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Our People

The National Institutes Grant enables ANU enables impactful work that delivers transformative outcomes for the nation. The following snapshots highlight just some of the outstanding achievements of the University’s researchers and academics.

ANU researchers win nation’s most prestigious funding award

Three ANU professors are among 17 Australian-based researchers awarded Australia’s top research funding award in 2021, the prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowships.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the award recognises the very best of the best and that the winners are world-class researchers who are examining some of the most fundamental and pressing issues faced today.

Professor Yun Liu, from the ANU Research School of Chemistry, will examine how to use crystal chemistry to build new functional materials for industry, to overcome the limitations of traditional chemistry. Applications may include solar panels, carbon capture technology and sensors in smart devices.

Professor Sharon Friel, from the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance, will explore how to achieve planetary health equity, using a new approach to improve understanding of how to address the systemic drivers of both global health inequities and climate change.

Professor Naomi McClure-Griffiths, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy, will examine how gas and magnetic fields interact to determine the fate of galaxies. The aim is to improve understanding of how galaxies evolve – one of the most fundamental questions in astronomy.

ANU law scholar elected to International Court of Justice

Long-time human rights scholar and international law expert, ANU Distinguished Professor Hilary Charlesworth, has been elected to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ). She is the first Australian woman elected to the ICJ and only the fifth woman ever elected. She replaces the late Australian judge James Crawford.

Distinguished Professor Charlesworth leads the Centre for International Governance and Justice at ANU. A veteran judge, she has worked with non-governmental human rights organisations on ways to implement international human rights standards and is recognised and respected the world over.

“Through her tireless work, unwavering commitment and endless passion, she has tackled some of the biggest challenges in the world of international justice and human rights,” said ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt.

“Over many years, she has made her mark not only as a researcher but as an inspiration for those who want to improve the law and use it to improve our world and our lives.”

The ICJ, also known as the ‘World Court’, settles legal disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred by other authorised UN bodies.

ANU academics receive Australia Day Honours

Four academics from ANU were appointed members of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2021 Australian honours.

Epidemiologist Dr Jill Guthrie, a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of Western New South Wales, was recognised for significant service to Indigenous health, including her work on reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contact with the criminal justice system. Dr Guthrie led the way in crafting innovative, evidence-based approaches to criminal justice that prioritise the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities.

Fellow epidemiologist Professor Emily Banks was recognised for her exceptional contribution to medical research and education. Her collaborative research on breast cancer and menopausal hormone replacement therapy has contributed to shifts in prescription policy in the United Kingdom and Australia, and reductions in cancer rates. Her research has also influenced tobacco policy and anti-smoking campaigns, as well as Australia’s COVID-19 response.

Associate Professor Gregory Fealy was recognised for his work relating to Indonesia and Australia–Indonesia relations, driven by his passion for understanding Indonesia and helping to ensure the two countries have the best possible relationship.

Associate Professor Paul Craft was recognised for his significant service to medicine, oncology, and professional organisations. He said a long-term goal is to improve patient care through research and that ANU, as one of the great research universities, provides stimulus for high-quality research.

ANU scientists receive national excellence awards

Three ANU scientists were among 17 individuals and groups awarded Australian Museum Eureka Prizes rewarding excellence in the fields of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.

ANU scientists Professor Lindell Bromham and Dr Xia Hua won the 2021 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research – a win they shared with colleagues from the University of Queensland and the Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation.

The award recognises their efforts to preserve language diversity and better understand how language evolves over time. The team is combining the power of linguistics, evolutionary biology, and maths and Indigenous knowledge to examine a new language that blends the traditional Gurindji from the Northern Territory and an English-based creole spoken across northern Australia.

It is the first time a linguist, biologist, mathematician and Indigenous community member have worked together to make sure Australia keeps its languages strong.

Dr Niraj Lal was awarded the Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. Dr Lal has authored two books aimed at inspiring a love of science among children, including one about an emu that defies gravity and learns to fly. He said the real value of awards like this is to help this kind of work continue in the future to promote the understanding of science.

NU academic awarded top chemistry honour

ANU academic Professor Michelle Coote was awarded the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s 2021 Leighton Memorial Medal. The award recognises eminent services to chemistry in Australia in the broadest sense.

Director of the ANU Research School of Chemistry, Professor Coote was recognised for her research work, her Australian Research Council (ARC) Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowship, her contributions to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, as well as her work advancing the status of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), her mentorship of students and colleagues, and her editorship of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Professor Coote has always been interested in finding new ways to manipulate chemical reactions – whether that was using new tools to study them or alternative energy sources to trigger them.

“If we can make chemical reactions more efficient, it is a first step to sustainability,” said Professor Coote.

Her work has shown that electric fields can be used to manipulate chemical reactions. This discovery could enable greener and safer methods for fabricating materials, from drugs to plastics.

Indigenous ANU researcher’s work recognised with award

A thesis by ANU Indigenous Research Fellow Sarah Bourke has won the 2021 Stanner Award. The award from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is presented every two years to recognise, support and promote the best research work by Indigenous academics.

Ms Bourke’s doctoral thesis is Making Cultures Count: Transforming Indigenous Health Data in Australia. She used an Indigenist research framework to examine the historical, social, and political factors that influenced the development of the Mayi Kuwayu National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing and its emphasis on measuring cultural determinants of health.

She said Mayi Kuwaya has the potential to become an effective communication tool within and between Indigenous communities, and between Indigenous groups and non-Indigenous health systems and government organisations.

“Mayi Kuwayu could help to decolonise the Indigenous health narrative by supporting the self-determination of Indigenous communities,” said Ms Bourke.

Ms Bourke is a descendant of the Gidja people from the Kimberley region in Western Australia and the Gamilaroi people on the border of New South Wales and Queensland.

Australian Academy of Science awards three ANU researchers

Three researchers from ANU have been recognised for their ground-breaking work with prestigious awards from The Australian Academy of Science. Their contributions to science span statistics, biology and astrophysics.

Professor Susanne von Caemmerer was awarded the inaugural Suzanne Cory Medal. She has transformed thinking about photosynthesis through her research. Aimed at improving photosynthesis in crops to increase their yields and adapt to climate change, her research is now applied worldwide.

Professor David McClelland received one of the Academy’s career awards, the Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal. He played a key role in the detection of ripples in space and time, known as gravitational waves, first predicted by Einstein more than 100 years ago.

Dr Janice Scealy was awarded the Moran Medal for her work developing new methods of statistical analysis. Her research has been applied in a wide range of settings, from helping to predict total weekly expenditure on food and housing costs in Australia, to more accurately measuring the Earth’s magnetic field.