15 February 2007

The University of Queensland has cemented its reputation as a world-class research and teaching institution, luring five American scholars to study on campus under the prestigious Fulbright Program.

Australian-American Fulbright Commission Executive Director Mr Mark Darby said the achievement was unprecedented and reflected the high quality of research endeavours at UQ.

“It is the first time that there have been five Americans actually at one Australian university in the same year,” Mr Darby said.

“The Americans as a starting point have 150 countries to choose from before they come to Australia and Australia is one of the most competitive countries in terms of applications.

“Given that they have 38 universities to go to in Australia, to have five of a group of 20, that’s 25 percent of them in one year all choosing UQ, that’s very unique.”

Created by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright and the U.S. Government in 1946, the Fulbright program is the largest educational exchange of its kind, offering leading scholars and students the chance to research and study abroad.

Adding to the University’s achievement is the fact that the five scholars come from a range of disciplines and research backgrounds.

“It is an example of the quality of UQ across a number of fields that they’ve chosen to come out and study physics and psychology and history and speech therapy – a range of fields,” Mr Darby said.

Fulbright Scholar Michael Deceglie, who specialises in physics and mathematics, is working with UQ’s Dr Paul Meredith, looking at increasing the efficiency of solar energy. A graduate of Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, he is focusing on improving the charge generation and separation, stability, and overall efficiency of systems as part of a trans-national effort to develop renewable energy sources.

Dr Jeanette Simmonds, from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, is conducting historical research into the community of scientists who have been leaders in the international Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) research community since the 1950s. Based at UQ’s Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research, she is investigating the culture and collaborative strategies of the BNF community, and how they have contributed to better knowledge of plant-microbe interactions and technology for sustainable agriculture in developed and developing countries.

Kate Murray, a postdoctoral candidate from Arizona State University, will be working with the research team at UQ Ipswich’s Boilerhouse Community Engagement Centre on the topic of refugee resettlement, through a comparative study of Brisbane, Australia and Phoenix, Arizona.

“By strengthening our understanding of successful refugee integration, we can improve existing programs, enhance resources, minimise risks, and foster well-being even among those who have suffered the worst atrocities,” Ms Murray said.

Working with Professor Andrew White at UQ’s Centre for Quantum Computing Technology, Devon Biggerstaff is undertaking research implementing and characterising novel methods for creating entangled photons for use in experimental quantum optics and quantum computing. Mr Biggerstaff is a graduate from the University of Puget Sound, Washington.

Associate Professor Geralyn Schulz is the last of the five scholars to arrive. Coming to UQ from George Washington University, she will be working with state-of-the art technology at UQ’s Motor Speech Research Centre to explore alternative methods of treatment to assist brain-damaged individuals to regain their speech.

UQ also currently has an Australian scholar in the US, studying on one of only three Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards. Associate Professor Catherine Turner is being hosted by Harvard University, where she is working on research into longitudinal studies of the nursing workforce that she hopes will help address the current critical shortage of nurses nationwide.

Since 1949 over 2,500 Australians and 1,800 Americans have been Fulbright Scholars in the US and Australia, with Fulbright Alumni including a distinguished list of Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners, governors and senators, ambassadors and artists, professors and scientists, heads of state and chief executive officers.

Media: For more information contact Lucy Manderson at UQ Communications (07 3365 2339 or l.manderson@uq.edu.au)