Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs - 23 November 2021

23 Nov 2021
Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs - 23 November 2021

Dear colleagues

Well, what an incredible couple of weeks it has been in what feels like awards season for the UNSW community. Hot on the heels of UNSW reaching our Top 50 global rankings goal in the Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (ARTU) and Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla being named 2022 NSW Australian of the Year, 36 UNSW academics were named Highly Cited Researchers 2021 by Clarivate, taking their places among the world’s most influential researchers in their fields. Scientia Professor Justin Gooding was awarded the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s 2021 Applied Research Award. The winners of the Australian Mental Health Prize 2021 were announced. Four UNSW colleagues were awarded Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Higher Degree Research. Fifty-six graduates were selected for the Dean’s Award for Outstanding PhD Theses. And in exciting news for those in Sydney over summer, UNSW was announced as the new Education Partner of the iconic Sydney Festival. It is quite an impressive list. I congratulate our colleagues for these wonderful accomplishments that bring into focus the UNSW vision of improving lives around the globe and the valuable contributions universities make to society.

Yesterday’s announcement that fully vaccinated international students can return to NSW from 1 December without having to apply for an exemption or quarantine is welcome news and will be a tremendous relief to all our off-shore students who have shown such patience and resilience since the start of the pandemic. Our international students are a highly valued part of the UNSW community – they enrich our campuses, bringing both social and academic benefits, and they make a significant contribution to our economy. We are delighted to be finally welcoming both our local and international students back on campus and we are planning our biggest O-week ever to celebrate and help all our students reconnect, including those still unable to return.

UNSW Sydney among the Top 50 universities in the world

When we commenced the UNSW 2025 Strategy in 2015, our goal of joining the top 50 universities in the world, moving up the rankings from our place within the top 100, was an ambitious target.

As I announced last week, in achieving a ranking of 50 in the Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (ARTU) 2021, UNSW has met our goal four years ahead of schedule. Our rise from 87 in the world in 2013 marks a trajectory that very few universities in the Top 100 have traced during the last decade.

When we set our Top 50 goal in 2015, we realised that the rankings do not measure many of the altruistic, idealistic aims of the Strategy which are important to us. But the global rankings are for now the best method we have to compare the quality, reputation and achievements of UNSW with other universities around the world.

During my almost seven years at UNSW, I have been impressed by the world-class calibre of our people. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to all in our community – students, staff, alumni and supporters – who, by sharing a commitment to our vision for global impact, share in our global success.

Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla is 2022 NSW Australian of the Year

It is wonderful indeed that Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla is the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year. Veena’s absolute determination to improve our environmental, economic and social wellbeing have drawn many accolades: she is known as an international trailblazer who is revolutionising recycling science.

Veena joins an illustrious list of exceptional Australians whose contributions to our society are worthy of tribute. Please join me in congratulating Veena on this prestigious accomplishment and wishing her well when the national award for Australian of the Year is announced on 25 January 2022.

Royal Australian Chemical Institute Award

Scientia Professor Justin Gooding from UNSW Science has received a prestigious honour from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) in the 2021 Applied Research Award. This award, one of only a handful of national awards bestowed by RACI, recognises Justin’s work with startup companies, developing commercial diagnostic devices such as a glucose meter and a 3D bioprinter that creates 3D cell cultures. Justin leads a research team of more than 30 researchers with an interest in surface modification and nanotechnology for biosensors, biomaterials, electron transfer and medical applications. This award is fitting acknowledgment of his research and its application: Justin’s work in commercialisation and his partnerships with industry are key to research translation and its subsequent benefits to society. Congratulations, Justin.

Thirty-six UNSW academics among the world’s most influential in their fields

The 2021 Highly Cited Researchers (HCR) list published by Clarivate demonstrates the breadth of world-leading expertise among our colleagues. Thirty-six UNSW academics feature among the world’s most influential researchers in their fields in this year’s prestigious compilation. The HCR list identifies researchers who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. In a remarkable achievement, two of our Scientia Professors, Professor Liming Dai and Professor Louisa Degenhardt, were listed in two separate fields each: Liming Dai for the second consecutive year. This year’s HCRs achievement sees UNSW as equal second among the Go8 and an impressive 23rd among universities worldwide.

Please join me in congratulating our HCR colleagues, listed here by Faculty.

UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture

Professor Deborah Lupton; Scientia Professor Mattheos Santamouris.

UNSW Engineering

Scientia Professor Rose Amal, Professor Cyrille Boyer, Scientia Professor Liming Dai (x2), Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak, Scientia Professor Martin Green, Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, Dr Yi Liu, Dr Derrick Wing Kwan Ng, Associate Professor Da-Wei Wang, Professor Thomas Wiedmann.

UNSW Medicine & Health

Scientia Professor Helen Christensen, Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt (x2), Scientia Professor Gregory Dore, Professor Bruce Neal, Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic, Dr Simon Rosenbaum, Professor Stuart Tangye, Professor Philip Ward, Professor Mark Woodward.

UNSW Science

Professor Lisa Alexander, Scientia Professor Richard Bryant, Professor Marcel Dinger, Scientia Professor Matthew England, Associate Professor Alex Sen Gupta, Professor John Mattick, Professor Shinichi Nakagawa, Professor Peter Steinberg, Dr Ying Ping Wang, Professor David Warton, Professor Tom Wu.

UNSW Canberra

Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko.

UNSW’s new partnership with Sydney Festival

Among the many delights of summer in Sydney, Sydney Festival is one of the most iconic and one that I shall miss when I return to the UK. In exciting news, last week it was announced that UNSW will be Sydney Festival’s new Education Partner for the 2022 festival program.

This partnership will open opportunities for UNSW academics to feature on Sydney Festival stages, to connect with new audiences, to engage with our broad UNSW community, and for students to volunteer for a range of roles during the festival. There is also an exclusive 20% discount available for UNSW staff.

I encourage you to find out more about our partnership and the vibrant festival program for 2022 – including ‘The Reckoning’, a series of four talks curated by the UNSW Centre for Ideas, in which UNSW academics will engage with some of Australia’s leading minds.

Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Higher Degree Research

In this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Higher Degree Research, UNSW acknowledges four colleagues for outstanding supervision and leadership in training our higher degree by research (HDR) candidates. Supervising, training and mentoring our HDR candidates is crucial in realising the enormous potential of research to help society tackle great challenges.

Congratulations to our four award winners for 2021:

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision

Associate Professor Belinda Ferrari (School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences)

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision (Emerging Supervisor Category)

Associate Professor Ziv Hameiri (School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering)

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Leadership

Associate Professor Maria Markoulli (School of Optometry and Vision Science)

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Promoting Industry Engagement in Higher Degree Research

Scientia Professor Justin Gooding (School of Chemistry)

Deans’ Awards for Outstanding PhD Theses

I congratulate the 56 recipients of Deans’ Awards for Outstanding PhD Theses, for theses submitted and examined in Terms 1 and 2 of 2021. To receive this award, candidates must produce a thesis that requires only minimal corrections, receives outstanding and/or excellent levels of achievement for all examination criteria, and in the opinion of both examiners is in the top 10% of PhD theses they have examined. This is an incredibly high standard to achieve. The recipients and their thesis titles are published here: I invite you to peruse a list that perhaps contains the UNSW HCRs of the future!

Dual winners of the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize

For the sixth year, the Australian Mental Health Prize has recognised outstanding Australians who have made major contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention and treatment of mental illness. This year, two winners were announced: Honor Eastly, artist, writer, podcaster and mental health advocate; and Professor Ian Hickie AM, Co-Director, Health and Policy, the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre. 

Since the School of Psychiatry (UNSW Medicine & Health) established the Australian Mental Health Prize in 2016, the prize has celebrated a great many Australians who have dedicated their careers to promoting mental health or preventing and treating mental illness. Importantly, it also aims to raise public awareness of and normalise discussion about mental health – shining a spotlight on an issue that should never be in the shadows.

You can read more about Ms Eastly’s and Professor Hickie’s prize-winning work here.

I’ll close today with a reminder to continue to refer to our COVID-19 Resources website for information about our Return to Campus Roadmap. Thank you for your diligence in following our COVID-19-safe procedures.

Best wishes, stay well