VC’s Update – The Wizards of Oz and launching meta-optics

30 September 2022

Hi everyone, 

The ACT Government has announced the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and relaxed restrictions across the Territory. The University is seeking advice from our health experts and will reasses our campus mask mandate given these policy changes. We'll provide an update on this next week.

I got to go to my first AFL Grand Final. While it was a rather one-sided game, it was still great to be there. I do have a longing to get a version of Robbie Williams' pink suit. Better luck next year Ian Chubb and the many other Swans' fans. 2022 was a year for the Cats!  

Back on campus, it's been great to see several colleagues recognised with accolades.  Distinguished Professor Chennupati Jagadish has been elected an International Fellow of the United Kingdom's Royal Academy of Engineering - the UK's national academy for engineering. And Professor Janine O'Flynn - our incoming Director of the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy - has been appointed as a Fellow of the US National Academy of Public Administration. What a great reminder of the international reach in our community.  

Wednesday was a particularly busy day, with the launch of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS), our Annual Giving Day; and an 'In Conversation' event with the Hon Brett Mason, former Senator and ANU Council member, and current Chair of the National Library. 

The TMOS event was a showcase of really cool new physics and technology - and this $35 million ARC Centre will be home to meta-optics, helping to solve fundamental and applied scientific problems. Think about how we manipulate light with lenses and mirrors - and then add in the potential of meta-optics, which can manipulate light at the sub-micron level on surfaces, creating an array of new technologies that are going to pop-up as ultra-thin lenses for sensing throughout our lives, to ways to manipulate colour to create new types of art. The potential is extraordinary and I was very pleased to attend with our Chancellor and Professor Dragomir Neshev and his team to celebrate the official opening 

Giving Day is our annual spring appeal, with 16 different funds supporting different areas of the University. I was pleased to see all funds receive support from donors and hitting our goal of $140K, with our Kambri Scholarship receiving more than $90K. This means we will be able to welcome more of our First Nations students to campus and I thank our donors for your generous support. Education is one of the most powerful tools to change someone's future for the better.  

Over in Kambri, the Chancellor and I launched Brett Mason's new book, the 'Wizards of Oz: How Oliphant and Florey helped win the war and shape the modern world'. This was a compelling read, from start to finish (and I had my doubts that a former politician, even if he is an alumnus, could pull off something this good...). I was fascinated to learn so much about Florey and Oliphant, two of our ANU founders who played a crucial role in WWII. Reading the book, I was reminded of the optimism and challenges that surrounded the founding of ANU, and how important research can be used to change the world. Oliphant's work on radar and the Atomic Bomb changed the outcome of WWII, while Florey's work on penicillin fundamentally changed modern medicine, adding an estimated 23 years to the average person's life expectancy. Their research is felt daily, and I am proud to count myself as a beneficiary of their contributions to Australia and the world. This is a great read - and I recommend it to everyone.  

Finally, many of you have noticed the large stage taking up the end of Fellows Oval - this is for tomorrow's Midnight Oil concert and ANUSA's Friday night party last week. I won't be able to attend as I am heading off to Japan to speak at a conference and meet with alumni, but I know for those lucky enough to have landed tickets that it'll be a great night. Hopefully it doesn't rain (which is great for my vines - the buds are bursting!) but less fun for concert punters. It brings a new meaning to mosh pit!  

Have a great weekend,