From hunting for exoplanets throughout the galaxy to tackling public health threats across the Asia-Pacific region, the 2018 Alumni Award Finalists showcase the rich diversity of Griffith’s Science alumni.
Outstanding Alumnus Award Finalist
As a young boy, Professor Alan Cowman was mad about science.
As the current Deputy Director and Head of Infection and Immunity at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), the Griffith University graduate gets to live and breathe his lifelong passion while working towards saving lives from malaria.
Since graduating in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science with Honours under his belt, Professor Cowman has been an integral part of the WEHI laboratory and its focus on malaria, a disease that is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths a year around the world, and aims to develop a vaccine and new treatments.
Outstanding Young Alumnus Award Finalist
Dr Jessie Christiansen has always been a starry-eyed dreamer; she helped start her high school’s first astronomy club.
That early passion for astrophysics has burned bright ever since, propelling her studies and research into a stellar career that has landed her the prize role of Staff Scientist
at NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute, based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Christiansen works on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, which is how NASA keeps track of how many exoplanets have been found (planets around other stars), as well as her own research into how common planets are around other stars.
“Doing the Advanced Studies extension of the Bachelor of Science at Griffith was such an amazing opportunity to do research in a variety of labs and disciplines – I moved atoms around, I fired proton beams and I modelled the interiors of stars.”
Caltech recognised Christiansen recently with NASA’s Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, a high honour awarded for a scientist’s ‘unusually significant engineering contributions’.
Outstanding First Peoples Alumnus Award Finalist
Darren Smith knows what it’s like to fight for his life.
Two brushes with death as a youngster were the dramatic low points in his frequent battles with multiple pneumonias, collapsed lungs and severe asthma, that led him to lengthy stints in the Royal Brisbane Hospital. But with perseverance, Darren overcame his health battles.
As part of the Respiratory Scientist team at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, he’s combined his passion for science with a way to give back to those suffering respiratory ailments.
Although he wasn’t at first certain on what career he wanted to pursue after university, Darren knew it would involve science, and the Bachelor of Science and Masters at Griffith University gave him the ideal basis to start from.
Outstanding International Alumni Finalist
Professor Qiyong Liu graduated from Griffith with a Masters of Science Public Health in 2006 and a PhD in 2014.
Professor Liu is a public health specialist in communicable disease prevention and control in China. He is internationally renowned for his research addressing climate change and health, having devoted thirty years to combatting health threats to poor, vulnerable communities. In his position as a chief scientist and research leader, he has produced a large volume of world-class, influential works. Liu has built a formidable research team to tackle a range of public health threats confronting China and the Asia-Pacific region, such as air pollution and urban systems, and emerging zoonotic diseases.
He actively collaborates with Griffith colleagues on research, joint publications and international forums, and is an outstanding role model for the public health profession, and for the Griffith University community of scholars.
Awards Night Gala
In a first for Griffith, the university will recognise four remarkable alumni for their outstanding achievements with the finalists in each academic area to be considered.
In the race for the Outstanding Alumni award, the already-known finalists in the Outstanding Alumni groups will be joined by Barry Thomas (GBS), Professor Paul Simshauser (GBS), Professor Phillip Di Bella (GBS) and Dr Jay Gambetta (Science) who join the field for the overall Outstanding Alumnus Award.
Overall and group winners will be celebrated at a gala dinner on Friday, September 7 2018 in Brisbane.