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UC academics and teachers honoured at Excellence Awards

21 November 2019: The recent University of Canberra’s Research and Teaching Excellence Awards 2019 honoured the stellar achievements, amazing commitment and huge impact of research and teaching staff, both in the University itself and within the regional, national and international communities.

The awards ceremony was jointly hosted by the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Academic, Professor Geoff Crisp and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation Professor Leigh Sullivan.

The Research Excellence Awards were divided into five categories: Research Excellence, Excellence for Early Career Researchers, Excellence in Supervision of Higher Degree by Research Students, Distinction in Engagement and Impact, and Outstanding Team Achievement in Research or Innovation.

The Teaching Excellence Awards comprised five categories: Overall Teaching Excellence; Teaching Excellence for an Early Career Academic; Awards for Programs that Enhance Learning (Teams Only); Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning; and Citations for Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning.

Professor Crisp said that the University’s swift, steep ascent in various rankings had been driven by its high quality of research and teaching, as embodied in its teachers and researchers.

“This rise has been all about you, the backbone and lifeblood of the University,” he said.

“Importantly, in addition to the consistently high quality of your work, it has huge real world impact and relevance, effecting much positive change within the greater community.”

Professor Sullivan agreed, saying that the increase in citation impact, highlighted in the rankings in particular, is indicative of the quality, breadth and depth of the research which University of Canberra academics are undertaking.

Addressing the roomful of academics, researchers and lecturers, he conveyed his congratulations “for the important breakthroughs you are making in your areas of research, but also for your contributions to the University, in its quest to be a global leader in research and teaching.”


Award for Distinction in Engagement and Impact

This award recognises individuals or teams who have demonstrated excellence in the conduct of high impact research and commitment to seeing its translation to positive outcomes for beneficiaries.

Winner: Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) Team

ELSA team members: Centenary Professor Tom Lowrie, Matt Bacon, Assistant Professor Kym Simoncini, Assistant Professor Tracy Logan, Amanda Levido, Ross Hope and Garrett Lommatsch.

The ELSA’s research focuses is on play-based digital learning program for children in pre-schools to explore STEM disciplines. The ELSA Pilot is a key early childhood initiative of the Australian Government and seeks to increase the participation of children in STEM and to improve their digital awareness and literacy.

The team has successfully attracted $8.1M from the Department of Education to develop and implement a national pilot program across over 100 pre-schools. They have developed extensive engagements with major industry and governments partners including Apple, Samsung, Questacon, and major national Government departments.


Assistant Professor Dr Sam Kosari, Faculty of Health

Assistant Professor Dr Cathy Hope, Faculty of Arts and Design

Award for Excellence in Supervision of HDR Students

This award is for excellence in the supervision of HDR students. It enables research candidates to recognise supervisors who they believe have helped them shape their futures and maximise their potential.

Winner: Professor Roland Goecke

Professor Goecke is a Professor of Affective Computing in the Faculty of Science and Technology. His research focuses on algorithms that enable computers to understand human users, in order to support their well-being, performance and learning.

He has supervised many students, with the majority (86 per cent) completing on time. His students have praised his willingness to develop their research skills, encouragement towards peer learning and teamwork, and provision of regular support and feedback.


Dr Sora Park, Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Arts and Design

Award for Outstanding Team Achievement in Research or Innovation

This award recognises outstanding team contribution to the research and innovation performance of the University over the past 12 months.

The EcoDNA team

Team members: Professor Dr Dianne Gleeson, Dr Elise Furlan, Dr Alejandro Truijillo-Gonzalez, Centenary Professor Dr Richard Duncan, Sumaiya Quasim, Rheyda Hinlo, Jonas Bylemans, Jack Rojahn, Sam Godwin.

EcoDNA is a research group focusing on the application of environmental DNA technology for biodiversity conservation in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. They focus on research partnerships, which accelerate the engagement and uptake of eDNA technology for wildlife management and conservation.

The outcomes of their research have improved both detection of invasive species and conservation of threatened species. The team has successfully engaged with end-users to ensure the early adoption of eDNA methods, and attracted over $1M investment in the last year.

Awards for Early Career Researchers

These awards recognise early career researchers who have shown outstanding performance in research relative to opportunity, as measured by research outputs, citation, research income, and HDR supervision. Eligible staff were considered within one of four broad disciplinary groups, irrespective of Faculty affiliations: Science and Technology; Health; Social Sciences; and Humanities and Creative Arts.

There are four winners in this category.

Science and Technology: Assistant Professor Dr Saeed Banihashemi

An Assistant Professor in Building and Construction Management in the Faculty of Arts and Design, Assistant Professor Banihashemi’s research is in Sustainable Built Environment, Sustainable Project Management, Data Analytics in Construction, and Parametric Design.

His Field Weighted Citation Index (FWCI) is well over the world average in his discipline and 57 per cent of his research publications are published in top journals. He also has been very successful in attracting research income.


Research Fellow Dr Peter Unmack, Faculty of Science and Technology

Health: Dr Kris Hardy

Dr Hardy is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Science and Technology, working in the Discipline Group of Health. Her research focuses on biomedical discovery for cancer prevention and treatment. Her publication track record is stellar, with 67 per cent of publications in top journals in the field. Her work is highly translational, attracting industry partnerships and research income.

Social Science: Assistant Professor Tracy Logan

Working within the Faculty of Education, Assistant Professor Logan’s research focuses on mathematics education and assessment. She has been part of five ARC grants and her industry involvement has included research projects with the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and the World Bank. Her FWCI is well above world average, with 50 per cent of her publications in top journals and her total research income for the last three years income stands at $6M.

Humanities and Creative Arts: Assistant Professor Dr Alison Wain

Dr Wain is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design. Her research is in the area of heritage and conservation, with a focus on the complexities of industrial heritage. She has been awarded $122k from the ARC Linkage Scheme for the project using laser ablation for the restoration and conservation of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Awards for Research Excellence

These awards recognise overall research excellence, from individuals whose research achievements have been outstanding over the last three years.

Research achievements are measured based on: Research Outputs and Citations, Research Income and Research training.

There are four winners in this category.

Science and Technology: Associate Professor Dr Fiona Dyer

Associate Professor Dyer is Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Science and Technology. Her research is in understanding freshwater systems to inform decision-making in water resource management.

She has a FWCI well above world average and 80 per cent of her publications are in top journals. She has been awarded $4.35M and is contributing to a further $1.1M in research income and has active linkages with a number of external organisations including the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the Fisheries Research Development Corporation, to name a few.

Health: Professor Rachel Davey

A Professor of Health Research in the Faculty of Health, Professor Davey’s research focuses on policy-relevant research in areas related to physical activity for health and wellbeing and on the design, delivery and evaluation of complex public health interventions.

She has a FWCI well above world average and 82 per cent of her publications are in top journals. She has been awarded $4.7M and is contributing to a further $1.6M in research income in the last three years and has active linkages with a number of external organisations, including Digital Health CRC, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Capital Health Network.

Social Science: Associate Professor Dr Lain Dare

Associate Professor Dare works in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law; her research interests include natural resource management, environmental politics and community engagement.

She has very strong industry links and has received funding from a range of industry stalwarts such as the NSW Department of Industry, Skills and Regional Development, Murray Darling Basin Authority, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Of her publications, 57 per cent are in the top journals.  

Humanities and Creative Arts: Dr Kate Holland

A Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Design, Dr Holland’s research interests include reporting on mental health issues, media practices, and advocacy.

She has been awarded the prestigious ARC Discovery Early Career Award for the project Mediating Mental Health: An integrated approach to investigating media and social actors.

Dr Holland has published extensively on media representations and public understandings of mental health issues, alcohol and pregnancy, critical/cultural studies perspectives on health communication, bio-communicability, and health activism and resistance.


Citation for Innovative Approaches in Learning and Teaching

This citation is targeted towards teaching staff, either as an individual, a team, or a faculty, who have demonstrated leadership in trialling, piloting or implementing innovative pedagogical approaches, or new teaching strategies, or implemented new technologies that have enhanced students’ learning experiences and/or supported the enhancement of the University’s reputation for innovative teaching.  

Two teams received this citation.

BMW with UC Design

Team members: Assistant Professor Dr Fanke Peng and Ashleigh Peak from the Faculty of Arts and Design.

The Rolfe Classic BMW and UC Design collaboration (2017–18) offered undergraduate design students at the University an excellent work-integrated learning and field-based teaching opportunity that enabled them to engage in creative practice and develop design solutions for real-world challenges. Students have had their designs exhibited in the Design Canberra festival and winners have seen their creative concepts applied to new BWM X3 and X5 vehicles in 2017 and 2018. The partnership has generated strong campaigns for one of the world’s premium car brands and is an excellent example of mutually beneficial industry collaboration.  


Team members: Associate Professor Dr Jane Frost and Kath Sainsbury from the Faculty of Health.  

This award is presented for the development and implementation of a capstone unit which consolidates prior learning in the Bachelor of Nursing degree, through transformative learning strategies designed to promote a culture of belongingness. Students were challenged emotionally and intellectually by content that engaged them in different ways of knowing and explored novel strategies to present content.

Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning

These citations are awarded to academic, general and sessional staff, and institutional associates, who have made significant contributions to student learning in a specific area of responsibility, over a sustained period of no less than two years.

Two teams received these citations.

The team for Co-Design and Healthy Ageing in South Asia

Team members: Assistant Professor Dr Fanke Peng, Dr Raghavendra Gudur and Jess Karchinsky from the Faculty of Arts and Design.

This team developed the highly successful short-term study program, Co-design for Healthy Ageing. Funded through the Australia Government’s New Colombo Mobility Plan, the program brings together students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to research and create new solutions to issues of global significance. The tours have provided transformational personal learning experiences for the students who have engaged in them, increasing their work-ready skills and improving their cross-cultural understanding, while helping address the challenges associated with ageing populations in the Asia Pacific.

Understanding People and Behaviour team

Team members: Dr Sally Kelty and Dr Carly Pymont from the Faculty of Health.

This team is responsible for the Understanding People and Behaviour introductory unit, for providing an outstanding problem-based and experiential learning environment through blending foundational psychological science with real-world, case-based learning in the introductory unit.

It is a new, large introductory unit catering for 500 to 700 students, and is a core Faculty of Health unit, drawing students from all other faculties. It exposes students to psychology in a manner that stimulates the imagination, and motivates students to become lifelong learners and take ownership of their academic journey, regardless of discipline.

Teaching Excellence Award for Programs that Enhance Learning

These awards recognise team contributions to learning and teaching support programs and services that make an outstanding contribution to the quality of student learning and the quality of the student experience of higher education. The programs and services that receive program awards must have demonstrated a team’s effectiveness through rigorous evaluation, and will set benchmarks for similar activities in other institutions.

Two teams have received these awards.

The team for the Namako Project

Team members: Ann Cleary, Dr Milica Muminovic and Associate Professor Dr Hitomi Nakanishi from the Faculty of Arts and Design.

The Namako project is a highly integrated cross-cultural platform of international collaboration evolving from Faculty Led Programs to Japan, as an enhanced learning initiative. It embodies an initiative of international partnership and shared vision for the value of design-led explorative thinking, in the contemporary context of architectural education.

The team for the Initial Teacher Education Program Directors

Team members: Dr Kathy Mann, Assistant Professor Dr Duncan Driver, Clinical Associate Professor Chris Morrisey and Clinical Associate Professor Kerrie Heath from the Faculty of Education.

The team presents innovative and successful work-integrated-learning opportunities that establish a ‘practice ecosystem’ of teaching clinics, Teach Meets, international placement, and two mentoring programs.

These programs in particular provide complementary additional components to the existing practice-based ecosystem within the faculty, and are exemplars for taking the University brand into the community and showcasing the strengths of our preservice teachers, and the quality research-led teaching facilitated by faculty staff, as well as enhancing future development from within the faculty.

Teaching Excellence Early Career Academic

This award recognises the work of an early career academic who has demonstrated excellence in their teaching and made outstanding contributions to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching at the University.

Winner: Natalie Larkins

Ms Larkins is a Lecturer in Communication, and has made outstanding contributions to the expanded Work Integrated Learning program in the Faculty pf Arts and Design, including the development of multi-disciplinary industry projects and supporting the Professional Mindsets online learning module.

Teaching Excellence

This award recognises the work of individuals who have shown excellence in their teaching and who have made outstanding contributions to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching at the University of Canberra.

There are three winners for this award.

Associate Dean Dr Barbara Walsh, Faculty of Arts and Design

Dr Walsh is recognised for the development and oversight of the Work Integrated Learning curricula in the Faculty of Arts and Design, and the generation of industry and community partnerships that benefit student learning. Her innovative approach and focus on the creation of mutually beneficial industry partnerships has delivered many benefits for the University, and most importantly has delivered significant industry exposure for students.

Assistant Professor Dr John Williams, Faculty of Education

Assistant Professor Williams has developed evidence-based, largely innovative teaching approaches and support mechanisms to help his students realise their full potential in their chosen careers. Combining his passion for teaching and health and physical education, as well as embracing innovative teaching practice, John is able to motivate and inspire his students. This is clear in the positive recognition they provide him.

Dr Susan Thwaites, Faculty of Arts and Design

Dr Thwaites is recognised for her commitment to the student experience. Through her teaching, her goal is to unlock students’ love to try something new, explore something extra and reward themselves in discovering their voice, abilities and skills. Dr Thwaites takes a ‘students as partners’ approach, seeking to make them active partners and collaborators in their own learning.

The winners of the University of Canberra’s Research and Teaching Excellence Awards 2019 will go forward as nominees for the Vice Chancellor’s Awards in December.