5 UNSW women changing our world

1. Marine Ecology: Emma Johnston

2017 Guide Download- Undergrad

A UNSW Professor and Australian Academy of Science Medallist, Emma Johnston has brought together her childhood love of the ocean and her long-time fascination with science. 

After completing her tertiary studies in Marine Biology, Emma led the multidisciplinary Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science. She is already a familiar face on TV, presenting Coast Australia on Foxtel’s history Channel.

Going back and forth between her laboratory and Sydney Harbour, Emma now works to bridge the gap between research and practice, by promoting education and awareness of human impacts on marine systems as a science communicator. Emma regularly informs public policy as an expert adviser to the state and federal government. 

In 2014, the Australian Academy of Science recognised Johnston’s leadership and her innovative research achievements by awarding her the inaugural Nancy Mills Medal for Women in Science.

2. Chemical Engineering: Rose Amal

2017 Guide Download- Undergrad

Fellow of Australian Academy of Science and Engineering, Rose Amal hopes to overcome the limitations of solar power by discovering a revolutionary method to recycle carbon dioxide into environmentally friendly fuels using only water and solar energy.

Using energy from the sun, she aims to split water to liberate its hydrogen. She would then hydrogenate carbon dioxide in a second reaction to create a new generation of commercially viable, renewable fuels.

“Now, as chemical engineers, we are looking at harnessing solar energy, not to convert into electricity, but for chemical reactions to create new fuels,” says Rose.

As a leader of UNSW's Particle and Catalysis Group, Rose is also a globally recognised pioneer and authority in the fields of particle technology, photocatalysis and functional nanomaterials.

Rose was previously recognised for inventing the ‘self-cleaning bathroom’, creating highly specialised ‘nano’ surfaces that trap light from the sun, enabling air and water to be purified.

She is confident that her and her team would reinforce Australia’s position as a major player in the global renewable energy market.

3. Quantum computing: Michelle Simmons

2017 Guide Download- Undergrad

A proud award recipient, UNSW Professor Michelle Simmons is the brain behind the building of world’s first and biggest computer: the quantum computer using silicon. Adding to her success, Michelle created and fabricated the world’s narrowest conducting wires which are 1,000 times narrower than a human hair.

Michelle initially drew global attention by receiving a prestigious international Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology earlier this year.  

The Australian Laureate fellow was named the new scientist of the year 2011 and listed by SMH as one of Australia’s 100 most influential people

She was appointed by the nature publishing group as editor-in-chief of their new partner journal, Quantum Information.

Michelle says, “Where will it take us? We don’t know yet, but there’s a massive international race to get there.”

4. International Refugee Law: Jane McAdam

2017 Guide Download- Undergrad

The UNSW Scientia Professor and the Director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Jane McAdam is leading a series of projects investigating the legal issues threatening the lives of 51.4 million people.

Jane is also known as other titles: a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in the US, an expert adviser to international agencies, including United Nations Refugee Agency and the World Bank, and Co-Rapporteur of the International Law Association’s Committee on International Law and Sea-Level Rise.

Jane is now working to promote the respectful and objective consideration of how Australia and other nations treat asylum seekers, both in terms of their national laws and their obligations under international law.

Jane believes that the current asylum seeker debate is not just about being “for” and “against”.

“One day, a distraught Indonesian man pulled up his shirt to show the judge his scars from bullet wounds, and described how he would be killed if he was sent back home…Yet, Australian law at that time did not require decision-makers to consider whether returning someone would expose them to things like torture or cruel treatment.”

5. Experimental Art: Jill Bennett

2017 Guide Download- Undergrad

Jill Bennett is an Associate Dean (research) at UNSW Art & Design working with international cognitive and neuropsychologists on an investigative project.

The venture addresses whether visual cues can help retrieve memories that have been inaccessible due to dementia and other forms of clinical amnesia.

Jill is pushing her boundaries to help scientists learn how memories are formed and recalled. She says, “We don’t have a cure for dementia, but we can equip people with a way of consolidating memories and enhancing memory retrieval.”

Jill has also long been a high profile champion of both the critical role of art in society and the practical application of art, having previously founded the Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics at UNSW.

“It is only really when you have disciplines working together that you can generate really breakthrough solutions.”