Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Welcome to the first edition of Science Matters for 2010.

A few months ago, I visited the UK and the USA promoting and campaigning for the Science Futures Foundation. The Faculty has many strong supporters in the UK and it was a great opportunity for me to talk about recent developments and successes in the Faculty.

Our visit to New York was the first opportunity to talk to alumni and friends of the Faculty about science at UWA.

Almost immediately after my return, I was able to celebrate further success for researchers, teachers and students of the Faculty. We received the results of grant applications to the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. Every School in the Faculty was successful in winning funding.

The new Science Library was completed recently and will be officially opened this month. Already its unique structure and facilities have made it on to YouTube. To listen to its fantastic features, go hear the song on YouTube .

Among those using the new library has been Dustin Stuart , the Western Australian Rhodes Scholar for 2010, who you can read about in this newsletter. Dustin took the Advanced Science program and did his honours in Physics. Our congratulations and best wishes to Dustin.

In December last year, we were delighted to welcome to UWA Dr Carl Wieman , from the University of British Columbia. He gave a full day of talks and discussion sessions on science education. Many of the issues he raised are pertinent to the introduction of the new course structure here at UWA. Dr Wieman is a very distinguished researcher and received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics. In recent years, he has focused on improving the teaching of science through the application of the scientific method.

Earlier in the month, we also hosted two other Physics Nobel Laureates, Douglas Osheroff and Gerardus’t Hooft . While he was here, Dr Osheroff gave the inaugural Marshall Warren Noble Lecture.

In the Chinese Zodiac, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. The tiger symbolises power, passion and daring. Those born in the Year of the Tiger are natural leaders, competitive and courageous, active and self-assured – but also rebellious and unpredictable. As well as that, 2010 is also regarded as the Year of the Metal Tiger, with the metal element giving tigers sharpness in action and speed of thought. Given the current academic climate, letting a few tigers loose in the Faculty might bring unexpected rewards.

Research excellence

The Faculty’s reputation for research excellence in radio astronomy, fundamental physics and molecular genetics has been recognised by being awarded five prestigious national Future Fellowships.

The Australian Research Council’s Future Fellowships promote research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia. The aim of ARC Future Fellowships is to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers. Western Australia received 13 of the 200 national Fellowships.

Researchers who will be funded under the scheme to work in the Faculty (including two researchers joining the University) are:

Dr Linqing Wen (Physics), whose work in gravitational waves is critical to fundamental physics. Dr Wen’s work touches on the UWA Gravity Wave Centre and ICRAR, boosting UWA’s credentials in relation to the Square Kilometre Array area and gravitational wave astronomy.

Professor Andre Luiten (Physics) was involved in building the world’s best clock that is based on a cryogenically cooled sapphire crystal. Professor Luiten’s research is focused on exploring the limits of measurement. He has worked on improving navigation, communication and global positioning systems using different types of measurement including lasers.

Dr Christopher Peacock (Telethon Institute for Child Health Research – joining the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences). Dr Peacock’s research focuses on leishmaniasis, regarded as the second most serious protozoal disease after malaria. His project will help characterise the first leishmania species identified in Australia, providing molecular tools to monitor the pathogen and give a detailed assessment of potential risks to human health. The aim is to eventually help identify new drug and vaccine targets.

Dr Kenji Bekki (from the University of New South Wales – joining the UWA radio astronomy team). Dr Bekki is known for his work using observational data to carry out simulations to improve the understanding of how galaxies are formed. He joins the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) to work on the simulation of the formation of galaxies and the interaction of galaxies that will enable a better understanding of the process of galaxy formation, one of the key goals of the Square Kilometre Array project.

Professor Mark Griffin (from the University of Sheffield – joining the School of Psychology). Prof. Griffin undertakes research and consultancies to understand and support effective organisations, including research into leadership, safety management, work performance, research design, organisational surveys, data linkage and multi-level analysis.

New Centre for Emotions to be established
The Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for Research on Emotion (CARE) will be established in 2010 due to the outstanding generosity of Mrs Margot and Miss Debbie Rutherford. Elizabeth Rutherford was one of the School of Psychology’s most distinguished researchers, and the Centre will be a fitting tribute to her outstanding contribution to scientific research.


Teaching and Learning
Science Matters