Seven new Future Fellowships for Faculty of Science staff

9 September 2009

Seven Faculty of Science staff have been awarded prestigious Future Fellowships from the Australian Research Council (ARC), announced on 9 September 2009.

Senator Kim Carr, Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, announced the first Future Fellowship recipients, as part of a new scheme to promote research in areas of critical national importance. The aim of the new ARC Future Fellowships is to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers and give these outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their work in Australia.

Seventeen Future Fellowships were awarded to University of Sydney staff totaling more than $11.9 million, placing the university fourth out of 62 organisations across Australia that applied for Future Fellowship funding.

"The Faculty of Science did very well in gaining seven of the Fellowships - more than any other faculty within the university - and I would like to congratulate them," said Professor David Day, Dean of the Faculty of Science.

"The seven Future Fellows in the Faculty of Science will receive a total of just under $5 million from the Australian Research Council as part of this scheme, which is a fantastic tribute to these seven scientists and the excellent research across the faculty."

The ARC Future Fellowships scheme aims to provide research opportunities in Australia for highly qualified mid-career researchers, who may have otherwise chosen to work overseas to further their careers due to lack of opportunities in Australia.

The seven new Future Fellows in the Faculty of Science are:

  • Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, from the School of Chemistry, who will receive $891 200 over five years for his research on 'Sustainable Solar Hydrogen Production from Waste Water.' The world energy demand, expected to triple by 2100, must be met from sustainable and non-polluting sources. Sunlight is the largest available carbon-neutral energy source, with enough energy striking the planet in one hour to satisfy our current requirements for about a year. With the novel catalysts designed in this project, we will use this energy to simultaneously generate hydrogen and destroy organic pollutants by oxidation. The hydrogen can then be used as a clean source of sustainable energy and the water recycled. Our climate, proximity to major economies of the future, and long commercial and research experience in solar energy make Australia an ideal location for a hydrogen production industry.
  • Dr Andrew Doherty, who will join the School of Physics, will receive $788 800 over five years for his research on 'Quantum control in mesoscopic condensed matter systems.' Semiconductor devices are at the foundation of modern technology. Industrial nanofabrication techniques can now produce devices near the atomic scale, and state-of-the-art experiments have demonstrated the previously unimaginable ability to manipulate individual electrons. This project will develop new techniques to control such quantum circuits and couple them together to form useful devices. New experiments to test these schemes will be proposed. This project will provide a foundation for future information processing technologies such as quantum computers.
  • Dr Georg Gottwald, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, who will receive $742 600 over five years for his research on 'Stochastic Methods in Mathematical Geophysical Fluid Dynamics.' The project will develop analytical and numerical methods for long-term weather forecasting and climate modelling. The project deals with the mathematical aspects and fundamental mechanisms underpinning numerical climate forecasting. The project will develop new methodology for accurate modelling of the important and dominant slow global processes without explicitly resolving the precise detail of the weather of each day at all scales. Using sophisticated mathematics, this project investigates how to parameterize the fast and small processes by using stochastic processes in a controllable and adaptive way.
  • Dr Boris Kuhlmey, from the School of Physics, who will receive $686 400 over five years for his research on 'Ringed photonic crystal fibres for broadband nonlinear optics.' The technology developed from this project will enable organic molecules to be detected, identified and quantified. Because the technology is compact, easily engineered and low cost, it will lead to a dramatically increased capability for infrared spectroscopic measurement throughout biology and medicine, with specific benefits in agriculture, the food industry and defence.
  • Dr Irina Harris, from the School of Psychology, who will receive $674 650 over five years for her research on 'Seeing the forest and the trees: Cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying recognition of individual objects and sets.' When confronted with a set of similar objects, such as a crowd of faces or a flow of oncoming cars, human observers can rapidly and seemingly automatically extract summary statistics of these sets of objects (e.g., mean expression or location). This research will provide insights into how the human visual system executes this massive feat of computation. This represents a vital step in understanding vision in general and in eventually applying our knowledge to the development of artificial vision systems and to rehabilitation of visual disorders. The research will also investigate the effects of attentional load on perception of summary statistics of the environment, which is critical for tasks such as driving in busy traffic.
  • Dr Jean Yee Yang, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, who will receive $606 400 over five years for her research on 'New statistical methods for identifying micro-ribonucleic acid (miRNA) regulatory networks.' Understanding gene regulatory networks is critical in the understanding of fundamental biological systems. These networks have important implications for the discovery of fundamental mechanisms relating to the diagnosis and management of many illnesses. This research will provide new statistical methods to identify regulatory micro-ribonucleic acid modules and to understand their relationship in gene regulatory networks through multiple covariance estimation and multivariate classification techniques. Dr Yang's results should enable researchers to better understand the regulation underlying biological systems, leading to improved human health, medical and biological research outcomes.
  • Dr Alex Holcombe, from the School of Psychology, who will receive $599 496 over five years for his research on 'Position perception, attention, object motion, and action.' The research will achieve a deeper understanding of the neural processing of the visual perception of position, and of the associated behavioural limits. This will provide a foundation for the development of a range of technologies to assist disabled and elderly people. The results will help reveal the link between the perception of moving objects and the capacity for visually guided movement. This link will benefit areas such as engineering of vehicles and road systems, and the design of telepresence systems. The first applications are likely to be in the rehabilitation of brain injury and the decline of mental function with age.

See all the Future Fellowships awarded across Australia at:

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 122a4118361b1b5d062f2608355a1815227e30361c652a18