The benefits of the UNSW Scientia Fellowship

31 May 2018
Scientia Fellows

Inside UNSW spoke to three UNSW academics who were successful in their Fellowship application about their experiences as UNSW Scientia Fellows. They joined the program as internal appointments in 2018 and described the opportunity to focus on research, develop leadership skills and facilitate global connections as invaluable.

Senior Lecturer Kyllie Cripps, Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law; Associate Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko, Engineering and Information Technology, UNSW Canberra and Associate Professor Claire Vajdic, Centre for Big Data Research, UNSW Medicine.

Kyllie applied for a Scientia Fellowship so she could focus more time on her research into Indigenous family violence. It is work she feels passionately about. “I applied because I wanted to dedicate more of my time to this research. It allows me the opportunity to build and sustain my engagement with Indigenous communities, to communicate the experiences of Indigenous women and families dealing with family violence, and to investigate how current laws, policies and practices hinder the choices available to women to escape and heal from violence”. Kyllie’s research is particularly interested focused on what works, and what doesn’t work, in appropriately responding to and preventing violence in Indigenous communities. She is also interested in the international comparative experiences of First Nations, recognising that solutions in these contexts may be worth considering, with some adaptation, in Australia. “The Fellowship offers support to facilitate knowledge exchange, enabling us to share information to support meaningful change. This is a wonderful and timely opportunity to respond to issues pertinent to the Indigenous community.”

Associate Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko feels the Fellowship has transformed his view of what an academic should be. When he developed his strategic Fellowship plan, he felt lost. “At first, I was stuck – but then I realised there is a whole world out there. I can develop not just as a researcher, but as a leader. This concept of leadership goes beyond managing a team; it’s broader and more complex. The professional development opportunities of the Fellowship program will help me to create a vision, inspire, and equip me with the skills to communicate why my research is important. I realise the importance of engaging with the community, bringing the results of my research back to that community so we can solve real problems.” Andrey’s research focuses on optics, designing structures with optical technology to make lenses thinner, improve image quality, and create better sensors. His research has potential benefits in areas of telecommunications, medical research and defence. The Scientia Fellowship opened opportunities not just for professional development, but industry engagement, networking, and sharing of his ideas across disciplines.

Associate Professor Claire Vajdic is a cancer epidemiologist leading a program of research on the causes and consequences of cancer, and disparities in cancer care. Her vision is to use ‘big data’ to support precision cancer prevention and cancer care. Claire came to population health data science after a career in clinical research. She values her research career as it allows her to work closely with clinicians, patients and their families to answer the questions that are most important to them. Most recently Claire has worked on a national, multi-institutional collaboration that included data from more than 365,000 Australians. This project demonstrated, for the first time, the higher modifiable burden of two of the most common cancers, lung cancer and bowel cancer, in men compared with women. This project also highlighted the vast numbers of cancers that could be prevented if no Australians were overweight or obese. Claire finds the career development and opportunity for global connection empowering. “As I have come to better understand its full potential, I am most excited about the generous support package. The sole purpose of the package is my career development. I now have a career coach, and I have planned a four-year program of targeted hands-on workshops, conferences and professional development. The Fellowship has allowed me to plan international sabbatical visits, something that was previously unobtainable. During these visits, I will plan new collaborations and grant applications, and cement alliances with other teams and jurisdictions working with real-world health data.”

The Scientia Fellowship Program offers unique opportunities for academics, allowing them to focus on research, strategically developing their profile and skills while facilitating local to global connections. Fifteen of the 2019 positions have been reserved for priority areas including Indigenous researchers, Interdisciplinary research and Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine.

Applications for the 2019 intake close on 9 July. For more information, visit the Scientia Fellowship Program and Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme website.