Flinders trio wins ARC Future Fellowships

The Australian Research Council has announced that Flinders University has been awarded three Future Fellowships in the first round of 2022, worth more than $2.9 million in funds.

The successful Future Fellows are Associate Professor Natalie Harkin and Associate Professor Ian Moffat (both from the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences), and Professor Justin Chalker (from the College of Science and Engineering).

Flinders submitted 14 applications and had a 21% success rate – which is significantly higher than the overall national university success rate of 16%. Flinders is also the most successful university in SA, winning three of the four allocated ARC Fellowships.

“It’s incredibly pleasing to see three wonderfully talented Flinders researchers awarded these prestigious Fellowships – the most of any SA universities,” says Professor Robert Saint, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Flinders University. 

“Associate Professor Natalie Harkin’s extraordinary work in reasserting Indigenous voice and agency to extend our understanding of Indigenous culture and retain Indigenous knowledges is going from strength to strength.

“Likewise, Associate Professor Ian Moffatt’s research on people and climate in Australia’s desert region has important implications for Australia as a whole, but especially for Indigenous communities.

 “Professor Justin Chalker’s incredible body of work utilising sulphur polymers will continue to push back the boundaries of knowledge and create new technologies as a result of the ARC’s support.

“My warmest congratulations to all three Fellows, and deep thanks to our other applicants, who I hope are encouraged by their colleagues’ success and will themselves triumph in future rounds.”

Associate Professor Harkin received $908,906 for her project “Indigenous Living-Legacy Archives: Memory Story Innovations for our Time” (FT220100078). This project aims to investigate Indigenous community and colonial archives as powerful sites of social and cultural memory, and creative intervention.

These sites can locate, repatriate, and transform fundamental narratives of history and collective memory to reassert and determine Indigenous voice and agency. This work partners with peak Indigenous arts and archive networks to demonstrate the value of Indigenous living-legacy archive innovations and initiatives for cultural preservation and renewal, through unique community-led modes of storytelling.

Associate Professor Moffat received $953,600 for his project “Dead Heart Beating? Landscape, Climate and People in Desert Australia” (FT220100184). This project aims to undertake the first detailed investigation of the archaeology, landscape history and paleo-environment of dryland lakes in the Simpson, Strzelecki and Stuart Stony Deserts in Central Australia.

Using cutting edge methods, the project expects to discover new archaeological sites, provide a new climate record for inland Australia and develop innovative new analytical and field techniques.

Expected benefits also include the development of new cutting-edge methodologies for the investigation of Australian desert landscapes, comprehensive baseline data of how this region has evolved prior to European colonisation and resolving why no Pleistocene aged archaeological sites have been found in the region.

Professor Chalker received $1,039,924 for his project “Sulfur-based materials for infrared optics and thermal imaging” (FT220100054). This project aims to investigate novel sulfur polymers for use in infrared optics and thermal imaging.

Current thermal imaging lenses are made in energy-intensive processes from expensive semiconductors and toxic chalcogenide glasses. In contrast, highly abundant elemental sulfur can be converted into polymers that are highly transparent to mid- and long-wave infrared light, providing a promising low-cost alternative.

In developing this technology, expected outcomes include novel methods to manufacture polymers from low-cost sulfur and their use as lenses for thermal imaging. Significant benefits are expected, such as access to low-cost, recyclable materials for thermal imaging required in surveillance, diagnostics, and spectroscopy.

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