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2014 Research Award Winners

Excellence in Research – Science & Engineering

Professor Ian Paulsen, Faculty of Science

Professor Ian Paulsen, Faculty of Science of Engineering

An Ace Up Their Sleeve: Characterisation of Acel, A New Type of Bacterial Drug Efflux Pump

Drug resistant "superbugs" are a growing threat to our healthcare system with some pathogenic bacteria now resistant to all available treatment options. We applied high-throughput genomics methods to study antiseptic resistance in the hospital pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii, and identified AceI, a novel drug efflux protein that makes the bacteria resistant by pumping antiseptics out of the cell. This is the first new type of bacterial drug efflux pump discovered in more than a decade. This discovery opens up the possibility of developing inhibitor compounds that could block this pump and reverse the drug resistance.


Excellence in Research – Social Sciences & Humanities

Professor David Christian, Faculty of Arts

Professor David Christian, Faculty of Arts

The Big History Project: Education for the Anthropocene

This project builds on the lead researcher’s innovative concept of ‘Big History’: the study of the past at universal scales. In the spirit of E.O. Wilson’s idea of ‘Consilience’, the Big History Project has constructed a coherent, rigorous and teachable trans-disciplinary narrative linking the natural sciences and the humanities. Many Universities already teach versions of the Big History narrative. Between 2011 and 2014, with the support of Bill Gates, the research team has built a free online high school syllabus in Big History that is now taught in over 300 schools in the USA, Australia, Korea, the Netherlands and elsewhere.


Excellence in Research – Business, Management and Economics

Dr David Gray, Faculty of Business and Economics

Dr David Gray, Faculty of Business and Economics

State of the Mobile Nation

A consumer insights research “State of the Mobile Nation” program was developed in an Enterprise partnership between Amaysim Australia Pty Ltd and Macquarie University’s Department of Marketing & Management. This program provided an opportunity to initiate thought leadership to facilitate the removal of market distortions in the cell phone services market. It was used to provide consumers with independent, evidence-based input into telecommunications regulatory policy making. The results of the research exceeded expectations producing four papers (three conference plus an A level journal article), national media exposure and acceptance as a national finalist in the 2012 Australian Marketing Institute Awards.


Excellence in Higher Degree Research - Science & Engineering

Thomas Meaney, Faculty of Science

Thomas Meaney, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Next generation three-dimensional quantum circuits

Quantum information promises unprecedented speedup of complex algorithms and fundamentally secure communication. Photons, the smallest indivisible particle of light, are the only feasible choice for distributing quantum information over macroscopic distances. The powerful tool box of integrated photonics offer scalable photon generation and manipulation. My thesis work presents laser written waveguide circuits to manipulate single photons, demonstrating superb quantum interference in 3D structures, and for the first time combine multiple integrated photon sources - moving towards on-demand photon generation.


Excellence in Higher Degree Research – Social Sciences, Business & Humanities

Dr Mirko Farina, Faculty of Human Sciences

Mr Mirko Farina, Faculty of Human Sciences

Foundations for a new theory of cultural learning

The main goal of Mirko's research in the philosophy of cognitive science is to investigate the relevance of psycho-historical theories of cultural learning for the socio-technological scaffolding, development, and phylogenetic evolution of human cognition. Mirko's research brings together results from four different but highly interconnected interdisciplinary fields: 1) ontogeny of cognitive systems; 2) phylogeny of cognition; 3) philosophy of perception; and 4) distributed cognition. By analysing the philosophical and empirical issues underlying these fields, his research aims to develop an integrative, richly multidimensional (and truly multidisciplinary) framework to understand the phenomenon of cultural learning across and along different timescales.


Early Career Researcher of the Year – Science & Engineering

Dr Elizabeth Madin , Faculty of Science

Dr Elizabeth Madin , Faculty of Science and Engineering

Monitoring coral reef health from space

Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by many impacts. Many are large, remote, and difficult to monitor, limiting our ability to assess reef health. Harvesting predatory fishes has major impacts on other reef species. This project will scale up from what is known about how both fishing and marine reserves indirectly affect herbivore behaviour over small scales by quantifying how these interactions can ultimately shape the larger reef landscape. By integrating remote sensing technology with behavioural theory, I am developing a novel method of using satellite imagery to remotely monitor reef health. This may provide a valuable low-cost, global-scale conservation tool.


Early Career Researcher of the Year – Social Sciences, Business & Humanities

Dr Blake Dear, Faculty of Human Sciences

Dr Blake Dear, Faculty of Human Sciences

Developing an online Chronic Pain Management Program

One in 5 Australians will experience chronic pain in their life and approximately 1 in 10 Australians will experience a level of pain that leads to significant levels of anxiety, depression and disability. Unfortunately, research indicates Australians with chronic pain are missing out on specialist assessment and treatment, which often includes chronic pain self-management programs, due to long waiting lists and the limited availability of services. Because of this we have developed and are now extensively evaluating an internet-delivered pain management program, the Pain Course, which provides helpful information and teaches practical, evidence-based, skills for managing pain, anxiety and depression.


The Jim Piper Award for Excellence in Research Leadership

Professor Quentin Parker, Faculty of Science

Professor Quentin Parker, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Professor Quentin Parker joined Macquarie in 2002 as the joint AAO/MQ lecturer in astronomy from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. Research activities are mainly in Wide Field Astronomy and astronomical instrumentation, including large-scale galaxy surveys, supernova remnants and especially Planetary Nebulae (PN). He has supervised 13 PhD students to successful completion since 2005 and is director of the ERA 5 MQ research centre in Astronomy, Astrophysics & Astrophotonics (MQAAAstro). The MQ PN group he leads is arguably the world’s strongest due to many major results (e.g. of the 2000+ PN articles since 2008 MQ group members are on 6 of the top 15 in terms of impact).