Seven alumni receive prized ARC Future Fellowships

30 July 2014

The Australian National University will continue to lead the country in academic research after the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced the University has won 16 prized Future Fellowships. Of the 16 successful Future Fellows, seven are members of the ANU Alumni Community.

The ARC Future Fellowships scheme provides funding for areas of critical national importance by supporting outstanding mid-career researchers. The grants will provide research funding for five years from 2014.

Details of the Fellowships

Dr Nicholas Cox BSc (Hons) 2003 , PhD 2008

Inorganic chemistry
New classes of heterogeneous manganese-calcium water splitting catalysts analogous to the unique biological water splitting cofactor have recently emerged but with far lower catalytic rates than seen for the biological system. These new materials are promising targets for large-scale hydrogen fuel production with low cost, high efficiency and ease of manufacture. To achieve this, the performance gap between these materials and the homogenous biological catalyst must be bridged. Multi-dimensional site-selective spectroscopies, including magneto/optical resonance methods which are aimed to be developed in this project are expected to provide new, atomic level understanding of properties needed to achieve high catalytic efficiency, thus guiding rational catalyst design.

Dr Brent Groves PhD 2005

Astronomical and space sciences
Over the last 10 billion years the star formation rate in galaxies has been decreasing. Yet it is not known whether this is driven by a decline in the accretion of the gas that forms stars or stronger stellar feedback-driven gas outflows. The gradient in elemental abundances with galactic radius can constrain these two processes. The project aims to calibrate the measurement of this quantity using nearby galaxies, and measure the gradients in a low redshift sample of galaxies using Australian telescopes. These will be compared with theoretical models to determine the process that is driving the Universe to be more quiescent over cosmic time.

Dr Susan Harris Rimmer SJD 2008

This project aims to examine the link between diplomatic negotiations and their impact on the shifting status of women during times of deep political change. It will assess three key areas of international diplomatic negotiations around peace agreements, aid, and security sector reform and assess how these negotiations affected women’s status on the ground. It will seek to design approaches to diplomatic interventions that may be more cognisant of gendered impacts and aim to benefit women.

Dr Colin Jackson PhD 2007

Biochemistry and cell biology
Synthetic insecticides have resulted in an explosion in food production through effective insect control. However, insects have begun to evolve resistance against one of the most widely used classes of insecticides (organophosphates) via mutations in carboxylesterases (CBEs). To address this problem, the ability to anticipate further evolution, combat it and exploit it for our own benefit is needed. This project aims to anticipate evolution by simulating it in the laboratory, allowing for the best preparation for change. New pesticides will be designed to combat insecticide resistance based upon the molecular structure of an insect CBE. This project aims to exploit these newly evolved enzymes to create biosensors and decontamination agents.

Dr Helen McGregor PhD 2004

Physical geography and environmental geoscience
El Niño and La Niña events have a profound influence on Australian drought conditions and rainfall. Forecasting is hampered by short climate records, which do not capture the full range of El Niño dynamics. This project aims to generate records of unprecedented length and spatial coverage from key sites across the western and central equatorial Pacific. Five hundred years of continuous, monthly-resolution climate data will be integrated with output from state-of-the-art climate model simulations to distil the key processes that cause El Niño to vary. This project aims to provide major advances in determining the full range of El Niño and La Niña behaviour, leading to improved forecasts of future changes, with consequences for Australia’s water security.

Dr Vanessa Robins BSc (Hons) 1995

Applied mathematics
The way water flows through sandstone depends on the connectivity of its pores, the balance of forces in a grain silo on the contacts between individual grains, and the impact resistance of metal foam in a car door on the arrangement of its cells. These structural properties are described mathematically by topology. Advanced three-dimensional X-ray imaging can now reveal the internal detail of micro-structured materials. Recent developments in image analysis mean it is possible to compute accurate topological information from such images. This project aims to investigate how fundamental measures of shape influence the physical properties of complex materials and clarifies the mathematics that underpins these relationships.

Dr Julie Smith BA 1983, BEc (Hons) 1983, PhD 2003

Public health and health services
Innovation affecting human milk supply challenges current regulation of infant food, but new markets in human milk assist the economic valuation of breastfeeding. Mothers are finding new ways to share their milk, and milk banking and human milk-based products are emerging as alternatives to commercial infant formula. This project builds on previous world-leading Australian research into the economics of breastfeeding. It aims to increase understanding of markets in milk for infants and inform regulation of milk markets and milk exchange. It will investigate key features of these markets, how milk is priced, and how to access data on market prices which might improve the social and economic valuation of breastfeeding.

Dr Hua Xia PhD 2006

Classical physics
Barriers to transport in complex fluid flows are ubiquitous in nature, yet mathematical and numerical approaches have so far been unable to solve this problem in the presence of turbulence. This project aims to undertake the first systematic laboratory study of transport barrier generation, control and interactions to reveal the role of turbulence in the stochastic transport in fluids. It will develop new methods of transport barrier modelling which will equip specialists dealing with Lagrangian transport with new tools for the transport barrier modelling and characterisation.

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