Bright future ahead with new research Fellows

Friday, 27 July, 2012
Bob Beale

Overcoming pathological fear, our ancient human roots in China and understanding the dynamics of Antarctica’s ice sheet are among the 19 research projects pursued by UNSW’s newest Future Fellows. Nine are from the Faculty of Science.

This is the second best result in the country, with UNSW's Fellows receiving up to $930,000 each over five years, representing close to $14 million in funding.

A total of 209 mid-career fellowships were announced this week by the Federal Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, who said the scheme is designed to increase the opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers to work in Australia, rather than overseas.

The new Future Fellows in the Faculty of Science and their five-year funding and research project summaries are:

Dr Ehsan Arabzadeh, School of Psychology, $693,000:

Sensory systems adapt to the statistics of their environment, and the consequences of this adaptation are evident in neuronal activity and in animal’s behaviour. This project will employ a novel paradigm to characterise how adaptation changes the response properties of individual sensory neurons to improve efficiency of information transmission.

Dr Russell Bonduriansky, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, $714,000:

The ambient environment can generate both heritable and non-heritable variation in individual traits, but the role of such variation in evolution is poorly understood. This project will use a powerful model organism, the Australian neriid flies, to elucidate the evolutionary implications of environmentally-generated variation.

Associate Professor Darren Curnoe, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, $800,000:

This project will address the most important question of contemporary human evolution research - the origin of modernhumans - targeting evidence from ancient fossil humans through virtual anthropology techniques, human ancient DNA sequencing, and cultural evidence in the vital but poorly known East Asia region, focusing on China.

Dr Christopher Fogwill, Climate Change Research Centre, $672,000:

This project will extend historical records of change and develop an understanding of the complex linkages between the climate and Antarctic ice sheet dynamics. The results will thereby assist in identifying the mechanisms of the past and future ice sheet stability and be communicated to the general public by enhancing scientific understanding.

Associate Professor Gary Froyland, School of Mathematics and Statistics. $677,000:

Complicated fluid flow is at the heart of physical oceanography and atmospheric science. This project will develop new mathematical technologies to reveal hidden transport barriers around which complicated fluid flow is organised. This project will lead to more accurate circulation predictions from ocean and atmosphere models.

Associate Professor Gavan McNally, School of Psychology, $927,000:

How do we predict danger in our world? This project will identify the psychological mechanisms and brain pathways that allow us to learn to fear and to also overcome fear when it becomes pathological.

Dr Steven Most, School of Psychology, $703,000:

Emotion helps shape conscious perception, with implications for public safety and mental health. This project will reveal mechanisms underlying emotion’s impact on perception. In doing so, it will advance theoretical understanding of basic processes and of how perceptual mechanisms might operate within and inform treatment of emotional disorders.

Dr Pall Thordarson, School of Chemistry, $823,000:

Smart materials that are pre-programmed to assemble in water have already been shown to have wide applicability from industry to medicine. This project will develop novel display and drug release materials and lead to novel means to control these programmable building blocks thus promoting Australia’s standing in the area of smart materials.

Associate Professor David Warton, School of Mathematics and Statistics, $627,000:

This project will accelerate the development of advanced tools for answering fundamental questions concerning the potential impact of climate change on ecological communities. These advanced methodologies, more powerful than currently used methods, will fit easy-to-interpret models which can handle all common data types.


Media contact: Bob Beale 0411 705 435