VC’s update – ACT lockdown, ARC Future Fellows and Open Day

13 August 2021

Hello everyone

I hope you are all doing well on our first day of our snap lockdown. We all felt this might be coming for a while and we've all worked hard to be ready, so I hope you're all feeling as prepared as you could have been. Please make sure you are reaching out to your supervisor or course convenors if you need to put special arrangements in place. We have a small number of essential staff still on campus who will keep the place operating while we are in lockdown. Everyone else should be working and studying remotely - please do not come to campus and I encourage our staff and students to reach out for support if you need to.

Our campus updates will be posted here. We have added some new information since my message yesterday so please take a look.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr also announced this week that mobile COVID vaccine clinics are likely to open later this year to accommodate supply increases, and both Federal and ACT Government have encouraged employers to give staff paid leave for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. ANU is happy to play its part in serving the community and we will be a vaccine venue when the time comes. We will also continue to let our staff use their personal leave to get to their appointment and if they need any time to recover from any effects. For our students who are eligible to get their vaccine, please just keep your course convenor updated in case you need to take any time off for your appointment. I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they are able to, with a vaccine appropriate to their circumstances. We will do our best to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated. If we are able, collectively, to achieve a 95% vaccination rate, it will make it much easier to control COVID-19 on our campus in the future.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report on Monday, which clearly outlines that global temperatures are on the rise. Congratulations to the ANU contributing authors including Professor Nerilie Abram, Professor Frank Jotzo, Dr Joelle Gergis, Dr Sophie Lewis, and IPCC Vice Chair Professor Mark Howden. Mark, in addition to his IPCC work, is Director of the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, and is coordinating our efforts to find solutions to these challenges and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. COVID-19 is awful right now, but Climate change and the overarching challenges around global sustainability is an existential threat to humanity as we know it. We are showing Australia and the world how to act by our commitment to reaching below zero emissions by 2030 - but we all need to be responsible for our part, and I would encourage you all to read how you can get involved.

There has been an exciting breakthrough with Parkinson's disease research. ANU experts in collaboration with The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health have developed a new type of hydrogel that could radically transform how the disease is treated. ANU has had an overwhelmingly positive response from the public who have expressed their interest to undergo human trials. This is a great example of how  foundational work can lead to impact well beyond the original research. Well done to everyone involved - let's hope this breakthrough can truly can change lives.

I'd also like to congratulate our seven 2021 ARC Future Fellows. Our researchers' projects cut across all sorts of different disciplines - including the political philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, quantum technology, high-res imaging of the Earth's structure, better understanding and reacting to global humanitarian emergencies, cross-species medical understanding, and removing toxic pollutants from water using chemistry. Great stuff!  Well done Professor Seth Lazar, Professor Meghan Miller, Professor Bina D'Costa, Dr Nicholas White, Dr Lia Kent, Dr Marcus Doherty and Dr Natasha Fijn! And commiserations to those who missed out - the frustration of not getting my fellowships and grants up still sticks with me to this day.

Finally, tomorrow is ANU Open Day! Due to the lockdown, it will now be delivered entirely remotely with a large diverse program.  Spread the word for prospective students, whether young or old, and thank you to everyone in helping connect Australians to the amazing opportunities we can provide here at the ANU.

Look after yourselves. I think we should be optimistic that Canberra will shake the delta-variant relatively quickly.