Issue 1


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The MARCS Institute

Unlocking the science of communication

Institute Snapshot - 130 engineers, musicians, linguists, psychologists, computer scientists, mathematicians and neuroscientists; 5 interdisciplinary research programs; two integrated high-tech facilitiesWestern Sydney's Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, the MARCS Institute, brings together people from all walks of life to solve real-world problems and better human communication.

Led by curiosity

Jonathan Tapson is the Director of the MARCS Institute. With a background in theoretical physics and electrical engineering, Jonathan's career has been led by curiosity and crucial moments. His current research is in the field of neuromorphic engineering, developing artificial systems that mimic those found in the brain.

Researcher Profile: Paola Escudero

Paola EscuderoAssociate Professor Paola Escudero studies how different accents may pose different challenges for different listeners, particularly infants learning their first language. Speech and language abilities underpin much of human communication, enhancing and focussing our thinking, creative and social skills. Understanding the difficulties in acquiring language is the first step to supporting future learning potential.

PhD: New ways to do discovery

The MARCS Institute encourages its students to see their research applied in industry, seeing a future where academia and industry are more closely intertwined. James Wright's PhD focuses on trying to understand the neuro-physiological basis of touch sensation from one point: one finger. Cracking this code will help grow the potential of exoskeletons to assist a range of people with mobility constraints, including stroke victims.

HEARingPartnership: All hear together

The MARCS Institute is a partner in the federally funded HEARing CRC. Led by Professor Denis Burnham, the MARCS team works to ensure that young children with hearing difficulties receive the earliest possible interventions. These developments ensure children with hearing loss are equipped to achieve alongside their hearing peers.

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REDI: Research Engagement, Development and Innovation

Universities and businesses have very different cultures so how do we connect the two and get the most out of our research? Western Sydney University's REDI Business (opens in a new window) team are experts in translation, bridging the gap between what the client needs and what the University can deliver.

Making change easy

Leading the cultural shift is REDI Director, Rochelle Finlay. Rochelle encourages researchers to look outward, to negotiate with business and the broader community, and to make sure that our research makes a difference. Rochelle has worked internationally from 'every angle of the research sector', taking leading roles in developing research with quality commercial and social return.

Industry Partner: Demand Manager

Jeff ByeDemand Manager (opens in a new window) is a company at the forefront of clean energy financial services for small to medium enterprises. A few years ago, founder and CEO, Jeff Bye, decided to diversify his business to limit the risk of relying on a limited number of customers and public sector funders. He approached Western Sydney University and REDI. Working closely with REDI, Dr Chris De Brese and Dr Upul Gunawardana, Demand Manager was able to develop the Lux Meter.

'A couple of things stood out about REDI and Western Sydney University,' Jeff says. 'The attitude was making it happen, not identifying barriers.'

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SWEATSHOP is a Western Sydney Literacy Movement emerging from the Centre for Writing and Society – one of Western's unique research centres. The movement gives young people in Western Sydney the opportunity to produce films, podcasts, plays, performance readings and publications. Helping people excluded from modes of literacy to find their voice empowers the marginalised communities to identify and communicate the issues affecting them to their friends, family, community and, importantly, decision-makers.

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Researcher Profiles

Thomas Astell-BurtDr Thomas Astell-Burt

Living large in the food desert

Dr Thomas Astell-Burt's research explores the connections between where we live and how healthy we are. The 'Mapping Food Environments in Australian Localities Project' takes existing data sets to plot the location of fast food franchises, supermarkets, fruit stores and bakeries across Sydney. The map may explain the inequality in health outcomes between Western and Eastern Sydney and significantly effect urban planning.

Jane_UssherProfessor Jane Ussher

Sex after cancer

Professor Jane Ussher and her colleague, Professor Janette Perz conduct research into the post-cancer sexual health of reproductive and non-reproductive cancer types across lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual and heterosexual communities. Her research gives survivors a voice to express their experiences and has resulted in changes to awareness of sex across cancer types and sexualities, and provided the basis for a suite of educational resources and professional guidelines.

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Research Impact Stories

Filling the knowledge gap
Dr Ajesh George has developed the Midwifery Initiated Oral Health Program to improve midwives' ability to guide their clients towards appropriate dental health care. 
Beating the squeeze
Dr Louise Crabtree researches shared equity home ownership, giving people squeezed by the booming property market an option that isn't buying, renting or living in social housing. 
Good pets make good neighbours?
Dr Emma Power researches everyday practices of a community within apartment buildings - things like owning a dog - to uncover how they shape the experiences of others. 
Just spaces for all
Professor David Tait investigates the impact of the position of the defendant in the courtroom on the verdict, hypothesising that the jury is unconsciously affected by certain key differences.
Rewiring chronic pain
Dr Siobhan Schabrun is examining brain plasticity to better understand and treat chronic back pain, comparing the brains of people who transition from acute to persistent back pain.
The digital farm
Professor Athula Ginige leads an international team to create mobile phone apps to empower farmers with local knowledge, and increase efficiency and profit for key industries in developing world economies.

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Western Sydney's Open Arms

In September 2015, the Australian Government announced it would accept an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq. The University's Centre for Western Sydney examined the data on Western Sydney's contribution to the humanitarian migration. As has been the case throughout Australian history, Western Sydney is playing a major role in the resettlement of the current flow of humanitarian arrivals.

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