Nanoscale electronics and cultural geography are almost as far apart as you can get on the spectrum of disciplines.

Yet they have been brought together, with an academic from each of these fields jointly announced as the UOW Vice-Chancellor’s Researcher of the Year Award for 2017.

Professor Gordon Waitt, from the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER), and Professor Xiaolin Wang, from the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM), received the award at a ceremony held in August.

Professor Waitt’s longstanding research career has “highlighted the emotional and corporeal elements of people’s attempts to be sustainable, with implications for government policies on everything from home energy use to reducing commuting by car”, according to the award citation.

A leader in the field of spintronics, Professor Wang “predicted and discovered a new class of materials, spin gapless semiconductors, which has created great interest and activity in the condensed matter community globally over the last few years”, a contribution recognised by his award citation.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of UOW staff in the areas of research, teaching and learning, diversity, outstanding service and community engagement.

Among academics recognised in the ‘Excellence in Research’ categories were epidemiologist Dr Xiaoqi Feng, awarded Emerging Researcher, and Professor Weihua Li for Excellence in Research Supervision. The award for Interdisciplinary Research went to the team behind Project Geldom. This project, which began in 2014 with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has developed into an “extensively multidisciplinary collaboration”, with over 15 experts from different institutions involved in tackling technical and social research aspects of a next-generation condom.

The Research Partnership and Impact category renamed in 2017 to reflect the move towards emphasising the engagement and impact of research was awarded to Professor Long Nghiem, Professor Will Price and Professor Pascal Perez with partner Sydney Water.

This “exemplary interdisciplinary collaborative” research partnership spans research funding, the development of intellectual property and technical know-how, translation of research outcomes to industry, scholarly publications and student scholarships.

The Award citation included the example of the collaborative project to design, construct, install and commission a research anaerobic co-digestion pilot plant at the Shellharbour Sewage Plant. 


Prof Gordon Waitt: Faculty of Social Sciences

Prof Xiaolin Wang: Australian Institute for Innovative Materials 


Dr Xiaoqi Feng: Faculty of Social Sciences

Dr Lucas Ihlein: Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts (Highly Commended)


Project: Project Geldom: Designing the Next-Generation Condom

A/Prof Robert Gorkin, Dr Jason McArthur, A/Prof Christopher Magee, A/Prof Kate Senior, Ms Laura Grozdanovski, Prof Geoff Spinks

Project: Identifying and Attracting Successful Foster Carers

A/Prof Melanie Randle, Dr Leonie Miller, Ms Joanna Stirling (Highly Commended) 

Project: Dragging the Chain: Minimising Impacts of Deep Water Anchorage on Australia’s Eastern Seaboard. 

Prof Andy Davis, Ms Allison Broad, Mrs Chantal Steele, A/Prof James Reveley, Prof Warwick Gullett, Prof Clive Schofield (Highly Commended)


Project: Research Partnership with Sydney Water: Analytics to predict anaerobic co-digestion and downstream process performance. 

Prof Long Nghiem, Prof Will Price, Prof Pascal Perez


Prof Weihua Li: Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences

A/Prof Peter Kelly: Faculty of Social Sciences (Highly Commended)

Dr Justin Yerbury: Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health (Highly Commended)