Future Fellows to champion diverse research projects

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The University of Queensland has welcomed 16 new Future Fellows as part of a major Australian Research Council funding announcement today.

They join 109 UQ researchers who have been awarded ARC Future Fellowships over the past five years.

The 16 new fellowships – with a total value of $12.5 million over four years – rank the University second in the nation in this prestigious research funding scheme, which aims to attract and retain outstanding research talent in Australia.

UQ’s 16 include two highly sought-after Professorial Future Fellowships, from  only 12 awarded nationally – more than any other university.

The Fellows will undertake critical research in areas spanning domestic violence and the law, molecular chemistry, optical and quantum physics, psychology, genetics, medicinal and biomolecular chemistry, educational policy, physiology, ecology and environmental science and nanovaccines.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj and Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Anton Middelberg congratulated UQ’s new ARC Future Fellows, who they said had come through an “unforgiving national contest”.

“Researchers must be extremely competitive to attract a Future Fellowship, and UQ’s contingent will add to the University’s record for delivering impacts that serve Australia’s national priorities,” Professor Høj said.

“They will build critical mass in key basic and applied research areas and leverage existing investments from government, industry and philanthropy.”

UQ TC Beirne School of Law Professor Heather Douglas was awarded $944,347 over four years for a longitudinal study on how women from diverse backgrounds access the law in domestic violence situations.

“The project aims to highlight what contributes to women’s satisfaction and sense of safety resulting from legal interventions over time, to make an important contribution to community education, policy implementation and law reform, both within Australia and internationally,” Professor Douglas said.

The  Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Professor Neil McIntyre is UQ’s other 2014 Professorial Future Fellow, with his “water-sensitive mining” project being awarded $897,612.

“The project aims to provide tools that can identify how mining projects, including associated land use and infrastructure, can play a positive role in sustainable water management,” Professor he said.

UQ physicists secured four Fellowships in the latest round: three in quantum physics and one in optical physics, demonstrating the concentration of research power befitting a longstanding presence in previous and ongoing ARC Centres of Excellence in quantum physics.

Dr Tom Stace, from UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics, will use his Fellowship into quantum-assisted sensing to collaborate with Professor Jeremy O’Brien of Bristol University.

Professor O’Brien helped secure the UK Government’s £270m commitment to commercialising quantum-physics research.

Professor Høj and Professor Middelberg welcomed the award of Future Fellowships to two “outstanding” international researchers, who will join UQ.

Associate Professor Markus Barth will relocate from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands to work at UQ’s Centre for Advanced Imaging on an $870,552 project to improve the decoding of human brain activity using advanced functional magnetic resonance at ultrahigh field strength.

Dr Christian Gruber will join UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences from the Medical University of Vienna, to lead a $762,602 project to characterise the pharmacological properties and biological effects of invertebrate receptors and their modulation by cyclotides.

Naturally occurring peptides were widely distributed in many plants, but their biological role was often unclear, Dr Gruber said.

“The notion that plants produce molecules to target invertebrate receptors is extremely appealing and will enhance knowledge about fundamental biological processes of plant-animal ecology.”

In the Social Sciences, Dr Ian Hardy, from the School of Education, was awarded a $772,045 Future Fellowship for a research project looking at how teachers learn to engage with the new Australian Curriculum in the context of increasingly standardised national and international educational reforms.

Dr Belinda Hewitt, from the School of Social Science, was awarded a fellowship worth $675,736 for her project titled Enhancing wellbeing over the family life course.

“This project aims to investigate the impact of family life transitions, such as relationship formation and dissolution, or births,” she said.

“This will considerably enhance understandings of wellbeing over the family life course, providing insights for targeted policies and interventions to improve health and wellbeing.”

Professors Høj and Middelberg said UQ’s Future Fellows and their collaborators may prove to be the very people who unleash Australia’s innovation potential in many areas.

“The community – through the Government and the ARC – is investing wisely by supporting them to lead expansion of the frontiers of UQ’s discovery excellence,” Professor Middelberg said.

The ARC said many highly qualified researchers chose to work overseas to further their careers due to lack of opportunities in Australia.

“The Future Fellowships scheme addresses this problem and significantly boosts Australia's research and innovation capacity in areas of national importance,” it said.

UQ’s 16 Fellowship recipients announced today are:

  • Associate Professor Markus Barth, Centre for Advanced Imaging
  • Associate Professor Warwick Bowen, School of Mathematics and Physics
  • Dr Jack Clegg, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
  • Professor Heather Douglas, TC Beirne School of Law
  • Dr Jan Engelstaedter, School of Biological Sciences
  • Dr Arkady Fedorov, School of Mathematics and Physics
  • Dr Christian Gruber, School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Dr Ian Hardy, School of Education
  • Dr Belinda Hewitt, School of Social Sciences
  • Dr Bradley Launikonis, School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Dr Martine Maron, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management
  • Dr Margaret Mayfield, School of Biological Sciences
  • Dr Ian McCulloch, School of Mathematics and Physics
  • Professor Neil McIntyre, Sustainable Minerals Institute
  • Dr Thomas Stace, School of Mathematics and Physics
  • Dr Chun-Xia Zhao, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

The Future Fellowship scheme was initiated with $844 million for 1000 fellowships from 2009 to 2013 (200 per year).

The funding round announced today was enabled by the allocation of an extra $135.3 million in the 2013-14 budget for 150 researchers, over four years.

The full national list of 2014 Future Fellows can be found here

Media: Dr Richard Kim, UQ Research and Innovation Office, ph +61 7 3346 0737; Fiona Cameron, UQ Communications, ph +61 7 3346 7086.

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