Alumni make the world a better place

Flinders University 2016 Convocation Medal recipient, CSIRO climate scientist Dr Wenju Cai.

From El Niño to Orby to Hotel Mumbai, Flinders University today celebrates six graduates who go to great heights to stand out and lift their professions.

The acknowledgement of six movers and shakers in industries as diverse as climate change, assistive technologies for children and film-making focuses on alumni who go above and beyond their chosen careers to make an impact in the wider community.

The 2016 alumni awards, including this year’s Convocation Medal, feature national and global thought-leaders in environmental management, the Australian economy and quality nursing care – and local heroes in the disability and entertainment sectors.

Convocation Medal

Environmental scientist Dr Wenju Cai, the Research Director of CSIRO’s Earth System Assessment Program, has been awarded the University’s 2016 Convocation Medal for leadership and advancement of knowledge in the field of ocean and atmospheric science.

His contribution to the World Climate Research program CLIVAR (Climate and Ocean – Variability, Predictability, and Change) Pacific Panel, is supported by highly prolific research over the past 20 years which has helped to answer many important questions about the planet’s oceans and climate.

In 2012, the Ocean University of China honoured Dr Cai with the highest award for an overseas Chinese scholar which helped secure funding from the Chinese Government to support the international CLIVAR project office in China.

Dr Cai has had 15 papers published in Nature journals (seven as first-authors). Seven have been selected by the editors of Nature and American Geophysical Union as highlight publications in areas of:

  • Global warming patterns and climate extremes (e.g., El Niño, La Niña and the Indian Ocean Dipole);
  • The role of ozone depletion, Northern Hemispheric aerosols and increasing CO2 on Southern Hemispheric ocean circulation changes; and
  • Drought, bushfires and global warming.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

A Flinders PhD graduate (2000), Oxford University’s Professor Debra Jackson has become a research leader in international nursing. She was the first Professor of Nursing to be appointed at Oxford in 25 years and has gone on to establish the Oxford Institute of Nursing and Allied Health Research as the Professor of Nursing at Oxford Brookes University and Oxford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Her research achievements include publication of more than 300 articles which have attracted more than 8,000 citations, along with attracting more than $6 million in external funding from government and industry sources.

David Hobbs and Max Hughes
David Hobbs, left, with industrial designer Max Hughes with Orby, the orb-shaped gaming controller, developed by Flinders, UniSA and Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Flinders alumnus, lecturer and academic member of the Medical Device Research Institute at Flinders, David Hobbs, is a rehabilitation engineer in the field of disability. Working with Novita’s Children’s Services and community groups, he has developed a range of assistive technologies for children with cerebral palsy – including a novel computer game intervention called Orby.

Another of David’s achievements while working at Novita for almost 10 years was leading the Australian commercialisation of a software program from Canada that enables children with disabilities to play music simply by moving.  He also has experience working in rehabilitation engineering research and industry institutions in England, Canada and the United States.

In the arts, Flinders Drama Centre graduate Geordie Brookman (2002) and Law (Honours) alumnus Anthony Maras – who went on to study film at the University of California – have long CVs which closely tie in with helping to build up strong and prolific  stage and screen industries in South Australia.

Well known to SA audiences, Geordie Brookman has directed many successful shows for State Theatre Company since working for several major Australian theatre companies including Belvoir, Malthouse, Sydney and Melbourne theatre companies and Queensland Theatre Company (QTC).

Along with directing in the UK and Asia, he has worked as a producer, dramaturg, teacher, event director and curator for organisations including the Adelaide Festival, National Play Festival, Australian Theatre for Young People, Australian Fashion Week, and QTC.

Film director Anthony Maras, right, on the set of Hotel Mumbai in Adelaide. Photo courtesy Cyan Films.

Film-maker Anthony Maras this year returned to South Australia to make his first feature-length movie Hotel Mumbai, starring international cast members Dev Patel and Armie Hammer.

Shot in South Australia and India, Hotel Mumbai is based on the 2008 terrorist attacks on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, and has been internationally financed through an association with Hollywood’s famed Weinstein Company.

His creativity and resourcefulness has added to the Australian film scene, with his filmography featuring AFI Awards for Best Short Film in 2007 and 2011 for Spike Up and The Palace.

The fifth Flinders 2016 Distinguished Alumni award goes to influential national economic affairs commentator Peter Martin who has put his keen mind and research knowhow to wide use via highly informed and accessible commentary in the popular media.

His award nominators, who took Mr Martin through his Bachelor of Economics (Honours) at Flinders in the late 1970s, said: “He has worked with distinction for the ABC, SBS and in print for The Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times and The Age, where he is economics editor.” His syndicated columns and blog continue to provide very active, constructive and influence to the national debate.

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