- Luis Orozco Aguilar
“I have developed a novel method (less-invasive, fast and reliable) to assess the growth rates and age of urban trees. Using this method I have studied trees within Melbourne's urban forest that are up to 135 years old, healthy and growing at 2.2mm per year; which is pretty wonderful.”
- Anne Aulsebrook
For my PhD I’m researching how urban street lights affect urban birds, including black swans.
- Himali Ratnayake
I love being able to explain the complex phenomena we see in an intricate yet simple way, with the ultimate goal of conserving species for the future.
- Alexander Norton
If I can offer any advice it is to figure out what really fascinates you day in, day out, and figure out how to make a career of it.
- Vera Korasidis
I enjoy using palaeontology and sedimentology to reconstruct and understand the Earth’s past environments and climates.
- W. Tyler Mehler
I became an avid fisherman at a young age (although never a good one) and liked to find and/or catch the different organisms that were associated with each ecosystem, whether it be invertebrates, frogs, and or fish.
Luis Orozco Aguilar
Urban trees are valuable assets for modern cities and they deliver important environmental and social benefits that enhance city liveability. My background is in Forestry and Agroforestry, so working with trees within an urban context now in line with my passion for crops and trees. From my point of view, urban forestry is both a challenging and rewarding research field with a promising future, particularly in Latin America.
During my PhD I have developed a novel method (less-invasive, fast and reliable) to assess the growth rates and age of urban trees. Traditional methods of dendrochronology (dating tree rings) are time-consuming; require specialized equipment and software and, ultimately; the coring points may function as potential entry courts for wood decay fungi. The development of this method is therefore important in the field of arboriculture and will improve measurements of urban tree biomass and growth. Using this method I have studied trees within Melbourne's urban forest that are up to 135 years old, healthy and growing at 2.2mm per year; which is pretty wonderful.
Luck is the intersection between preparation and opportunity, so don't give up, peruse your career, study hard and you will eventually achieve your profession.
Luis has received the Madeleine Selwyn-Smith Memorial Award and a Frank Keenan Scholarship.
I've always been fascinated by how biological processes work. During my undergraduate studies this was reconfirmed as I became passionate about learning how animals respond to changing environments. I love being able to explain the complex phenomena we see in an intricate yet simple way, with the ultimate goal of conserving species for the future.
While going through the list of qualified and highly cited supervisors at the University of Melbourne, the work by my principal supervisor, A/Prof Michael Kearney, struck out and I knew that this was the place for me. The pinnacle of my career so far was getting accepted to pursue my PhD at the University of Melbourne. It was a dream-come-true when I received the acceptance and scholarship letters, and my life thereon changed for the better!
There have been many highlights of my studies, including winning student grants, being able to understand complicated mechanistic models, going to my field sites and observing huge colonies of bats. The most significant highlight for me was to present my work at the annual meeting of the Australia New Zealand Society for Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry in front of pioneers of the field, and winning an award for the best speed talk.
Himali received the Margaret Catto Scholarship.
Having grown up in a rural area I've always been curious about the natural world and how we as a society impact upon it. Following my undergraduate studies I was driven to better understand climate change and other global environmental issues. I wanted to equip myself with the right knowledge so that I might offer solutions to these problems, and this led me to a PhD in Earth Sciences.
The research I've been involved with has opened me up to a whole world. Through independent and collaborative research I've been able to develop a greater understanding of the natural world and the interactions within it, with a focus on how plants interact with the global carbon cycle and climate change. Developing my knowledge in this area and sharing it with others has been a real highlight.
During my PhD I have had multiple opportunities to travel abroad to attend workshops, present at conferences and work with others in my field. This has included trips to Europe and the USA which was an incredible experience. I would highly recommend taking up any opportunity to travel abroad for study.
My dream career would entail a mix of scientific research on global-scale environmental issues and an active involvement in instigating change through communication of the science. If I can offer any advice it is to figure out what really fascinates you day in, day out, and figure out how to make a career of it. More specifically for a PhD in science, I believe that having an inspiring supervisor and helpful group of peers is key.
I have always been fascinated by how things work in nature, and I like to question them until I understand where things came from. For example, what is the law that governs the most fundamental interactions? How does a massive object bend space and time? What happen in the universe with more than 4 dimensions?
Learning mathematics and physics allow me to access explanations for most of the questions one could ask about the universe at the most fundamental level. Of course, a lot of the time this learning process can be difficult and frustrating, but in the end the satisfaction of seeing things fit together logically and beautifully always outweighs the cost.
Studying at the University of Melbourne means I have had an opportunity to learn from some of the best in my chosen fields. Every day is a highlight when you study mathematics and physics, actually science in general.
"By studying the past we can disentangle the events that led to changes in the natural environments and we can predict scenarios in the focus of a climate-changing future." -Michela
I am inspired by the notion that the past holds the key to understand the future. By studying the past we can disentangle the events that led to changes in the natural environments and we can predict scenarios in the focus of a climate-changing future. My research focuses on the reconstruction of past fire activities and related environmental changes across the Southern Hemisphere, especially western Tasmania. I'm now in the second year of my PhD, and so far have managed to publish a paper in a relevant international journal and showcase my findings at an important conference in Chile.
More recently, I received the Allan Gilmour Award from the Faculty of Science and this constitutes a very important step forward to proceed with my research; allowing me to participate in a workshop in Europe. As well as helping me connect with other experts in my field of study, this workshop will allow me to deeply understand the mathematical models applied to fossil pollen records to estimate either regional or local vegetation changes. Since my data collection will be completed by the time of the workshop, I will also be able to use my data to test the models with the supervision of experts. This methodology has not been applied in Australia yet, thus this research will also represent a step forward in Australian palaeoecology. After all the time I've spent in the lab and on the computer, I can say I'm really satisfied now!
Melbourne was suggested to me by researchers where I was working in Italy. Once I had contacted my current supervisor and discussed the research project, I got very interested in it and I decided to apply for a scholarship...and I'm still very happy about this choice! My advice would be that if you want to undertake a successful PhD in Science, you must be passionate and willing to devote your time to this amazing discipline.
Michela received the John and Allan Gilmour Research Award.
For her PhD with the school of Biosciences, Anne is researching the impact of artificial light on black swans in Melbourne’s Albert Park Lake. Until about 150 years ago, when electric lights were introduced, the world had a very predictable light-dark cycle. But now, there are many places in the world where true darkness does not exist anymore.
“This can have a huge impact, as life evolved with a predictable light-dark cycle,” Ms Aulsebrook says. She says that melatonin levels, which are influenced by light, can affect the sleep-wake cycle, metabolism, immune function and cardiovascular systems.
”Artificial light at night can shift the timing of animal behaviour and pose a significant threat to wildlife, but its impacts remain poorly understood. For example, songbirds will start singing earlier and remain active for longer. Animals that are active for longer each day should have less time to sleep.”
The popular use of LED lights, which emit more blue light, as opposed to early electric lights which emitted orange-red light and which is like moonlight, can exacerbate the problem, she says. It isn’t all bad news, though. Ms Aulsebrook says that the colour of LED lights can be changed to filter out the blue area of spectrum “in the way some smart phones have a night shift function”. “We have the potential to make a real change. A lot of environmental impacts make us feel powerless, but with artificial light, anyone using lights can contribute to solving the problem."
Anne was the runner up in 2016 3 Minute Thesis competition. Watch her grand final presentation below:
She is one of 100 students who have been awarded a share in $1 million in funding from the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.
I completed a Bachelor of Science in 2011, with a double specialisation in pure and applied mathematics. When I was choosing my breadth subjects in first-year, a subject adviser suggested I might like microeconomics. I didn't expect to learn economics at university and I certainly didn't expect it would become a major research focus of my PhD.
In 2013 I finished my Masters of Science (Mathematics and Statistics) specialising in the application of mathematics on economics. During this I began to appreciate how mathematics can be used as a powerful tool to gain insight into problems in a variety of fields and applications.
Studying at the University of Melbourne has given me the opportunity to pursue my research interests in mathematics and economics with excellent supervision and mentoring. It has given me a broad range of experiences, such as living on campus at Janet Clarke Hall, tutoring undergraduates and travelling overseas. I would encourage science students to consider taking mathematics subjects, as they equip you with valuable quantitative, problem-solving and analytical skills.
See here to find out more about Janet Clarke Hall and other residential colleges.
The environment and its biodiversity is our natural capital. However, the way in which we are exploiting natural resources, destroying natural forests, diminishing our wildlife, and warming the global temperature no amount of money could help us in the coming future. We need to protect our environment, ecosystem and associated biodiversity through insightful research for our own well-being.
There is a growing body of literature on increased biodiversity loss; species extinction; habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation due to unsustainable use of natural resources. Anthropogenic climate change has added an extra pressure on the vulnerability of species’ existence. Historically, global biodiversity has been undervalued and its loss has been considered a negligible cost.
My current focus is on assessing the climate change vulnerability of freshwater invertebrates. Climate change is arguably the greatest emerging threat to the functioning of local ecosystems and in turn to global biodiversity. Anthropogenic climate change may disrupt species’ sensitivity (species’ inability to persist in situ), exposure (the extent to which species are exposed to changing environment), and low adaptability. All species must follow the rule of ‘adapt, migrate, or perish’. Freshwater invertebrates are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of the limited dispersability, water temperature and availability, and exposure to various anthropogenic threats. As the apex creature on earth we have ethical reasons to save all of the species within it and leave the earth as a beautiful living place for our future generations.
I am focussing my studies on Geology, specifically sedimentology and palaeontology which includes palynology and plant microfossils. I enjoy using palaeontology and sedimentology to reconstruct and understand the Earth’s past environments and climates.
My interest in science was well established even as a young child. I was always fascinated with the earth and wanting to learn more about why and how the earth and all the natural features on it formed. This passion has remained with me to this day and continues to inspire me as I undertake my PhD.
Some of the highlights of my course so far have included undertaking fieldwork in some stunning locations across Australia including the Flinders Ranges, the Otway Ranges, the Buchan Caves, the Hunter Valley and Cape Liptrap.
Outside of university I enjoy doing classical ballet and other styles of dance including jazz and tap dancing. I also really enjoy hiking and travelling throughout Australia.
Vera has received The John Lovering Prize, The Professor Kernot Research Scholarship (Earth Sciences) with the J.H. Harvey Prize, The Howitt Natural History Scholarship and The Baragwanath Geology Research Travel Scholarship.
My PhD research is in astrophysics. Specifically, I’m using the Hubble Space Telescope to detect the most distant galaxies known. We can see these galaxies as they were over 13 billion years ago – only 500 million years after the Big Bang. Studying these galaxies helps us to determine the properties of galaxies in the early universe, and to understand how these galaxies evolve into the galaxies we see in the nearby universe today.
My parents took me on a trip to the Parkes telescope when I was in year 2 or year 3 of primary school, and I think after that I was determined to be an astronomer so that I could use the telescope! I wore out most of the science picture books that my parents bought me, and was later lucky enough to have excellent science teachers in high school that challenged me.
One of the highlights of my MSc in Physics was the opportunity to travel to Italy for a summer school at the Vatican Observatory. I stayed just outside of Rome for a month, and got to attend lectures by some of the top astrophysicists in the world. I also got to observe on the 10m Keck telescope in Hawaii for my masters research, which was very exciting.
The University of Melbourne has been a really good place for me - I definitely found my undergraduate and masters studies challenging but very rewarding. My research group is extremely supportive, and I feel like I have been encouraged to take all of the opportunities that have come my way. Between beginning my undergraduate degree and now, I have become much more comfortable and confident at giving talks and meeting new people - this is a big part of doing science, since it's such a collaborative field.
I enjoy handcrafts such as sewing and knitting. I also enjoy photography, especially working with analogue film. My dream career is to be an astrophysicist, studying the stars and galaxies in the very early Universe.
Read more about Stephanie’s research here.
In 2015 I received the Dr Alan Kenneth Head Travelling Scholarship, which allowed me to visit The Centre for Cold Matter at Imperial College, London. They are one of the few collaborations proposing to directly detect evidence of new physics beyond the Standard Model (or at least place bounds on existing models). Their results rely on the contextual interpretation of accurate molecular calculations to search for the electric dipole moment of the electron. Such calculations are the primary goal of my PhD project, and it is of vital importance that they reflect the laboratory conditions of the molecule as well as possible. Specifically, the objective of my trip was to gain a more intimate understanding of the apparatus involved, and to improve the dialogue between theoretical and experimental efforts.
The discussions and talks given by group members such as Prof. Ed Hinds, Prof. Ben Sauer and PhD student Isabel Rabey have provided valuable insight into the details of the experiment. They have outlined the need for an updated (multi-configurational) molecular calculation to account for the strong coupling of the YbF molecule’s low-lying ro-vibrational excited states with its (ideally-prepared) ground state.
W. Tyler Mehler
W. Tyler Mehler is investigating the suitability of using fish embryos to assess the toxicity of aquatic environments.
Having grown up in the rural areas of Illinois in the United States, I have always been fond of the outdoors and the environment. It was pretty early on that I realised I wanted to work in this setting. Additionally, I became an avid fisherman at a young age (although never a good one) and liked to find and/or catch the different organisms that were associated with each ecosystem, whether it be invertebrates, frogs, and or fish. It wasn't until college that I realised that I could make a profession out of my interests in the field of aquatic toxicology, to study how we as a society can impact these ecosystems.
In the past my research has utilised species that have been worked in the past (two invertebrate species), but being awarded the Jasper Loftus-Hills Award will allow me to investigate a very promising vertebrate species which not has been worked with in this capacity; fish embryos. The use of native fish embryos in Toxicity Identification Values would be beneficial for many reasons including: higher degree sensitivity, quicker results, use of a vertebrate species, and more appeal to the public.
Recently, I went to China to visit with three institutions to discuss my research as well as possible collaborations. It was a great experience, one in which I learned not only about my field of science, but also about culture and work/life balance. I believe this trip benefited me not only professionally, but also personally.
From my experience, the student/professor relationship can be one that is not as much supervisory (unless it needs to be), but rather one where you work together as colleagues. I think is very valuable to the student and encourages them to be more forward without as much pressure.
I am a Physics PhD student at The University of Melbourne, mainly focusing on gravitational wave data analysis for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project. This is an international experiment that is developing tools to detect gravitational waves. Funded by the Dr Alan Kenneth Head Travelling Scholarship , between January and July 2016 I spent 6 month visiting LIGO sites, labs and universities located in the United States and Italy. The first 3.5 months were part of the LIGO Visitors Program, which is operated by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. The aim of this program is to describe techniques associated with the field of interferometric gravitational wave detection, and enhance communication between visitors and the global LIGO teams. For the remaining part I visited the University of Michigan and the University of Rome - La Sapienza; collaborating with the groups there for research work on LIGO data analysis.
During my trip I was able to contribute to flagging the continuous wave hardware injections during the first observational run of Advanced LIGO, produce papers and presentations on the continuous gravitational wave searches and worked with data analysis groups to improve our search and application methods.
In March 2016 I was able to attend an LVC meeting (in Pasadena, US), which was the first LVC conference since the detection of gravitational waves, and brought together important and instructive presentations and discussions. The Gravitational Wave Advanced Detector Workshop (GWADW) in Elba, Italy, also helped me establish the knowledge about instruments and the next generation of detectors, which will enhance my research on gravitational waves.
Some of my research results have been published or written up in papers, and some will also be published as part of the LIGO collaboration papers. During the visit and I have a series of presentations to showcase the contribution of data analysis group in the University of Melbourne toward the international LIGO collaboration, explaining the methods developed by the Melbourne group and the astrophysical search results achieved. I have also taken part in some outreaching activities like teaching elementary school students gravitational waves, which is also interesting and valuable experience.
Find out more about Ling Sun's recent research here.
My research seeks to extend our knowledge in the field of metamorphic geology – the study of rocks formed deep in mountain belts – in light of new methods for studying these rocks and advances in understanding metamorphic processes. The aim of the work funded by the John and Allan Gilmour Scholarship was to discover the processes involved in the formation and evolution of rocks collected from Madagascar. These rocks are important in the study of earth processes as they were found to have formed in the final collision of tectonic plates forming the super continent Gondwana around 520 million years ago. Globally, we can piece together areas of rocks formed in similar conditions and time periods to discover past configurations of continents.
After collecting 72 rock samples from the remote areas of southern Madagascar, these were shipped to Germany for analysis at The Johanes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Notable findings include: literally finding the right rocks in the field and identifying high-temperature mineral assemblages including the key assemblage sapphirine + quartz; developing a new way to model domainal rocks when the traditional method did not work and a new temperature and pressure constraint on the area which is lower than previously estimated. I presented my findings at the conference “Granulites and Granulites” in Windhoek, Namibia in August 2015.
I have caught the fieldwork bug, so I would like to explore many more field areas as a postdoctoral researcher. I also enjoy the teaching opportunities I have had within my department, and would like to develop these further and one day lead my own students into the field. A career in Earth Sciences has the potential to be incredibly diverse, and I am excited and motivated for the future.
Catherine has received the John and Allan Gilmour Research Award and The Professor Kernot Research Scholarship (Earth Sciences) with the J.H. Harvey Award.
I think climate change is the most important global challenge of our time and want to contribute to the decision making processes, which is why I decided to pursue my PhD in climate change modelling.
Studying here has given me the chance to move back home to Melbourne and I couldn't be happier in the environment I'm in. The support the university has provided in my course has been great; writing skills (big thanks to Simon Clews and the Melbourne Engagement Lab), computing skills, tips on navigating a PhD, library and research skills.
Joining the Australian-German Climate and Energy College, a vibrant group of PhD students in fields related to climate and energy, has been a highlight of my studies. My first semester of German has also been great.
If you’re thinking about pursuing a PhD, come in and meet with all of us at the college and discuss your interests - both research and broader - to see if we'd be a good fit.
Find out more about the Australian-German Climate and Energy College here.
Jessica’s research looks at chemical communication and mating preferences in orb-weaving spiders. She is interested in studying animal behaviour and particularly how the environment may change or influence these behaviours in surprising ways
She was recently featured on Network Ten’s kids science show Scope, where she presented a story on her research into spider silk in their episode themed ‘Insects and Spiders’.
Watch the full episode below. Jessica's segment is @ 17.07.