Flinders honours three of its own at April graduations

Professor Rodney Brooks

Marking its 50th anniversary, Flinders University will present honorary awards to three of its outstanding graduates during April graduation ceremonies this week.

Receiving honorary awards are surgeon, clinical researcher and philanthropist Professor David Wattchow; nursing researcher, educator and high-ranking army reservist Professor Annette Summers; and international pioneer in robotics and artificial intelligence, Professor Rodney Brooks.

The three will receive their awards during the course of eight ceremonies to be held on the Bedford Park campus this week, and some 1685 graduating students will be presented with their degrees by the University’s Chancellor, Mr Stephen Gerlach.

Awarded the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa for his work in the field of robotics, Professor Rodney Brooks graduated from Flinders University in 1978 with an honours degree in science and Master of Science in pure mathematics. He then undertook postgraduate studies at Stanford University, completing a PhD in Computer Science in 1981.

In 1991, while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he co-founded the company iRobot, which produced robots for domestic, military and industrial use. From 1997 to 2007, he was Director of MIT’s major artificial intelligence laboratory.

In 2008, he left iRobot to found Rethink Robotics, which builds robots for use in manufacturing. He retired in 2010 from MIT, but is still a leader in the collaborative robot industry, known for building robots based on biological principles of movement and reasoning.

Professor Brooks has been recognised with membership of peak academic science and engineering bodies in the US and Australia.

Co-founding editor of the International Journal of Computer Vision, he currently serves on several editorial boards.The recipient of numerous professional awards from bodies associated with robotics, he also holds lectureships at universities including Minnesota and Stanford University.

In 1997, Professor Brooks was the subject of the Errol Morris movie Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, named for one of his scientific papers. [Professor Brooks will present a free public lecture at 1pm on Thursday, 14 April at Flinders’ Bedford Park campus. If you wish to attend, please register on the Events page on the Flinders website.]

Professor Annette Summers

The award of Doctor of the University recognises Professor Annette Summers’ achievements in clinical nursing, nurse education, research and health care in South Australia, and also with the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

A practising general nurse and registered midwife since the mid-1970s, Professor Summers graduated with a degree in nursing from Flinders in 1988, and later completed a Master of Education Studies before being awarded the University’s first PhD in nursing in 1996.

Entering academia at Flinders, she became a senior lecturer and associate dean in Nursing at Flinders before being appointed head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of South Australia in 1998, where she also took on other executive roles.

From 1990 to 2002 she was part of a team to receive $1.5 million of research funding for cardiovascular nursing. She has over 90 publications including journal articles, books, reports, and submissions.

Parallel with her academic career, Professor Summers commenced as a military nurse practitioner in 1981, rising from Lieutenant to Colonel; the first nurse in the Army Reserve to achieve the rank. She led the development of the Army Museum of South Australia at Keswick Barracks.

Her services to the community include university, state, national and international committees. She examines theses nationally and is a journal reviewer. Professor Summers has received various awards from bodies including the ADF, the Red Cross and the University of SA. In 2004, she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Professor David Wattchow

Recipient of the award of Companion of the University, Professor David Wattchow, a foundation alumnus of the School of Medicine, is recognised internationally as an expert in the treatment of complex cancers of the distal colon.

His leadership of the Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) Clinician’s Special Purpose Fund has been influential in the donation more than two million dollars to the University for neuroscience and cancer research, while his significant personal donations to the University have supported PhD scholarships and fellowships. These activities have been instrumental in the creation of the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.

A graduate and University Medallist in 1980, Professor Wattchow received his PhD from Flinders in 1989. He gained his surgical fellowship in 1990, joining the FMC staff as a consultant surgeon with academic status at the University. He was made Head of Colorectal Surgery in 1996, and in 2008 received professorial status and became FMC’s Clinical Director of Gastrointestinal Surgery.

As well as teaching into the University’s MD course and supervising PhD students, Professor Wattchow is the author of 75 peer reviewed publications and recipient of 32 research grants.

A strong advocate for the integration of clinical service, education and research, Professor Wattchow has also been a passionate supporter of the School of Medicine’s alumni network.


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