Meet Our Distinguished Professors

Professor Wei Xing Zheng

School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

“I enjoy tackling interesting and challenging questions – it gives you a real sense of achievement,” says Distinguished Professor Wei Xing Zheng. Zheng’s research on control theory and signal processing has attracted national and international esteem. He has been identified as a Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher for the past four years.

“Control theory is sometimes called ‘enabling technology’. We develop a theory/technology which can be applied in areas such as electrical and mechanical engineering, communications, and even artificial intelligence,” he explains.

Zheng completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering at Southeast University, Nanjing, China, where he held an academic appointment until 1991. From 1991 he held a number of international positions before joining WSU in 1994. He was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2014, and WSU’s Researcher of the Year for 2017. “Western is a wonderful place. If you work hard, your achievements will be recognised by the University. I feel very gratified.”

Professor Annemarie Hennessy, AM

School of Medicine

“Wow! Who would have ever thought the publican’s daughter could do or be this,” was Annemarie Hennessy’s reaction to being named, in 2018, as one of Western’s Distinguished Professors.

As Dean and Foundation Chair of Medicine, Hennessy has focused her research on preeclampsia and maternal and prenatal health. “The causes and treatments for preeclampsia, the most common complication of pregnancy, are within sight. Our work has contributed to a real depth of understanding about how this disease happens,” she explains.

Distinguished Professor Hennessy, who trained as an obstetric and renal physician, was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2015 for her significant service to tertiary education and medical research. She was also made an honorary fellow of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2018.

“I love the variety of the work: one minute with women and their babies, the next with the students and research team, and the next with colleagues building a research life.”

Hennessy is also the Managing Director of PEARLS, a non-profit organisation based at the Heart
Research Institute, that raises funds to support ongoing research into the cause of preeclampsia in pregnancy.

Professor Ien Ang

Institute for Culture and Society

“I enjoy being creative in research and pursuing my curiosity about the complexities of contemporary culture and society; the intricacies of how multicultural societies work in a globalised world. There are so many different stories to tell about people from varied backgrounds and life trajectories,” says Distinguished Professor Ien Ang, a global leader in cultural studies.

Ang developed an ethnographic approach to audience research which attracted worldwide attention and paved the way for what was later called the ‘active audience approach’. “My research provides in-depth understanding that goes beyond lifeless data and statistics, insights that resonate with people,” she explains.

Ang, who was the founding Director of the Institute for Culture and Society, joined WSU in 1996,
where she has since worked collaboratively with a diverse range of organisations including the NSW Migration Heritage Centre, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the Museum of Contemporary Art, the City of Sydney, the Australia Council and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Professor Anne Cutler

The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development

Since completing her PhD at the University of Texas in the 1970s in the comparatively new field of psycholinguistics, the study of the interactions between linguistic and psychological processes — Distinguished Professor Anne Cutler has tackled many of the major puzzles about the ways listeners decode speech. 

“My colleagues and I showed that listeners with different native languages hearing the same speech
input were using different processing procedures to interpret it,” she explains. Since then, Cutler has focussed her research on understanding how the processes of decoding speech in the brain are shaped by language-specific listening experience.  

Cutler joined the MARCS Institute in 2013, and is also an Emeritus Director at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands.

Professor David Tissue

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

“It would be hard to find a better job,” says Distinguished Professor David Tissue on his research, mentoring and teaching. An internationally renowned expert, Tissue’s work helps determine the impact of climate factors on agriculture and natural ecosystems.

“It has been very rewarding to be at the forefront of climate change science and see that this work has been valuable to scientists and citizens alike.”

He hopes that his role as a Distinguished Professor will provide a platform for discussions with industry and the public about the importance of incorporating climate change into their businesses and lifestyles. “It is often an uphill battle, but one worth pursuing given its importance to everyone,” he says.

Professor David Simmons

School of Medicine

Distinguished Professor David Simmons is internationally recognised for his work in diabetes epidemiology, diabetes in pregnancy and diabetes service development. He is also the Head of the Campbelltown Hospital Endocrinology Department.

Simmons’ work has influenced health policy and community guidelines and, ultimately, saved or improved lives. He joined WSU in 2015, after working in institutes across Australia, the UK, New Zealand and the USA.

“It’s wonderful to be appreciated by the University and my peers in this way. Hopefully it will help increase awareness of the diabetes epidemic and attract young researchers into this line of work,” he says.

Professor Lynn Kemp

School of Nursing and Midwifery

Western’s Researcher of the Year for 2018, Distinguished Professor Lynn Kemp is an international leader in the field of early childhood interventions in primary and community health and translational research. Through the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting (MECSH) program she developed in south-west Sydney, Kemp’s work has touched the lives of more than 15,000 families across the world.

“Seeing the difference MECSH makes for children and families, and the increased satisfaction of the nurses who work with them, brings me personal and professional enjoyment,” says Kemp. 

Kemp joined the University in 2015 as the Director of the School of Nursing and Midwifery’s Translational Research and Social Innovation team.

Professor Andre Renzaho

School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Distinguished Professor Andre Renzaho’s mission is to confront health inequities from an international, multidisciplinary perspective. With more than 20 years’ experience in humanitarian and development aid, Distinguished Professor Renzaho’s research has led to policy changes at the country and NGO levels that have helped improve health service delivery and population health outcomes for those marginalised by poverty, conflict, famine and disease. 

He joined Western in 2015 and, in 2018, was ranked 3rd in Australia and 10th in the world as a leading researcher in Global Migration Health. He is also a lead researcher for the World Health Organization project on the Global Burden of Disease and regularly consults for governments, NGOs and international agencies. 

“What is satisfying about my work is contributing to the production of knowledge as a social good and providing solutions to the world’s toughest health problems,” Renzaho says.


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Future-Makers is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.