Funding new ideas: University of Sydney academics attract government funding

14 November 2011

Early and mid-career researchers at the University of Sydney will improve our understanding of modern China, look for new ways to battle cardiovascular disease and provide new insights into Indigenous wellbeing thanks to new government funding announced on Monday.

Thirty-six University of Sydney academics were among the 277 successful recipients of the inaugural Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) nationwide - the highest number of any university.

Successful Sydney projects will investigate issues including refugee activism and the emergence of modern chemistry, and take us further along the path to developing vaccines for breast cancer and high-strength aluminium alloys. Health researchers will examine whether mobile phone text reminders can help prevent cardiovascular disease by changing people's physical behaviour.

Another DECRA project will be the first in-depth place-based Australian study of the success of Indigenous communities in overcoming disadvantage and promoting wellbeing across the seven 'building blocks' set out by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement. The project should provide invaluable insights into the relationship between Indigenous governance and wellbeing in Australia.

The DECRA scheme, worth $375,000 to each project over three years, aims to provide more focused support and create more opportunities for early-career researchers.

The Australian Research Council also announced that 17 University of Sydney academics had been successful in the 'Future Fellowships' scheme, which aims to support mid-career researchers.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jill Trewhella congratulated all successful applicants.

"Their achievement bodes well not only for research at the University of Sydney but also for Australia more widely, and indicates that we are realising our aim to identify and nurture the best research talent," said Professor Trewhella.

"Our strong performance across the arts and humanities, social sciences, science and engineering disciplines is testimony to the breadth of our research excellence.

"This fuels our ability to address the major issues facing today's society through our multidisciplinary initiatives, from finding solutions to the impacts of obesity on our communities to supporting Australians from academia, business and government to work effectively with China."

The successful University of Sydney Future Fellows will receive a total of $12.3 million over five years, out of the $144.3 million awarded to 203 successful applicants nationally.

Successful University of Sydney projects include plans to develop technologies to overcome the approaching data capacity limits of global optical communication networks, while another will combine field biology, robotics and mathematics to determine how animals flock or swarm, generating mathematical models that can be used to help control outbreaks of locusts in Australia and Africa.

In the field of nanophotonics, our researchers aim to develop a new generation of chemical and biological optical waveguide sensors for monitoring energy consumption and the environment, while in the area of China studies, contemporary Chinese literature, cinema, art, and popular media will be used to help us better understand the impact of medical innovations on Chinese culture.

In the legal field, an analysis of how effectively international law responds to terrorism will identify opportunities for improvement, while in the cultural studies area a groundbreaking history of same-sex domestic environments across the 20th century aims to transform current understandings of the relationship between homosexuality, private life and the public sphere.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Ben Wilson, 02 9114 0748, 0402 128 073,