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Supporting our researchers

Investing in our people

In the past seven years, we’ve invested more than $1 billion in multidisciplinary research and pumped more than $1.7 billion into infrastructure, including cutting-edge research equipment.

We’re also investing heavily in our people, with a number of new internal research funding schemes in place as well as new mentoring and training programs on the way that support researchers at every stage of their careers.

Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) Fellowships

Our new SOAR fellowships support outstanding University of Sydney early and mid-career researchers to fulfill their potential.

In 2016, the University named the first cohort of SOAR fellows, with 10 early-career and 10 mid-career researchers supported to further their research in important areas such as preventing melanoma, preparing us for the next global pandemic, building more powerful batteries for electric cars and helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in education.

As part of their two-year program, fellows are awarded $50,000 per year to support their research, innovation and development plans. They also benefit from a personalised program of research development support and structured mentoring.

2017 SOAR Fellows

Early-career researchers and projects

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
How should governments and the international community respond efficiently and effectively when outbreaks of diseases, such as Ebola and Zika, occur? How should they act in order to save lives and prevent widespread economic damage? This is the focus of Adam’s research. As part of his fellowship, Adam will conduct further fieldwork with the World Health Organisation on the role of military assistance in health emergencies.

Associate Professor Anne Cust - Sydney Medical School
Anne’s research focuses on identifying the causes of cancer, improving early diagnosis and health outcomes of patients. She is particularly interested in melanoma, the most common cancer in young Australians. As part of her fellowship, she will build a new program to translate research for melanoma prevention and screening as well as improve melanoma risk-prediction models in clinical practice.

Dr Stefanie Schurer - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
As an expert in the economics of human development, Stefanie has been working with the Charles Perkins Centre to look at the development of life skills of at-risk populations as well as the role that the public sector and parents play in boosting these skills. The fellowship will allow her to expand a number of research projects, including one focusing on the effect of early-life interventions on skill development of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory.

Dr Deanna D’Alessandro – Faculty of Science

Deanna is at the forefront of developing new materials that have enormous potential to further sensing technologies and energy conversion and storage, as well as creating new electrochromic devices that change colour with electricity. The fellowship will allow her to build her international profile in the field of materials science.

Associate Professor Michael Barnett - Sydney Medical School
With a background in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research, Michael has been leading the neuroimaging facility at the Brain and Mind Centre for the past three years. The fellowship will enable Michael to combine his areas of expertise and develop new biomarkers for the early diagnosis of MS using MRIs.

Associate Professor Allison Tong - Sydney Medical School
Allison’s work focuses on improving patient-centred outcomes in chronic disease. In 2014, she co-founded the global Standardised Outcomes in Nephrology (SONG) Initiative to establish core outcomes (based on the shared priorities of patients, caregivers, and health professionals) to be reported in all clinical trials across the spectrum of chronic kidney disease. Clinical trials that report relevant and meaningful outcomes can help patients and clinicians make decisions about treatment. As part of her fellowship, Allison will convene workshops at major conferences around the world to bring patients and health professionals together to discuss ways to improve patient-centred research and ultimately patient care and outcomes.

Dr Jane Le – Faculty of Business
An expert in organisation studies and strategic management, Jane focuses on how people balance competing demands at work. One of her current projects looks at how people returning from bereaved parental leave balance identities as grieving parents and effective employees. Another project addresses energy security, examining how multiple goals are balanced across industry and government stakeholders to produce outcomes that are in the national interest. The fellowship will allow Jane to accelerate her program of existing work and start new projects.

Dr Yixiang Gan - Faculty of Engineering & Information Technologies
Granular materials include everything from sand and rocks to flour and salt, and can display some of the characteristics of gases, liquids and solids. They are of interest not only to children playing on the beach but to mining and pharmaceutical engineers as well as a range of other industries. Yixiang studies how they can affect the efficiency and reliability of our energy systems, such as solar thermal storage systems and lithium-ion batteries. The fellowship will help fast-track his research through building on strong industry partnerships, patent development and commercialisation.

Associate Professor Fabio Ramos - Faculty of Engineering & Information Technologies
Over the next two years, machine-learning expert Fabio will focus on developing new methods for computers to interpret ‘big data’ and make informed decisions under uncertainty. The fellowship will allow Fabio to deepen collaborations with academics in the Centre for Translational Data Science and the Brain and Mind Centre, as well as develop key industry partnerships.

Associate Professor Anika Gauja - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
As an emerging scholar of democracy, Anika investigates how political organisations can better adapt to social, technological and institutional change, while increasing their capacity to respond to political and policy challenges. Through her fellowship, she will look at the changing nature of party membership in Australia, including the participatory challenges that women and Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds face.

Mid-career researchers and projects

Associate Professor Xiaoke Yi - Faculty of Engineering & Information Technologies
Xiaoke’s research into photonics has already led to a new pain-free, low-cost method to help people with diabetes monitor their insulin levels. The breath test could replace invasive prick-test methods used today. The fellowship will allow Xiaoke to move her device through to clinical trials as well as advance other research projects, including enhanced radar technology built for the Royal Australian Navy.

Associate Professor Ali Abbas - Faculty of Engineering & Information Technologies
An expert in process systems engineering who first joined the University as an undergraduate chemical engineering student, Ali studies the intricate behaviour of systems. The fellowship will help boost his transformative waste research targeting low-emissions power generation. His research will look at how algae, specialty concrete materials and the utilisation of gaseous waste emissions can move Australia towards a sustainable circular economy and national emission reduction targets.

Associate Professor Amanda Salis - Sydney Medical School
Amanda’s research aims to help people who are overweight or obese to safely attain and maintain an optimum body weight and composition. Through the fellowship, she will progress new and existing clinical trials around weight management, scale-up clinical trials to an international level and expand her research training workshops in manuscript and fellowship writing.

Associate Professor Michael Valenzuela - Sydney Medical School
Leader of the Regenerative Neuroscience Group at the Brain and Mind Centre, Michael’s mission is to better prevent dementia and develop new treatments that reverse the disease. The fellowship will, among other things, help him develop next-generation brain-training software and spend more time investigating the ways in which lifestyle interventions work to change the brain.

Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski - Faculty of Pharmacy
Between 80 to 90 per cent of fire-related fatalities are attributed to smoke inhalation, but current treatments are inefficient. Wojciech hopes to develop a new stem-cell based therapy that speeds up the regeneration of lung tissue. The fellowship will allow him to fast-track this research and develop partnerships with strategic international partners which already have expertise in the area.

Associate Professor Chris Ling - Faculty of Science
The power-to-weight ratio of lithium-ion batteries has led them to dominate consumer electronics and early electric vehicles. As part of his fellowship, Chris hopes to design and build new materials into these batteries that will improve their performance – making them smaller, safer and more powerful – with a particular focus on large-scale automotive and renewable energy storage applications.

Associate Professor Susan Park - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
An international relations expert, Susan will investigate the accountability processes of corporations, government and civil society in the prelude to environmental disasters, such as the BP oil spill off the coast of Florida in 2010. By converging accountability standards, she hopes to help reduce the likelihood of future disasters. Such insights could inform BP’s efforts to drill in the Great Australian Bight, for example.

Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira - Faculty of Health Sciences
Back pain is the highest contributor to disability in the world, when expressed in terms of the number of years those with back pain are affected. It impacts every aspect of a person’s life – from their career, to their leisure time, to their social life, and current treatment options are simply not good enough. Medications are frequently ineffective and carry the risk of addiction, says physiotherapist Paulo. As part of his fellowship, Paulo will bridge the gap between genetics and back pain by examining the relationship between physical activity and back pain in twins.

Associate Professor Tara Murphy – Faculty of Science
The discovery of gravitational waves earlier this year is undoubtedly one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the century, says astrophysicist Tara. It will open up new windows to astronomy and explaining the universe. As part of her fellowship, Tara will collaborate with the international team that discovered gravitational waves to conduct radio follow-up observations of gravitational wave events and develop a pipeline to automatically process datasets for all future follow-up observations. 


Associate Professor Karl Maton - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Motivated by social justice and knowledge-building, Karl is the creator of ‘Legitimation Code Theory’ (LCT), which reveals the ‘rules of the game’ and helps those from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in education and other fields. As part of the fellowship, Karl will enhance the University’s newly created LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building, form new research partnerships and publish innovative new ideas in LCT.