UNSW tops ARC Discovery Projects for second year

UNSW Science is a major contributor to the University securing more than than $32.7 million in Australian Research Council funding - the largest share of the total of $333.5 million in federal research funding announced today by Education Minister Simon Birmingham.. 

That result echoes last year’s success when UNSW topped the total amount of funding among Australian universities announced by the ARC.

For the second year running, UNSW has received more Discovery Project grants than any other institution in the country, receiving 64 in this year’s announcement worth $24.1 million.

In addition, UNSW won 12 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs) worth $4.3 million and seven Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LEIF) grants worth $4.3 million.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW, congratulated the University’s researchers on securing the most grants in this round.

He was particularly pleased with the University’s success in the Discovery Project grants.

“It is highly unusual to lead the Discovery Project grants nationally for two years running,” Professor Fisk said.

“These results are a testament to the strength of our researchers, the depth of our talent pool, the societal relevance of their subject areas, and the bubbling research culture and environment here at UNSW.”

Under the Discovery Projects (DP) scheme, the Government awarded a total of $225.6 million for 594 new research grants for 2018.

They included a grant of $591,274 to UNSW BEES Professor Martin Van Kranendonk, Associate Professor Marco Fiorentini, Professor Kathleen Campbell and Professor David Deamer to test the proposal that a terrestrial hot spring field could have been the setting for the origin of life, with results used to help in the search for life on Mars.

Other DP grants awarded to teams with cheif investigators from BEES include:

Professor Michael Archer, Professor Suzanne Hand and Dr Robin Beck: $347,126 to fill gaps in knowledge about the origins of the modern fauna of Australia.

Professor Angela Moles: $217,096 to quantify the degree to which Australian plant species have responded to changes in climate over the last few decades, and to build understanding of the mechanisms that underpin responses to climate change.

Professor Torsten Thomas: $426,974  to determine the function of eukaryotic-like proteins (ELPs) from bacterial symbionts of sponges and apply this knowledge to develop new tools for biotechnology. 

Associate Professor Shinichi Nakagawa: $298,409 to understand how evolutionarily novel stressors such as obesogenic diets induce phenotypic variation in organismal traits.

Associate Professor Mike Letnic and Associate Professor William Cornwell:  $293,340 to understand the mechanisms through which predators can control ecosystem nutrient dynamics. 

Professor Peter Steinberg, Dr Ezequiel Marzinelli and Professor Staffan Kjelleberg: $443,024 to integrate a central theme of modern ecology - the relationship between biodiversity and functioning of communities - with the new biological paradigm of holobionts, where organisms are the entirety of the host plus its associated microbiome.

Dr Alex Sen Gupta, Dr Alejandro Di Luca, Dr Daniel Argüeso Barriga and Dr Nicolas Jourdain: $327,316 to implement a regional, coupled atmosphere and ocean model, to determine under what circumstance ocean-atmosphere interactions are critical.

Associate Professor Katrin Meissner, Dr Laurie Menviel and Dr Fortunat Joos: $431,462 to determine the source of the carbon responsible for significant rapid warming events in the past 60,000 years.

Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth, Associate Professor William Leggat; Professor Andrew Baird; Dr Scott Heron: $383,136 to provide an evidence base for coral reef management to be targeted towards regions at greatest risk, and those that have the greatest capacity for acclimation under near-future climate change.

The DECRA winners from BEES included:

Dr Jussi Lehtonen: $342,551 to reconcile and unify alternative methods in social evolution theory, one of the foundations of our modern understanding of evolutionary and behavioural ecology.

Dr Miriam Munoz-Rojas: $365,058 to discover the ecological and functional roles of cyanobacteria in drylands, and develop new technologies for their broad application in large-scale ecosystem restoration.

Dr Szymon Drobniak: $365,058 to bridge two fundamental human stressors together in a quantitative genetic framework.

For the full list of recipients go to the ARC website.