Two of the three 2022 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Higher Degree Research have been awarded to UNSW Medicine & Health academics. These prestigious awards recognise sustained excellence in the supervision, mentoring and training of Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates. They also highlight outstanding leadership in research training. 


Associate Professor Rowena Bull – Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision

A/Prof. Rowena Bull, who is based in the School of Biomedical Sciences and the Kirby Institute at UNSW, has been recognised for her exceptional track record of HDR supervision. She has supported many HDR students to complete their degrees and continue to succeed beyond their PhDs.

“The award is a reflection of what my students have achieved during their PhD, as well as what they’ve gone on and achieved since completing their PhD,” A/Prof. Bull said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an intense period for A/Prof. Bull’s research group, who study the interaction between viruses and our immune system. According to A/Prof. Bull, her HDR students went above and beyond to contribute to COVID-19 research.

“The students all had this natural desire to really contribute meaningfully to the pandemic… We’ve had some great results and I think it reflects a lot of hard work and effective teamwork by my students.”

A/Prof Bull said that teamwork is also critical for HDR supervision. “It’s really a team award … I’ve had some great co-supervisors as well who have taught me a lot about mentoring. I haven’t done it alone.”


Associate Professor David Simar - Excellence in Higher Degree Research Leadership

A/Prof. David Simar is the acting Head of School for the School of Health Sciences and has been the Associate Dean for Postgraduate Research Training for UNSW Medicine & Health since 2016. He has received an award due to his role in shaping new initiatives and building support systems for HDR candidates. 

“The award is recognising the body of work that we’ve done in the faculty over the past few years to formalise and structure the research training and support we provide to our cohort,” A/Prof. Simar said.

For A/Prof. Simar, finding new ways to support HDR students as a faculty has been critical, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiatives he has led include a suite of workshops for first year HDR students to plan and prepare for the rest of their candidature, a peer mentoring program, and a candidate Higher Degree Committee where HDR representatives discuss and develop new programs to support their peers.

A/Prof. Simar emphasised that this work could not have happened without the contribution of others from UNSW Medicine & Health.

“It's a team effort, and I always feel grateful because I'm really well supported within this faculty. I've got fantastic colleagues that I work with,” he said. “But the people I'm the most grateful to are the candidates. They are a constant source of inspiration to me, and it's amazing to work with them.”


This year’s award winners will be recognised at the at the Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Awards Ceremony on 25 November.

IMAGE CAPTION: Associate Professor Rowena Bull and Associate Professor David Simar. Photos: UNSW.