6 May 2022
Welcome to this special edition of the Vice-Chancellor’s monthly blog. I am Acting VC this week while Professor Dewar is having a well-deserved break from work, so I thought I’d share some of our recent achievements this month.
I hope you had a chance to enjoy time with family and friends during Easter and could take advantage of the opportunity to extend the break to Anzac Day. It hasn’t taken long to pick up where we left off and there’s been lots of activity happening across the University since we returned to campus last week.
I’d like to mention a few recent highlights from across our campuses and also take the chance to highlight some of the great work happening in our Research and Industry Engagement portfolio.
Best of the year
Well done to Ruth Gamble, Gerald Roche and Lauren Gawne on winning the 2021 Boyer Prize for their paper International relations and the Himalaya: connecting ecologies, cultures and geopolitics co-authored with Alexander Davis from UWA. It was chosen as the best article published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs in 2021. You can read their article here.
We can all be very proud of La Trobe alumna Jana Stewart, who has made history as Labor’s first Victorian Aboriginal senator. Jana is a graduate of The Bouverie Centre’s Indigenous Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy and Masters of Family Therapy, and has also worked for the Indigenous Team at The Bouverie Centre for some five years.
Jana’s husband, Marcus Stewart, is also an alumnus of The Bouverie Indigenous Graduate Certificate. Marcus is Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the body elected by Indigenous Victorians to help develop a treaty framework.
Getting to zero
It was brilliant to see our Mildura and Shepparton campuses are the first Victorian university campuses to receive Net Zero certification from Climate Active. This puts us in a great position to deliver our $75 million commitment to become carbon neutral across every campus by 2029.
Making an impact
Our commitment to net zero is one of the reasons La Trobe has performed well in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which assessed 1,406 universities around the world on their contribution toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve been ranked first overall in Victoria, third in Australia and fourth in the world for contributing to Good Health and Wellbeing, and in the top 10 globally for Gender Equality, and Decent Work and Economic Growth – reflecting La Trobe’s mission to improve quality of life, health outcomes, and the environment.
Moving on to the Research and Industry Engagement portfolio, I’d like to remind you about our Research Theme Leads who are working hard to bring together researchers from across our Schools and campuses and develop research programs that address the core objectives laid out in our Research 2030 plan.
Our Theme Leads are: Katie Holmes (Social change and equity), Richard Gray (Healthy people, families and communities), Patrick Humbert (Understanding and preventing disease), Nick Bond (Resilient environments and communities), and Monika Doblin and Tony Bacic (Sustainable food and agriculture). You can read the Research Theme Plans here.
Our researchers in Bendigo, who are expanding the understanding of human diseases such as cancer, have received a boost through a generous donation from Dr Bill and Mrs Carol Holsworth. The donation will support Donna Whelan to continue her terrific program that is developing light-based imaging approaches to visualise the triggers of human disease at a molecular level. The Holsworth Biomedical Research Initiative will support a research team with expertise in molecular and cell biology, optics and physical chemistry; employ two postdoctoral scientists; and provide students with opportunities to work on unique research projects.
Congratulations to Tony Bacic and his team in the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food on being awarded $5 million from the Australian Government’s Regional Research Collaboration Program to establish a ‘protected cropping’ research and training project with industry partners Cann Group Limited. The project will introduce innovations in medicinal cannabis production that can be applied to other agricultural industries – it’s a great example of working with industry partners to develop projects that make the most of our complementary skills and infrastructure. Other industry partners include training and compliance experts PharmOut, who will help to establish a skilled agricultural-technology workforce; plant imaging and growth systems experts Photon Systems Instruments; and SpexAI, which builds smart multispectral sensors integrated with AI for the cannabis industry.
Diamond in the rough
Chris Pakes is involved in a terrific industry partnership that is pioneering new diamond fabrication techniques to accelerate the development of a low-cost, portable alternative to supercomputers. La Trobe and RMIT researchers are working with Australian-German quantum computing hardware company Quantum Brilliance to engineer a diamond computer chip that supports diamond quantum computers. It uses university expertise in diamond growth, surface imaging and engineering, and Quantum Brilliance’s industry experience and manufacturing capabilities – another example of the benefits of pooling the talents of the university and industry sectors.
Another great project being led by researchers at the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food promises to help address global food insecurity. Our researchers have worked with food and beverage company PepsiCo to develop a new ‘oat transcriptome’ that is now freely available to oat breeders and biotechnologists around the world. It will support higher-yielding, more reliable crops that are resilient and nutrient-rich.
Dog or dingo?
Finally, well done to Bill Ballard, who has received extensive media coverage for his work leading an international research consortium that has sequenced the genome of the pure Desert Dingo, showing that pure dingoes are an ‘intermediary’ between wolves and domestic dog breeds. The work will help in developing ways to monitor dingo health and ensure the long-term survival of this Australian apex predator to maintain a balanced and healthy ecosystem.
That’s it for another month at La Trobe, one which has included some great examples of our research collaborations with industry partners.
To find out more about initiatives happening in the Research and Industry Engagement portfolio, please feel free to email me or get in touch with our Industry Engagement team or the Research Office.
Professor Susan Dodds, Acting Vice-Chancellor