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Science education to meet the needs of a changing world

The Australian Research Council has awarded two new centres of excellence to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) as the university takes the lead in shaping science education to meet the needs of the twenty first century.

The new centres, the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology and The Centre for Climate System Science, add to a range of specialist science ‘hubs’ which draw the best minds to UNSW.

As well as the traditional disciplines, science undergraduates at UNSW are exposed to a whole range of new endeavours with applications to our changing world: solar energy, water and the environment, green materials, new technology such as quantum computing, commercial and financial mathematics and genomics are all areas of excellence.

And at postgraduate level, more than 550 research students from more than 15 countries are working in areas as diverse as aviation, bioinformatics, climate change, marine biofouling and bioinnovation and nanotechnology.

“The things we focus on tend to be what we think will be important in the future, as well as what’s always been taught,” says Science Dean Professor Merlin Crossley.

“We teach students a healthy disrespect for old fashioned beliefs. We take people from any culture and they learn this Australian freshness, this newness, this hunger for innovation. There is a certain optimism and practicality about the way we do things here.”

UNSW is in the midst of major research collaborations on every continent – including Antarctica – and maintains field stations as well as an ocean-going vessel for studies of tropical and coastal marine resources.

For example, researchers have recently begun a project to create a computer model which will forecast how changes in wave patterns and rising sea levels will affect beach erosion. They have also launched a new sustainable mining research and education centre, which will use advanced technologies such as 3-D simulation to assist the long-term viability of the mining industry in Australia and south-east Asia.

UNSW is one of Australia’s leading international research universities. It was recently ranked fourth in Australia by the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative – the highest ranked university in Sydney.

It has performed particularly well in science in recent years, being ranked number one in excellence for teaching and learning under the Australian Government's 2009 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund. The University will receive the highest allocation of any university from the fund in total funding.

“Both Australia and the University are thriving,” says Professor Crossley.

“Our graduates are much sought after because they have studied at one of the top universities in an English-speaking culture. Most employers find the Australian approach positive and refreshing.”

The Science Faculty has always welcomed international students, and currently around 20% of its cohort comes from overseas.

As an important member of the international scientific community, the University encourages all students to gain international experience and offers the opportunity to spend time studying overseas.

It also provides numerous scholarships from industry, which provide the opportunity for many graduates to find employment with industry partners including OneSteel, Rio Tinto, CSIRO, ANSTO and BHP Billiton.

Most notably, there are an equal number of male and female students in the Science Faculty, with an aim for the same gender equality in academic positions. Professor Michelle Simmons runs the Centre for Quantum Computer Technology and Professor Veena Sahajwalla directs the Centre of Sustainable Materials Research and Technology.

Science students at UNSW also have the opportunity to study climate science under Professor Matthew England, conservation ecology and land water usage under Professor Richard Kingsford and surface chemistry and nano medicine under Professor Justin Gooding.

UNSW has 28 Research Centres and four Co-operative Research Centres, enabling research training and the ability to commercialise research and development.

For further information about the University of New South Wales contact:
T.  +61 2 9385 6996

For further information about UNSW Faculty of Science contact:
T. +61 2 9385 7788

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