Alumni Profiles

Alex Loukas Senior Scholars

Home InstitutionJames Cook University
Host InstitutionUniversity of California, Irvine
Award NameSenior Scholarship
DisciplineHookworm Vaccines
Award Year2012

“Hookworms are one of the most important parasites of humans in terms of their global health impact. An estimated 600-700 million people are infected with hookworms worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and parts of Asia.”

Professor Alex Loukas, Professor with the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance, at James Cook University will spend three months at the University of California-Irvine through a Fulbright Senior Scholarship. The scholarship will give Alex the opportunity to work in the U.S. with Dr Phil Felgner at U.C. Irvine, with whom he has recently established a research collaboration into antigens that potentially could be used for development of a hookworm vaccine.

“Helminths (worms) infect 2 billion people in developing countries. Despite the enormous morbidity and mortality that these parasites impose, there are currently no vaccines for any human helminth infection,” Alex said.

“Whilst hookworms can be treated with anthelmintic drugs, this does not prevent re-infection, and there are concerns about resistance to these medications. A vaccine is therefore a highly desirable goal.”

By marrying Professor Felgner’s expertise in cutting edge biotechnological applications with Alex’s extensive helminth vaccinology and immuno-epidemiologcial expertise this project promises to advance the discovery of human hookworm vaccines and establish a very productive US-Australia partnership in infectious diseases research.

Both Professors Loukas and Felgner are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other funding bodies for their vaccine development research, so the Fulbright Scholarship to Prof Loukas is bolstering the collaboration between two very productive research groups and accelerating the global fight against neglected tropical diseases.

Alex has a BSc and a PhD in medical sciences from the University of Queensland. His major achievements include winning the Bancroft-Mackerras medal and Ralph Doherty prize for research leadership; attracting USD$1.6 million in annual research funds to his laboratory; developing vaccines for hookworm and schistosomiasis that are in clinical trials; and being author of more than 180 papers, including senior author papers in Nature Med and Nature Rev Micro. In his spare time he enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with his family.

Dr Sally Ursula Jane Salmon Professional Scholars

Home InstitutionThe University of Western Australia
Host InstitutionSchool of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University
Award NameFulbright Professional Scholarship in Nuclear Science and Technology, Sponsored by The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
DisciplineNuclear Science
Award Year2016

Ursula’s research is into providing quantitative, scientific bases for environmental management decisions, particularly regarding issues of water quality and water resource sustainability. Ursula started on this path through studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Sydney. After a final year exchange in Sweden, Ursula entered into postgraduate studies in a multidisciplinary Swedish research program on the environmental impact of mining. In 2004 Ursula returned to Australia to take up a postdoctoral project on the acidic lakes that can form after open cut mining. Since this time, Ursula has worked on a range of research and contract projects, usually in close collaboration with industry and government stakeholders, and in all cases with the aim to quantify how surface waters, groundwater, and/or soils will evolve, under either continued current conditions or changed external forcing.

Since mid-2012, Ursula has worked on incorporating environmental isotopes into regional groundwater models for water resource assessment. The large and inaccessible nature of aquifer systems means that they are difficult to characterize; this in turn introduces uncertainty into flow models. Environmental isotopes that decay or accumulate over time, such as radiocarbon (14C), are widely used as tracers of groundwater “age”. Ursula has been working on ways to incorporate the isotopic tracers directly into groundwater models. If successful, this will result in improved groundwater model predictions and resource management tools. Furthermore, as the age-ranges that environmental isotopes are valid for can be tens or hundreds of millennia, the same tools allow investigation into what climatic conditions must have been in the past in order to create the isotopic concentrations that exist today.

Ursula will work with Prof. Steven Gorelick and colleagues at Stanford to incorporate additional environmental tracers into a modelling framework that has already been developed, in order to make the method more robust. This modelling tool will then be used to produce an analysis of paleoclimate, over the last 40,000 years or more, using data from a relatively data-rich Australian case study site. The time at Stanford and visits to other institutions will link Ursula to forerunners in the relevant fields in America, and facilitate continuation of collaboration on this and other topics upon her return to Australia.

David Nisbet Postdoctoral Scholars

Home InstitutionMonash University
Host InstitutionMonash University
Award NameUniversity of California, Berkeley
DisciplineBiological Sciences
Award Year2011

“There is currently no effective treatment for repair of the central nervous system (CNS) damaged by disease or injury, with the physical and psychological consequences to the patients and their families being devastating.”

David Nisbet, a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University is the winner of the 2011 Fulbright Victoria Scholarship, supported by the Victorian Government and Victorian universities. Through his Fulbright, David will spend five months at the University of California, Berkeley in California, extending his current research into materials that may possibly be used in the future to help damaged brain and spinal cord tissues to regenerate.

“My project aims to move closer towards a successful treatment for CNS injury and disease, specifically in the brain,” David said. David and his mentor, Associate Professor John Forsythe, have developed a unique way to encourage stem cells to repair damaged tissue by creating an environment that provides physical and chemical cues that effectively “teach” them how to develop. His method involves using polymer nanofibres, which are ultrafine fibres made from a synthetic material, as a scaffold to assist stem cells to repair damaged tissues.

Over the duration of the Fulbright Scholarship, Dr Nisbet will work with Professor Kevin Healy at the University of California, Berkeley, learning additional methods of how the scaffolding can be built and applied, which will augment his current work.David has a BEng and a PhD in Engineering from Monash University. In addition he has been awarded the Mollie Holman Medal for best Monash PhD thesis and the Kenneth Hunt Medal for best Engineering PhD thesis. He has also been published in key journals and books and currently supervises PhD students. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, both road and mountain bikes.

The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright and the U.S. Government in 1946. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the U.S. and 155 countries. In Australia, the scholarships are funded by the Australian and U.S. Governments and corporate partners and administered by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission in Canberra. David is one of 26 talented Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2011.



Hannah Barrett Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionUniversity of Massachusetts
Host InstitutionThe Australian National University
Award NamePostgraduate Scholarship
Award Year2012

“As a low-incidence disability, deafness has drawn relatively little attention from the academic community, but this is likely to change. Thanks to the aging of the baby boomer generation, the ranks of the hard-of-hearing are about to skyrocket.”

Ms. Hannah Barrett, a recent graduate in psychology from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has won a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to spend a year at the Australian National University in Canberra. Through her Fulbright, Hannah will undertake psychology research to assess how to overcome the stigmatizing effects of hearing loss.

“Hearing loss is often stigmatized, and this in turn affects the self-esteem and well-being of the hard-of-hearing,” Hannah said.

“It is more important than ever to analyze—and try to relieve—the social, psychological and health effects of hearing loss. It is important as well to increase the level of understanding between the hard-of-hearing and the larger population,” Hannah said.

Hannah says that her life’s goal is to understand how people negotiate deafness and situations in which they experience stigma and social and psychological isolation. As a person who has been deaf since birth, she knows firsthand what such experiences are like.

Hannah plans to work with two researchers at The Australian National University on a controlled study investigating the use of social support for reducing the incidence and effects of stigma and social isolation.

“Our hope is that members of the intervention group develop more accepting attitudes towards their hearing difficulties; adopt, with family and friends, more inclusive perceptions of social identity; share coping and resilience building ideas; and participate in group-wide and even community-wide efforts to put lasting social supports in place,” Hannah said.

She was drawn to Australia, where researchers first developed cochlear implant technology and continue to conduct much of the best psychological research on hearing loss.

While acquiring a BA in psychology, Hannah was Historian for the UMass Psi Chi Chapter and worked in a variety of psychology labs. She won an Honors Research Assistant Award, among other awards. She also reviewed arts and entertainments events for her university newspaper and volunteered as a teacher’s assistant in an advanced comedy course.


Dylan Cronin Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionQueensland University of Technology
Host InstitutionWashington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Award NamePostgraduate Scholarship
DisciplineChemistry (Biorefining)
Award Year2015

In 2003 Dylan began his tertiary education at the Queensland University of Technology, where over the next four years he obtained his bachelor’s degrees in both Information Technology and Applied Science (majoring in Chemistry).  It was during this time that Dylan met Professor William Doherty, with whom he still works with today.  He began his professional relationship with Professor Doherty and the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities (CTCB) as a research assistant, working on various projects related to the sustainable development of value-added products from waste agricultural materials produced in the Australian sugarcane industry.  Realising the social and ethical merit of this general area of research, as well as the necessity for its continued growth in the future, Dylan began to develop his career within this institute.

In 2008 Dylan completed a postgraduate honours course in Applied Chemistry research on the preparation of biodegradable multicomponent films.  The project culminated in the preparation of a thesis entitled “Formation of Multicomponent Films Using an Ionic Liquid”, defended during a final presentation several weeks later.  He was awarded the grade of 1st Class Honours for his work and commercial interest towards the project has been expressed by the international packaging company Inova.  Having the opportunity to direct his own research project confirmed his aspirations towards a career in research, particularly within the sustainable energy and materials sector.

On completion of Dylan’s honours thesis he was offered a scholarship to partake in a cultural exchange program in Cordoba, Argentina. Having never travelled outside Australia, Dylan considered this a great opportunity to contribute to his cultural education and knowledge of the Spanish language.  After spending a month attending school and living with numerous other students from around the world, Dylan spent a further nine months travelling and studying Spanish throughout Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.  Having greatly enjoyed this experience Dylan returned to South America in 2011 to live in Rio for one year studying Portuguese, working as an English and Science teacher, and volunteering with a community outreach centre within one of the local favelas.

The most recent stage in Dylan’s career progression was his enrolment in a doctoral research project in 2013 with the CTCB, and as such his immediate academic goals relate to the successful completion of this work. The refining of organic waste materials into sustainable fuels and products is an area which Dylan has been involved in for nine years, and which interests him greatly.

With the depletion of non-renewable petroleum resources and a growing global demand for both energy and raw materials, biorefining is a socially and ethically pertinent area of research, with the potential to make a significant and immediate contribution to alleviating society’s dependence on fossil fuels. The opportunity to work at the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at Washington State University will be of immense value to Dylan’s research, and to the immediate research community. Dylan’s area of specialisation relates to the pulping of lignocellulosic (plant material) and the valorisation of the lignin obtained therein (in basic terms this means the attempt to use a material such as lignin, but also similarly cellulose and hemicellulose,  in such a way as to exploit greater economic and environmental potential). .  It is his objective to gain valuable experience and further knowledge in the application of biomass utilisation processes and technologies, in particular those technologies relating to the acquisition, depolymerisation and subsequent valorisation of lignin.

Jenna Margaret Crowe-Riddell Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionUniversity of Adelaide, School of Biological Sciences (Genetics and Evolution)
Host InstitutionUniversity of Florida (TBC)
Award NameFulbright Postgraduate Scholarship
DisciplineBiological Sciences
Award Year2016

Jenna is a PhD candidate in Genetics and Evolution at the University of Adelaide where she researches vertebrate sensory systems.

Jenna grew up in Canberra and received a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University in 2011. She started volunteering for turtle conservation research and began to SCUBA dive. In 2012, she was invited to participate in field expeditions to Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea. Unfortunately, these once pristine environments had recently experienced a drastic and inexplicable decline in sea snake populations. This motivated Jenna to undertake research into this extinction event in the following year, receiving First Class Honours from the University of Adelaide in 2014.

To achieve conservation goals, Jenna believes that there must be an open channel between science and society, and that conservation in the inevitable byproduct of a society that is engaged with science and the living world. A passionate communicator, Jenna is an up-and-coming stand-up comedian, detailing the oddities of the biological world on stage. She plans to use these skills to foster scientific literacy and enthusiasm in the community. She has been invited to speak at the Natural History Museum in London and at university Open Day events, and hopes to be one of Australia’s foremost science communicators.

Sea snakes are poorly understood but fascinating examples of evolutionary transitions. Jenna aims to uncover novel sensory abilities in these animals, taking a multidisciplinary approach that builds a picture of the sensory system at every level: from genetic, to population, to species, and the ecosystem. The Fulbright scholarship will allow Jenna to research alongside world experts in reptile evolution, behaviour and physiology. Once complete, the project can serve as a model for integrative biological research that can be easily transferred to other species upon return to Australia.

Molly Gabbard Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionIndiana University
Host InstitutionGray Street Workshop
Award Name2011 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar
DisciplineFine Arts
Award Year2011

“My materials and methods combine stone carving and mixed media, which result in a contemporary jewellery expression. Specifically, I am influenced by the unique characteristics in animals including; fur, scales, colouring, and even personalities.”

Molly Gabbard, a recent graduate from Indiana University, has won a Fulbright Scholarship to take a residency at Gray Street Workshop in Adelaide for a year. She will research the use of animals in Australian Indigenous art, endangered Australian wildlife, and study woodcarving with internationally renowned jeweller Catherine Truman, co-founder and current partner at Gray Street.

“I will initially utilize the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute Inc. and the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery of the South Australian Museum to research the historical and current Indigenous use of animals in art,” Molly said.

She will also travel to Kangaroo Island in order to further observe and study the native wildlife in its natural habitat.

“Kangaroo Island retains more than half of its natural vegetation, is a declared conservation area, and sustains the thriving animal and bird populations such as the endangered Australian Sea Lion and the Glossy Black Cockatoo. Overall, I am intrigued by the colourings and textures of their feathers and fur coat, as well as traits for selecting a mate.”

Molly will combine her research of unique animal characteristics and indigenous art with woodcarving in order to expand on her ideas and methodology by creating a new body while a resident at Gray Street.

“Using wood as an alternative to stone will offer a range of possibilities for carving larger or delicate shapes that are either too difficult or impossible to create using marble or soapstones,” Molly said.

Molly has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design from Indiana University. She has won various awards and prizes including the Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design Area Award. Indiana University; The Dove Family Scholarship; Dean’s List Indiana University. In her spare time she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, spending time outdoors, and traveling.

Matthew Hoffman Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionGeorgia Institute of Technology
Host InstitutionUniversity of New South Wales
Award Name2011 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar
DisciplineMechanical Engineering
Award Year2011

“Despite the fact that both Australia and the United States have immense solar resources, solar power has yet to make a significant contribution to the energy supply of either country.”

Matthew Hoffman, a recent graduate in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, has won a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to spend a year at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Through his Fulbright, Matthew plans to work with the school of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at UNSW to help develop a novel solar concentrator for solar energy applications. This research will improve the efficiency of a new concept for roof-mounted solar energy production.

Working with Dr. Gary Rosengarten in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Matthew will focus on optimizing an experimental system’s thermal performance.

“One important concern for all solar collectors is minimizing heat loss that could otherwise be converted into useful energy. Another concern is temperature drop between the components that absorb sunlight and the fluid that is used to transfer the absorbed energy to useful systems,” Matthew said.

Matthew aims to address both of these concerns by using a combination of experimental and computational methods. This research will contribute to Matthew’s long-term plans, which are to use his expertise in thermal systems modeling and experimentation to contribute to the development of a technology that could change the way both Australia and the United States utilise their solar resources.

“Optimizing the heat transfer characteristics of hybrid roof-mounted collectors is an important step towards making solar energy a more efficient and cost-effective energy solution worldwide,” Matthew said.

Matthew has just completed a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States. In addition to his academic work, he enjoys wilderness trekking, exploring national parks, and endurance sports. He looks forward to becoming involved with Sydney’s multi-sport community so that he can continue to compete in triathlons and trail runs while away from the Unites States. He said that his passion for the great outdoors has been a driving force behind his interest in cleaner and more sustainable energy systems.

Monique Hurley Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionNorth Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency
Host InstitutionNew York University (TBC)
Award NameFulbright Northern Territory Postgraduate Scholarship
Award Year2016

Monique holds a Bachelor of Laws (First class honours) and Bachelor of Arts (Politics) from Monash University.  During her university studies, Monique interned at the Parliament of Victoria, the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and Justice Connect (formerly the Public Interest Law Clearing House). Monique went on complete her Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice with the College of Law and was admitted to practice in December 2012.  She worked for two years as a lawyer at Clayton Utz, working across the firm’s corporate, litigation and administrative law practices.  She went on to spend one year working as an Associate to the Honourable Justice Sloss at the Supreme Court of Victoria.  Monique has volunteered as a lawyer with the Homeless Person’s Legal Clinic, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Mental Health Legal Centre and Prahran Citizen’s Advice Bureau.  She has also co-authored a report on the methodology used by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to assess the age of minors in immigration detention, which was published by leading civil liberties organization, Liberty Victoria, in September 2015.  Monique currently works as a solicitor for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in Katherine where she travels to remote communities to provide civil law advice and representation to Aboriginal clients.  Monique advises clients on a diverse range of areas, including employment and discrimination matters, the applicability of statutory compensation schemes, complaints against the police and health care complaints.  She also represents clients in adult guardianship, child protection and alcohol mandatory treatment proceedings.  Outside of work, Monique is an avid supporter of the Geelong Football Club and enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with family and friends.

For her Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship, Monique hopes to study a Masters of Law (LLM) in America. She would like to build on her previous studies and practical legal experience by focusing her overseas LLM studies on international and human rights law.  Monique would like to learn from the American and international experience at a leading university to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of how the law can be used as a mechanism to help empower disadvantaged individuals and groups of people.

Steven Limpert Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionArizona State University
Host InstitutionThe University of New South Wales
Award NameFulbright Alumni and Climate Change Postgraduate Scholarship
DisciplineElectrical Engineering
Award Year2012

“Because the expense of power from renewable energy technologies is a primary inhibitor to their greater use, research into ways to reduce the cost of power through improved device performance is of the utmost importance.”

Mr Steven Limpert, a recent graduate in electrical engineering from Arizona State University, is the 2012 Fulbright Postgraduate Alumni Scholar, and also is the inaugural winner of the 2012 Fulbright U.S. Climate Change Scholarship.

Through his Fulbright, Steven will spend a year at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), undertaking work towards a PhD at the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering where he will conduct research in the area of high efficiency, hot carrier, and nanostructured solar cells.

“At UNSW, I will work experimentally to verify data I obtained from novel simulations of solar cells at the Arizona State University Solar Power Laboratory,” Steven said.

In the simulations he conducted at the ASU Solar Power Laboratory, Steven studied a variety of energy loss mechanisms in solar cells such as surface recombination and carrier thermalisation. Surface recombination occurs in a solar cell when an electron and a hole recombine at the perimeter of the crystal lattice and become no longer capable of providing their energy to a load. Carrier thermalisation is a process in which electrons and holes lose energy to heat, decreasing the energy which they are able to provide to a load.

“A large body of work exists describing the effects of recombination at the front, back and in the interior of solar cells, but the literature largely neglects the effect of recombination at the edges of solar cells. Previously, edge recombination may have been considered a negligible loss mechanism, but the results of my simulations showed that high edge recombination rates can have a large detrimental effect on the performance of certain types of solar cells,” Steven said.

A conclusion of the study was that if losses due to edge recombination are controlled, higher energy conversion efficiencies can be achieved.

“If higher energy conversion efficiencies are achieved, the same materials can provide greater power output, thus effectively reducing the price of the power obtained from the device.”

In addition to his BS in electrical engineering from Arizona State University, Steven has been the recipient of several scholarships and awards including a Travel Study Grant from the Circumnavigators Club Foundation and a Dean’s Fellowship from Arizona State University. He is also a part-time professional musician, and plays the trumpet. 

Tierney O’Sullivan Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionThe University of Georgia
Host InstitutionThe Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority and The University of Tasmania
Award NamePostgraduate Scholarship
Award Year2013

“Conservation of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle is paramount, not only because of its iconic status, but also because it performs a vital role in the ecosystem.”

Ms Tierney O’Sullivan, a recent graduate in ecology from the University of Georgia, has won a 2013 Fulbright Scholarship to come to Australia for a year. She will work with Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority and University of Tasmania to undertake research into the breeding success of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.

“The wedge-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia, and one of the largest eagles in the world,” Tierney said.

“The endemic Tasmanian subspecies Aquila audax fleayi is recognized as endangered on a state and federal level due to a small population as a result of low breeding success and a high mortality rate from unnatural causes.”

Tierney’s project aims to understand how habitat disturbance affects the behaviour and breeding success of the threatened Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle. In collaboration with her host institutions she will monitor nesting sites and record behavioural responses to nearby traffic and determine nesting success at the end of the breeding season.

Tierney has a B.S. in ecology from the University of Georgia. She has won various awards and prizes including a Charter Scholarship, University of Georgia; the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation Scholarship; and the HOPE Scholarship. She is a keen outdoor enthusiast, and enjoys whitewater kayak racing, in which she competes internationally, and rock climbing.

Briony Swire-Thompson Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionThe University of Western Australia
Host InstitutionMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Award NameWestern Australia State Postgraduate Scholarship
DisciplinePsychology (Cognition)
Award Year2015

Briony is a PhD candidate with the Cognitive Science Laboratories at the University of Western Australia. Her research investigates how people process misinformation, and how they update their memory when information they believe to be true turns out to be false.

Under the supervision of Associate Professor Ullrich Ecker and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Briony’s research looks at when and why these backfire effects occur. She is currently investigating a backfire effect called the ‘familiarity backfire effect’ which occurs when retractions repeat the myth in order to correct it. For example, stating that ‘people do not only use 10% of their brain’ repeats the association between ‘10%’ and ‘brain use’, making this false link more familiar.  As people tend to assume that familiar information is true, retractions can potentially strengthen the misconceptions they are trying to correct.

This Fulbright scholarship will allow Briony to expand her research into the area of political misconceptions, and investigate the effects of political attitudes on the processing of misinformation. By collaborating with Professor Adam Berinsky from MIT’s political science department, she plans to explore a backfire effect which occurs when a person’s belief system is challenged. She states that “strong beliefs define our identity, and when they are challenged we are motivated to defend them, and this biases how we process information. The cognitive mechanisms involved in this phenomenon are still being debated, and various cognitive models of this ‘worldview backfire effect’ are currently being developed. An ideal way to study this effect is to use information which people are passionate about and hold as part of their identity—such as a person’s political beliefs.”

Briony spent a number of years living in Zimbabwe when she was young, and has since sought out opportunities to travel. During her undergraduate degree in psychology and English literature she won a scholarship to study abroad at the University of Bristol, and prior to commencing her PhD she worked in Otavalo, Ecuador for over a year.

Please note: Briony Swire-Thompson is published as Briony Swire.

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