VC’s update – Barbara Miles and outstanding RSB scholars

3 December 2021

Hello everyone 

A magnificent beginning to a green summer that is so different to this time two years ago, when the smoke started rolling in from an unprecedented hot and dry spring in 2019. Almost reminds me of my childhood in Montana. My strawberries have started, I am soon going to have boysenberries and raspberries galore, and the grapes are growing like I never seen before. Lake George is beginning to re-emerge! As we see the green shoots of nature recovering from 2019, it is nice also to see the same here at ANU. 

The Research School of Biology, one of the strongest schools in the world, had a very large number of retirements over the past year. But they have just recruited a stellar cadre of new group leaders for the future. From an international field of more the 200 applicants, five Early and Mid-Career Researchers (EMCR) appointments have now been made. Two of the cohort are already named as highly cited (HiCi) scholars - amazing for people so early in their careers, and four are women (and if you are feeling bad about not being a HiCi - it is OK - I have never been one either!). We congratulate ANU scholar Dr Christina Spry on success, and look forward to welcoming Associate Professor Danielle Way from Canada, Dr Ana Sequeira from Western Australia, and Dr Lucy Aplin and Dr Damien Farine from Germany to ANU.   

Given the rigors of being a VC, I am hoping that our Clear Vision Research Lab research comes to fruition about potentially making a pill that could one day deliver the some of the health benefits of exercise. Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli and Dr Joshua Chu-Tan and their team have identified unique molecular signals in the body that could hold the key to developing a supplement capable of administrating the health benefits of exercise to patients incapable of physical activity. Their research will help us understand what impact these molecular messages have on retinal health and the correlation these messages have when people exercise. These molecules could be bottled into pill form and help patients suffering from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. This is a very positive breakthrough - well done to the team. 

Barbara Miles recently announced that she will be stepping down from her role as our inaugural Vice-President (Advancement) in December 2022 at the conclusion of her five-year term. After a long and distinguished career, Barbara has decided the time is right to retire and return home to Canada. She transformed the landscape of Advancement here at ANU, building the University's capacity and capability to enhance our philanthropic endeavours to help us fulfil our mission. We will undertake an international search in the early new year to find a replacement for Barbara. I'd like to thank Barbara for all her hard work, and we will organise a proper farewell closer to the time. 

While Philanthropy is still young in Australia, Barbara and her team have really made some inroads over the past few months. Just recently ANU received a donation of over a million dollars which will go towards expanding education and employment opportunities for women in mathematics at ANU. In another example of incredible generosity, the lead donor from this year's recent Giving Day put their contribution toward supporting the Kambri Scholarships, something they chose to do because they had received a scholarship here at ANU and wanted to ensure other students could get the same transformational support they had received. And to point out another, a Law alumnus has made a significant bequest that will support undergraduate and postgraduate research students, and early-career researchers across a range of different disciplines. These are just a few examples. People around Australia - our alumni and many others, really want to be a part of the ANU mission. It is great to have them as partners.   

Next week we will celebrate the annual HR end of year kids' party on Tuesday 7 December from 5.30pm. This will be a chance to celebrate the end of 2021 with our extended ANU family. Dr Graham Walker will put on a science show, Aunty Anne Martin will read her favourite childhood books, and Dr Brad Tucker and I will team up to present a cosmic lecture. It's always a fun evening and we are running a colouring in competition (for the kids only!). Register here.  

As we draw closer to 2022, I remain optimistic - despite the threat of omicron. I want 2022 to be as normal as possible, and it is worthwhile reflecting on what this means with respect to flexibility and how it fits with our return to campus plans for next year. Central to our ANU mission is being a campus-based institution. Having our staff and students on campus contributes significantly to building and maintaining the collegiate environment we all know and appreciate - it is what makes our campus special and something I really missed over the lockdown. 

While being campus-based means that most of our core business needs to be completed on campus, this does not take away from our ongoing commitment to flexibility. When we return after the break, and to help establish what will be our 'new normal', most of us should be working from campus most of the time and working with our supervisor to build some flexibility where it is needed. The type and extent of flexibility possible will depend on each situation - it is really about balancing your needs with those of the team.  

A reminder that our annual January leave loading for eligible staff will be processed on 23 December this month. Many of our staff members have personal commitments leading up to end of year so I hope this early payment provides some additional support.  

Have a great weekend everyone. I am looking forward to speaking at the Curious Minds Summer Camp on Sunday for year 9 and 10 STEM students and getting into my garden - my strawberry harvest has never been better! 




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Comment by Sophie Baker
2.30pm 6 Dec 2021

Thanks for sharing your strawberries - they look yum. Great to hear about philanthropy for early-career academic support.