TimGibsonwill become the first Griffith alumni in space.

In late 2013,Tim, who graduated with a double-degree in business management and human resources from Griffith in 2005, was selected to travel to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida as part of a competition for a promotional journey into space with NASA.

As one of only four Australians selected, he joined 106 other finalists from around the world in a strict testing regime to determine which entrants would be selected to go to space. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moonwith the Apollo 11 mission, was on hand to offer congratulations toTimwhen his name was one of the final group of 23 announced in the winners list. It’s always a pleasure to see our alumni reaching such great heights.

Closer to earth, I joined Tourism Minister, the Hon Jann Stuckey, in launching our new Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) at our Gold Coast campus on 27 March. Tourism has been part of the Griffith University ‘fabric’ since 1990 when we first offered our Bachelor of Hotel Management degree. Today, tourism is strategically supported as one of our areas of research excellence. GIFT is well aligned with Griffith’s commitment to innovation and undertaking socially relevant research which provides demonstrable community benefit. The new Institute will focus on the triple bottom line principle with three major areas of impact: Business, Destinations & Organisations; Health, Experience & Well-being; and Environmental Change & Nature Conservation.

On 26 March at our Nathan campus, I attended a fascinating symposium on robots and the important role they are now playing in health care support. Professor Wendy Moyle (Director, Centre for Health Care Innovation) first became interested in assistive technologies and robotics when – as a recipient on a European Union grant in 2009 – she was introduced to the PARO seal robot. Wendy could see a place for robots in the care of people with dementia, so she and her team undertook the first pilot study examining the effect of PARO on the quality of life and behaviours associated with dementia. This was the first international randomised controlled trial of the PARO robot.

More recently, Wendy’s team was successful in receiving a $1.1 million NHMRC grant to undertake a large randomised controlled trial of the effect of the PARO seal as well as an economic analysis. This study will be the largest international robotic trial with people with dementia.Later in the year, a social robotics laboratory will be opened in our Nursing and Midwifery building on the Nathan campus.

The first few months of the year has seen a plethora of staff being recognised for their outstanding achievements. Congratulations to: Professor Haig Patapan (School of Government and International Relations), Associate Professor Heidi Muenchberger (School of Human Services and Midwifery), and Griffith Masters graduate Dr Vinay Rane, who were among 31 Australians to receive 2014 Australian Fulbright Scholarships; Associate Professor Joan Vaccaro (School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences) who was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Physics based in the UK; Associate Professor Brigid Gillespie (School of Nursing and Midwifery) who was made a Fellow of the Australian College of Operating Room Nurses; Professor Lex Brown (Griffith School of Environment) who received the 2014 Rose Hulman Award by the International Association for Impact Assessment; Professor William MacNeil (Dean and Head of the Griffith Law School) who won the inaugural Penny Pether Prize for Scholarship in Law, Literature and the Humanities; Associate Professor Eddo Coiacetto (Griffith School of Environment) who won the “Cutting Edge Research and Teaching Award” in the Planning Institute of Australia’s Queensland’s 2013 Planning Excellence Awards; and Professor Peter Best (Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics) who received a 2013 Systems, Applications, and Products (SAP) Outstanding Academic Award for the Australia and New Zealand region.

Well done to all!