Researchers acknowledged with Australian Laureate Fellowships

30 July 2012

University of Sydney research leaders will push the boundaries of science in the areas of wildlife conservation, mathematical methods and industrial technology thanks to the award of three prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowships by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

For the second year running a University of Sydney academic has also been charged with helping to increase the profile of women in research.

The 2012 Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow, mathematician Professor Nalini Joshi, intends to facilitate workshops that will simultaneously promote female researchers and provide mentoring-style activities.

Last year Pippa Norris, a world-renowned expert on democracy, was named as the inaugural recipient of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship, awarded to a female researcher from the humanities, arts and social sciences disciplines. Professor Norris committed herself to running workshops and networking events aimed at encouraging early-career women researchers to stay in academia, and encouraging research on gender equality in elected office.

The federal government announced today that Professor Joshi, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, joins Professor Rick Shine, from the School of Biological Sciences, and Professor Ben Eggleton, from the School of Physics, in being awarded a fellowship under the Australian Laureate Fellowship Scheme.

Competition for the fellowships, awarded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), is fierce because the award carries with it ARC recognition that the successful applicants have an outstanding international reputation.

The scheme is designed to support excellence in research by attracting world-class researchers and research leaders to key positions and by creating new rewards and incentives for the application of their talents in Australia. Seventeen fellowships were awarded this year.

Professor Nalini Joshi's Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship will help her create new mathematical methods to describe critical solutions of nonlinear systems, which are ubiquitous in modern science. It will also help her increase the profile of women in science through workshops that will simultaneously promote female researchers and provide mentoring-style activities.

"I applied for the Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship because I needed a sustained period of time and support to focus on some difficult mathematical problems. At the same time, I was very aware of the support my father had given me early in my life, which enabled me to become a mathematician. His philosophy in life was to give before you take. I wanted to support early career researchers, particularly women, to enter and establish careers in mathematics and science as he supported me," Nalini said.

Professor Nalini Joshi is Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Sydney and was Head of the University's School of Mathematics and Statistics from 2007-09. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, was appointed Chair of the National Committee for Mathematical Sciences at the Australian Academy of Science and has been the President of the Australian Mathematical Society.

Professor Rick Shine will use his fellowship to follow up exciting results from his recent research, also funded by the ARC. "In particular, my work has shown that invasive species such as cane toads evolve so rapidly, due to the new challenges they face, that we can actually study evolution in real time," Professor Shine said.

One of Professor Shine's proudest achievements is that his research has been able to translate pure science results into effective conservation for Australian wildlife. His recent work has been pivotal in the development of policy to mitigate the impact of cane toads, and this project will consider how the invasion of cane toads through Australia has been devastating for many native species, but has also created opportunities for other species.

Professor Shine is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005.

Professor Ben Eggleton's fellowship will allow him to open a new field of physics by building the first integration platform in which light and sound interact in nonlinear nanoscale circuits. This interaction will be harnessed for new signal processing applications, leading to dramatic improvements in microwave technologies for radar, communications and sensing at the nanoscale.

Professor Eggleton is Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) and ARC Federation Fellow at the University. He is also the Director of the University's Institute of Photonics and Optical Science.

His awards include the 2011 Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and 2011 Walter Boas Medal from the Australian Institute of Physics.

"Congratulations to our latest Laureate Fellows, three researchers who have shown tremendous leadership in their fields. Not only have they excelled in their research but through their mentorship they provide a path for emerging researchers to follow," said Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jill Trewhella.

"These fellowships enable Australia to attract and retain researchers of the highest calibre, which is essential for our research capabilities and also for the education of our young researchers."

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