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Gift for a new generation of computer scientists

4 August 2017
AINST thanks Australian Computer Society and Bennett family

In memory of Professor John Makepeace Bennett, AO, the Australian Computer Society has gifted scholarships for PhD students to propel communications, computing and security.

Professor John Makepeace Bennett with SILLIAC.

Professor John Makepeace Bennett with SILLIAC.  

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has generously donated $100,000 to the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST).

The ACS made the donation in honour of their late founding president, Emeritus Professor John Makepeace Bennett, AO (1921-2010). Professor Bennett was an early Australian computer scientist, Australia's first Professor of Computing Science, and worked on the University of Sydney's first computer, SILLIAC.

SILLIAC was the size of a double-decker bus and was a source of great pride for the University. The computer was a drawcard for many visitors and was first on display at the University’s Open Day in July 1956. It played songs and noughts and crosses with visitors.

Professor Bennett was appointed to the University as a numerical analyst and he was a pioneer in research and education in computers and computing science. In addition to driving the development of SILLIAC, he was a highly regarded lecturer, inspiring and training students and staff in the highly technical numerical language of programming. He fostered industry relationships and international collaborations.

Professor Susan Pond providing a welcome outside the John Makepeace Bennett meeting room

Professor Susan Pond, AM welcomes the Australian Computer Society and Bennett family to the newly named John Makepeace Bennett meeting room in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub.

“Professor John Makepeace Bennett’s enduring legacy is evident all around us and in the world-class research being undertaken now. This research, especially in quantum computing, nanophotonics and communications, stands on the shoulders of the knowledge that John Bennett embedded in this institution and across the globe,” said AINST Executive Director, Professor Susan Pond, AM.

To serve the memory of Professor Bennett, a scholarship support scheme was established and a meeting room in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub (SNH) has been named after him.

Professor Pond welcomed members of the ACS and the Bennett family to the newly named John Makepeace Bennet meeting room to unveil a plaque in Professor Bennett’s honour.

“The plaque will be visible to a vibrant cross-section of our local, national and international community as a long-lasting reminder of Professor Bennett’s legacy,” Susan Pond said.

This year, six PhD candidates whose research project is aligned with the AINST research theme of communications, computing and security have received scholarships. The grateful recipients and their supervisors were also at the unveiling to impart their thanks to the ACS and to provide an overview of their research.

Scholarship recipients (standing, left to right) Xiang Zhang, Wenjian Yang, Sam Roberts and Ignazio Cristina with John Makepeace Bennett's daughters (seated, left to right) Sally Bennett and Ann Bennett, granddaughter Rose Petrass and son-in-law Wayne Petrass.  

Recipients of the John Makepeace Bennett scholarships in 2017 are:

  • Sam Roberts – supervised by Professor Stephen Bartlett and Professor Andrew Doherty, Faculty of Science, School of Physics
  • Xiang (Bruce) Zhang – supervised by Professor Benjamin Eggleton, Faculty of Science, School of Physics
  • Wenjian (Tony) Yang – supervised by Professor Xioake Yi, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, School of Electrical and Information Engineering
  • Ignazio (Zac) Cristina – supervised by Professor Stephen Bartlett and Professor David Reilly, Faculty of Science, School of Physics
  • Christopher Chubb – supervised by Associate Professor Steven Flammia, Faculty of Science, School of Physics
  • Hakop Pashayan – supervised by Professor Stephen Bartlett and Professor Andrew Doherty, Faculty of Science, School of Physics

Sam, Xiang, Wenjian and Ignazio detailed their research projects and the real-world applications they will be driving.

Sam is designing elements for robust quantum computers for medical, physics and communications applications. Xiang is developing semiconductor circuits for quantum communications. Wenjian is working on microwave photonics for high performance sensing, improving bandwidth for big data, data mining and machine learning applications. Ignazio is investigating the use of nanodiamonds for medical imaging for early diagnosis and advanced treatments.

This research, especially in quantum computing, nanophotonics and communications, stands on the shoulders of the knowledge that John Bennett embedded in this institution and across the globe.
AINST Executive Director, Professor Susan Pond, AM

Past presidents of the Australian Computer Society, John Ridge (left) and Dr Nick Tate (right) in front of the plaque in the newly named John Makepeace Bennett meeting room.  

The PhD candidates also described the ways the scholarship will assist their work. The purchase of specialist equipment, travel to meet with experts in their field, and easing the burden of accommodation expenses were amongst the opportunities.

The support provided by the ACS is helping to drive quantum computing, nanophotonics and communications research providing support, motivation and reassurance for this next wave of revolution in information technology.

Scholarships for PhD students undertaking projects in the areas of communications, computing and security will be available to eligible candidates in 2018.