for the Australia-China Young Scientists Exchange Program, while childhood obesity researcher Dr Rebecca Wyse was one of five Australian researchers chosen to participate in the Young Leaders Forum in Japan.  Behavioural scientist Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden was nominated by the ARC to attend Singapore's Global Young Scientists Summit in January 2015, and Emma Beckett, a PhD student in food science was selected by the Australian Academy of Science to attend the 65thmeeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany in 2015.  Belinda Goldie who submitted her PhD thesis for examination in November, was nominated by the Australian Academy of Science for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship for foreign researchers commencing in 2015.

Student scholarships

April was a busy month for three UON graduates, each receiving prestigious grants to kick-start their careers in research.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott presented Kumaran Nathan the 2014 General Sir John Monash Scholarship to undertake a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Worth up to $150,000 over three years, this scholarship will go towards helping Kumaran fulfil a long-term goal of bridging the gap between research and Australia's engineering industry, and assisting the world in progressing to a clean energy future.

Our Indigenous graduates achieved success with a Roberta Sykes and Charlie Perkins Scholarships. Nathan West won the 2014 Roberta Sykes Scholarship and commenced postgraduate studies in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge, where he hopes to influence a range of benefits for Indigenous Australians. Jessica Buck was the recipient of a Charlie Perkins Scholarship and a James Fairfax Oxford Australia Scholarship. She has commenced a research project in neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Jessica aims to help close the Aboriginal health gap.

Research and Innovation Clusters

The Research Development Team received a Vice-Chancellor's Award for Professional Staff Excellence for their exceptional achievement with the development of five Research and Innovation Clusters.  Working closely with regional industry and business partners, they hosted 15 cluster events with more than 600 attendees which resulted in new connections between UON researchers and external organisations. 

Congratulations to everyone for a very successful 2014.

Related news