Bumper year as UNSW sweeps ARC funding

Research across climate change, alien virus invasions, the incorrect use of child restraints and improved services for at-risk rural youth are among 109 UNSW projects awarded more than $47.8 million in the latest round of Australian Research Council funding.

discovery success

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Research across climate change, alien virus invasions, the incorrect use of child restraints and improved services for at-risk rural youth are among 109 UNSW projects awarded more than $47.8 million in Australian Research Council funding.

UNSW received more Discovery Project grants than any other institution in the country – 88 worth $32 million – in the latest round of federal research funding, announced today by Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

In addition, UNSW won 21 Discovery Early Career Research Awards worth more than $7.5 million and eight lucrative Future Fellowships totalling more than $5.8 million.

Three Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment, and Facilities grants also came to UNSW, worth $2.4 million. Funding is for projects to begin in 2017.

UNSW has secured $150M of funding announced by the ARC in 2016 ... the only university to yield more than $100M – a bumper year.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) at UNSW, congratulated the University’s researchers not only on securing the most grants in this round but topping the overall research funds awarded by the ARC this year.

“Gaining 14% of the country’s Discovery Projects comes on top of UNSW recently being awarded $91 million for three of the ARC’s nine flagship Centres of Excellence,” Professor Fisk said.

“Together this means that UNSW has secured $150 million of the $863 million announced by the ARC in 2016, that’s 17.4% of total funding. We’re the only university to yield more than $100 million – a bumper year.

“These results are a real testament to the wealth, breadth and depth of talent here, as well as to UNSW’s underpinning of its research trajectory,” Professor Fisk said.


Professor Chris Turney - awarded close to $1 million to study extreme climate change.

Among the largest Discovery Project grants announced today was $980,500 to Professor Chris Turney, from UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, for a project that aims to resolve the timing, rate of change, mechanisms and effects of past abrupt and extreme global climate change. By using yearly resolved tree ring records, the project will discover when, how and what effect abrupt and extreme change had on global climate and its species and ecosystems.

Another large grant ($892,000) went to Professor Ricardo Cavicchioli, from the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, to determine how hosts and viruses interact in Antarctica’s natural environment and during alien invasions. This knowledge is expected to reveal how life in Antarctica evolved, and provide information useful for developing policy to manage the Antarctic environment.

Professor Anthony Shakeshaft, from UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, received $743,500 for a project that aims to improve outcomes for high-risk youth in remote communities in Australia and Canada. It will establish a transdisciplinary research network, and expects to increase the number and quality of services available for high-risk youth, improve their social, health and economic outcomes, and generate positive economic benefit for their communities.


Future Fellowship winner Dr Muireann Irish. Photo: supplied.

Other successful UNSW researchers included:

  • Dr Andrea Taschetto – $652,000 to understand the complex interactions across the world’s tropical oceans and their associated climate effects, and to create accurate seasonal and annual climate forecasting that is crucial for managing Australia’s water resources.
  • Dr Julie Brown – $423,500 to minimise incorrect use of child restraints, which triple the risk of injury to children in car crashes. The research will help manufacturers to improve their products and design better child restraint systems that reduce injury to children in crashes.
  • Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus – $485,500 for a project to advance understanding of T cell biology, and contribute to DNA nanotechnology and super-resolution microscopy while providing fundamental insights into antigen recognition by T cells and ultimately derive clinically relevant practical applications.
  • Associate Professor Kimberlie Dean – $372,500 to identify when and how young people first come in contact with the criminal justice system and what determines the early course of contact. The project will focus on first police contact, as a victim, witness or offender, as a means of identifying young people at-risk of adverse life outcomes.
  • Professor Julie Stubbs – $230,000 to understand the place of community sanctions in the Australian criminal justice system. The project will examine the use of community sanctions for Indigenous people, women and people with mental/cognitive impairment in three jurisdictions. This is intended to inform scholarly and public debates and to contribute to policies and practices that reduce inequality and enhance justice.
  • Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, from the School of Petroleum Engineering, who received backing for two projects –  $438,000 for an investigation to decipher the physics of faulting and earthquakes in damage zones around seismogenic faults; and $314,000 to understand the formation, geometry and fluid connectivity of unconventional high-temperature and high pressure shale gas reservoirs using volumetric instabilities of ductile materials.
  • Also receiving two grants was Associate Professor Benoit Julien, from the UNSW Business School – $139,900 to study the effect of regulating over-the-counter financial markets on economic performance, with the aim of enhancing future productivity and reduce unemployment in Australia; and $165,00 to examine decisions driving productivity, growth, and unemployment in macroeconomies with frictions.

Among the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award winners were:

  • Dr Brett Hallam – $390,000 to understand hydrogen passivation mechanisms in silicon solar cells.
  • Dr Sophie Lewis – $372,000 to study the experiences of Australian women with advanced, incurable breast cancer, including their illness, wellness and survivorship experiences.
  • Dr Derrick Wing Kwan Ng – $365,000 to enable efficient wireless energy transfer and data communication for wireless powered communication networks.

Future fellowship winners included:

  • Dr Thom van Dooren – $820,000 to explore the cultural, political and ethical dimensions of biodiversity loss in three of the world’s ‘extinction capitals’ in an age of mass extinction.
  • Dr Daniel Falster – $802,000 to explain the composition of vegetation in Australia and worldwide using ecological and evolutionary first principles.
  • Dr Muireann Irish – $688,000 to map the interplay between the episodic and semantic systems of memory across such functions as new learning, remembering the past, imagining the future and creative cognition.

Linkage infrastructure grants went to:

  • Professor Richard Tilley – $1.1 million to enable a research program in functional materials using xenon-plasma focused ion beam instrumentation.
  • Professor Evatt Hawkes – $900,000 to continue the access of Intersect’s computational researchers to the National Computational Infrastructure peak supercomputing facility.
  • And Scientia Professor Rose Amal – $358, 275 to establish thin film fabrication with catalytic/gas sorption characterisation needed for energy research.

For the full list of recipients go to the ARC website.