30 May 2008

A dynamo of UQ research and commercialisation is lending his energy to a new charity for child survivors of last month’s earthquake in southwest China.

Professor Max Lu, of UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and School of Engineering, is one of the founders of the Sichuan Earthquake Surviving Children's Education Fund, which aims to be a lifeline for the schooling of devastated children.

Launched on May 21, the fund is run by the Federation of Chinese Scholars in Australia (FOCSA), of which Professor Lu is honorary president.

“Our aim is to ensure that orphaned, badly injured and disabled children living near the epicentre, in Beichuan County, can at least retain hope that their educations will continue,” Professor Lu said.

“More than 80 percent of the buildings in Beichuan Town were completely demolished by the May 12 quake and about 1000 teachers and students were buried at Beichuan High School alone.”

Professor Lu said FOCSA will partner with Sichuan education authorities and school principals to ensure that all donations are used to assist children’s education. Funds will sponsor a school to rebuild classrooms, or provide children with financial support for tuition and living expenses, so that they can continue studying until the end of Year 12.

FOCSA’s membership is several thousand Australian-Chinese professionals and/or scholars, most of whom have PhDs.

“A voluntary committee will monitor the use of the fund in China, and will track children’s progress. This process is not short-term – it will continue for years, and FOCSA will report back to all donors through its website,” Professor Lu said.

Sichuan Earthquake Surviving Children's Education Fund raised more than $16,000 during its first two days. UQ staff and students began holding fundraisers within hours of the fund’s inception. The AIBN Student Association organised the first major UQ event, a lunch on May 22 prepared voluntarily by the Chinese community from across UQ. It attracted more than 200 people and raised $4,600.

“I would like to thank all people who came and supported the charity event from AIBN and the School of Engineering. In particular, I want to acknowledge the leadership and great effort by Drew Titmarsh, Sophia Gu, Lizhong He, Joe Codamo, Jeff Hou, Gordon Xu, Mingxing Zhang and also AIBN Deputy Director (Operations) Donna Hannan,” Professor Lu said.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield said some in the UQ community were directly affected by the disaster, especially about 50 students from the worst-hit region.

“Some staff also had close personal encounters - for example Professor Richard Morgan of the Centre for Hypersonics,” Professor Greenfield said.

“At the time of the quake he was lecturing to colleagues from the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Sichuan."

Professor Morgan and his audience of about 50 people survived, but there were some fatalities at the centre and facilities were badly damaged.

The University has officially extended condolences to the people of China via the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Mr Zhang Junsai.

The website for more information about the donation process is http://e-research.csm.vu.edu.au/ict/donation.php

Media: Fiona Kennedy (07 3365 1088, fiona.kennedy@uq.edu.au)