Notes From the Campus

Filed under News, UoN ~ by Press on  12 Oct 2019

A new dawn for Australian minerals

A new $35 million Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence based at the University of Newcastle will make mineral processing more environmentally sustainable and do much to secure the future availability of the metals we depend on for modern living. 

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals will work towards achieving zero-emission mining by doubling energy and water productivity, and reducing the loss of high value metals during processing by up to 90 per cent.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said the research will have lasting environmental benefits.  

We’re delighted to receive this significant funding, which will enable us to carry out world-leading research into developing more efficient and environmentally-friendly mineral processing.

This is a prime example of how our University is at the forefront of providing solutions to major environmental issues.”

The Centre will be led by Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin and will see the University of Newcastle collaborate with researchers from seven Australian universities, CSIRO, industry partner organisations, as well as leading international researchers.

Some minerals are becoming difficult to access and extract, while high usage of energy and water in processing make it expensive and environmentally demanding,” Professor Galvin said.

These pressures make it urgent that we transform the value addition of mineral processing, known as beneficiation, to achieve a step-change reduction in the environmental footprint.

Through this investment, more than 70 PhD students and 15 post-doctoral researchers will work towards achieving ‘transformational’ solutions, working across multiple research disciplines.

For the students, it offers a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to be part of a world-first project that can make a practical difference to the future of this planet.

This new dawn will ensure a sustainable and competitive future for a critical Australian industry, involving a whole new generation of scientists and engineers.” 

Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin and Lucy Wicks MP touring the laboratory at the Newcastle Institute for Energy Resources

The funding was announced at the University of Newcastle’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) by Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks.

The centre will closely engage with industry partners and end-users, establishing new technologies, chemical reagents, and innovative processes to transform the minerals industry,” Ms. Wicks said.

This project will also train a new generation of scientists and research leaders to help keep Australia ahead in the global mining innovation race.

Major funding to train the next generation of surgical researchers and reduce surgical infections.

Academic surgeons from across Australia have been awarded more than $780,000 from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to investigate the causes of surgical site infections and train the next generation of surgical researchers.

The team will be led by surgeon Dr Peter Pockney, Senior Lecturer in the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and will include researchers from the United Kingdom in a large trial in emergency abdominal surgery patients.

A surgical site infection develops in the part of the body where the surgery took place. It is one of the most common complications associated with surgery and occurs in up to one quarter of emergency abdominal surgery cases.[1]

Dr. Pockney will receive an MRFF grant of $782,256 for an Australian clinical trial, which is part of a multi-centre, multi-national randomised controlled trial of single-use negative pressure dressings used to dress wounds at the end of emergency surgery.

Our grant success will enable us to see if we can reduce surgical site infections, a distressingly common occurrence that affects around one in four patients undergoing emergency abdominal surgery,” Dr. Pockney said.

This trial will consist of patients receiving a new type of active wound dressing. We hope to reduce the impact of surgical site infection, such as extended hospital stays, extended ongoing wound care, and higher mortality rates in this patient group.

In addition to the potential clinical benefit of the trial, this project will also train a new generation of surgical researchers, as the trial is designed to be carried out by surgical trainees rather than by established clinicians and researchers. Our role will be to make sure that the trainees learn first-hand how to conduct high quality, patient focussed, safe and appropriate trials aimed directly at improving patient outcomes.”

Dr. Peter Pockney

Dr. Pockney will lead a team of Australian researchers from the Clinical Trials ANZ organisation, sponsored by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, in partnership with researchers based at the universities of Birmingham and Manchester in England.

Australian trainees and surgeons taking part in this trial include clinicians from across five states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia – and the universities of Adelaide, Flinders, Melbourne, Sydney and Western Australia, led by the group at Newcastle.

The MRFF funding will start in November.

The MRFF is administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council and provides grants of financial assistance to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.

Fellowship awarded to nutrition and dietetics leader.

University of Newcastle researcher Professor Clare Collins is among 40 new Fellows elected to the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS).

Internationally renowned for her clinical expertise and research in the field of nutrition and dietetics, Professor Collins was admitted at the Academy’s fifth annual meeting on 9 October.

A National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Research Fellow, Professor Collins is breaking new ground in using technology to develop, deliver, and evaluate nutrition interventions to prevent and treat weight-related chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Professor Collins said she sees the AAHMS Fellowship as a way to create more awareness that diet is the leading contributor to the global burden of disease, the importance of evidence-based food, nutrition and diet advice and why we need stronger policies to improve nutrition for our most vulnerable people.

I am also passionate about working with the media to communicate nutrition science for the benefit of government, other scientists and the general public,” Professor Collins said.

It is one thing to develop innovative, accessible methods for assessing and personalising dietary advice, but that needs to go hand-in-hand with policies and programs that support engagement and equitable access to technology-supported nutrition advice, no matter where the individual might live or work.”

Professor Collins’s research outputs continue to translate evidence-based nutrition into engaging formats that improve dietary patterns and health outcomes. She co-created the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), The Science of Weight Loss – Dispelling Diet Myths, which has been completed by more than 50,000 people across 180 countries.

Professor Collins is also a regular guest of Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on Triple J’s Science Hour, and frequently publishes content that resonates with large audiences via The Conversation, where she is the most read Australian author, with more than 80 articles and 8.7 million readers.

Committed to improving health at key life stages and in chronic health conditions, Professor Collins is the Director of Research for the School of Health Sciences in the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Health and Medicine, and the Co-Director of the University’s Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition.

Professor Collins said it was a great honour to share Fellowship with many of Australia’s premier health and medical scientists.

The Academy serves to advance health and medical research by bringing together experts that will ensure Australia remains a leader in health research into the future,” Professor Collins said.

I’m very proud to be recognised by my peers in this way, and to have the opportunity to contribute to this advancement.”

Professor Clare Collins

No stranger to success, Professor Collins was awarded a Fellowship of the Dietitians Association of Australian (DAA) in 2008 and a Gladys M Brawn Senior Research Fellowship in 2016. In 2018 she was awarded the DAA President’s Award for Innovation, and in 2017 she received the Hunter Medical Research Institute Researcher of the Year award. She was also awarded the DAA President’s Award for Innovation in 2018.

Researching in conjunction with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), she also leads the largest group of Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) researchers internationally, and has contributed hundreds of peer-reviewed articles to respected journals. She has also been awarded more than $23 million in competitive grant funding both nationally and internationally.

Laureate honour for epidemiology leader.

Professor John Attia from the School of Medicine and Public Health in the Faculty of Health and Medicine, has been awarded the title of Laureate Professor, in recognition of his remarkable research career and outstanding contributions in clinical, molecular, and genetic epidemiology methods, as well as his clinical medicine practice and teaching.

Internationally regarded in his field, Professor Attia is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

Professor Attia’s research success and institutional leadership, including the development of leading training programs, attest to his influence and standing within the academic and medical communities” Pro Vice-Chancellor Faculty of Health and Medicine and Laureate Professor John Aitken said.

I’ve been honoured to work with him for around 20 years and witness his significant impact on scholarship, policy and practice in clinical epidemiology, and his leadership both at the University and in the broad area of data analytics,” he said.

Professor John Attia

Professor Attia, who is also a Staff Specialist at John Hunter Hospital and researches at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, is the author of more than 600 peer review publications and over 120 conference proceedings and has secured in excess of $24 million in research funding since his arrival at the University of Newcastle in the late ‘90s. Moreover, his research has been published in some of the most prestigious journals in the world including Nature, Nature Genetics, Science, Lancet and JAMA. His publications have been cited over 15,000 times and he has a career h-index of around 70.

The title of Laureate Professor recognises exceptional academic achievement, and is among the highest academic honours conferred at the University of Newcastle. An Award Committee, comprising national, external and UON scholars, unanimously endorsed the five year award.

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