VC's Update - ANU Giving Day and more

24 October 2017

Hello everyone,

I often talk about the importance of supporting a holistic learning experience when students study at ANU. Giving students the opportunity to gain real-world experience in their field of study not only equips them for the challenges of the modern workforce but makes them more desirable employees as well. Last Tuesday I helped launch the new Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies & Statistics Student Managed Fund, a new program that gives students this exact holistic learning experience through managing a slice of the ANU endowment funds. The Student Managed Fund also teaches students about philanthropy and gives them a real understanding of what it means to give back to society.

Supporting our community and research projects through giving back is also an important theme in this year's Giving Day, an annual event run by the Alumni Relations and Philanthropy Team. This year's appeal will support two key initiatives; a four-year project to document the lives of Australia's leading Indigenous people to be published by the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and support and access programs for refugees at ANU. Giving day is happening tomorrow, Wednesday 25 October, and I encourage those who are able to do so, to donate to these great causes.

It was only a few weeks ago we were celebrating the success of our ANU Gravitational Wave researchers and their important role in the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics. Last week came the next discovery for this rapidly emerging field with the announcement of a new gravitational wave detection.

Rather than black holes, this signal came from the merger of two neutron stars (which are the collapsed cores of massive stars that are left over after they die as a supernova). This explosion was nearby, a mere 130 million light years away, and was detected just over a second later in gamma rays, and then in every form of light one can imagine. It showed conclusively the origin of some gamma ray bursts, and has revealed the place where the heaviest elements in the Universe are formed (like gold and uranium). You can tell I'm excited (I am on one of the papers) - and I congratulate all involved in this amazing discovery. It has been a fairytale launch for the ARC Centre for Excellence OZGrav, which includes many of our physicists and astronomers, created to study just these type of events.

Last week the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences announced the election of 49 new Fellows for outstanding leadership and contributions to health and medical science in Australia. I was delighted to see three ANU researchers named on the list. Congratulations to award-winning epidemiologist and public health physician Professor Emily Banks, internationally recognised cancer scientist Professor Ross Hannan, and Dean of the ANU College of Science and outstanding malaria researcher, Professor Kiaran Kirk.

I would also like to congratulate ANU Emeritus Professor Jenny Graves AO who won the Prime Minister's Prize for Science last week. Professor Graves is credited with leading research that revealed how sex chromosomes work and how they evolved, predicting the decline of the male chromosome. I am very proud that ANU has helped Professor Graves rise to be one of the greats of Australian Science. I used to teach just after her several years back - and I can also tell you she was a wonderful teacher! 

Finally, last Monday I delivered a speech entitled, Engaging with our Asian partners: getting it right at the China Matters 6th National Meeting. My focus was trying to put some nuance on some of the inflammatory rhetoric circulating through the media around China and our Higher Education sector. You can read a copy of the speech here.  

Have a great week,