Welcome to the final newsletter for 2020. I am immensely grateful for the incredible support from staff, students and colleagues as we navigated through a very difficult year affected by bushfires and COVID-19. As I mentioned earlier this year, these crises have had a profound impact on everyone, particularly our students who were forced off campus to study from home. It has been a particularly difficult time for our international students who have been separated from their families and friends, or simply unable to travel to Australia to either commence or continue their studies.

I thank everyone for the dedication and determination to keep the School functioning throughout the year, particularly when we needed to transition from face-to-face to online learning through to keeping our labs open and operating safely with only a minor disruption to our research.

I would like to commence by congratulating our staff who were promoted in 2020. Congratulations to Nima Haghdadi and Pankaj Sharma for their promotions to Lecturer and to Sammy Chan and Dewei Chu for their promotions to Professor! These excellent achievements are based on very strong performances across the three University pillars of teaching, research and service. The School wishes them all the best for a very bright future.

Despite our challenges, I am very happy to share a number of successful online School events over the last few months including UNSW’s first fully online Open Day, coursework and higher degree research student welcomes and our annual Industry Training evening. Thanks to everyone involved for the huge effort in making these events an outstanding success.

Another area for celebration is our recent staff successes with local and international research funding.  A/Prof. Kris Kilian was awarded US$1.1m from the US National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Dr Tushar Kumeria was awarded US$200k from the US Department of Defence Army Medical Research and Development Command Program and another $574k from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund and Prof. Dewei Chu and team in SPREE received $1.76m from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Congratulations everyone!

Staff also secured six highly prestigious Australian Research Council Discovery grants for commencement in 2021. Prof. Dewei Cu and Dr Claudio Cazorla received $381k for research on bioinspired flexible haptic memory materials for artificial sensory nerves, Prof. Jan Seidel and Claudio received $437k to study topotactic control of magnetism in multiferroic and skyrmion materials with Jan also receiving a sole investigator grant worth $240k to study multiferroic skyrmion materials for next generation nanoelectronics, A/Prof. Kris Kilian and Jay Kruzic (Mech Eng) received $429k on force-mediated dynamic chemistry in hydrogels, Prof. Paul Munroe and his Swinburne colleagues received $525k to design non-equilibrium architectures using high entropy materials, and finally, Judy Hart and Nagy Valanoor and their colleagues in Chem Eng received $521k to design a photo-electro-catalysis system for selective organic oxidation. Overall, this was an excellent outcome for the School considering the intense competition of the DP scheme (Australia-wide success rate = 23%).

Several student and staff achievements were announced throughout the term. Congratulations to our UNSW Arc Postgraduate Council research awards recipients: Musharaf Abbas received a Research Student Award, Scarlet Kong received an Outstanding Research Student Award, and Drs Rakesh Joshi, Pankaj Sharma and Jianliang Yang each received a Research Supervisor Award.

The NSW branch of Materials Australia recently held its annual student thesis presentation competition on Zoom. Nine students from universities across NSW were handpicked to present their thesis projects in front of an expert panel. Three of our undergraduate students took out the three top awards! Congratulations to Bernadette Pudadera, Coco Kennedy and Aurpa Bhuiyan!

We just had our end-of-year Dean’s visit, where several staff received a Dean of Science Award. Dewei Chu received the Research Excellence Award, Anthony Zhang received the Operational Excellence Award, Sophie Primig received the Collaboration & Partnership Award, Damia Mawad received the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Award, and Owen Standard received the major award, the Dean of Science Standout Award!

While we experienced many COVID-induced teaching challenges this year, including transitioning our courses to online delivery, the School’s myExperience Course and Teaching Scores remained very high this year.

I close with a big thank you to our departing staff for their contributions to the School over the years. We bid farewell to our IT support specialist, Danny Kim, our pyrometallurgy Technical Officer and all-round technical expert, Rahmat Kartono, our academic staff, Claudio Cazorla and Sammy Chan, and our wonderfully engaging Executive Assistant and Project Officer, Vanessa Jaraenroogvised.  We wish them all the very best for a very bright future.

Finally, thanks to Jeremy Platt and support staff and students for publishing our final newsletter for 2020!

All the very best to everyone for the remainder of the year and I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s break.

Professor Michael Ferry

Head, School of Materials Science and Engineering

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