15 November 2011

UQ's performance in the highly competitive Australian Research Council (ARC) funding arena has gone from strength to strength with the announcement of successful Future Fellowships and Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) yesterday (November 14).

The University placed second in the nation in both ARC schemes, in a major win for its early and mid-career researchers.

In announcing the 2011 Future Fellows and the inaugural DECRAs in Parliament House yesterday morning, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the funding was helping Australia grow its vital research workforce and keeping Australia's researchers on the path to discovery.

"This support for our researchers is crucial if we want to keep Australia 'the clever country', one which continues to come up with solutions to the big problems and issues facing Australians and the world every day," Senator Carr said.

The University received 21 of 203 Future Fellowships on offer, attracting funding totaling $15.1 million, and 34 of 277 DECRAs valued at almost $13 million. This represents 62 percent of the Future Fellowships allocated to the State, and 65 percent of the DECRAs allocated to the State.

The result comes just weeks after UQ topped the nation in ARC Discovery and Linkage Projects outcomes.

UQ's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu said the outstanding results in both the Future Fellowships and DECRA schemes re-inforced UQ's leadership in attracting and retaining the best and brightest.

"The latest ARC grants and fellowships outcomes reflect the calibre and excellence of our people, first and foremost of our researchers, and importantly, our research support staff across the University," Professor Lu said. "My congratulations and appreciation go to all researchers and staff involved, for their dedication and hard work to make UQ the first-class institution that it is today."

In reflecting the high performance and quality of UQ research in recent years, Professor Lu also attributed the achievements and increasing international reputation to UQ's unwavering commitment to excellence and the support of top people under the leadership of the Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield.

The Future Fellowships scheme, which started in 2009, particularly aims to address opportunity gaps for mid-career researchers and academics, many of whom would otherwise be lost to international competitors.

Among the University’s 21 successful fellows, 19 were awarded to mid-career researchers already based at UQ, while two new fellows will join UQ from overseas:

>UQ Diamantina Institute's Dr Ray Steptoe for his project on "A new approach to reversing and preventing immune-mediated diseases"

>Associate Professor Brian Anderson, joining UQ from the USA, for a cutting-edge project examining two-dimensional quantum turbulence in superfluids ($822,856)

>Dr Lachlan Coin, joining UQ from the UK, to develop mathematical and computational tools which will enable researchers to model high-throughput biological data at the population level ($716,528)

>Associate Professor Katharine Gelber, who will examine "Freedom of speech in the post 9/11 era" ($750,064)

>Associate Professor Han Huang for a project exploring mechanisms and innovative technologies for making nanoscale, multi-layered thin-film solar panels, addressing important manufacturing bottlenecks in the solar energy industry ($821,476)

>Professor Jolanda Jetten, who will explore how and when social identities and group membership determine wellbeing. This will inform societal concerns relating to coping with social disadvantage and life transitions. ($837,168)

>Professor Martin Mills, whose research will help ensure that students who experience systemic disadvantage are not excluded from the benefits of a formal education ($846,079)

>Dr Diana Fisher, for a project on understanding the causes of marsupial vulnerability, to help to focus conservation efforts to avert extinctions ($629,360), and

>Associate Professor Nerina Jimmieson for "Supervisor strategies for managing employee stress and strain: a national approach to psychosocial risk management" ($734,286).

In the inaugural round for the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme, UQ researchers received 14 percent of grants allocated nationally, worth a total of $15,169,617.

The DECRA scheme is a separate element of the ARC Discovery program, providing more focused support and creating more opportunities for early career researchers.

Among UQ's 34 successful DECRAs, each valued at $375,000 and including six researchers joining UQ from other institutions nationally or internationally, were:

>Dr Christofer Clemente, joining UQ from Harvard University, for "Design of a biologically inspired running and climbing robotic lizard". This project explores locomotion of lizards to improve upon shortfalls incurrent robotic design, to build biologically inspired robots capable of running and climbing up and down walls

>Dr Florent Angly for "Microbial buffering: protecting the Great Barrier Reef against anthropogenic impacts"

>Dr Alastair Harborne for "The effects of sea-level rise on the feeding ecology of coral-reef fishes in shallow water and the implications for reef-flat food webs". It examines the effects of sea-level rise on wide, shallow reef flats and how the ecology of fish on reef flats varies with tidal state

>Dr Annaliese Mason for "New Brassica crop species through evolutionary breeding", investigating natural mechanisms by which plants evolve into new species through hybridisation

>Dr Ruth Reef for "Worth its salt: advancing knowledge of salinity tolerance with mangroves as a model system", contributing to the development of salt-tolerant, next-generation crops

>Dr Kelly Smith for "Identifying and understanding the genetic regulators of cardiac development”. Armed with this information, strategies can be devised for the repair of congenital and acquired heart disease, and

>Dr Hannes Zacher for "Intergenerational demands as a double-edged sword in the work context".

Media: Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (07 3365 2802 or s.glaister@uq.edu.au).