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2017 edition

ChangeMakers The magazine for investors in change.

FOOTPRINTS FROM THE PAST: Welcome to Australia’s Jurassic Park Scientists fight back against crop pests and diseases Boeing partnership soars to new heights

Editor: Michael Jones

Contributors: Professor Peta Ashworth, Robert Burgin, Justine Gannon, Monica Gonzalez, Hannah Hardy, Ann Johnstone, Fiona Kennedy, Nimrod Klayman, Camille Layt, Trent Leggatt, Jessica Marshallsay, Fiona McAlpine, Suzanne Parker, Professor Neville Plint, Margaret Puls, Dr Steve Salisbury, Katrina Shimmin-Clarke, Matthew Taylor, Genevieve Worrell

Design: James North

ChangeMakers is printed on environmentally responsible paper produced from FSC Mixed Sources Chain of Custody (CoC) certified pulp from wellmanaged forests, is Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) and made Carbon Neutral.

Printing: Harding Colour

© The University of Queensland 2017

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Cover image: A dinosaur footprint found in the Broome Sandstone along the coast near Walmadany, Western Australia.

ChangeMakers is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia Telephone: +61 7 3365 2479 Email: Website:




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Material in this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of The University of Queensland.

Message from the Vice-Chancellor and President


Q&A With Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Science Professor Melissa Brown


Thought Leadership By Sustainable Minerals Institute Director Professor Neville Plint


Profile School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering senior lecturer Dr Vincent Wheatley


Discovery UQ scientists are fighting back against crop pests and diseases

News UQ start-up stars in national competition Ultrasound holds promise for Alzheimer’s disease Dinosaur fossil shows evidence of live birth

10 Welcome to Jurassic Park


Opinion How UQ is helping to provide affordable, low-carbon energy


Two Perspectives Teamwork at the heart of health care


Institute in Focus UQ Institute for Social Science Research


Partnerships Boeing set for take-off at St Lucia


Industry Snapshot Architecture students designing real-world solutions


Engaged Alumni DoseMe founder Dr Robert McLeay

Image: Damian Kelly

UQ scientists have helped uncover one of the most significant palaeontological sites in the world, where 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified along a 25-kilometre stretch of coastline in Western Australia.

Message from the VC First, a disclosure. I am not a homegrown Aussie. I was born and educated in Denmark and moved here 30 years ago with my Australian-born wife who undertook PhD studies in Denmark. I have been here for half my life, raised two Australian–Danish children and worked in three states and the ACT. I travel on an Australian passport. Does my own experience influence my views on the importance of welcoming people from all over the world and making the most of their diverse strengths? Probably – but I think most Australians, regardless of background, understand that our relatively small population benefits from the input of people from many nations, including those whose talents are in big demand. I have found this attitude prevails at UQ, where staff hail from over 130 nations and students from even more. Many overseas-born staff have been in Australia for long enough to become citizens or permanent residents. Others have temporary visas, including about 320 who are sponsored by the University on 457 work visas. They bring not only expert knowledge and skills but also access to networks of contacts in industry, government, academia and philanthropy. Such networks can prove hugely beneficial for Australian research and commercialisation. Most importantly, they are highly advantageous to students seeking international insights

and contacts in order to sharpen their knowledge, employment prospects, and entrepreneurism. So when I hear the Australian Government champion an open economy as a key to continuous national prosperity, I think of UQ as an exemplar of globalisation’s positive features. We have seized opportunities presented by an increasingly interconnected and mobile higher education and research sector and turned them into social and economic gains for Australia. We have contributed substantially to Australia’s reputation as a country of well-ranked universities – a country that welcomes a contest of ideas and smart people with the will and capacity to advance the national interest. UQ’s stellar rankings, the professional standing of our staff and the calibre of our graduates are among the factors that have created a magnet for excellent staff and students. That is apparent in this edition of ChangeMakers, which includes a small selection of noteworthy projects led by both overseas- and Australian-born staff. The overseas-born staff, coming from countries including China, India, Israel, Namibia and the United States, deliberately chose Australia as the place to invest their talents. A case in point is Professor Neena Mitter, who (in partnership with an Australian company) is developing

technology that could change how farmers protect crops from pests and diseases. Coming from India, Neena says agriculture is in her DNA. “I’m really passionate about being able to drive solutions that can make a difference to farmers. That led me to come to Australia to fulfil my dreams of doing innovative research to make a difference.” Some of the other change makers featured in these pages were born here, advanced their education and career in world-leading facilities overseas, and then returned with expanded capacity to teach, mentor, research and engage. I came to Australia in an era when national policy reforms were introducing new levels of economic openness. One set of these reforms, in higher education, laid the groundwork for what is now a $22 billion export education sector. Seen as politically bold back then, the changes helped shape 21st century Australia. Now, amid concerns that some nations may re-erect trade barriers, it is opportune for Australia to maintain the reputation for openness – balanced with necessary security measures. We must send clear messages that this country values education, and celebrates people who use their knowledge, networks and innovative spirit to create opportunities for others. This publication contributes to that cause. Professor Peter Høj Vice-Chancellor and President

ChangeMakers 2017


UQ start-up stars in national competition A genomic-based healthcare business that profiles gut microbes to help people take charge of their wellbeing has been identified as one of Australia’s top start-ups by a leading global accelerator program. Microba, which is in the early stages of development at UQ’s ilab innovation incubator, was named in the top five potential start-ups at the Bridge to MassChallenge Australia competition. UQ researcher and Microba co-founder Professor Gene Tyson said Microba would provide people with comprehensive analyses of microorganisms in their gut, including information on function and key microbes important for health. “Our success in the Bridge to MassChallenge Australia competition recognises that we’re developing a great healthcare tool to take to market, and that we’re also on the right path from a business perspective during the

an international track record of helping start-ups grow. “Microba was selected from a pool of 200 entries, with co-founder Dr Alena Rinke (pictured) travelling to Boston in the US to participate in a fiveday MassChallenge boot camp comprising training, mentorship and access to the city’s start-up and investment ecosystem.” Microba is developing its business through ilab at UQ’s intensive three-month Germinate Program, which helps future entrepreneurs develop their diverse business start-up ideas. More than 130 start-up companies and their founders have been supported by ilab since 2012, and more than $17 million in early stage capital has been raised in the past two years. critical development and growth stages,” Professor Tyson said. Director of ilab Bernie Woodcroft said the US-based MassChallenge was one of the world’s top accelerators, with

Find out more For more information about Microba and ilab, visit or

Ultrasound holds promise for Alzheimer’s UQ researchers have discovered that non-invasive ultrasound improves the delivery to the brain of a therapeutic antibody targeting Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) previously showed non-pharmacological scanning ultrasound reversed Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and restored memory in mice. The new research found that ultrasound alone cleared toxic tau protein clumps, but combining ultrasound with an antibody treatment was more

effective than either treatment alone in removing protein clumps and reducing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms in mice. QBI director Professor Pankaj Sah said the research was made possible through the support of the state and federal governments, and philanthropic support led by the Clem Jones Foundation. “The discovery is another promising step made by QBI researchers towards future therapeutic treatments for dementia,” Professor Sah said.

“Excitingly, the research shows that ultrasound may also be a viable treatment for other disorders in which proteins aggregate in the brain – including Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease.”

Find out more For more information about the Queensland Brain Institute, visit

Image: Dinghua Yang


An artist’s impression of a Dinocephalosaurus.

Fossil shows evidence of live birth A UQ geologist has helped uncover evidence of live birth among a species of dinosaur, changing the way scientists look at dinosaur evolution. UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Head Professor Jonathan Aitchison was part of a team that discovered a remarkable 250 million-yearold fossil in China that shows an embryo inside a mother. Professor Aitchison said the Dinocephalosaurus fossil was an archosauromorph, a long-necked marine animal and distant relative of the crocodile, that flourished in the shallow seas of South China in the Middle Triassic Period. The creature was a fish-eater, snaking its long neck from side to side to snatch its prey. Its fossil was one of many astonishingly well-preserved specimens from Luoping Biota sites in south-western China. Professor Aitchison said the Dinocephalosaurus fossil provided the first evidence for live birth in an animal group previously thought to exclusively lay eggs. “Live birth is common among lizards and snakes, where the babies sometimes ‘hatch’ inside their mother and emerge without a shelled egg,” he said. “But, until recently, it was thought the third major group of living land vertebrates, crocodiles and birds

(part of the wider group archosauromorpha), only laid eggs. “Some reptiles are prone to devouring their own young, so the first thing we had to do was check that the embryonic specimen wasn’t the dinosaur’s last meal. We discovered it was in the wrong part of the skeleton, but also it was facing the wrong way in the stomach. “It shows that live birth did happen and that has all sorts of ramifications for evolution.” Professor Aitchison has collaborated with lead researcher Professor Jun Liu, from Hefei University of Technology China, and other palaeontologists in the US, the UK and Australia. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications. Professor Liu said the discovery pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the archosauromorpha group by 50 million years. “Information on reproductive biology of archosauromorphs before the Jurassic Period was not available until our discovery, despite a 260-million-year history of the group.”

Connect Connect with Professor Jonathan Aitchison at

ChangeMakers 2017


Professor Melissa Brown.



with Professor Melissa Brown Professor Melissa Brown is the first female Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Science. She sees her new role as an opportunity to excite the community about the importance of science, while broadening the experiences of science students.

What excites you about your new role as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science? I’m excited about the chance to create opportunities for staff and students and enable them to be the best they can be in their endeavours in research, teaching and learning. This is a very exciting time for science and also for me. As a molecular biologist, university teacher and experienced academic leader, what approaches will you bring to the role, and what are your major goals for the Faculty? The common theme of the previous roles I’ve held, whether it be teacher of undergraduate or postgraduate students, research group leader, or Head of a School, has been leading teams. Those teams have varied in size – from 10 to more than 500 staff and/ or students – where my role has been to articulate where we were heading in terms of learning, research or strategy, and bringing everyone along in the same direction. I will use those skills in my new role as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and I aim to do that in a consultative, collaborative and collegial way. What challenges do women face in the fields of science and research, and have you seen a shift in the number of women pursuing science careers and leadership roles? There are many challenges for women in science and they are complex.

It is important that we appreciate all the complexities. We tend to focus on a single issue and try to solve that problem, but that isn’t always all there is to it. Perception of career paths and destinations is one challenge, as often all women see is men in leadership roles, and the approaches they use to achieve success, and they can’t see themselves in this way. Women often feel that they can’t or don’t want to do a particular role because it’s not consistent with their style. This can be a driver for people leaving their careers because they can’t see a clear path. Expectation is also a challenge, and often it’s the expectations women place on themselves. Most women, myself included, have a tendency to try to multitask and we’re generally very good at this. But the risk is that we try to do everything at once and end up not doing the best we can. An important part of mentoring women is to help them identify the activities that can have the greatest impact on their professional lives, while not trying to do everything at once. Confidence can be another barrier and that’s where we need to convince women they can do a job and do it well. I have seen a shift in the number of women pursuing science careers and leadership roles, but it hasn’t been as great as I’d hoped. It signals that there is still a long way to go in terms of identifying all the contributing factors

and how we might work on those to make a bigger difference over time. Why are partnerships important to the success of the Faculty, and universities in general? Universities are here to innovate and educate and we can’t do that alone. Everything we do, we do in partnership with other people and organisations. In terms of education, this involves partnerships with schools, prospective students and their families, current students and future employers. It’s important that we have those partnerships to help students make the right decisions about what they study at UQ, and to make sure that when they graduate they are best able to pursue the careers they want to achieve. Partnerships are also important in the research area. Building strong relationships with key stakeholders in government, industry and our international partners is crucial to ensuring the greatest impact of our research.

Find out more To watch a video about Professor Melissa Brown, view this article online at Connect with Professor Brown at

ChangeMakers 2017


Saving Australia’s

JURASSIC PARK Etched into the rugged sandstone coastline of Western Australia, thousands of wonderfully preserved tracks provide evidence for the existence of one of the world’s most diverse dinosaur faunas. But just like the magnificent creatures that left them, these tracks could have been lost to the ages if not for the efforts of the region’s Traditional Custodians; members of the Broome community; environmental, political and business groups; and a dedicated team of palaeontologists.

Thousands of dinosaur tracks have been left along this coastline near Walmadany, Western Australia.

Image: Nigel Gaunt

Cover Story

ChangeMakers 2017


Welcome to Jurassic Park Looking at this ancient Western Australian landscape, it’s easy to imagine the giant beasts that roamed here millions of years ago. The Indigenous people of the Dampier Peninsula and West Kimberley have been telling their stories for thousands of years, with the tracks left around Walmadany (James Price Point) forming an important part of the region’s cultural heritage. Today, the area is home to one of the most significant palaeontological sites in the world, with 21 different types of dinosaur tracks identified along a 25-kilometre stretch of coastline. Palaeontologists from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences braved sharks, crocodiles, massive tides and the threat of development to unveil the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world in rocks that are between 127 million and 140 million years old in the remote Kimberley region.

Dr Steve Salisbury, from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, said the diversity of the tracks was globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti”. “It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half of the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” he said. “It’s such a magical place – Australia’s own Jurassic Park in a spectacular wilderness setting.” Dr Salisbury said there were thousands of tracks around Walmadany. Of these, 150 could confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs. “There are five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armoured dinosaurs,” he said. “Among the tracks is the only confirmed evidence of stegosaurs in Australia, and some of the sauropod tracks are about 1.7 metres long. u

MARKING THEIR TERRITORY Examples of dinosaur tracks found in the rocks around Walmadany






Yangtzepus clarkei

Garbina roeorum

Walmadanyichnus hunteri

Oobardjidama foulkesi


Image: Damian Kelly

Cover Story

Goolarabooloo Law Boss Richard Hunter and a sauropod track.

ChangeMakers 2017


“These were probably some of the largest animals to walk the planet, and they did so in the Kimberley.” Dr Salisbury said most of the tracks had been preserved in the same geological horizon and many of the sites at Walmadany appear to have once been connected. “The track surface extends over several square kilometres, and most of the tracks were probably made around the same time,” he said. “Walmadany in the Cretaceous Period would have looked similar to the Limpopo River of sub-Saharan Africa – a vast river plain, criss-crossed with abandoned channels and sand bars, opening into a delta system farther south. “Wandering across it would have been herds of lumbering sauropods, stegosaurs and giant ornithopods,

“These were probably some of the largest animals to walk the planet, and they did so in the Kimberley.” making their way to fern-dominated swamp forests on either side. A lone predatory theropod might have stalked the herds from afar, like a lion. “That scene has been written in stone on the reefs around Walmadany. Once you can read the rocks, it’s not hard to imagine.” Most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils come from the eastern side of the continent, and are between 90 million and 115 million years old. Dr Salisbury said the tracks at Walmadany were considerably older. “The results of our study show that the general composition of Australia’s better-known, younger dinosaur fauna was already in place by 127 million to 140 million years ago,” he said. “Both sauropods and ornithopods were diverse and abundant, and stegosaurs and ankylosaurs were the

Dr Steve Salisbury photographing Broome dinosaur tracker and historian Robyn Wells, who is lying in a 1.7 metre-long sauropod track (above), and Dr Salisbury with Goolarabooloo Law Boss Phillip Roe (right). Images: Damian Kelly

Cover Story

only type of four-legged, bird-hipped dinosaurs. “The dinosaur fauna from the Broome Sandstone is a lot like what we see in similarly aged faunas from South Africa and South America, and is probably similar to the more globally distributed dinosaur faunas of the Late Jurassic Period. “The disappearance of stegosaurs and the apparent drop in diversity of theropods by 115 million years ago suggests that, similar to South America, Australia passed through a period of faunal turnover during the Early Cretaceous Period.” Despite the existence of these tracks, less than a decade ago it was assumed the area preserved little in the way of natural or cultural heritage. In 2008, the then Western Australian Government selected Walmadany as the preferred site for a $40 billion liquid natural gas processing precinct. In response to the government’s proposal, the area’s Traditional Custodians, the Goolarabooloo people, contacted Dr Salisbury and his team, who dedicated more than 400 hours to investigating and documenting the dinosaur tracks. It was challenging work. The rocks in which the tracks are preserved are in an intertidal zone, with daily tides of up to 10 metres, strong currents, and the constant threat of sharks and crocodiles. Up to 48 discrete track sites were identified during the course of the team’s six-year study, preserving thousands of dinosaur tracks. A combination of high-resolution aerial photography, on-ground survey work (on foot and in kayaks), and laboratory

analysis of the rock samples was used to map the area. Important tracks were cast using silicon, from which rigid polyurethane replicas have been made. Dr Salisbury said a lot of the survey work was carried out during the height of the campaign to save Walmadany from the proposed gas precinct, and the surrounding political issues made the project “particularly intense”. He was relieved when National

Heritage listing was granted to the area in 2011 and the gas project collapsed in 2013. Goolarabooloo Law Boss Phillip Roe said it was important that the world saw what was at stake if this area was developed. “The unbroken song cycle and dinosaur tracks are what make country so strong. We need to keep them alive to keep our culture alive. The two go hand in hand,” he said. The tracks form part of a song cycle

that extends along the coast and inland for 450 kilometres. They trace the journey of a Dreamtime creator known as Marala, the ‘Emu Man’. “Marala was the lawgiver. He gave country the rules we need to follow, how to behave, how to keep things in balance,” Mr Roe said. Six of the new tracks identified needed to be formally named. The researchers worked with Goolarabooloo Law Bosses and The University of New South Wales ethnographer Professor Stephen Muecke to come up with names that incorporated words from the traditional Nyulnyulan language groups. Walmadanyichnus hunteri, a new type of track made by a large, Muttaburrasaurus-like ornithopod dinosaur means ‘Hunter’s mark of Walmadany’. Oobardjidama foulkesi, a type of sauropod track, means ‘Foulkes’s little thunder’. And Garbina roeorum, a type of stegosaur track, means ‘The Roe family’s shield’. “We wanted the names to be a reflection of the place, its people and their culture,” Dr Salisbury said. Mr Roe said it was great to work with UQ researchers on such a significant project for the region. “We learnt a lot from them and they learnt a lot from us.”

Find out more To watch a video and see more photos of Australia’s Jurassic Park, view this article online at Connect with Dr Steve Salisbury via email at or on Twitter: @implexidens.

ChangeMakers 2017


Dr Vincent Wheatley at UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics.


Launching careers Dr Vincent Wheatley has a passion for spaceflight and aerospace engineering, but he is equally excited to watch the careers of his students take off. Space. The final frontier. Or at least that’s what it appeared to be when Dr Vincent Wheatley was a child. “I was always interested in space and science fiction when I was growing up,” Dr Wheatley recalled. “It was just always a fun, fantastical idea that I could actually have a job building spacecraft.” As he got older, and universities began mechanical and space engineering projects, Dr Wheatley’s dream became a reality. After graduating from UQ with a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical and Space) in 1998 and Master of Engineering Science (Mechanical) in 2001, he went on to obtain his PhD in Aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology in 2005. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at ETH Zurich, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics university, and has since built a career guiding a new generation of engineers who share his passion. He is now a senior lecturer at UQ’s School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering and an expert in the simulation of hypersonic flows and plasma instabilities. Dr Wheatley said he strived to make students not only active learners, but intrigued and enthusiastic ones by engaging them in activities based on authentic scenarios from industry or research that were relevant to their future careers. “One of the advantages of doing a degree at a research-intensive university is that you’re gaining knowledge in the same place as new knowledge is being generated,” Dr Wheatley said. “That helps to excite and engage students. If you’re interested in what you’re doing, you are going to learn more.” Dr Wheatley uses this approach to teach advanced topics in mechanical and

aerospace engineering in contexts ranging from large courses, to thesis and design projects, to the edX Hypersonics massive open online course (MOOC) – a course that attracted students from 129 countries. He uses his command of the field to develop high-impact resources that engage with UQ students, as well as students from around the world. Many of these resources were developed for the Hypersonics MOOC, which demonstrated that the concept could be successfully applied to advanced technical courses. For third-year Fluid Dynamics at UQ, a class of 300, he successfully adapted the MOOC resources into a small private online course (SPOC) that enabled a

“A major way UQ is creating change in hypersonics is through our outstanding track record in producing highly trained hypersonics researchers.” flipped-classroom approach, where all contact hours were used for active problem solving, discussion and reflection. Dr Wheatley’s approach to education earned him a University of Queensland Award for Teaching Excellence last year. He said the award was proof that what he was doing was having an impact. “But I’m most proud of the success of my students,” he said. “Will Landsberg is a great example. He took my fluid mechanics and propulsion courses as an undergraduate and the examples and problems he was presented with based on scramjet engines got him interested in hypersonics. “Will has used simulations to make ground-breaking performance

improvements to UQ’s Mach 12 scramjet engine.” On top of his success as an educator, Dr Wheatley has made significant contributions to fields of inertial confinement fusion and hypersonics. “Inertial confinement fusion is a technique that promises abundant, carbon-free energy production that could potentially solve the world’s energy crisis. Along with my students and collaborators, I have demonstrated that we can design a seed magnetic field to mitigate shock-driven instabilities in plasma implosions, while minimising implosion distortion,” Dr Wheatley said. “These instabilities are one of the primary roadblocks to achieving inertial confinement fusion in the laboratory.” In the area of hypersonics, Dr Wheatley’s research has contributed to technology that could meet the need for safer, more economical space access, which has the potential to revolutionise the space industry. “A major way UQ is creating change in hypersonics is through our outstanding track record in producing highly trained hypersonics researchers,” he said. “This year, the 125th research higher degree student graduated in hypersonics at UQ. Many of our graduates have progressed to careers in aerospace research organisations around the world, including NASA, DLR, Caltech, Oxford University, Stanford University, the French Grand Ecoles, Airbus, Reaction Engines, Rocket Lab and Boeing, while others have founded their own innovation technology companies.”

Find out more To watch a video about Dr Vincent Wheatley, view this article online at

ChangeMakers 2017


Digging deeper for mine solutions As the Director of UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), I am driven by making a positive impact. My aim is to work with all resource sector stakeholders to build a sector that is welcomed as a responsible development partner that creates a positive legacy. At UQ, we are fortunate to have the deep technical knowledge that can be used in an integrated way to create new knowledge and find solutions to big challenges. The SMI is a world-leading research institute dedicated to finding knowledge-based solutions to the sustainability challenges of the global minerals industry. Our work covers all facets of the life of a mine, including geology, minerals extraction, water management issues, mining engineering, minerals processing, workplace health and safety, mine rehabilitation, energy, and community engagement. At the SMI, we have the capability to do things differently and the ability to look in unconventional places for new solutions. We do this by integrating many different views from across the University to solve challenges. Our interdisciplinary approach includes expertise in engineering, science and the social sciences; experience across the research, government and industry sectors; and is genuinely independent and objective. I am proud to say that the SMI conducts research in partnership with our stakeholders to deliver sectorrelevant research by sought-after employees. Our aim is to develop graduates that are the next generation of ‘game changers’, and we hope to graduate 30 research higher degree students in the next 18 months. The SMI is part of a larger research ecosystem looking towards building new relationships globally in

mineral-rich areas such as South America, India and Africa. We have the support of an engaged advisory board, chaired by Charlie Sartain, who has more than 30 years of mining experience in Queensland and South Amercia. This ensures the Institute is relevant and well-managed. We are fortunate to have active alumni and industry-experienced associates who consult with us to maintain a strong global SMI brand.

At the SMI, we have the capability to do things differently and the ability to look in unconventional places for new solutions. A personal focus of mine is to create a fun place to work, with a supportive, inclusive culture that celebrates diversity. I am proud that the SMI supports gender equality, with a 60 per cent female senior leadership team. I would like to see all stakeholders in the resources sector working together to create a better world. Resources are instrumental to improved quality of life. We have a responsibility to future generations to develop these resources responsibly.

Find out more For more information about the Sustainable Minerals Institute, visit Connect with Professor Neville Plint at

Thought Leadership

About the author Professor Neville Plint has recently relocated with his family to Australia from South Africa to begin his new role as the Director of UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI). Professor Plint first became involved in the mining industry after completing high school when he was offered a scholarship with Johannesburg Consolidated Investment (JCI), where he worked for six months on a processing operation in Rustenburg and for another six months as a research technician. He then completed a research PhD in Catalysis (Fine Chemical Synthesis) at the University of Witwatersrand in 2000. Professor Plint went on to work for Anglo American in South Africa, focusing on delivering improved operational performance on mining sites by developing and mentoring employees, developing and implementing new technologies, and establishing a global network of research professionals in academic institutes, mining companies and research organisations.

Professor Neville Plint.

ChangeMakers 2017


Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation PhD student Elizabeth Worrall, Research Fellow Dr Karl Robinson and agricultural biotechnologist Professor Neena Mitter at UQ’s Gatton campus.


FOOD FIGHT Non-toxic spray boosts crop protection

A team of UQ scientists has developed a breakthrough that has the potential to solve one of the major threats to global food security. BioClay is an agricultural nanotechnology innovation that could help reduce food production losses to pests and pathogens, without the toxic environmental impacts of current chemical sprays.

ChangeMakers 2017


Dr Karl Robinson, PhD student Elizabeth Worrall and Professor Neena Mitter at UQ’s Gatton campus (above), and Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu (right).

“The clay left on the surface simply degrades in the presence of natural carbon dioxide and moisture.”

Crop viruses are part of the pest and pathogen burden that reduces global food production by a massive 20 to 40 per cent, even as an estimated 795 million people – one in nine – do not have enough food to lead a healthy life. It’s a statistic that has troubled Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation agricultural biotechnologist Professor Neena Mitter for years. “Coming from India, agriculture is in my DNA,” Professor Mitter said. “I’m really passionate about being able to drive solutions that can make a difference to farmers. That led me to come to Australia to fulfil my dreams of doing innovative research to make a difference.” Professor Mitter said, until now, the platforms available to protect crops were either through using toxic insecticides and pesticides, or through genetic modification. But both these methods have certain hurdles. “With insecticides, the issues involve toxicity and resistance,” she said.

“Existing insecticides are broad-spectrum insecticides that can damage not only the pests we are targeting, but can also impact other flora and non-pest insects. “With genetic modification, there are issues surrounding acceptance and regulation.” BioClay uses a plant defence mechanism known as RNA (ribonucleic acid) interference, or gene silencing, which has been used to develop genetically modified, transgenic, disease-resistant crops. But in this case, Professor Mitter’s team is delivering gene silencing as a non-genetically modified, non-toxic spray by partnering it with clay nanoparticles, co-developed by former UQ Professor Max Lu and Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). “The key element here is that double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is the trigger molecule for gene silencing – we just take that sequence from the pathogen, load that sequence on the clay molecule, and then we have this wonderful spray that we can use to protect crops,” Professor Mitter said.


“The possibilities for BioClay are endless. We are slowly moving into targeting insect pests, like aphids, whitefly, chewing insects and fungi. But our first point of call is protection against viruses, especially in vegetable crops. “The only way farmers can protect their fields from viruses is either by uprooting the plant, or by using toxic pesticides. “BioClay actually uses the sequence from the virus itself. We load it onto the clay nanoparticles and we spray it. It acts like a vaccination for plants, whereby the dsRNA is slowly released onto the surface of the leaf, it enters into the plant, and the plant is primed for defence. So once we have sprayed, the clay particle acts as a controlledrelease mechanism. “This clay is absolutely degradable. The clay left on the surface simply degrades in the presence of natural carbon dioxide and moisture.” Professor Mitter paid tribute to Professor Lu, UQ’s former Provost and current University of Surrey ViceChancellor, for his support in the early stages of the development of BioClay, and for initiating the partnership with other UQ scientists at the AIBN. “I was giving a lecture on gene silencing in 2011 and Professor Lu happened to be listening to that seminar,” Professor Mitter said. “We later had a meeting and I highlighted that I wished we could deliver the gene silencing method as a spray. That’s where the genesis of the idea was born, and he suggested I meet with his AIBN colleague Professor Xu.” Professor Xu’s contribution was to develop a nanoscale clay matrix that is ideally suited to protect dsRNA once it is sprayed onto a crop. The specially designed matrix forms minuscule, stacked layers that can be compared to puff pastry. These degrade naturally, but in the process they dramatically extend the dsRNA’s protection period. “When the idea of BioClay was being developed, the

issue with using dsRNA as a spray was that if you spray it on a plant it isn’t stable; it will disintegrate within three to five days,” Professor Xu said. “We were able to provide a delivery vehicle that is loaded onto the plant and can last on the leaf’s surface for 30 to 40 days, providing an elongated window of protection.” BioClay has received significant support from UniQuest, UQ’s main commercialisation company based at St Lucia. UniQuest has helped drive the commercialisation of BioClay through a partnership with Nufarm Ltd, a worldwide manufacturer of crop protection products. Nufarm’s global lead for transformational innovation Mike Pointon said issues with chemical-based crop protection were increasing across the world. “We are seeing targets evolve chemical resistance, there is regulatory pressure on active ingredients due to toxicity concerns, and the cost of discovery for new chemicals is enormous,” he said. “That means Nufarm is very interested in new crop protection technology. BioClay circumvents key problems caused by chemical sprays as there are no toxic compounds or breakdown products associated with it. “It does not leave problematic residues on food. It is applicable across plant crops, from cereals through to horticulture. It is highly specific, affecting only the dsRNAtargeted pathogen. And, should resistance emerge, the dsRNA can be tweaked to get around it.” “Best of all, the same approach has the potential to be applied to other classes of disease-causing pathogens, such as fungi.”

Find out more To watch a video about BioClay, view this article online at

ChangeMakers 2017


Energised to ensure a sustainable future By Professor Peta Ashworth Chair in Sustainable Energy Futures, School of Chemical Engineering – Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology Overcoming the energy trilemma of providing secure, affordable and lowcarbon energy has never been more challenging or contested, particularly when one considers the billions of individuals without access to basic electricity or clean cooking facilities. Unfortunately, discussions about energy too often devolve into mudslinging matches between different groups with vested interests in one particular technology. These are most often characterised by those in support of an immediate switch to renewable energy technologies versus those favouring a slower transition away from traditional fossil fuel energy sources. Regardless of individual positions, based on the latest projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the urgency for decarbonising our energy supply is critical. It is clear this requires multiple trade-offs at both the political and societal level. Strong leadership is essential, as is ongoing research and development into new and existing technologies. In Australia, the criticality of electricity and its associated generation became very evident when the state of South Australia lost power in September 2016 and then again in December that year. Similarly, the recent closure of Hazelwood power station in Victoria has caused concerns about how much the price of electricity will rise, not

only in Victoria but other nearby states connected through our electricity grid. It has also brought into question whether our existing portfolio of electricity generation will be adequate to meet the demands of all Australians. UQ is firmly engaged in energy research predominantly under the banner of the UQ Energy Initiative. UQ’s breadth of energy expertise ranges from engineering, material sciences and mining research, to social

The urgency for decarbonising our energy supply is critical. It is clear this requires multiple trade-offs at both the political and societal level.

policy, economics and environment. Our researchers work with industry, government and other research institutions to identify the range of technical, economic, social and policy solutions required to overcome today’s energy challenges. One of UQ’s early energy flagship projects was the UQ solar array, which resulted in more than 5000 photovoltaic (PV) solar panels being installed across four buildings on the St Lucia campus. The Gatton Solar Research Facility was

also developed, and is the largest solar PV research facility in the southern hemisphere. Its 3.275 megawatt generation system comprises five arrays – a dual tracking array, a single-axis tracking array and three fixed-tilt panel arrays – totalling 36,000 individual PV modules. UQ’s solar outputs are available in real time through a live data feed (, which reports on the power produced at different sites, and the dollars and carbon dioxide emissions saved as a result of this renewable power generation. Similarly, the University’s Centre for Coal Seam Gas, funded through a membership model, has a number of industry partners including Shell, Arrow Energy, Santos and APLNG. Since its formation five years ago, the Centre has focused on developing a broad portfolio of research projects to address the demand for new and improved scientific knowledge in relation to coal seam gas. The research program is balanced across four main themes – water, social performance, geoscience and petroleum engineering – each led by a professorial chair. In February this year, the Centre co-hosted the fifth IEA Unconventional Gas Forum with the International Energy Agency, an event that aims to share lessons and promote dialogue on operational best practice, regulatory action and implications for the development of natural gas in general


and unconventional gas in particular as a so-called ‘transition’ fuel. UQ has a long track record in carbon capture and storage (CCS) research aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power generation and other stationary sources. The Energy Initiative was recently awarded several million dollars from the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technology Pty Ltd to undertake rigorous and independent scientific research on the degree to which CCS might assist in the national decarbonisation goal. The research aims to address engineering, environmental, economic, and societal factors regarding our choice of future energy technologies. Energy storage is another technology that has an important role to play in future energy portfolios, with some suggesting that Australia is the perfect testbed for different types of storage and how they might support more intermittent renewable energy technologies. Recently, the Australian Council of Learned Academies sponsored the project Energy storage: opportunities and challenges of deployment in Australia. UQ researchers examined the socio-economic impacts of energy storage through a series of interviews and a national survey, which identified

how Australians are thinking about the opportunities for energy storage in their own households and beyond. On a different level, UQ’s Energy and Poverty Research Group, through a number of PhD students, is researching ways to improve energy access to enhance the livelihoods of energyimpoverished people living in developing countries. With a particular focus on India, students are researching the role of gender, how transformational behaviours can be replicated across communities, and the role of NGOs and other social actors in revolutionising energy access for the very poor. These are just some examples of how UQ researchers are working collaboratively with industry and government to help solve the energy trilemma and build a more sustainable energy future. They also provide the important foundations to link with student learning. For example, the Master of Sustainable Energy (MSE), established in 2012, is an interdisciplinary program that helps students understand the complex nature of energy and the crucial role of finance, technology and social licence to operate in developing sustainable energy projects. The MSE is attracting a high calibre of domestic and international postgraduate students who are interested in becoming the next generation of energy leaders that will help us transition to a more sustainable energy future.

About the author Professor Ashworth, Chair in Sustainable Energy Futures, is based in the School of Chemical Engineering. She has responsibility for the Master of Sustainable Energy program, and is well known for her expertise in the energy field. Her research focuses on understanding public attitudes to climate change and energy technologies (wind, carbon capture and storage, solar PV, geothermal) for climate mitigation. Professor Ashworth also co-authored The CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook to help Australian householders save money and reduce their overall energy use. She has an interest in designing processes for engaging on complex and contested issues with a focus on science and technology innovations. She was awarded an EU Horizon 2020 research project – Responsible Research and Innovation Practice (RRI–Practice) – which aims to explore the drivers and barriers to the successful implementation of RRI practice in a global context.

Connect Connect with Professor Peta Ashworth at

ChangeMakers 2017


Image courtesy of Boeing Defence Australia Ltd

Boeing Research & Technology–Australia Manager Dr Jason Armstrong and Boeing UQ Research Alliance PhD Scholarship recipient Aimee Ryan.


Sky’s the


With the move of Boeing Research & Technology Australia (BR&T–A) to UQ St Lucia in mid–2017, aerospace knowledge and expertise is set to soar – and so too is the exchange of information between UQ researchers and industry.

Making the most of UQ’s ‘research powerhouse’ reputation – particularly in mathematics, advanced engineering and neuroscience – about 30 Boeing engineers have moved to a specially designed facility in the Hawken building at the heart of the University’s engineering hub, the BR&T–A Brisbane Technology Centre. Featuring a high-tech student interactive display area, plus computer labs, collaborative spaces and standard office cubicles for Boeing staff, the centre is a step change in UQ’s collaboration and engagement with the company since its association began in 2003, and complements the Boeing Flight Training Centre at Brisbane Airport. According to General Manager of Boeing Research and Technology Australia and joint Chair of the BoeingUQ Steering Committee, Michael Edwards, the close proximity of Boeing staff to current students and leading UQ researchers in diverse fields – from science and sustainability to health and humanities – will be of great benefit. “With Boeing’s expanding global operations, we are keen to source graduates and research expertise from the best institutions around the world,” Mr Edwards said. “An Asia-Pacific first, this connection is particularly valuable as our business in Australia continues to grow. “We have great faith in Australia’s capacity to generate innovative ideas and expertise in a wide range of

fields, including engineering, human movements, neuroscience, chemistry, physics, psychology and computer design, that will translate well to the aerospace industry. “UQ is one of our key strategic research partners and a leading global player in these important fields.” Projects already earmarked for investigation include studies in unmanned aircraft and autonomous systems, aircraft simulator technologies, modelling and simulation technology, novel manufacturing technologies, and cabin disease transmission and bioterrorism counter measures. UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said this was a huge vote of confidence in UQ’s students, staff and graduates. “Boeing, a perennial innovator with around 150,000 employees, can pick and choose university partners. It has come to know UQ people and it likes what it sees. “Students and staff will now be rewarded with distinctive opportunities arising from the collocation.” Director of UQ’s Research Partnerships Office Ian Harris, who was instrumental in effecting the partnership, agrees. “We are entering a flagship research collaboration and partnership that is already showing signs of attracting more interest for deeper collaboration with other large corporations,” he said.

“Boeing is keen to embed itself in the strong research culture at UQ – which includes one of the best research libraries in the country, convenient access to world-class research institutes, and excellent general infrastructure – and we anticipate that other companies will be keen to follow suit. “Our comprehensive range of research, which the Australian Research Council has assessed as above or well above world standard in 95 per cent of all broad fields, enables significant interdisciplinary capability that is very attractive to industry.” Mr Harris is particularly impressed with Boeing’s “very high-end, very visual, very high-tech” audiovisual and augmented-reality display that is open to all, already enhancing the student experience and exposing the reality of careers in aerospace. “This move gives tangible expression to UQ and Boeing’s alignment with the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland program.”

Connect If your company could benefit from close links with UQ, contact Ian Harris on +61 7 3365 3559 or email

ChangeMakers 2017


UQ PhD student Aimee Ryan (left) conducting eye-tracking research. Boeing–UQ initiatives Boeing UQ Research Alliance PhD Scholarship Scheme Undergraduate sponsorships and internships, including Boeing Merit Scholarships, Boeing Aerospace Engineering Scholarships, ITEE Innovation Showcase Prize, student placements UQ Engineering Design and Build Program University outreach and retention programs, including InspireU Camp, SPARK Engineering Camp, Young Achievers Program, Careers Day Boeing–UQ Research Days Academic and Advisory Board Membership


Eyes focused on nurturing talent Fostering innovation and nurturing the best are the aims of the Boeing UQ Research Alliance PhD Scholarship Scheme, launched in 2015. Offering about $40,000 a year to 10 outstanding PhD students in a range of fields – including engineering, information technology, physics, human factors and psychology – the scholarships are of joint benefit. Award recipients can pursue their research free from financial concerns, and Boeing can align with some of the nation’s most creative citizens endowed with sophisticated research skills and expertise. ChangeMakers spoke with Aimee Ryan from the UQ School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, who was one of the first five award recipients. What is the title of your PhD and what is it about? Eye movements and attention in flight-related tasks. Basically, we are using an eye-tracking machine to determine differences in the attentional strategies of pilots with different experience levels. How did you get into this field? In the third year of my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, I got a taste of cognitive engineering and human factors when Professor David O’Hare lectured us. It was fascinating. After completing my honours year in a completely different area, I managed to secure him as supervisor for my master’s degree, where I focused on cognitive engineering and human decision-making. Psychology is not just about counselling: cognitive engineering is an entire field of its own. How did you hear about the Boeing UQ award? I saw an online advertisement for the scholarship and thought my research was a perfect fit. I applied to UQ to upgrade my master’s degree to a PhD and was successful. Apart from the financial considerations, how has the award been of benefit? With visits to the Boeing headquarters, it has been a great chance to experience first-hand what it would be like to work in the industry. Boeing has also provided unique opportunities, such as tickets

to Women in Aviation Australia events, where I met many high-achieving women in the field. How are your days structured? I mostly work on campus at St Lucia as that’s where the eye-tracking machines are and where my supervisor (Dr Guy Wallis) is based, although I do meet with Boeing staff periodically to discuss my project. I expect the Boeing liaison to increase in the future as my work develops. What have been your discoveries so far? At present, I am trying to get the experimental paradigm working and have been using university students as ‘guinea pigs’ for my research, and so am only in the early stages of my research. Ask me in a couple of years time. What are some of the challenges you have faced? Working in a male-dominated environment is sometimes tricky. I would like to encourage greater gender diversity in what is a very interesting field. What does the future hold? For the next two years, at least, I expect to be completing my PhD, and then I would like to do research work in an industry setting. Do you have any advice for future Boeing UQ Research Alliance PhD Scholarship Scheme applicants? Just go for it – especially if you are female. We need more of a gender balance in this industry. And it’s the perfect opportunity to test whether or not you are a proper fit for the team.

Find out more To learn more about Boeing Research & Technology Australia, view this article online at For more information about research higher degree scholarships at UQ, contact the UQ Graduate School at

ChangeMakers 2017


Teamwork at the heart of health care ChangeMakers spoke to HealthFusion Team Challenge mentor and UQ lecturer Dr Emma Beckman and UQ social work graduate Kirsten Cusack about the necessity for teamwork in the allied health professions, and why UQ seems to be unstoppable after three consecutive HealthFusion Team Challenge national titles.

Emma’s perspective The Australian HealthFusion Team Challenge is an interprofessional learning activity for health students, designed to educate tomorrow’s healthcare professionals in collaborative client care. It is an opportunity for students to work together in teams to solve a hypothetical case involving a client with complex needs. The challenge was developed at UQ in 2007, originally called the HealthFusion Team Challenge, and was later relocated to Queensland University of Technology and rebranded as the Australian HealthFusion Team Challenge (Oz HFTC) in 2013. My involvement in the Oz HFTC began in 2011 when I inherited an academic representative role. It was my first year as a lecturer in the field of Clinical Exercise Physiology, which at the time was still a fairly new profession in allied health, and I saw it as an amazing opportunity. What I didn’t realise at the time was how integral it would become to the way I teach. The skills and competencies that students gain during the challenge are invaluable and I don’t think they learn them anywhere else in their degree. The case studies are incredible, real-life scenarios and based around a different theme each year.

The past few years have included a respiratory virus outbreak in a hospital, a community emergency with many people trapped in a showground, an individual with significant complications from diabetes, and most recently, a war veteran with complex medical and mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that had to be collectively managed. Every year it becomes more confronting for the students, but is based around a really important issue that they are likely to face in their industry. As allied health professionals, we’re very good at teaching our discipline-specific content, but there is so much non-academic learning about what it means to be a team and what you can gain from effective teamwork, which is so crucial to interprofessional workplaces, but isn’t covered in the classroom. Opportunities like the Oz HFTC are so valuable to students wanting to get ahead in the industry, and the professional value of the challenge is evident to students, with application numbers increasing each year. It is an extremely competitive process to be selected as a team member, and it is up to a team of academic representatives to assess the applications and select a team with the right balance of disciplines and knowledge. Successful students have usually either had previous experience in inter-

Two Perspectives

UQ lecturer Dr Emma Beckman.

professional learning or were able to articulate the importance of allied health professionals working together. It’s universally acknowledged that teamwork is one of the more challenging parts of university assessment, and yet here we have 40 students not only volunteering, but competing for the opportunity to do additional teamwork – it’s unheard of. UQ has won three consecutive national challenges, making Oz HFTC history, and that is in part because of the high-quality students involved in the challenge, and also the importance put on mentoring the students throughout the process. The students are given the case a month prior to the event, and I spend that preparation time mentoring the students individually and as a group, teaching them about teamwork. But more than that, I teach them to be resilient, to be reflective, and that solving a complex case as a group of professionals is not just about what you can do, but how you can work together and how similarities don’t have to be a source of conflict. Spending the time mentoring students on how to be a team, rather than just expecting they will figure it out, has been our winning secret and something that other universities don’t seem to do quite as well as us.

Following the completion of her bachelor’s degree in Human Movement Studies (Exercise Science), Dr Beckman worked as an accredited exercise physiologist, primarily with neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Dr Beckman completed an Erasmus Mundus master’s degree in Adapted Physical Activity in 2006 at the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven, Belgium, and wrote her thesis on skilled performance in Ice Sledge Hockey. Continuing with her interest in disability sport, Dr Beckman returned to UQ to complete her PhD in classification in Paralympic athletics. She is an internationally accredited classifier in Paralympic athletics and volunteers in this capacity at a local, state, national and international level.

Connect Connect with Dr Emma Beckman at

ChangeMakers 2017


UQ graduate Kirsten Cusack.

Kirsten Cusack moved from the Sunshine Coast hinterland to study at UQ in 2013, and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) in 2016. While studying at UQ, she received an Allied Health Undergraduate (Entry Level) Scholarship through the Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health. Ms Cusack has since relocated to Toowoomba and has secured a full-time job in the disability sector, working as a local area coordinator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme partner, Carers Queensland.

Two Perspectives

Kirsten’s perspective I received an email inviting students to apply for the Australian HealthFusion Team Challenge (Oz HFTC) mid last year but, being in my final year of university and undertaking a placement in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at Princess Alexandra Hospital, I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until I received a follow-up email from one of my lecturers strongly encouraging me to apply that I looked into it a bit further. I went into the challenge not knowing what to expect, but I am so glad I received the extra push. It was an amazing experience I would have otherwise missed out on. Throughout high school I struggled to answer the typical ‘what do you want to be’ question that seemed to continually pop up. I knew I wanted a career in which I was making a difference and supporting people, but I didn’t have a profession in mind. Then in Year 12, I had a pretty major operation – a spinal fusion. I was lucky at the time to have plenty of family support, but it got me thinking that perhaps people are too focused on a medical diagnosis and not what happens to your life during and after being through an experience like that. From my experience, I learnt that a person is more than their physical health, which led me down the path of social work. Life can be scary, difficult and confusing and no one deserves to feel unsupported. After researching the role social workers play, I decided to apply to study a Bachelor of Social Work at UQ. My social work specialty ended up being a great asset in our particular challenge. The 2016 Oz HFTC incorporated a very large social work element in respect to a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder – everyone had an important role to play, but social work certainly influenced the outcome.

Given all members of our team had different specialties, we had specific responsibilities within the team. Yet we were open to anyone jumping in and giving some information or a different perspective, because ultimately this challenge is about teamwork. The greatest takeaway from participating in the Oz HFTC was learning the importance of teamwork. The winner will ultimately be the team that can work well together under significant time pressure. The challenge reinforces how vital multidisciplinary healthcare teams are, as the case study that we were given had so many different aspects to it, including social, emotional, physical and medical wellbeing. Our mentor, Emma, had led two previous winning teams and instilled in us the necessary teamwork skills to develop a comprehensive care plan, and win the national championship. I had not met any of the other members of my team before the challenge, despite all being similar ages, enrolled in complementary degrees and studying at the same campus. That’s one of the fantastic unintentional benefits of the challenge: you have the opportunity to meet and network with a group of people you are likely to cross paths with later in your career. The allied health industry is increasingly moving towards a focus on interprofessional workplace environments, and opportunities like the Oz HFTC give students a taste of cross-discipline collaboration. I would absolutely recommend the Oz HFTC to allied health students. For me, it was an invaluable experience that equipped me with unique skills I may not have otherwise gained.

Find out more To learn more about the Australian HealthFusion Team Challenge, view this article online at

ChangeMakers 2017


Š Images

A crown-of-thorns starfish feasting on coral.


Fatal attraction The crown-of-thorns starfish is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s fiercest enemies. It feasts on coral, leaving it bleached white and vulnerable to destruction in heavy storms. But a team of UQ researchers has led a breakthrough discovery that could protect coral and, at the same time, save one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. Husband-and-wife team Professor Bernard Degnan and Associate Professor Sandie Degnan believe they, along with research colleagues, can use the powers of attraction to eradiate the destructive starfish. The international research team has decoded the scent given off from the starfish so the prickly pests can be lured to their capture. “For an already struggling Great Barrier Reef, and indeed any reef across the Indo-Pacific region, these starfish pose an enormous threat due to the ability of a single female to produce up to 120 million offspring in one spawning season,” Professor Degnan said. “Millions of dollars have been spent over many years on a variety of ways to capture crown-of-thorns starfish, whether it be via diver collection, injections or robotics. “Now we’ve found the genes the starfish use to communicate, we can begin fabricating environmentally safe baits that trick them into gathering in one place, making it easier to remove reproductively-primed animals.” The Degnans worked alongside a team of UQ researchers, and longstanding colleagues at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the Okinawa Institute of Science and

Technology (OIST) and the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). The painstaking process of sequencing the crown-of-thorns genome and its pheromones was completed 30 years after Professor Degnan moved from his hometown of New York to Brisbane to study as one of UQ’s first international exchange students. A graduate in Marine Biology and Molecular Biology, Professor Degnan developed an early fascination with the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef, and while at UQ’s Heron Island Research Station he met his future wife. “I guess there is a nice story there about the reef bringing us together and now we’re working hard to develop novel ways to understand and preserve it,” Professor Degnan said. “But beyond us, there’s personal history with some of the other researchers like Mike Hall at AIMS, who is one of our oldest colleagues and who came up with the original genome concept. “Nori Satoh at OIST could be considered the grandfather of marine genomics and has been a very supportive friend, as has Scott Cummins of USC, who was a former research fellow in my lab.” “What I like most is that we’re finding a solution to a problem, not merely documenting it.” Beyond the role their genomics breakthrough brings to controlling the crown-of-thorns, the Degnans believe it could have other environmental and economical benefits. They believe a similar approach could be used to combat invasions of sea snails and other marine pests

Associate Professor Sandie Degnan and Professor Bernard Degnan.

throughout the world. For fishermen and coastal communities, that’s a win on several fronts. “I expect for local economies there could be some positive cashflow from the fishermen that collect and remove the crown-of-thorns starfish,” Professor Degnan said. “Furthermore, as the reef becomes healthier, the benefits to a raft of industries from tourism to fisheries quickly follow.”

Find out more To watch a video about the crown-ofthorns starfish, view this article online at Connect with Professor Bernard Degnan and Associate Professor Sandie Degnan at and

ChangeMakers 2017


Designing solutions together Just as a successful building relies on the collaboration of architects, engineers and builders, UQ’s School of Architecture relies on the collaboration of staff, students and industry professionals. This collaboration starts in the classroom, with hands-on experiences such as design studios, where Master of Architecture students can work with leading architecture professionals to develop solutions to real-life problems. Outside of the classroom, students have the chance to meet and work with industry professionals at events such as the annual student exhibition, forums and conferences, and charity events like the Winter Sleepout for homelessness. “We put as much effort into our extra-curricular programs, our industry partnerships and our student culture, as we do into formal tuition,” Head of the

School of Architecture Professor Sandra Kaji-O’Grady said. “It is these opportunities that are at the heart of the School of Architecture. “We believe our graduates have gained the holistic educational experience that will ensure they thrive in the future and make a lasting contribution to the betterment of the built environment and people’s lives.”

Find out more To learn more about the School of Architecture, visit

Industry Snapshot

The social space and exhibition space at UQ’s School of Architecture.

ChangeMakers 2017


Mapping a future for old buildings Old buildings and structures lead precarious lives, vulnerable to dilapidation, development and natural disaster. Now, the latest technological developments, such as laser scanners, robots and drones, are being used to create detailed digital models of these buildings, while helping to preserve a record of them for the future. Dr Kelly Greenop and Dr Chris Landorf from UQ’s School of Architecture are working with researchers and students to model some of Brisbane and SouthEast Queensland’s historically significant buildings. Six years ago, Dr Greenop was working with researchers at the CSIRO, who were developing the Zebedee hand-held 3D laser scanner, when she decided to start the project. The researchers were testing the scanner on

3D digital model of Peel Island leper colony

buildings, where it could be used to create location maps to help robots and driverless cars navigate, but Dr Greenop immediately saw the application for architecture. “I thought that’d be fantastic for architects because buildings are really hard to measure,” Dr Greenop said. Areas that have been scanned include the former leper colony on Peel Island, the former colonial prison on St Helena Island, and the Fort Lytton military precinct. Researchers have also gathered architectural and social histories of the sites, to create a more complete record. Dr Greenop said architecture students had played a key role in the projects, helping with the scanning, creating 3D models, and developing other forms of digital heritage such as films.

“We’ve had students contribute hugely to these projects along the way,” she said. “It’s been really great because then you’ve got a lot of people testing out a lot of new ideas.” The School has recently received $50,000 from a philanthropist and alumnus based in Singapore to create a virtual reality version of the Old Windmill in Wickham Park, which is the oldest surviving building in Queensland. “It’s got an amazing history, but it’s hard to access because it’s got very steep stairs inside, so it’s not really suitable to have lots of people going through it,” Dr Greenop said. “We’re developing a project in which people will be able to put on a pair of virtual reality goggles and walk up through the windmill, and hopefully also see it through some different time slices.” Dr Greenop and her colleagues are also working to get their digital models uploaded to CyArk, a website designed to digitally preserve at-risk heritage sites in perpetuity, updating file types as technology changes. Help in funding the upload of the models has come from government groups such as the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and the Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand, as well as community groups such as the Friends of Peel Island.

Connect Connect with Dr Kelly Greenop and Dr Chris Landorf at and

Industry Snapshot

Master of Architecture student Chen Tan’s design for a bridge linking UQ’s St Lucia campus to West End.

Industry connections bridge the gap For UQ architecture students, working with industry professionals gives them the chance to test their skills in a challenging environment, and build valuable connections for future careers. Each year, Master of Architecture students undertake a variety of intensive masterclasses, often led by senior architects, where they are tasked with designing solutions to real-world problems. In 2016, a group of master’s students worked with one of Brisbane’s leading architects, Michael Rayner, along with architect Paul Focic, to design a new bridge linking UQ’s St Lucia campus to West End. “The masterclass involved balancing challenging real-world problems in connecting the University campus across the Brisbane River,” Mr Rayner said. “But the project also entailed broad-based thinking about how universities interact with their cities, and how ‘knowledge cities’ of the future might evolve.” For the students, it is an opportunity to create a response to a problem that is shaped by their own time, place and culture. “Being able to work on a project that tackled existing issues provided me with a deeper view and understanding of how things work and interrelate with architecture,” Master of Architecture student Rachel Wong, who participated in the masterclass, said. “Although the design brief was challenging, it was one of the semesters where I gained the most and felt truly inspired by architecture.” Another group of students joined a forum of architects from around the world, as well as local and state government representatives, to discuss how architecture and design can help flood-proof Brisbane. The South-East Queensland Waterfutures charrette

(a type of intense planning session) was convened by James Davidson Architect, a local architecture firm established by UQ alumnus Dr James Davidson, and was sponsored by Suncorp. Led by Dr Paola Leardini from the UQ School of Architecture, students had the opportunity to play a key role assisting international facilitators John Hoal and Derek Hoeferlin from Washington University in St Louis, in the US, and Tijs van Loon from Bosch Slabbers Landscape Architects in the Netherlands. “Having the UQ architecture students involved in the charrette meant they were exposed to important real-world issues associated with flood planning for South-East Queensland,” Dr Davidson said. “This was not only valuable for the students’ own experience and confidence, but their presence brought a good energy to the workshop, which was appreciated by all involved.” Students then had the opportunity to take what they had learned at the charrette back into the classroom, and develop individual design profiles for high-density urban living in Norman Creek that prioritised liveability and flood resilience. The designs were presented at the exhibition Creek Urbanism: Perspectives of Future Norman Creek Waterscapes, and were so well received that some of them went on to be displayed in the Brisbane City Council’s public gallery in Brisbane Square.

Find out more To see more pictures of student designs, view this article online at

ChangeMakers 2017


Image: Nimrod Klayman

UQ student Dave Cole in Shanghai as part of the China Mobility Program.


Ideas become careers The UQ Idea Hub is encouraging students to change the current employment model by creating their own jobs and, in the process, creating jobs for others. Shanghai has become a start-up magnet. More than 70,000 start-ups have reportedly set up in the city since mid2016. In particular, Shanghai is attracting international talent, fuelled by the central government’s investment in technology parks as part of its innovation agenda. UQ Business Management student Dave Cole was thrilled to be one of the students gaining experience in this space through the China Mobility Program in 2016. The China Mobility Program is an initiative of the UQ Idea Hub in which 10 students were selected to spend four weeks at some of Shanghai’s best technology start-ups. UQ Idea Hub teamed with business accelerators Caohejing Hi-Tech Park (CHJ), Fishburners Shanghai and Chinaccelerator to match the students with mature and sophisticated startups. The students undertook technical or marketing work, shadowed startup founders and teams, and acted as ambassadors for UQ at events. Mr Cole said a highlight was spending time with UQ computer science alumnus Peter Davison, who established Fishburners – Australia’s largest start-up incubator – in 2011. “He was a seed investor in PayPal and his insights and experience are brilliant,” he said. Mr Cole was paired with Artable, a start-up with a focus on providing the Chinese community access to a creative education through an online platform. “During the internship, I was able to gain a birds-eye view of the components of the business and interact with the owners and software developers to add value in a meaningful way,” Mr Cole said. “I learnt what environmental factors the company faced within China, and how the business positioned itself

with its suppliers, customers and competitors.” Mr Cole’s own start-up idea is a digital remittance system that does away with paper-based receipts and tax invoices. UQ Idea Hub Director Nimrod Klayman said the China Mobility Program was designed to give students the confidence to think more broadly than local markets when developing their projects. “The program teaches resourcefulness, cultural sensitivity and commercial acumen, which are all required in large, complex markets such as China,” he said. “The Idea Hub is looking at expanding the program to other major cities, such as Tel Aviv in Israel and San Francisco in the US.” A major goal of UQ’s Student Strategy is to produce graduates with intellectual capital, leadership skills and an innovative mindset to build meaningful networks, agile careers and creative solutions. Students must be able to operate in an evolving workforce. Many of the jobs they will be applying for don’t exist yet; some of those jobs they will create for themselves and others. Campus-based idea incubators and accelerators, like UQ Idea Hub, foster the entrepreneurial capability of students, staff and alumni through well-connected networks. Run over a period of six weeks, teams of students, alumni and successful entrepreneurs form around ideas through a process of pitching and critique. They attend workshops covering topics such as research, pitching and storytelling, prototyping, market validation and business models. Mr Klayman said the Idea Hub received a major boost with the opening of its new dedicated learning space on the St Lucia campus in March this year.

“There has been a growing number of budding entrepreneurs on campus in recent years, but these students had nowhere to get together. They didn’t have a home,” he said. “Once students are enrolled in the program, they have access to the dedicated space 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Economics student Ben Coughlin studies part-time and works on his start-up business, Backyard Coach, from the UQ Idea Hub space. Backyard Coach is a marketplace connecting coaches to athletes seeking private training. “Idea Hub is a fantastic program that allowed me to turn my idea into a business,” Mr Coughlin said. “It was also a fantastic preparation to help be selected for the Germinate program at ilab, UQ’s start-up accelerator and incubator based at St Lucia. “Aside from the seminars and connections to industry professionals, I found most value in Idea Hub’s shared working space. Having a space to build my business in with the support of a community has been invaluable. And being on campus, it couldn’t be any easier.” Mr Klayman said the UQ Idea Hub is also working to create partnerships with the Brisbane business community. UQ has already established partnerships with KPMG and Aon to sponsor activities, mentor students and be part of competitions run through UQ Idea Hub.

Find out more For more information about the UQ Idea Hub, view this article online at Connect with UQ Idea Hub at

ChangeMakers 2017


Staff at the Institute for Social Science Research at UQ’s Long Pocket precinct.

Institute in Focus

Social science for a better world With more than 2.9 million people – 13.3 per cent of the Australian population – living below the poverty line, new approaches are necessary to address poverty, inequality and disadvantage in Australia. Researchers at UQ’s Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) are widening the frame of reference for studying social problems, taking inspiration from engineering, data science, design, and other disciplines. ISSR is one of Australia’s leading social science research organisations, with a $42 million research portfolio and more than 60 applied researchers striving to make a difference. The Institute is not content to stand on the sidelines in the effort to address the nation’s most difficult policy problems. “As social scientists, we undertake research that is relevant and translatable to society’s big questions around promoting prosperity, wellbeing, quality of life, fairness and security,” ISSR Director Professor Mark Western said. “Our research interests are wide-ranging but our work is underpinned by a commitment to building the best possible knowledge to improve economic and social wellbeing for individuals, households and communities in Australia and internationally.” To address the hardest questions in social and public policy, ISSR applies smart research partnerships and interdisciplinary skills with a particular focus on poverty, disadvantage and inequality in Australia. The lifetime cost of welfare expenditure is tipped to exceed $4.8 trillion over the coming decades, with implications for both the national economy and the wellbeing of our most vulnerable Australians. The Institute hosts the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, a $28 million initiative bringing together sociologists, psychologists, economists, data scientists and other partners to address the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage within families.

ISSR researchers are also collaborating with actuarial scientists to validate the estimated lifetime costs of Australia’s social welfare system for the Australian Government. Inequality in Australia is increasing and particular groups of people are more likely to experience social and economic disadvantage during their lives. At ISSR, anthropologists, architects, engineers and social statisticians are working together to develop culturally appropriate design principles for social services in Indigenous communities, including design of hospitals and supportive housing. ISSR is also developing new leaders to tackle inequality internationally, with the 2017 launch of Australia’s first MicroMasters online course in leadership for global development. ISSR’s solution-oriented approach to social science research is improving public policy and effecting change. After ISSR reviewed Queensland’s Anti-Social Behaviour Management Policy for the Queensland Mental Health Commission, the findings led to reform in the state’s approach to social housing tenants with complex needs. The Institute has productive partnerships with state and federal governments, not-for-profit organisations and industry, and has the capacity to provide end-to-end research services, from research design to data collection, advanced analyses, and policy and program advice.

Find out more For more information about UQ’s Institute for Social Science Research, visit

ChangeMakers 2017


Education critical to reducing disadvantage Time spent in education and university attendance are some of the strongest predictors of future employment and earnings, personal health and wellbeing, and positive social outcomes. For this reason, education is a key area of focus for researchers at the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR).

ISSR is working with partners to measure factors that impact parental and student engagement in education, and that can have significant impacts on overall educational outcomes. Image courtesy of The Smith Family

ISSR Director Professor Mark Western said that in order to help reduce inequality within our society, it was critical to ensure people from all backgrounds had equal opportunities to access quality education. “ISSR’s research in the areas of education and educational inequality aims to provide government policymakers and frontline service providers with the evidence they need to improve all individuals’ access to, and participation in, education – especially people from disadvantaged backgrounds.” Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, using the latest social science research methods and social statistics, ISSR researchers are able to help government and non-government partners identify strategies and develop solutions to improve educational outcomes for all Australians. “One of our current collaborations is with The Smith Family, Australia’s largest children’s education charity. It involves helping to better understand the circumstances of socio-economically disadvantaged students and their families and, most importantly, helping to identify what factors contribute to improved educational outcomes for these students,” Professor Western said. “Our research has identified the large number of children and young people from disadvantaged families who are living with or caring for someone who lives with health and disability issues, which can have significant impacts on their school attendance and overall educational outcomes.” “Better understanding of the factors that impact educational outcomes for disadvantaged students is critical for the design of appropriate interventions that can better support them.” ISSR researchers are committed to designing, testing, and evaluating interventions that aim to improve education equity in Australia. In 2016 alone, the Institute was awarded more than $1 million from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training to generate new insights into opportunity in education for Australian students. ISSR’s continued research into the factors that contribute to increased student retention and attainment will help ensure that Australia’s ongoing investments into education equity are strategically targeted to enhance social and economic outcomes.

Connect Connect with Professor Mark Western at

Institute in Focus

Using big data to improve big social problems Big data is behind some of the latest insights uncovered at the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), showcasing how innovative social sciences are changing people’s lives. ISSR researchers are pioneering new techniques in linking administrative data to construct a more complete understanding of interactions that individuals have with the government and social services systems. The Brisbane Common Ground (BCG) is a supportive housing project that provides people with a combination of safe accommodation and relevant support services (such as health, education and counselling services) to assist them to move out of homelessness. “BCG Evaluation project identified that the community can save more than $13,100 per person each year by providing people suffering from chronic homelessness with access to secure, longterm housing and relevant support services,” ISSR Homelessness research group leader Dr Cameron Parsell said. By linking datasets from a variety of public agencies, ISSR researchers were able to assess the levels of services that people accessed while homeless compared to when they were in supportive housing, leading to the discovery of the large cost savings. “People who suffer from chronic homelessness often have complex needs relating to health, disabilities, abuse and addiction and, without support, they often use a significant number of health, policing and legal resources,” Dr Parsell said. “When you provide these same people with access to safe housing and targeted services, they do not need to access the same level of public services. “On average, each tenant accessed $13,100 less of community services per year, with fewer presentations to places like hospitals, emergency wards and prisons, even after factoring in the cost of the housing and linked support services. “These savings demonstrate that it makes economic sense to provide people with affordable housing as opposed to leaving them homeless.” Research results such as those from the BCG Evaluation, which have been gleaned from new advances in linked administrative data and analysis of big social data, have the capacity to provide policy-makers with powerful new evidence that is needed to improve people’s lives.

Dr Cameron Parsell at the Brisbane Common Ground building in South Brisbane.

Connect Connect with Dr Cameron Parsell at

ChangeMakers 2017


DoseMe founder and UQ graduate Dr Robert McLeay.

Engaged Alumni

The right dose As a young first-year student armed with curiosity and a passion for science, alumnus and DoseMe founder Dr Robert McLeay never dreamed that one day his IT solutions would improve patients’ quality of life and promote efficiencies in the hospital system.

No two patients are the same. UQ graduate Dr Robert McLeay took this founding medical principle to heart when rethinking how to approach prescribing medication doses for hospital patients. Dr McLeay is founder and Chief Technology Officer of DoseMe Pty Ltd, a Brisbane-based technology start-up, which came about thanks to a chance encounter over a few beers at a barbecue. “One of my wife’s colleagues made a passing remark about spending hundreds of millions of dollars doing research to predict the outcome of specific dosages on patients,” Dr McLeay said. “Then they said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that in clinical practice?’.” That conversation led to the development of DoseMe, the world’s first decision-supporting software that uses algorithms and mathematical modelling to construct a virtual avatar of a patient’s pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics – essentially, their individual metabolism and ability to absorb drugs. It can be used on a smartphone or tablet, and its portability allows doctors to calculate precise doses for each patient from their bedside. A critical step in bringing the idea to fruition was bringing in Chief Executive Officer Charles Cornish, whose experience was the final puzzle piece to develop a partnering and commercialisation strategy. DoseMe has now partnered with organisations such as Apotex, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturer Siemens, and other organisations and research centres, including UQ.

“Developing partnerships that not only help get you access to the markets that you want to, but also help you continue to build and improve your product, is critical,” Dr McLeay said. “DoseMe has enjoyed several successes since its commercialisation, but one particularly encouraging outcome of our commercialisation has been heavy uptake in Slovenia as a tool for managing transplant medicine. “Helping a patient keep a transplanted organ impacts the cost of the medical treatment, but it has a massive impact on their lives, too. That really is rewarding.”

“I thrived from having access to that traditional research university, where my lecturers were actually doing cutting-edge research into what I wanted to study.”

Dr McLeay graduated from UQ with a Bachelor of Information Technology and Bachelor of Science (Honours) in 2006, before completing a Doctor of Philosophy (Bioinformatics) in 2011. He credits UQ as an inspiring environment for a young student who had a passion for the emerging field of bioinformatics – an exciting and emerging field during his undergraduate studies, when sequencing the human genome was still being finalised. “I thrived from having access to that traditional research university, where my lecturers were actually doing cutting-edge research into what I wanted to study.”

DoseMe is based close to UQ’s St Lucia campus, and maintaining engagement with the University provides many concrete benefits, such as research collaborations and a pool of graduates to hire from. Dr McLeay said his immersive experience at UQ and the excellent relationships he formed with his college, lecturers and classmates also led to a long-lasting desire to give back. He is actively involved in several boards and councils, such as the Emmanuel College Council and the Young Alumni Advisory Board, where he collaborates with other like-minded alumni and decision-makers, so that future generations of students and graduates can benefit from his experiences. “In some ways, colleges are an ideal start-up incubator, in that you get a whole lot of talented people and you stick them in buildings to live together. In that environment, you make fantastic friends and have chance encounters all the time that are really valuable,” he said. “The council and Young Alumni Advisory Board are ways of giving back to an organisation that I valued as a student. It’s a way I can engage with students and young alumni, to improve their experiences and keep them in contact with the University as well.”

Find out more For more information about DoseMe, view this article online at Connect with Dr Robert McLeay at

ChangeMakers 2017


Leading the world with research breakthroughs The University of Queensland is one of the world’s top universities and one of Australia’s leading teaching and research universities. For more than a century, we have educated and worked with outstanding people to deliver knowledge leadership for a better world. Our successes are embodied in a global network of more than 244,000 alumni and the countless people worldwide who have benefited from UQ innovations. We teach our students to see the world differently, so they can create change on a local and global level.

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UQ is developing novel immunotherapies to treat autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, which could improve the health of millions.

The world’s first cervical cancer vaccine was developed by UQ’s Professor Ian Frazer and the late Dr Jian Zhou. Over 205 million doses have been distributed in more than 130 countries since 2006. .




With the majority of the world’s MRI scanners using technology engineered at UQ, the next step is to integrate radiation therapy with MRI scanners to target and treat cancer.

Research at UQ has led to the NanopatchTM, a revolutionary needle-free method of delivering vaccines. The NanopatchTM is a small, pain-free patch being developed through UQ spin-out company, Vaxxas, and has the potential to help save millions of lives.

A potential treatment for chronic pain has led to one of Australia’s largest biotech deals with the acquisition of UQ-founded Spinifex Pharmaceuticals by Novartis International AG.

Changemakers 2017 edition  

ChangeMakers is a magazine for people who value innovation and its transformative effects on society, and showcases UQ’s research and commer...

Changemakers 2017 edition  

ChangeMakers is a magazine for people who value innovation and its transformative effects on society, and showcases UQ’s research and commer...