April 2023

6 April 2023

Welcome to the April edition of From the VC’s Desk.

I am Acting VC this week while John is in South Asia to meet with University partners and attend events including the formal launch of our partnership with Horizon Campus in Sri Lanka. We are also welcoming the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences as a third Indian academic partner in the Asian Smart Cities Research Innovation Network, a collaboration of La Trobe University’s Centre for Technology Infusion with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur and the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS) Pilani.

Before I share some news from across the University, I’d like to remind you about the major milestone we’re celebrating this year – the 150th anniversary of tertiary education in Bendigo. I’m looking forward to the procession through the streets of Bendigo on Friday 21 April with colleagues from La Trobe and Bendigo Kangan Institute joining government staff and notable alumni, including from our antecedent institutions. We look forward to sharing highlights with you following this celebration event.

I’d now like to take the opportunity to share some of the recent achievements and activities from our research and industry engagement portfolio.

Delegation from India

We had a very productive day hosting colleagues from IIT Kanpur at our Melbourne campus on 14 March. We established the IIT Kanpur-La Trobe University Research Academy in 2020 and the visit was an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve achieved to date, discuss priorities for deeper engagement in select research areas, and explore potential for broader engagement including coursework and student exchange. During the day, we met with some of the University’s industry partners and showed our Indian colleagues La Trobe’s unique research infrastructure, including the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science and our Physics and Engineering facilities.

A Premier design

Congratulations to Angela Taft, Leesa Hooker, and Kirsty Forsdike, who collaborated with colleagues at Monash University’s XYX Lab and RMIT University to develop the TramLab Toolkits that won the Design Strategy category of the 2022 Victorian Premier’s Design Awards. The project was an outstanding success in communicating the value of gender-sensitive, solution-based approaches to urban design and policy. It produced four Toolkits addressing gender-sensitive communication campaigns, placemaking, data collection and training, to create safer public transport systems for women and girls in Victoria.

Distinguished honour

I was really pleased to see our distinguished geneticist Jenny Graves was awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s Ruby Payne-Scott Medal and Lecture. Jenny is in rare company: in 2006, she was awarded one of the Academy’s other highest honours, the Macfarlane Burnet Medal.

Jenny has arguably done more than any other scientist to show that Australian animals are a powerful source of information for investigating the evolution and mechanisms of sex chromosomes. She is rightly known as one of the world’s foremost experts in the comparative genomics of vertebrates.

Award winning scientist

Warm congratulations to Stephanie Gras from LIMS who has just been announced as the winner of the 2023 Shimadzu Research Medal from the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Stephanie will present the prestigious Shimadzu Medal Lecture at the annual ASBMB conference.

Stephanie joined La Trobe in 2021 and is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and head of the Viral and Structural Immunology lab in LIMS. Her research is instrumental in providing a better understanding of the first key event in T cell-mediated immunity towards pathogens and could lead to the development of more targeted and effective immunotherapies for a range of diseases.

A Nobel cause

Congratulations to Ifrah Abdullahi, a Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre and the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, who is one of ten young scientists representing Australia at the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting that is being held in Germany this year after a delay due to COVID-19. Ifrah investigates the health and developmental outcomes of children of immigrant backgrounds. She will have an opportunity to share her research and ideas at a highly prestigious gathering of Nobel Laureates and emerging scientists from around the world. Well done Ifrah!

Promoting good health

Well done to the team from the Holsworth Research Initiative at our Bendigo campus, who collaborated with Bendigo Health for the Making every consultation count project that has won the 2022 VicHealth Leading Health Promotion Research Award. The project explored health and wellbeing outcomes through the activation of a health promotion service at a regional hospital and was led by Stephen Barrett from Bendigo Health, who is an Adjunct Research Fellow with the Holsworth Research Initiative.

Bound for Japan

Bec Strating and her team in La Trobe Asia do terrific work including presenting a fantastic seminar program and the La Trobe Asia Brief series that provides a platform for commentary, research, and analysis of policy issues important in the Asian region. Bec is also a project lead for the Blue Security Program that produces working papers, commentaries, and scholarly publications on maritime security for audiences across the Indo-Pacific. La Trobe Asia is collaborating with King’s College London and Kyushu University to lead a group of 12 academics to Japan later this month for a workshop at Kyushu University and meetings with the Japanese Coastguard and others to consider ways to strengthen maritime security order in the region. I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of this important work.

Women in sport

The huge expansion in interest and participation in women’s sport in recent years means there is a real need for more research on women in sport. La Trobe is leading the way – last year, the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre presented Australia’s first Women in Sport Congress, in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport. Anthea Clarke and Kirsty Forsdike have now established a Women in Sport Research Interest Group at La Trobe. I encourage you to get involved if you’re interested in research related to women in sport, which can cover a broad range of topics and disciplines – from leadership, inclusion, and accessibility to medicine, sport management, media, and coaching.

In closing

As you can see, there is a lot of impactful research and industry engagement activity happening across the University.

There are always opportunities to hear about the work being done at La Trobe. On 14 and 15 April, the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre is presenting a two-day symposium on running injuries with world-renowned researchers Rich Willy and Christian Barton. And on 20 April, the La Trobe Business School and our Industry Engagement team are co-presenting a webinar on hybrid entrepreneurship with Professor of Entrepreneurship Alex Martiz.

For now, I hope you have a chance to relax with friends and family over the Easter break. I look forward to seeing you at our research and industry engagement events throughout the year.


Professor Susan Dodds, Acting Vice-Chancellor