From detecting fast-moving pieces of space junk, to helping children reach their full potential, two
award-winning Western Sydney University researchers exemplify the diversity of study being undertaken at the University.
“Two years ago, it sounded crazy,” recalls Associate Professor Greg Cohen of his idea to use biologically-inspired cameras to track space debris as it travelled around the Earth. But fortunately, Western didn’t think so.
In January 2017, Cohen began his postdoctoral fellowship in neuromorphic engineering — a field of electrical engineering inspired by the way the brain processes signals — at the University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development.
“Western gave me the freedom to try things and to do things differently. Particularly in an area of research that I didn’t think would be easy to get support for,” explains Cohen.
That freedom paid off, and he has since received funding from both the Royal Australian Air Force, and the United States Air Force to continue exploring the application of these cameras for space traffic management and space situational awareness.
Cohen was thrilled to receive WSU’s 2018 Excellence as an Early Career Researcher award. “It’s great to get an award for doing something different or difficult. It’s really nice to have that acknowledged.”
He attributes much of his success to the conditions at Western. “It’s a great working environment, from my colleagues working in the lab, right up to the people who make the decisions at the top. It’s been a fantastic experience. And I don’t think you get this anywhere else.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Distinguished Professor Lynn Kemp, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. “Everyone at Western has a ‘can do’ attitude — they recognise that what we do in the world matters.”
A leader in the field of community-based early childhood interventions, Kemp’s work has made a difference to the lives of more than 20,000 families in New South Wales, and some as far away as Seoul, South Korea.
Her Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home visiting programme, or ‘MECSH’, involves family and child health nurses visiting pregnant women at home for eight weeks before birth, and for the first two years of their child’s life. As well as meeting their physical developmental milestones, children from the trial MECSH cohort consistently met or exceeded the national average in school performance, indicating the programme’s long-term impact.
Kemp joined the University in 2015 as the Director of the School of Nursing and Midwifery’s Translational Research and Social Innovation team. At Western her work has flourished, leading to her being named Researcher of the Year for 2018.
“It’s just so wonderful to be recognised by my colleagues and the University for the work we’re doing and the impact that we’re making for families and children across the world,” says Kemp.
Higher Degree Research at Western
Future-Makers is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.