UNSW Alumni Awards celebrate 50 years of tremendous achievements

10 Nov 2022
UNSW Alumni Awards celebrate 50 years of tremendous achievements

The Chair of the Board of Directors at Tesla, a human rights lawyer, and an advocate of women in defence and STEM are some of the UNSW graduates recognised in the 50th annual UNSW Alumni Awards.

UNSW Sydney has announced its 2022 Alumni Award winners at a gala event, celebrating 50 years since the presentation of the first Alumni Awards. Previous award recipients include actress Rebel Wilson, former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar. 

The awards celebrate the achievements of UNSW alumni with established careers and those at the beginning of their career journey. Since 1972, the University has recognised over 250 trailblazers, pioneers, thought leaders and community heroes.

UNSW alumni from an array of backgrounds and disciplines were nominated for the 2022 UNSW Alumni Awards. Of the 177 nominations, seven distinguished alumni received awards.

The UNSW Chancellor, David Gonski, said: “As the world has changed, so have our graduates and their achievements, rising to meet the needs of our nation and beyond. The cumulative impact on society of these highly talented people cannot be underestimated, and today we honour their impressive contributions.”

The UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs, said: “I continue to be awe-struck by the calibre and achievements of our UNSW alumni, particularly those who are recognised in this incredibly special way. The Alumni Awards are such an important part of our ongoing engagement with alumni, honouring our graduates for their success. It is our privilege to be able to say UNSW is the University they chose.” 

Dr Robyn Denholm

Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Alumni Achievement 

Robyn Denholm is a leading global technology executive, holding multiple positions as Chair of the Board of Directors of Tesla, Operating Partner of Blackbird Ventures, and Chair of The Technology Council of Australia, launched in 2021 with an ambition to get 1.2 million people into Australian tech jobs by 2030.

“I believe working in technology represents one of the greatest opportunities for Australia in the 21st century,” Dr Denholm said. “Most crucially and why I hope to impart a sense of optimism for the next generation is that tech jobs have the ability to solve some of the most complex problems of our time. It matters for this generation, but also gives hope for them to solve problems and improve the world for generations to come.”

Her global experience encompasses leadership roles across a range of leading companies, including Telstra, Juniper Networks, and Sun Microsystems. In 2019, Dr Denholm was awarded a Doctor of Business (Honoris Causa) from UNSW.

Dr Aengus Tran

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Dr Aengus Tran is the Co-Founder and CEO of harrison.ai, a Sydney med-tech company that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to build powerful tools for clinicians that help scale the global capacity of health care. He trained as a medical doctor at the UNSW and is also a skilled AI engineer with a deep passion for applying the latest advancement in technology to save lives.

“As a medical student something I always thought about was how I can scale the art of practice of medicine on the global stage,” Dr Tran said. 

Together with his brother Dimitry Tran, Dr Tran is leading the team at harrison.ai toward an ambitious goal of improving the quality of care for 1 million patients every day through the collective reach of the products they have built by 2025.

Gabby Costigan MBE

Professional Achievement

Gabby Costigan is Group Managing Director, Business Development for BAE Systems and advocate for championing women in defence and women in STEM across Australia. After graduating with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering Gabby joined the Australian Army, eventually retiring as a Colonel after a distinguished career that included experience commanding logistic operations for both Australian and US deployed military forces.

She was previously the Chief Executive Officer of BAE Systems Australia, the largest defence and security company in Australia and the Chair of the Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service. Ms Costigan is also one of two Australian members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Committee (ABAC) responsible for supporting and promoting Australian interests across the Asia Pacific region, with a particular focus on STEM and women in business.

“I hope through this award I can continue to be a role model certainly for young women but for all students that are interested in studying STEM,” Ms Costigan said.

Dr Mayooran Namasivayam

Young Alumni Award

Dr Mayooran Namasivayam is a staff specialist cardiologist and cardiac imaging specialist at the St. Vincent’s Hospital Campus. He is the Associate Director of Echocardiography at St. Vincent’s Hospital and is actively involved in the structural heart interventional program, having performed over 1000 transoesophageal echocardiography procedures.

Dr Namasivayam graduated medical school from UNSW with First Class Honours, undertaking internal medicine and specialist cardiology training at St. Vincent’s Hospital. He completed a PhD in cardiovascular physiology at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, St. Vincent’s Hospital and UNSW.

“One of the things I love the most about my work is seeing the reward of a patient’s journey where they get better, to be part of the team that helps them get through that difficult time in their life and help provide them with a better quantity and quality of life is a great feeling,” Dr Namasivayam said.

Professor Michelle Coote

Research and Teaching Achievement 

Professor Coote is a graduate of UNSW, where she completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in industrial chemistry in 1995 and a PhD in polymer chemistry in 2000. Following postdoctoral fellowships in polymer physics at the University of Durham, UK, and computational chemistry, at the ANU, she established her own research group in 2004.

“I love finding out new things about the world and I love seeing an idea come to fruition, getting the experimental proof that it’s working is a bit of a kick,” Prof. Coote said.

She is a Georgina Sweet ARC Laureate Fellow, an Executive Editor of JACS, an elected fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and 2021 RACI Leighton Memorial Medal recipient. Her group uses theory and experiment to design new synthetic methods and catalysts, with an emphasis on non-traditional methods of bond activation using electricity and light.

Patricia Adjei

Art and Culture

Patricia Adjei graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Law from UNSW and is the Head of First Nations Arts and Culture at the Australia Council for the Arts. She is also a 2018 Churchill Fellowship recipient, investigating the practical application of laws in the USA and Panama that protect Indigenous cultural rights. Ms Adjei has worked on developing the protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts.

“One of the things I love about my work is advocating on behalf of and working with First Nations artists and arts organisations across the country,” Ms Adjei said.

In 2010, Ms Adjei worked at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva as the 2010 Indigenous Intellectual Property Law Fellow. She is a published author, having written several articles and a chapter on Indigenous cultural intellectual property rights.

Simone Abel

Social Impact and Service

Simone Abel holds a Master of Laws with a focus on international law and human rights from UNSW, and has published articles on human rights law issues, including an award-winning one in 2012 on indirect discrimination. She is an NSW licensed solicitor and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts from UNSW.

“Sometimes we think of the law as something quite static but actually the law is something that’s a creative tool for achieving social justice and I really learnt that at UNSW,” Ms Abel said.

Ms Abel was Capital Punishment Justice Project’s CEO from 2020, an Australian NGO that works with partners in the Asia Pacific region to promote the abolition of the death penalty and aid those facing execution. The most thrilling moments of her career to date have been working to support a case in which three individuals were exonerated and released from a death row abroad and getting to know the Afghans at risk of execution that CPJP has advocated for and helped bring to safety in third world countries.

To learn more about the 2022 UNSW Alumni Awards winners click here.