Jubilee Joint Fellows to tackle some of our grand challenges

The Joint Jubilee Fellows with ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS.

Friday 6 May 2022

Congratulations to our Jubilee Joint Fellows: Dr Dan Andrews, Dr Rhys Hawkins, Dr Iona (Jo) Ciuca , Dr Michael McCullough, and Dr Brian Parker.

The Jubilee Joint Fellowship (JJF) celebrates 50 years of computer science teaching at The Australian National University (ANU), with three years of interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary research at the forefront of computing.

During a gala event at the National Gallery of Australa, ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS said of the program, "There's not many ideas that pop out and surprise me in the university, but this was one that I was thinking, 'Gosh, I wish I had this idea,' because it so embodies, I think, the possibilities."

The winners were announced by Professor Amanda Barnard AM who is the Deputy Director of the School of Computing and convener of the JJF program.

"I think you'll all agree there's never been a better time to be in computing," Professor Barnard began before encapsulating the JJF and its mission by defining the "grand challenges" of the Information Age:

...There are many grand challenges that are facing many areas of science of health, environment, and society that cannot be addressed with current advanced computing.

These problems are 'grand challenges' because they are too big for one discipline to solve, they are too complex for one method to address, and they are too important for us to wait.

If we want different solutions, we need to start doing things differently, and that means working in different ways and with different people.

The Jubilee Joint Fellowship Programme is more than just a fabulous way for us to celebrate 50 years of computing. It's also a way for us to capitalise on what this is: it's a grand opportunity. And it's a way to bring in new expertise, new ideas, different ways of thinking, and different perspectives and experiences — and to establish enduring relationships with other parts and other disciplines across campus. 

More than 20 shortlisted applicants were screened through an expression of interest for domain excellence from 20 partnering schools across the University. Fellows will be working across the schools of computer science, astronomy and astrophysics, earth sciences, and biological data and medical institutes on projects ranging from using genomic data to better identify patterns of pathogenic genetic variation in complex human diseases, to harnessing time-series data for almost 37 billion objects in the cosmos to discover rare, exotic objects and new phenomena.

About the Fellows

Dr Dan Andrews
Dan Andrews is a computational biologist with a background in human genomics. He is an ANU biochemistry graduate and has worked in both research and industry, in Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. With an unapologetically technical focus, he has authored papers in genomics, computational biology and molecular evolution.  

Dr Rhys Hawkins
After completing undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering, and a MPhil in Computer Science, Rhys worked for more than a decade as a research programmer with positions at the ANU School of Computing, CSIRO, and NCI (Australia's peak supercomputing facility). He developed an interest in the Earth sciences, which lead to him completing a PhD in Geophysics in 2018. Rhys combines computational geophysics, applied mathematics and machine learning techniques to robustly determine the composition of the Earth at various scales. 

Dr Iona (Jo) Ciuca 
A star chaser by trade, Ioana is a Romanian-British researcher working at the forefront of astrophysics, big data and machine learning with the brilliant people and their unquiet and fearless minds at the Australian National University. She cares deeply about education and leveraging high-quality learning resources and mentorship opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Guided by her experience, Ioana wants to champion our students to pursue excellence in service to the world around them.   
Dr Michael McCullough
Michael is a computational neuroscientist. He was awarded his BEng (Hons) in electrical and electronic engineering and BMus (Hons) in music performance in 2013, and his PhD in applied mathematics in 2018 from The University of Western Australia. After graduating he was a postdoctoral research associate with the UWA Young Lives Matter Foundation working on new computational approaches in clinical mental health. In late 2018, he joined the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland as a research fellow studying information processing in the developing brain.

Dr Brian Parker
Brian’s research is in computational biology, applying advanced statistical, mathematical, and algorithmic methods to discover and understand new biology. In particular, post–transcriptional RNA-based gene regulation mechanisms genome-wide. His work has led to the discovery of new regulatory mechanisms in liver metabolism and immunity. His areas of theoretical focus include; comparative genomics, hidden state probabilistic models, machine learning and deep neural networks, functional data analytic models, and algorithmic graph theory.

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