The Change Agenda: Leadership and Direction for Australia’s Future

The inaugural John Monash Scholars’ Symposium will use short “idea-bite” presentations from the UK and Europe based John Monash Scholars to inform a conversation on global trends, and provoke discussion about appropriate responses to them. Each area of discussion, Drivers of Change, Our Human Response, Harnessing Technology and Leading the Region, will include 5-6 presentations, with each session chaired by an eminent Australian. At the conclusion of the area of discussion, the Chairs will briefly present an overview of the topic, and then open the session to questions from the floor.

Drivers of Change: Presentations on the impact of nano-technology, the future of healthcare, and the changing environment.

Alexander-BarbaroAlexander Barbaro, 2013 John Monash Scholar

Alex is a DPhil candidate in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford. He investigates quantum readout of spin resonance in silicon nanostructures. Before Oxford, Alex served as a Flight Lieutenant electrical engineering officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. He led a diverse team that deployed tactical communication systems in support of government operations.

Alex enjoys the outdoors, great coffee and spending time with friends. He is a member of the university triathlon team, and co-founded Oxford’s Engineers Without Borders chapter.

Spin doctoring in silicon nanostructures

Silicon is a constituent element of Australia’s white sandy beaches, but also the critical ingredient in modern technologies like solar cells and computer chips. The miniaturisation of computer chip components that is necessary for improved processing power has almost reached a physical limit; they cannot get any smaller. New materials and new approaches to how computer are programmed provide potential alternative avenues of approach.

One promising approach led by Australia-based researchers is a silicon-based spin quantum computer. This type of computer uses the intrinsic spins of electrons and nuclei to process information. Backed by both the Australian Government and industry, this potential change of computational platform is an innovation that Australia hopes to lead and harness to more easily solve exceedingly complex problems in the future.


Dr James DaniellDr James Daniell (2009 John Monash Scholar)

James is a geophysicist, geologist and engineer, holding a doctorate in Civil Engineering from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. James is currently a Senior Disaster Risk Analyst with the World Bank having undertaken over 50 country earthquake risk assessments in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South-East Asia, Central America and the Caribbean; as well as various policy documents and technical reports for GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction). Since 2010, he has co-managed the online reporting platform He also works on social media data analysis, real-time loss analysis, information synthesis, mapping and graphic visualisation for natural disaster events. He also manages the collaborative Future Energy Risks and Disaster Analysis projects of CEDIM (Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology).

Global Natural Disaster: Risks and Losses

Globally, well over $10 trillion in economic losses and over 10 million deaths can be attributed directly to natural disaster events from floods, earthquakes, storms, volcanoes and climatic effects historically.  James will compare the “wine risk” of Australia to some other nations globally and talk about the potential for collaboration with other fields of study. With APEC responsible for 1/3 of global wine production, the wine industry has been shown to have major losses via earthquakes in Chile (2010), Christchurch (2011) and Napa (2014), and are often prone to other major disasters such as flood, storms, frost, fire or disease. Natural and man-made (human, energy and water supply) disasters play a key role in wine industry losses, and the variability in seasonal shifts and sudden shocks can often play a major role in the lifecycle, and indeed the lifetime of wineries.


James and Students_3693James Kwiecinski (2014 John Monash Scholar)

James graduated with First Class Honours and the University Medal from Monash University with a double major in Applied Mathematics and Honours in Theoretical Physics. He is currently studying for a DPhil in Mathematics at the University of Oxford and has done research in a number of diverse fields, from optical physics to cellular biology. He is passionate about science and mathematics education, having worked with the CSIRO to provide high-school research projects on theoretical neuroscience, chaos theory, and the modelling of infectious diseases. He is currently the Alan Tayler Scholar of Mathematics at St. Catherine’s College and works as the Tutor of Mathematical Mechanical Biology and Tutor of Modelling in Mathematical Biology at the Oxford Mathematical Institute.

Mathematics and why it isn’t as boring as you might think

“What is the point of mathematics?” Although almost everyone studies it in high-school, few are able to see the purpose of mathematics and the role that algebra and calculus play in the modern world. An often overlooked fact is that many of the technologies that we use in our daily lives were invented and refined due to a mathematical framework that was introduced decades or even centuries earlier. However, with the increasingly rapid pace of technological and medical advancements, there is a greater need for mathematicians to find quantitative understanding; more than any other time in history. My talk will illustrate the incredible power and diverse applications that mathematics has in solving the challenges of today and beyond.


Copyright Giselle Haber PhotographyLydia Braunack-Mayer (2015 John Monash Scholar)

Lydia is studying for a Master of Science in Statistics at ETH Zürich. Lydia holds two bachelor degrees from the University of Adelaide, a Bachelor of Mathematical and Computer Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also contributed to the University’s mathematics outreach and served as an executive member of the youth association Lutheran Students and Friends.Lydia has worked with the Fraser Mustard Centre, analysing national education data to improve early learning outcomes for Australian children. Her passion, however, is in finding solutions to problems in global healthcare and epidemiology. She is especially interested in how statistical modelling can be used to manage infectious disease outbreaks. Lydia is also a keen cook, a lover of classical music and opera, and an enthusiastic seamstress. She is learning German, Swiss German and how to ski.

Big data: is it all good?

Who holds personal information about me? Who can access my personal data? Can my data be used to hurt me? Do I care?

In this age of ‘big data’, a multitude of organisations can and do store, access and use personal information. Individual data feeds the development of research, security, marketing, finance, entertainment, and much more. These organisations imply that their use of our personal information is in our best interest. Yet, not all organisations use our information in a way that protects sensitive data. In many instances, the sensitive information revealed by big data has the potential to cause harm. In this presentation, Lydia explores the concept of privacy in big data and questions whether our current approach to big data is, in fact, in our best interest.


Fergus Green - Library headshotFergus Green (2012 John Monash Scholar)

Fergus Green is a climate policy consultant and a researcher at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE). Previously (2014-2015), Fergus was a Policy Analyst and Research Advisor to Professor Nicholas Stern at the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, where his work focused on international climate cooperation, China, and topics relating to climate change mitigation. He has also taught Global Energy & Climate Policy in the Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy at SOAS (2013–14). Fergus is currently undertaking a PhD in the LSE Department of Government, focusing on transitional justice and politics in major economic policy reforms. He is also an Associate of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne.

Justice and Politics in Major Economic Reforms

Australia is struggling to reach political agreement on major economic reforms like tax policy and climate change mitigation. Like many advanced liberal democracies, our politics is dominated by those who would stand to lose from otherwise socially desirable reforms. In some cases, we should let transitional losses and gains lie, but in others it seems only fair that transitional policies be enacted (e.g. to provide, exemptions, compensation or adjustment assistance to losers). But what principles should societies like ours use to determine how to deal with transitional winners and losers from major reforms? And what kinds of institutions would we need to facilitate such ‘just transitions’?


Our Human Response: Presentations on character and leadership, poetry and the modern apology, and LGBTI representation in teen literature. 

Announcement of the 2016 John Monash Scholars

Samuel Williams (2016 John Monash Scholar)

Samuel has a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) with First Class Honours and was awarded the University Medal from Flinders University. He is a fiction writer who studies and advocates for the representation of sexual and gender diversity in young adult literature. His fiction, poetry and non-fiction has been published  in Australia. He is an enthusiastic teacher of writing to young people, and a volunteer with LGBT youth in his home town of Adelaide.His passion is books. He is an aspiring author, has had his poetry and short stories published and has edited Dubnuim, a literary journal. Samuel is also a bookseller, tutor, drama teacher and debating coach. He is intending to undertake a PhD in Creative Writing and write about Australia and the Australian experience, in particular to focus on the representation of gender and sexuality diversity in young adult literature.

LGBTQIA Young Adult Literature: A Library of Identity Possibilities

Why are minority rights movements in the West – be they from ethnic communities, indigenous populations, disabled communities or the LGBTQIA community – still so preoccupied with ‘identity’ as a means of responding to prejudice? How do newcomers to these communities, particularly adolescents, form their own ‘identities’, and why? Is being ‘gay’ even important any more? With the position of DSG (diverse sexuality and gender) continuing to change rapidly in our societies, what role can fiction play in ameliorating conflict between communities, and showing us other possible ways of relating to each other and our selves-in-progress? How can it improve the lives of young people? Might literature succeed at the point where politics fails?


Amy-mclennanDr Amy McLennan (2009 John Monash Scholar)

Amy is a Senior Analyst in the Project Office of the Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and a Research Associate at the School of Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Amy completed her MPhil and DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford, where she investigated lifestyle change, sociocultural change and obesity emergence in one of the most obese nations in the world. She is an enthusiastic cross-disciplinary collaborator, having journeyed from the biomedical to social sciences in her university studies, and has co-published on topics ranging from anatomy to online food activism.

Amy is fluent in French and is getting there with German. She is passionate about food, and carries out regular experiments in the kitchen. She is also a rower, and represented the University of Oxford in the reserve boat ‘Osiris’ in the 2012 Boat Race.

Is obesity a ‘culture problem’ rather than a ‘health problem’?

Obesity has been a major health concern in Australia for over 20 years. Yet so far, no interventions have been successful in reducing population-level obesity anywhere in the world. Are we looking for answers in the right place? My work in Nauru, the UK and Australia suggests that culture has a key role to play. I outline three links between culture and obesity that I have observed in my work. If obesity is recast as a culture problem, what are the implications for policy making and governance?


scholar_305x190pxlsHarriet Mercer (2016 John Monash Scholar)

Harriet graduated from the ANU with First Class Honours in her Bachelor of Philosophy and was awarded the University Medal for history. She went on to do a Masters in Global and Imperial History at The University of Oxford where she received the Beit Prize for most outstanding dissertation. Harriet’s passion for history is underpinned by the belief that the makeup of the contemporary world can only fully be understood by an investigation of its past. She is planning to continue her studies with a doctorate in history, with a particular interest in the history of migration, nationality and citizenship laws of the Australasian region, and how these inform policy today. She is currently working as a research assistant for Professor Stuart Ward’s Embers of Empire project at the University of Copenhagen.

An Australasian perspective on gender-discriminatory nationality laws

In the first half of the twentieth century, Australian and New Zealand women automatically lost their nationality upon marriage to a foreign national.  For some women, such automatic denaturalisation rendered them ‘aliens’ in the country of their birth; for others, it rendered them stateless. This presentation draws attention to the gender discrimination once contained in Australia and New Zealand’s nationality laws, examining the legislation both in terms of its lived experience and the political response it garnered.  By placing the Australian and New Zealand cases within a global historical perspective, the presentation will highlight how gender discrimination still persists in the nationality laws of over 60 countries and how working to eradicate such discrimination is proving vital to the UNHCR’s ‘global action plan’ to end statelessness by 2024.


Jodi-gardnerJodi Gardner (2011 John Monash Scholar)

Jodi Gardner is a College Lecturer in Contract Law and the Law of Torts at Corpus Christi College. She holds an LLB/B.Int.Rels from Griffith University, an LLM from the Australian National University, a BCL/M.Phil from Magdalen College, Oxford and is currently completing her D.Phil at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Jodi started her career as a consumer advocate at the Centre for Credit and Consumer Law in Australia, before qualifying as a solicitor and working at Caxton Legal Centre as a community lawyer specialising in consumer protection. Her D.Phil topic is the regulation of small amount credit (often referred to as ‘payday loans’), exploring the role that social minimums can play in determining an appropriate approach to regulating this area of law.

Protecting the Social Minimum of Vulnerable Borrowers

A wide variety of reasons have been put forward to justify limitations on credit contracts, particularly in relation to high-cost lending to (generally) vulnerable borrowers (often referred to as ‘payday loans’). A purely economic rationale generally provides an insufficient foundation to limit borrowers’ freedom of contract. So what is the role of ‘social minimums’ in justifying limitations on credit contracts, and how can the social minimum of borrowers be protected?


Bridget-vincentDr Bridget Vincent (2006 John Monash Scholar)

Bridget Vincent is an Assistant Professor in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at the University of Nottingham.  After completing a PhD at Cambridge University, she taught at Selwyn College and Magdalene College and then was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne from 2012 to 2015. Her research lies in the field of twentieth-century British and Irish literature, with particular emphases on poetics, modernism and the civic role of writing.  In 2014 she founded the Australian Youth Humanities Forum, a humanities counterpart to the National Youth Science Forum, designed to further public dialogue about the civic role of the humanities and, in particular, to encourage participation by students from underrepresented backgrounds.  At Nottingham she is working on a public program about poets and civic representation called Laureates Then and Now, which also aims to foster academic, creative and community dialogue.  She was recently shortlisted for the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers program for 2016.

 Poetry and the Modern Apology

We increasingly see public apologies in public life and literary works alike: they are enacted in contexts ranging from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the Australian government’s apology to the Stolen Generation, to the iconic genuflection of Willy Brandt before the Warsaw Ghetto Monument. While research surrounding public apology (particularly in the context of work on trauma, memory and reconciliation) has also become increasing prevalent, literary representations of public apology remain under-researched. Works such as J. M. Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’, and Gail Jones’ ‘Sorry’ present something of a scholarly conundrum. In the final historical and cultural assessment of public apologies, how are imaginative representations of apologies to be understood? Do they participate in the apologising process, or do they simply describe it? What implications does a judgement either way hold for scholarship on the larger relations between art and civic life?

Harnessing Technology: Presentations on ‘smart’ cities, big data, and medical technology

Davis-mccarthyDr Davis McCarthy (2011 John Monash Scholar)

Davis is a statistician and genomic scientist currently working on understanding genetic regulation of human induced pluripotent stem cells at the single-cell level. In 2015 he completed his DPhil in Statistics in the Department of Statistics and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford. Under the supervision of Professor Peter Donnelly he worked on the analysis of genomic variation in human health and disease, with a focus on understanding the genetic contributions to risk for type 2 diabetes. He is now an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow, working with Dr Oliver Stegle in the Statistical Genomics group at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridge, UK. His interests lie in developing statistical methods and software for the analysis of single-cell genomic data and applying them to large biological datasets.

Big Data from Small Cells

The successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 resulted in the first complete sequence of the human genome, a feat that took more than ten years and cost around 2.7 billion dollars. Today, through significant advances in technology, we can sequence an individual’s genome in under a week for less that one thousand dollars. The creation of faster and cheaper methods of DNA sequencing offers significant benefits to scientific research into rare and common diseases and human health. Genomic technologies are bringing biomedicine belatedly into the “big data” era, enabling us to assay DNA, gene expression and proteins rapidly at unprecedented resolution and scale.

New technologies have enabled genomic assays at the single-cell level giving us a better appreciation for previously unknown cell types and the extent of variability between cells under the same conditions. These advances underpin my current work on understanding genetic regulation of gene expression in human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The dream is ultimately to use iPSCs to create individually-tailored treatments for currently incurable.


Copyright Giselle Haber PhotographyDr Dylan Morris (2015 John Monash Scholar)

Dr Dylan Morris completed his medical internship at The Townsville Hospital in 2015, before moving to the UK in January to commence a DPhil at the Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit, Oxford. Dylan previously studied a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at James Cook University, Queensland with 1st Class Honours. He developed a keen interest in cardiovascular research and clinical trials while working at the Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular Disease. Dylan’s current research involves using big data sets to better understand the prevalence and risk factors of carotid artery disease, and its association with stroke. In addition, Dylan is assisting with the Asymptomatic Carotid Surgery Trial-2, and conducting a meta-analysis of completed clinical trials to clarify the role of surgery in managing asymptomatic carotid disease.

Using ‘Big Data’ for Stroke Prevention

Stroke is the second leading cause of mortality and the third leading cause of disability worldwide. Approximately one fifth of ischaemic strokes are caused by carotid artery stenosis, a narrowing of the large arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. There is current disagreement around whether carotid surgery should be offered routinely to individuals with carotid stenosis who have had no previous neurological symptoms.

This talk will involve a brief discussion on the rapidly evolving research field of ‘Big Data’, with a focus on stroke prevention studies. ‘Big Data’ research involves the use of large, population-scale data sets which are broadly focused, multi-dimensional, and highly heterogeneous. Studies often rely on data that has been collected for clinical or administrative purposes, such as hospital electronic records. The vast sample size of ‘Big Data’ research allows precise assessment of many risk factors with minimal patient follow-up. The background and design of three ‘big data’ studies on carotid artery disease will be presented.
Copyright Giselle Haber PhotographyLauren Ward (2015 John Monash Scholar)

Lauren is an audio and signal-processing engineer, with a focus on eHealth and medical applications. She has a Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honours (2014) and a Bachelor of Philosophy (2015), both from the University of Tasmania, Australia. For the last year and a half Lauren has been working as part of a CSIRO eHeath project, developing a prototype screening tool for the assessment of speech disorders in children. Lauren has also spent the last five years with the University of Tasmania STEM Education and Outreach Team developing engagement strategies and delivering STEM programs for school children and the general public. In three days time, Lauren will start a PhD in Acoustics and Audio Engineering at the University of Salford, UK.

Dismantling the Functional Dictatorship in Spatial Sound

Human’s have an excellent spatial hearing ability. Right up until up until the moment we don’t; it is one of the first skills lost when an individual’s hearing begins to deteriorate. Add to this current technology in spatial sound is working against us, giving no autonomy over user experience, be it in the cinema or the home. This not only rules out a Hard of Hearing listener optimising their entertainment experience, but leaves spatial sound applications in health and well-being services an untapped resource. Object Based Audio, the next generation of spatial sound reproduction, has the potential to dismantle this dysfunctional relationship and rebuild it, as a healthier, more cooperative one. This presentation will give an insight into what this new relationship might look like.


Copyright Giselle Haber PhotographyLaura Diment (2015 John Monash Scholar)

Laura is in the first year of her doctorate in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. Previously, Laura worked for 2 years as a biomedical engineer for the Medical Device Partnering Program in South Australia, where she designed, prototyped and tested novel medical and assistive devices. She has also lectured and tutored at the School of Computer Science Engineering and Mathematics at Flinders University. In a volunteer role with Motivation Australia, Laura has worked as a biomedical engineer in Papua New Guinea to train technicians in wheelchair assembly and fitting, and with Engineers Without Borders to develop partnerships between South Australian Engineering companies and local Aboriginal communities. Laura is also an artist, actively involved in the Brasenose College arts community. Her virtual art program, Splashboard, has gained international recognition for its benefits for people with disabilities.

Prosthetics: the cost of comfort

Technology is advancing rapidly to improve the functionality of prosthetic arms but comfort still remains an issue. The functional benefit of an artificial arm is often not enough to overcome its cost, the discomfort, and the effort required to use it. The standard method of producing and modifying a prosthesis to create a comfortable fit requires subjective evaluation, trial-and-error, significant expertise and multiple fitting sessions. If the relationships between a user’s discomfort and the physical parameters associated with pain at the user-device interface can be determined, they could be objectively fed into the socket design. A process of scanning the limb to develop a digital model, modifying the socket design based on the pain variables, and 3D printing the socket has potential to improve the comfort and reduce the time and cost associated with production and fitting.


Sam WillsSam Wills (2010 John Monash Scholar)

Sam is currently completing a D.Phil in Economics at the University of Oxford, investigating ways for governments and central banks to manage the “resource curse” facing resource-rich countries. He has previously worked with the governments of Ghana and Iraq on managing oil windfalls, through the International Growth Centre and the World Bank, and is working with the Bank of England on research into monetary policy. For his doctoral studies Sam has been named the David Walton Distinguished Scholar, which is awarded to the top D.Phil student in Macroeconomics or Finance. He has previously completed an M.Phil in Economics at Oxford, during which he was awarded Pembroke College’s Collingwood Prize for Academic Achievement, and a B.Com in Actuarial Studies and Finance from the University of New South Wales, for which he was awarded First Class Honours and the University Medal in Actuarial Studies. Sam has also worked for the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, McKinsey and Company, Westpac and Taylor Fry Consulting Actuaries. Outside studies Sam is a keen surfer and runner, and enjoys playing the guitar.

Left in the Dark; Oil and Rural Poverty

Oil booms do not benefit the rural poor. To show this we combine data on night-time lights and population at a very fine(1km2) resolution to construct global measures of rural poverty from 2000-2013. We find that oil booms, due either to high prices or new discoveries, increase GDP per capita. However, the increase in output is limited to cities and towns, and does not benefit the rural poor. We also find that while urbanization is occurring throughout the developing world, it is not being hastened by oil wealth.