Welcome to School’s first newsletter for 2022!

So much has happened since our last newsletter! While COVID-19 continues to pose an ongoing risk to our health, it a relief to see it is now regarded as a challenge we must live with, which indicates that the long lockdowns and strict social distancing measures of the past few years are finally behind us. The University is cautiously optimistic that 2022 will be a major turning point, and it’s great to see the campus spring back to life with face-to-face teaching, research and social events.  

I am thrilled to report that our undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students are once again enjoying university life via a balance of face-to-face and online learning and on-campus social activities. However, it’s not all rosy since many of our international coursework and research students remain overseas, but we hope they can make it to UNSW in the very near future.  

To accommodate the massive upheaval in the traditional ways we delivered our pre-COVID courses, the School (and University) is currently formulating an optimal balance of on-campus and remote learning activities.  A balance appears to be well-received by our students, judging by the consistent improvement in the School’s myExperience Teaching scores since our unexpected leap into fully online teaching at the start of the pandemic. I thank all staff for their ongoing effort in creating such a stimulating and interactive experience for our students during a period of major change.

The past year has also been a mix of online, face-to-face and hybrid social events, and it’s pleasing to see more of the latter as social distancing restrictions ease on campus. I must single out the School’s undergraduate (MATSOC) and postgraduate (PGSOC) societies for their incredible effort in keeping our students actively engaged over the past year via a range of exciting social activities and events. The School sincerely thanks our 2021 committee members for their major contributions to student life throughout another challenging year, and we warmly welcome the 2022 executive committees who will continue the momentum of the past few years. 

There have been numerous staff and student achievements since the last newsletter and, while this one highlights only a few of these achievements, you are welcome to visit our website for a more complete list. I will commence with the wonderful news about Professor Veena Sahajwalla, who was named the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year!  The School is very proud of Veena’s myriad achievements, with this most recent accolade highlighting her ongoing leadership as a remarkable Australian Scientist and Engineer!

I would also like to congratulate Peggy Zhang for her deserved promotion to Lecturer and to Rakesh Joshi and Farshid Pahlevani for their equally deserved promotions to Associate Professor! These achievements are based on very strong performances across the three University pillars of teaching, research and service, and we wish them all the best for a very bright future.

The School is particularly proud of our students. We highlight herein several of their recent achievements and awards, including our undergraduate prize winners, Industry Training presentation evening winners and a highlight piece on our most recent AINSE PhD scholarship recipient.  One of the most distinguished awards to be bestowed on an undergraduate student is the University Medal, and the School conveys its warm congratulations to both Bernadette Pudadera (BMatSciEng/MBiomed) and Jiachen Jiang (BMatSciEng) for their medals! 

Our School staff continue to cement their internationally leading reputations for scientific and engineering research excellence. Professor Tom Wu has once again made the prestigious list of Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers. This annual list identifies researchers throughout the world who are in the top one per cent by citations in their respective field/s of expertise. Congratulations Tom!  Several staff have also won major grants through the ARC Discovery, Linkage, Infrastructure and Industrial Transformation Research Hubs schemes, other external funding agencies and directly from industry partners. Congratulations to all staff who received one or more grants to support your research!

Finally, a link is provided to the School’s most recent Annual Report. I warmly thank our Project Officer, Nicole Cooney, for leading this project throughout another challenging year of disruptions.  There is also a link to the latest version of the School’s website. This major update was led by the Faculty of Science Website Transformation Team and supported by the School’s Community & Current Student Engagement Officer, Marcus Wong, Nicole Cooney and members of the School’s Marketing Committee.  

I close with another big thanks to Marcus and Nicole for their effort in publishing this newsletter! 

I wish everyone all the very best for the rest of 2022.