UWA will continue to play a pivotal role in global research, helping to transform and enrich lives for the better and contributing to important discoveries.
I am pleased to report that in 2016 the University enjoyed outstanding success in research and collaboration, supporting more than 1000 academic staff across a broad range of disciplines.
The high-quality impact of our research was reflected with UWA maintaining a top 100 ranking of global universities for the past five years, as measured by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). Another global indicator, the QS World University Ranking, had UWA ranked in the top 50 in six subject areas for 2016 – civil and structural engineering, mineral and mining, agriculture and forestry, psychology, earth and marine sciences, and anthropology. The School of Music ranked in the top 100 universities in the QS rankings for the first time (ranked number one in Australia), demonstrating the University's comprehensive discipline base.
On 12 February 2016, I shared in the excitement with colleagues on the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves, one of the biggest space discoveries in the past 100 years. The researchers involved in the discovery were recognised by being presented with the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, awarded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. The project team was headed by Professor David Blair and the discovery was showcased during UWA Research Week. Research Week has grown in momentum each year and in 2016 the University hosted more than 4300 visitors and participants across 50 events on campus.
The University received strong support for its research from the major funding councils in 2016. $17.8 million was provided by the Australian Research Council for 42 research projects, including a project that uses deep-sea coral skeletons to predict global-warming patterns and another to test whether resilience to adverse events is influenced by modifying factors that affect how we process information. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) also awarded $22.3 million to UWA for 26 new project grants in the 2016 round, with eight grants valued at more than $1 million, with the largest for a project to study skin infections in Aboriginal children.
UWA's researchers also enjoyed success, receiving a number of prizes and awards. A team of biomedical engineers and doctors, led by Associate Professor Robert McLaughlin and Professor David Sampson, won The Australian newspaper's Innovation Challenge 2015 for developing the world's smallest handheld microscope in a needle that can guide surgeons while they are operating to radically improve cancer surgery.
Professor Sharon Parker's pioneering research on the changing nature of work resulted in her being awarded an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, which is coupled with the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Award for mentoring women in the social sciences. Astrophysicist Dr Danail Obreschkow was recognised as Western Australia's brightest emerging scientist with the award of the 2016 Young Tall Poppy Science Award. Dr Scott Draper, a senior lecturer in the University's School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, was awarded the Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year while Christopher Brennan-Jones, a paediatric audiologist and PhD candidate at the Ear Sciences Centre, was named ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year. Dr Andrew Guzzomi won the Mitsubishi Corporation Engineering Category WA Innovator of the Year Award, in collaboration with plant biologists from our School of Plant Biology and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, for a new tool that makes native seeds easier to handle for regenerating mine sites and degraded agricultural landscapes.
The University continued to invest in world-class research infrastructure and this was highlighted by the completed construction of the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre building on the Perth campus finishing construction, which included the installation of a 26-tonne centrifuge in the facility. The Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre complements a facility at Waterman's Bay and will significantly advance Australia's marine science capacity, capability and profile.
As we move towards a new year, I am confident UWA will continue to play a pivotal role in global research, helping to transform and enrich lives for the better and contributing to important discoveries.
Professor Robyn Owens
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)