Alumni Profiles

Dr Ralf Georg Dietzgen Senior Scholars

Home InstitutionThe University of Queensland
Host InstitutionKansas State University
Award NameFulbright Senior Scholarship, Sponsored by Kansas State University
DisciplineAgricultural Science
Award Year2016

Ralf gained his doctorate of science magna cum laude in Microbiology from the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany in 1983. He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research at Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Adelaide. He migrated to Australia in 1989 to join the Queensland Department of Agriculture in Brisbane to conduct research in plant virology and biotechnology, and more recently led a large team of agricultural biotechnologists. In 2010, Ralf transferred to a new joint research institute at the University of Queensland to continue his research with a team of international students and colleagues, and as the inaugural Postgraduate Coordinator for the institute.

Ralf is a Feodor-Lynen Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He has had a distinguished research career in plant virology, which included study leave at the University of California Berkeley and Davis, University of Kentucky and Okayama University. He has published widely with many eminent scholars in the fields of horticultural crop improvement, plant-virus-insect interactions and virus taxonomy. Ralf’s scientific contributions have been recognized through travel awards from the Australian Academy of Science and the Department of Industry, Science and Technology. In 2010, he was awarded a prestigious Queensland International Fellowship, as winner of the Ecosciences category.

Ralf has a strong scientific interest in understanding the molecular interactions of viruses, their plant hosts and insect vectors, aimed at finding novel ways to control plant diseases and reduce their spread. Thrips are economically important insect pests in agriculture that cause significant feeding damage and transmit viruses to hundreds of horticultural and ornamental plant species. In this Fulbright research project, Ralf aims to discover specific genes involved in thrips development and thrips-virus interactions and he will assess their potential as novel targets in thrips management.

Ralf is looking forward to spending the term of his scholarship at Manhattan, Kansas to increase his technical research skills, progress scientific knowledge and learn more about Kansas and its people. He intends to translate the scientific know-how that will be generated to achieve sustainable control of thrips pests and the viruses they transmit to reduce economic losses and increase productivity and global food security. Ralf also aims to develop a long-term collaboration between Kansas State University and the University of Queensland and the research teams involved in this Fulbright research project. More broadly, he wants to foster Australia – USA relations and mutual understanding and networking.

Michael Douglas Senior Scholars

Home InstitutionCharles Darwin University
Host InstitutionUniversity of Maryland and Oregon State University
Award NameNorthern Territory State Senior Scholarship
DisciplineRiver and coastal management
Award Year2012

“Rivers are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet and most have suffered serious environmental degradation. Northern Australia, however, contains the largest network of healthy river systems in the world and maintaining their integrity is critical for the region’s future.”

Professor Michael Douglas, Director of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Hub at Charles Darwin, is one of two winners of the Fulbright Northern Territory Scholarship, sponsored by the NT Government, Charles Darwin University and Blackboard (Australia).

Through this Fulbright project, Michael will collaborate with world-leading researchers at the University of Maryland and Oregon State University to establish a shared understanding of integrated catchment management between Australia and U.S. and develop a new research framework for river and coastal management in northern Australia.

Following his return, Michael will spend the next three years applying this framework to help solve critical threats to Australia’s tropical rivers and coasts.

“There are many threats to the Northern Australian river systems—weeds and introduced animals, such as cane toads, wild pigs, cattle and water buffalo continue to spread and degrade the natural systems. More intensive cattle grazing places greater pressure on waterholes and inappropriate fire regimes threaten the fragile riparian forests that stabilise the river banks. Mining has already had serious negative impacts in a few river systems but vast areas of the region are under active exploration and plans are well advanced for major gas processing plants on the Kimberley coast and in the estuaries of Darwin harbour,” Michael said.

Michael said that the best available scientific research is necessary to inform future development decisions for the area. To this end he has spent the last 5 years leading a highly successful multidisciplinary research program called TRaCK (the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge) Research hub which was designed to meet this challenge. TRaCK brings together 80 researchers with local communities, governments and industries. In the U.S. Michael will work with two groups of researchers in the USA at University of Maryland and Oregon State University who have skills not available in Australia to extend this work.

Michael has a BSc in biological sciences and a PhD in environmental sciences from Monash University. He has won awards and prizes including the Charles Darwin University Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Team Research and a Biosecure Australia Award for environmental research. . He also has extensive teaching experience and was part of a team which won a National Carrick Award for Australian University Teaching. In his spare time he is involved in activities that raise the profile of catchment management in community.

Dr Rita Shah Senior Scholars

Home InstitutionEastern Michigan University
Host InstitutionThe Australian National University
Award NameFulbright Scholar Award, Funded by The Australian National University
Award Year2023

Rita is a cultural criminologist who combines textual analysis with qualitative and visual methods to understand the ways in which correctional systems are socially and legally constructed. Her work has been published in the British Journal of Criminology and Contemporary Justice Review and is supported by National Endowment for the Humanities and National Science Foundation grants. Her most recent book, The Meaning of Rehabilitation and its Impact on Parole: There and Back Again in California (2017), queries the concept of “rehabilitation” to determine how, on a legislative and policy level, the term is defined as a goal of correctional systems. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, legal institutions, economics and government from American University and her Master of Arts degree in social ecology, and her PhD in criminology, law and society, from the University of California, Irvine.

Rita’s Fulbright research aims to understand whether the implementation of human rights principles within a prison can lead to change, or if the ideals legitimise existing practices.

Jill Thistlethwaite Senior Scholars

Home InstitutionUniversity of Technology, Sydney and the University of Queensland
Host InstitutionUniversity of Minnesota
Award NameSenior Scholarship
DisciplineMedical Sciences (Medical Education)
Award Year2014

“I’d like to develop an argument for further development of IPE in Australia and the research agenda.”

Jill Thistlethwaite is an Adjunct Professor in Medical and Health Professional Education at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Since qualifying as a General Practitioner in the U.K, she has been involved health professional education with a strong focus on interprofessional education (IPE) and collaborative practice for health professionals.

She will study at the newly established National Centre for Interprofessional Practice and Education at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis from May to September 2014. Specifically, the research will consider how health professionals may learn more or optimally together to work together in teams.

“The majority of undergraduate and postgraduate training in Australia is undertaken uni-professionally. This is an opportunity to share expertise and consider big questions about IPE. I’d like to develop an argument for further development of IPE in Australia and the research agenda.”

Louise Allen Postdoctoral Scholars

Home InstitutionMonash University 
Host InstitutionDepartment of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Award NameFulbright Future Scholarship (Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation)
DisciplineHealth Professions Education
Award Year2020

Louise is a final year PhD candidate at Monash University. After working as a clinical dietitian for a number of years in both Australia and England, she pursued a PhD exploring the impacts of continuing professional development in the health professions. Continuing professional development is the backbone of lifelong learning for health professionals and aims to ultimately ensure optimal patient care and safety. However, in the current climate where doctors are increasingly time poor continuing professional development often becomes a checkbox activity. As a Fulbright Scholar, Louise will explore the value of continuing professional development that medical professionals are required to do. This is important as without doing this there is potential for continuing professional development funding to be allocated to programs that are not meeting medical professionals needs, that are not enhancing their personal and professional development, and that ultimately are not improving healthcare of patients. 

Dr Emily Lester Postdoctoral Scholars

Home InstitutionAustralian Institute of Marine Science
Host InstitutionUniversity of Hawai'i at Manoa
Award NameFulbright Future Scholarship (Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation)
DisciplineMarine Science
Award Year2022

Emily is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, where her research focuses on the role of predators in coral reefs. She is particularly interested in how the presence of sharks alters important behaviours of fishes and developing novel methods to quantify the ecological impacts of these behavioural shifts. During her Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship, Emily will work with Dr. Elizabeth Madin at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to examine the influence of predator populations on herbivorous fishes using vegetation patterns on coral reefs called ‘grazing halos’. She will use a combination of satellite imagery and fish survey data to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of fishing on grazing halo size within the context of environmental variation, advancing ecological theory and informing coral reef conservation.

Dr Louisa Selvadurai Postdoctoral Scholars

Home InstitutionTurner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash University 
Host InstitutionLaboratory for Neuroanatomy and Cerebellar Neurobiology, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Award NameFulbright Future Scholarship (Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation)
Award Year2020

Louisa is a researcher and clinical trainee in neuropsychology. She is passionate about using these dual roles to improve the lives of individuals living with brain disorders and has a particular interest in disorders of the cerebellum, a structure at the base of the brain.   

For her Fulbright Future Scholarship, Louisa will work within Professor Jeremy Schmahmann’s clinical-research group at Massachusetts General Hospital, investigating new clinical tools designed to detect cognitive and psychiatric difficulties in individuals with cerebellar disorders. Louisa will evaluate existing clinical data and observe current practice at Professor Schmahmann’s dedicated cerebellar disorders clinic. Based on these approaches, she aims to develop a practical clinical resource to inform wider uptake of these tools. Louisa looks forward to sharing this resource and her learnings in Australia, informing both clinical and research practice in order to better meet the needs of Australians living with these conditions.

Robert Marshall Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionRoyal Darwin Hospital
Host InstitutionColumbia University
Award NameNorthern Territory State Postgraduate Scholarship
DisciplinePublic Health (Health Policy)
Award Year2015

Robert hopes to gain the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to government health policy design and implementation through a Master in Public Policy during his Fulbright program. He aims to combine his interests in clinical medicine and public policy in order to improve Australia’s health systems and reduce health inequities in disadvantaged populations. In particular, he is committed to closing the gap in Indigenous health outcomes and improving the delivery of healthcare services in rural Australia.

Robert has worked in a number of challenging clinical settings both within rural and remote Australia and overseas, including as a volunteer in the aftermath of the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti and more recently helping to develop medical education and training in Somaliland. He is a passionate advocate for improving Australia’s health systems and has held leadership and advocacy positions as the National President of the Australian Medical Students’ Association, member of the Australian Medical Association Taskforce on Indigenous Health and Junior Clinical Lead for the Western Australian Department of Health’s clinical service improvement unit.

As a leader in health technology and research in the Asia-Pacific region, Robert believes that Australia will also play an important role in the future of global health development. He hopes to foster strong research connections between Australia and the United States during his time as a Fulbright Scholar and to some day be involved in the development of equitable and sustainable health systems in low- and middle-income countries.

As an undergraduate student Robert completed a combined Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree and spent a year on student exchange studying at l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris. It was his time at Sciences Po that sparked his interest in the interplay between health policy, health economics and political reform to drive better clinical care.

Hamid Sediqi Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionWestern Sydney University
Host InstitutionTufts University 
Award NameFulbright Future Scholarship (Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation)
Award Year2020

Hamid is a PhD candidate and a passionate science communicator who is eager not only to advance the field of Tissue Engineering, but also, to engage the broader community with scientific and academic discourse through his podcast – Blab Coats. For his Fulbright, Hamid will spend 10 months at Tufts University working with Dr Michael Levin’s world leading team in Molecular Developmental Bioelectricity. Cells are biological machines that carry an electrical charge on their membranes, and just like machines, they use electricity to store and process information. While much of the research in the field has been focused on the cytoplasmic-membrane’s electrical dimensions, Hamid is exploring how the electrical properties of the cell nuclear-membrane affects what genes get activated during embryo development. This has the potential to reveal the electrical dimensions of the cell nucleus as an important regulator of stem-cell differentiation, knowledge that can be harnessed to advance tissue engineering. 

Samantha Shockley Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionUniversity of Chicago
Host InstitutionThe Australian National University
Award NamePostgraduate Scholarship
DisciplineChemistry, Biochemistry and Biology
Award Year2012

“Chemicals isolated from marine organisms have proved particularly valuable in the pursuit of new treatments for various cancers and infectious diseases, especially those forms that are now showing increasing resistance to the current therapies.”

Ms Samantha Shockley, a recent graduate in chemistry and biology from the University of Chicago, has won a Fulbright Scholarship to come to Australia for a year. She will go to the Research School of Chemistry and Leader of the Synthesis and Mechanism Group at ANU to undertake research in synthesising natural marine products.

“The rising demand for natural product therapeutics is occurring at the same time that society is becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental effects of declining biodiversity,” Samantha said.

“The old method of bio-prospecting for large quantities of potential natural pharmaceuticals has been exposed for its harmful impact on the environment, as the removal of many of these medicinal natural products disrupts the delicate balance of their ecosystems.”

“Accordingly, there has been a recent push to develop new, green synthetic methods for identifying and producing marine-derived pharmaceuticals.”

Samantha aims to contribute to the development of new, concise and laboratory-based syntheses of Australian marine natural products which could prove useful in the development of new drugs, without the need to disturb the natural environment.

In addition to her BA/BS from the University of Chicago, Samantha has been a The Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, a National AP Scholar and has been on the Dean’s list at the University of Chicago. In her free time, she is a member of the university chemistry and women in science clubs and does ballet.



Constantine Tsounis Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionUniversity of New South Wales
Host InstitutionA.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute, Drexel University
Award NameFulbright Future Scholarship (Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation)
DisciplineChemical Engineering/Materials Science
Award Year2022

Constantine is a chemical engineer developing catalysts that can generate sustainable fuels such as hydrogen, supporting our global clean energy transition. He is currently pursuing a PhD in the Particles and Catalysis Research Group, UNSW, and has spent time researching at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), and ETH Zürich. Constantine is a co-founder of switcH2 engineering, a VC-backed start-up developing technologies which can convert industrial wastewater into hydrogen fuel. He is also an elected member of the UNSW Council, with a particular interest in university governance, research impact, and the interface between government, industry, and university.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Constantine will spend time researching a new class of materials known as MXenes, at their birthplace, the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. The tailorable chemical properties of MXenes have the potential to revolutionise our energy systems. They can act as catalysts for key reactions that produce sustainable chemicals and fuels, accelerating our global net zero ambitions.

Adam Webster Postgraduate Students

Home InstitutionUniversity of Adelaide
Host InstitutionUniversity of Arizona
Award NameSouth Australia State Postgraduate Scholarship
DisciplineInterstate water disputes (Law)
Award Year2012

“In recent years much of south-eastern Australia has been plagued by drought. In a number of states of the United States water is an equally scarce resource.”

Mr Adam Webster, a PhD candidate in law at the University of Adelaide, is one of two winners of the 2012 Fulbright South Australia Scholarship. Through his Fulbright Adam will extend his PhD research regarding rights to water from rivers that flow through more than one state.  He will spend the majority of his time in the United States at the University of Arizona.

“In particular, my research examines the dispute between the states of Australia over the allocation of water from the River Murray,” Adam said.

“The issue of interstate water rights in Australia is an area of law that has received very little academic attention. Given that in recent years the states have had difficulty in reaching political agreement on how best to solve the problems associated with a shortage of water in the River Murray it is likely that these legal issues will receive greater attention in the future.”

Adam’s research in the United States will examine the history of interstate water disputes in that country with a view to determining how the legal solutions developed in that country may assist in the resolution of similar disputes in Australia.

“In the U.S., courts have recognised the existence of an interstate water right. The question of whether there exists an interstate water right in Australia has never been put before a court,” Adam said.

As part of his research, Adam will examine whether the resolution of similar issues in the United States of America assists in finding a legal solution to similar problems in Australia. Whilst the dispute over water from the River Murray is a uniquely Australian problem, there are many similarities between Australia and the United States which make for an ideal comparative study: both countries have federal systems of government and in both countries water is at a premium in arid zones.

Adam has a B Eng (Civil) (Hons) and a LLB (Hons) in Law from the University of Adelaide and a Grad. Dip. in Legal Practice from the Law Society of South Australia. He has won various awards and prizes including the Zelling-Gray Postgraduate Scholarship in Law. In his spare time Adam enjoys travel, coaching and officiating hockey, painting and cricket.

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