News

$2 million donation to help build a sustainable future


27 November 2012

Professor John Crawford: "A major element of the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab's activity will be to prove that there is a need for change in the way research and innovation is undertaken and we are excited to be taking the lead thanks to the support of Judith and David Coffey."
Professor John Crawford: "A major element of the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab's activity will be to prove that there is a need for change in the way research and innovation is undertaken and we are excited to be taking the lead thanks to the support of Judith and David Coffey."

The University of Sydney today announced it has received a generous $2 million gift to establish the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab at the Charles Perkins Centre.

The first of its kind in the world the Life Lab will create a unique graduate and postgraduate training environment where diverse life, social, economic and physical sciences will be studied for their connections to each other.

Professor John Crawford, who holds the Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainability and Complex Systems at the Charles Perkins Centre, said the lab would focus on the significant challenges created by an unsustainable food system, which degrades the environment it depends on and creates significant societal health problems.

"A better understanding of the complexity of the environment-food-health nexus is critical," Professor Crawford said.

"It is fundamental to building a sustainable society, and one that is more robust to face future uncertainties.  Our unique approach will be a world-first in shifting research on these growing challenges from treating symptoms to prevention."

David and Judith Coffey, who previously donated $4 million to establish a chair in sustainable agriculture at the University of Sydney, are passionate about finding solutions to the world's most pressing problems.

The University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre brings together academics from a range of disciplines to turn research into prevention, diagnosis and treatment of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The only multidisciplinary research centre of its kind, the Charles Perkins Centre approaches these critical health issues from the perspective of researchers in economics, physiology, philosophy, dietetics, law and numerous other disciplines.

"We chose the University of Sydney because it is a community of unorthodox thinkers and brilliant analytical minds. As an alumnus of the University, I have seen first-hand what pioneering graduates are capable of given the chance. I want to support the discovery of new approaches to problem solving and we believe the Charles Perkins Centre is best positioned to take on the challenge," said Dr David Coffey.

Professor Crawford said the lab takes research to a new level and will inspire new collaborations between academics, students and researchers across a range of disciplines.

"For the first time, our brightest minds will work together to examine the interconnectivity of socioeconomic, physical and life science factors that create our food system. The way these elements interact have far reaching implications for the environment and our health."

"This gift is important to us because traditional government funding models do not yet support this kind of approach. There is a very real need to forge win/win solutions by acknowledging connections in multifaceted processes, such as food production where increasing consumption is driving a global obesity epidemic and placing unsustainable pressure on degraded soil and water resources," said Professor Crawford.

The gift will be used to:

  • Provide scholarships to attract international PhD candidates
  • Create two new fellowships in visualisation of complex systems and computational immunology to support the training program
  • Establish annual summer school opportunities for intensive postgraduate training in systems biology of sustainable heath
  • Launch a distinguished visitor program to bring international research leaders to Sydney as mentors to staff and students
  • Host an annual graduate symposium, showcasing students' work
  • Provide high performance computing facilities.

"A major element of the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab's activity will be to prove that there is a need for change in the way research and innovation is undertaken and we are excited to be taking the lead thanks to the support of Judith and David Coffey," said Professor Crawford.


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Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson, 02 9351 3615, 0478 409 131, rachel.gleeson@sydney.edu.au