Previous HDR Supervisor of the Month awardees

Details about previous Higher Degree Research (HDR) Supervisor of the Month awardees are provided below:

September 2021

Patrick L’Espoir Decosta

Associate Professor Patrick L’Espoir Decosta
Head of Education Quality Assurance
Research School of Management
ANU College of Business & Economics

Patrick’s supervisory approach:
“Whenever I begin the journey of an HDR supervision, my first priority is to develop a clear picture of the candidate’s worldview, approach, perspective, experience and overall position. With their help, I can then lay a foundation to the conception and implementation of an integrated research design for the best possible outcome in their research education. In practice, this means I rely on honest conversations and relationships that place my HDR students and myself on equal footing so we can immerse ourselves fully in the journey of intellectual curiosity, constant questioning, constructive disagreement, critical discussion and collaborative work. I have found that following up candidates’ questions with focused questions of my own promotes growth in their skills and knowledge base as they seek answers to discuss in our later meetings.

While I am keen on providing structure to the HDR candidates’ journey, I also encourage them to challenge my approach through their own intellectual philosophies, methodological expertise and academic competencies. The road to successful supervision is never straightforward, with only one approach suitable in all cases. Guiding an HDR candidate to successful completion of their research education requires that I respect differences, listen actively, ask the right questions and view matters from their perspective, occasionally offering support and empathy when they encounter life challenges outside of their academic journey. With each candidate, I re-evaluate my previous approaches and positions, which tells me that that my role as a supervisor will never become routine or monotonous. In fact, during the pandemic, I considered it essential to provide constant support and a sense of continuity to my students, which made me realise that I am on my own journey of discovery as I accompany them on theirs."

Find out more about Patrick’s work by visiting Patrick's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

August 2021

Penny Kyburz

Dr Penny Kyburz
Senior Lecturer
ANU Computing Internship Convenor
School of Computing
ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

Penny’s supervisory approach:
“Every PhD journey and candidate are different. I work with my students to understand and support their goals, both within and beyond their PhDs. I think that it is important to recognise that most PhD students will not go on to be academics and to help equip them with a range of skills to support their future careers and long-term objectives. I draw on my own diverse experience of applying my research skills in industry, government, entrepreneurship, community organisations, and academia. I also create a community for my students, where they can share their ideas, questions, and struggles with each other. This provides them with valuable feedback, support, and different perspectives, as well as much needed social interaction to avoid isolation at the moment. I also encourage my PhD students to take a role in mentoring the other students."

Find out more about Penny’s work by visiting Penny's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

July 2021

Ginny Sargent

Dr Ginny Sargent
Lead, Population Health Exchange (PHXchange)
Research School of Population Health
ANU College of Health & Medicine

Ginny’s supervisory approach:
“I see my role as a HDR supervisor to not only guide students through their HDR, but to build on their strengths and mentor them to become an excellent engaged researcher with a healthy career ahead of them.

Being an excellent engaged researcher goes way beyond, learning data collection and analysis research methods and conducting excellent research. It includes: conducting ethical research with academic integrity, learning to work in a team, thinking through the public good of research and who might benefit from it, communication skills, and using a variety of ways to engage with stakeholders throughout a project. My role is to find opportunities for HDR students to get training and experience in all of these aspects of being an engaged researcher, including working in sectors outside of the university.

I want students to get the most from their HDR. It is an opportunity for them to prepare for a lifetime of collaborative academic work, whether they stay working in a university or elsewhere. The determination of HDR students often leads them to work extended hours in isolation, and these have negative impacts on student wellbeing. I have a role in mentoring students to manage their expectations and expectation of their team, achieving a sustainable workload so they can have a long, healthy careers."

Find out more about Ginny’s work by visiting Ginny's profile webpage on the Researchers website. Find out more about the work of PHXchange by visiting the PHXchange website.

June 2021

Birgit Muskat

Dr Birgit Muskat
Senior Lecturer I Deputy Director HDR
Research School of Management
ANU College of Business & Economics

Birgit’s supervisory approach:
“It is such a pleasure to receive this award! I would like to say ‘Thank You’ to the students who nominated me. Supervising curious and passionate HDR students and seeing them thrive is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. It is important to me to get to know the student, to learn about their expectations, values, and motivations—and to keep up with their development over time. Usually, we meet a couple of times, even before supervision starts to find out if this will be a good match.

During the HDR student’s journey, I often think about my different supervisory roles. For example, how these may need to vary and change over time and with situations. I most enjoy being a supporter, a coach, a mentor, and a facilitator who provides access to networks and resources. In other times and situations, I am the critic, the challenger, and ideally, over time the student and I become collaborators.

Taking care of HDR’s student’s well-being and building a good relationship where the student feels they can pursue their research and learning in a friendly environment matters most. What also matters, is to hold myself accountable. Regular meetings are key to a good understanding of each other; and regardless of how different my student’s journey might be, I know that my timely response, recognition of their achievements, and clear feedback always is of high importance for them."

Find out more about Birgit’s work by visiting Birgit's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

May 2021

Benjamin Scheele

Dr Benjamin Scheele
Postdoctoral Fellow
Fenner School of Environment & Society
ANU College of Science

Benjamin’s supervisory approach:
“Completing a PhD is a major undertaking, which can be fraught with a range of challenges. To try to ensure students I work with enjoy their PhD programme, I have a strong focus on regular and clear communication; my students understand what I expect from them and I provide timely and constructive input to help them achieve at the highest level. I am flexible with my supervisory approach and aim to find out what works best for each student. I like to give students lots of freedom within their PhD programmes to ensure that they are working on a topic that they find really engaging and where they believe they can make a valuable contribution. While much of my role as a supervisor is to help students succeed during their programme, it is also crucial to help students work towards their career goals. By understanding what each student is aiming to get out of their PhD program, I can help them best work towards achieving their goals. HDR student supervision is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, and it’s a privilege to be able to see students develop research skills during their PhD and be a part of their journey.'

Find out more about Benjamin’s work by visiting Benjamin's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

April 2021

Nan Yang

Associate Professor Nan Yang
School of Engineering
ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

Nan’s supervisory approach:
“The HDR journey is a unique one that equips next generation talents with a higher and broader level of competencies in research skills, career development, and disciplinary leadership. To inspire my HDR candidates on this journey, I have created and preserved an engaging, inclusive, caring, and stimulating environment for my research team, to foster a sense of belonging, allow them to gain benefits from mutual assistance, and support the development of research skills and intellectual rigour. Within this environment, I offer personalised supervision for HDR candidates, by considering their distinct personalities and requirements, to help them set goals, track progress, maintain self-motivation, and experience success. At the same time, as a supervisor, I consistently provide high level pastoral care for my HDR candidates. Helping them to balance work and life is particularly important in this pandemic era. Lastly, I always encourage and assist my HDR candidates, using my own networks, to build up effective linkage and engagement with industry sectors and a wide range of community. This will gear them with new skills that elevate their professional capabilities for non-research jobs, profoundly benefiting their post-HDR careers.

Find out more about Nan’s work by visiting Nan's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

March 2021

John McCarthy

Associate Professor John McCarthy
Senior Lecturer
Crawford School of Public Policy
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

John’s supervisory approach:
“One of the most rewarding activities of an academic is seeing PhD students developing their skills and coming up with new insights about their research field, applying this to their work, and developing excellent research outputs. I take great pleasure in supporting the development of PhD students. The PhD path is a difficult one for many, and each student faces their own difficulties, whether they be personal, professional or financial. For this reason each student requires bespoke assistance if they are to keep on the path. At some point most students will face a crisis for one reason or another. Yet, students are sometimes reluctant to be open about their difficulties or to indicate when they are lacking confidence or losing their way.

In my experience the key to helping them to do well is encouragement. One needs to keep an eye on them to make sure they are not losing the way forward, and try to direct them back on the path if they are progress too slowly or wandering off. But it is important not to assume they are feeling secure about how things are going. While its good to remind them of deadlines, it is critical to avoid putting too much pressure on them. Most PhD students are ambitious and self-critical and more responsive to positive advice rather than criticism or negative feedback.

I aim to help them to develop their confidence as independent researchers through a continuous process of nurturing their strengths, providing positive feedback on what they are doing well and how they can build on it, and trying to steer them towards taking a conceptual approach to their research while keeping in mind field realities.”

Find out more about John’s work by visiting John's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

February 2021

Hongdong Li

Professor Hongdong Li
Chief Investigator, Australian ARC Centre for Robotic Vision
School of Computing
ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

Hongdong’s supervisory approach:
“I feel very much honoured to receive this award. Thanks to all our wonderful HDR students at the ANU Computer Vision group. For an HDR supervisor, I think it is important to understand that: every student is different, each comes with a different training background, with different talent, and has different learning habits or learning styles. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all solution in terms of HDR supervision. The best approach for supervising an individual student is to design an individually tailored (often unique) research program for them. This is what I would do, whenever a fresh new PhD student joins the research group. In order to do it well, you don’t have to be academically brilliant. All that matters is to be compassionate, be kind to students, understand their needs, their past training, as well as what best motivates them. The PhD journey is often a stressful one, especially for young students. To students, you are more than just a thesis supervisor -- you are their career mentor and sometimes a lifelong friend. Be supportive to students both academically and mentally; I believe this is all that takes to be a good supervisor.”

Find out more about Hongdong’s work by visiting Hongdong's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

January 2021

Stephen Gould

Professor Stephen Gould
School of Computing
ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

Stephen’s supervisory approach:
“The key to my style of supervision is to treat students as colleagues and to build a cooperative team environment. We are working together to tackle challenging problems guided by our curiosity and joint research interests. To my mind this collaboration continues not just during the tenure of their PhD, but for the remainder of our careers. Early in a PhD I see my role as helping establish a student as an independent researcher and throughout the journey my role is to provide advice gained through experience and to support students through the many setbacks, failures and frustrations inherent in doing novel research. In return I am rewarded with sharing in the breakthroughs and successes, and often learning more from my incredible students than they do from me.”

Find out more about Stephen’s work by visiting Stephen's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

November 2020

Patrick Kluth

Associate Professor Patrick Kluth
Associate Director HDR
Research School of Physics
ANU College of Science

Patrick’s supervisory approach:
“HDR students are the backbone of our research activities. A highlight of my day is the many formal and informal discussions I have with my students about our research. I have an open door (or Zoom!) policy and am always learning from my students. It is very satisfying to see the students grow in their independence and confidence. In many ways, I see my students as colleagues working on the same research team. I really value collaborations and teamwork, honest feedback (from all sides) and the willingness to embrace failure. We learn so much more from the things that go wrong than from the things that work. As Thomas Watson Jr. (IBM president) said: “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.””

Find out more about Patrick’s work by visiting Patrick's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

October 2020

Iwu Dwisetyani Utomo

Dr Iwu Dwisetyani Utomo
Research School of Social Sciences
ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Iwu’s supervisory approach:
“I started my PhD in 1993 at School of Demography, RSSS, CASS. As an international student my four years journey was challenging, rewarding and sometimes very difficult. It is not easy to be struggling as an international student at ANU. The journey can be long and winding with risk of mental health related problems. I promised myself that if I ever have the luxury to be a supervisor to post graduate students, I want my students to experience the best journey and not ever if any experienced any difficulties as an international students. As a supervisor I also acknowledge individuality and intellectual creativity of each PhD student.”

We note with sadness Dr Iwu Utomo’s passing in May 2021, and pay our respects to her family, friends and colleagues.

September 2020

Katherine Daniell

Associate Professor Katherine Daniell
Associate Dean (Education), ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science
Research Lead, 3A Institute, ANU
Associate Professor, Fenner School of Society and Environment

Katherine’s supervisory approach:
“A PhD should be a positive and transformational journey for every student. It is different for everyone, and I know will be challenging, inspiring, frustrating and could turn their own worlds and relationships upside down. This means as a supervisor, I make it my responsibility to support, inspire and connect students to each other and the intellectual and personal resources that will lead them to navigate this life journey as they collectively contribute to knowledge and practices that will impact the world. Working with an extraordinary and diverse group of students and fellow supervisors is one of the great pleasures of academia.”

Find out more about Katherine’s work by visiting Katherine's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

August 2020

Megan Poore

Dr Megan Poore
PhD Academic and Research Skills Advisor
Crawford School of Public Policy
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Megan’s approach to supporting HDR candidates:
“I am not technically a supervisor – or even an academic! – but the Crawford PhD academic and research skills advisor, which means I work one-on-one with our 180 or so PhD students. My primary job is to provide feedback on students’ research and writing; however, at Crawford PhD myself and our HDR Administrator, Tracy McRae, adopt a ‘case management’ approach to working with students, meaning that we take care of each student according to their individual circumstances. I demand a lot of students, but I try to balance the intellectually rigorous with providing practical and emotional support where I can. I don’t think I always succeed, but I’m inside the fence giving it a go, at least.”

Nicolas Cherbuin

Professor Nicolas Cherbuin
Head, Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing
Research School of Population Health
ANU College of Health & Medicine

Nicolas’s supervisory approach:
“Supervising enthusiastic students and seeing them flourish and chart their own course is the best part of my job. I am passionate about research and making a difference in the community, and it is a pleasure to share this passion with others. I like to consider my students as partners in research, and I aim to develop a humorous, trusting, caring environment which motivates students to stretch themselves, conduct compelling and rigorous research, while keeping an eye on the big picture and things that really matter. They keep me on my toes and we share a lot of fun.”

Find out more about Nicolas’s work by visiting Nicolas's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

July 2020

Christoph Federrath

Associate Professor Christoph Federrath
ARC Future Fellow and Stromlo Fellow
Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics
ANU College of Science

Christoph’s supervisory approach:
“I really enjoy working with everyone in our research group at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. They are a fantastic group of people! I see myself less as a ’supervisor’, but more as a mentor and collaborator. I think and hope that this creates a comfortable atmosphere for everyone, where we can speak freely and openly about any problems, so we can solve them together. But there is still room for me to improve, especially when it comes to always finding time and the right balance, so I can best serve each individual student.”

Find out more about Christoph’s work by visiting the Federrath - Research Group webpage.

June 2020

Erica Seccombe

Dr Erica Seccombe
Head of Foundation, Postgraduate Coursework Convener
School of Art & Design
ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Erica’s supervisory approach:
“My approach to supervision is influenced by my own positive experience as an HDR candidate where I was mentored wisely yet treated as an equal. Being a practicing artist undertaking Higher Degree Research requires a unique set of skills and understanding of how new knowledge can be created, articulated and resolved in the studio, and then demonstrated through exegetical writing. A majority of my students have an established practice when they begin their candidacy, therefore I believe my role is to support them to gain self-confidence in their academic ability in order to position themselves as researchers in the field.”

Find out more about Erica’s work by visiting Erica's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

Stephen Lambert

Associate Professor Stephen Lambert
Senior Research Fellow, Academic Supervisor Master of Philosophy (Applied Epidemiology) Program
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
Research School of Population Health
ANU College of Health & Medicine

Stephen’s supervisory approach:
“In my early days of supervising, I asked myself questions like: If I was my student, how would I like to hear that feedback? How would I like to be supervised? I don’t think my supervision style has changed much over time, but I have tried to be less egocentric in my approach. These days my questions are more likely to be: Who is this student? What do they need from me to maximise their learning and success in this course of study? How can I best assist them prepare them for life after graduation?”

Find out more about Stephen’s work by visiting the Master of Applied Epidemiology webpage.

May 2020

Nerilie Abram

Professor Nerilie Abram
QEII Research Fellow, ARC Future Fellow
Research School of Earth Sciences
ANU College of Science

Nerilie’s supervisory approach:
“The effect of the University's COVID-19 closure isn’t the same for everyone, and I’ve been particularly concerned about the impact of this on research students and ECRs. Tight timelines, lab experiments suddenly stopped, and far from ideal home-working spaces are all challenges that my team has faced. I’ve seen my primary role as a supervisor during this time as being one of supporting my team be productive and feel secure despite these crazy times, and I think that our research group will come out of this as an even stronger team than before.”

Find out more about Nerilie’s work by visiting Nerilie's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

Robert Dyball

Dr Robert Dyball
Senior Lecturer
Fenner School of Environment and Society
ANU College of Science

Robert’s supervisory approach:
“For Higher Degree Research students my approach to supervision is collaborative in nature. Early in the student’s program I see my role as that of a critically engaged sounding-board for the student’s gestational ideas. I also believe I have a mentoring role in connecting students to networks and to embed them in a community of practice. As their confidence as an academic grows I see my role change into a partner in a developing academic collaboration. At the end of the process the student has matured as an academic colleague in their own right, with potentially continued collaborations after their graduation.”

Find out more about Robert’s work by visiting Robert's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

April 2020

Rob Lanfear

Associate Professor Rob Lanfear
Division of Ecology and Evolution
Research School of Biology
ANU College of Science

Rob’s supervisory approach:
“I do my best to provide HDR candidates with everything they need to thrive. To me, this includes a supportive workplace, freedom to pursue their own interests, honest and constructive feedback, abundant opportunities to expand their networks, and as much guidance and support as they need. I still have a lot to learn, so I put try hard to regularly improve my supervision (e.g. ANU offers some excellent courses). I was taught early on, by my first PhD student in fact, to try to focus on asking 'how can I help you?'. I do my best to remember that.”

Find out more about Rob’s work by visiting The Lanfear Lab @ANU webpage.

Sonia Pertsinidis

Dr Sonia Pertsinidis
Lecturer and Convenor of Ancient Greek
Centre for Classical Studies
School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics
ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Sonia’s supervisory approach:
“I am delighted to have been awarded 'Supervisor of the Month' for April 2020. To engage in HDR supervision is a great privilege. For the student, a PhD is a tremendous opportunity for personal growth as well as academic achievement. For a supervisor, the supervisory experience is an opportunity to guide and instruct, to excel and to cultivate a new member of the academic community. As we now adapt to remote teaching and supervision arrangements, it is especially important for supervisors to support and guide their HDR students. In addition to managing their program milestones, HDR students are very often navigating a range of personal, financial and employment-related issues. They need to feel supported, encouraged and connected with the wider research community. As supervisors, I believe that we have an important role to play in cultivating a sense of stability and positivity in these uncertain times.”

Find out more about Sonia’s work by visiting Sonia's profile webpage on the Academia website.

Hugh O'Neill

Professor Hugh O'Neill
ARC Laureate Fellow
Research School of Earth Sciences
ANU College of Science

Hugh’s supervisory approach:
“Like many researchers, a lot of my work is done through my students. This is not necessarily unalloyed good, because what makes a suitable PhD project for the student may not be optimal for advancing my own agenda in science. Compromise is needed. A PhD project must be tailored to the student’s interest and abilities, while incorporating skill acquisition, and fostering independence and originality. The result should help the student move on to their chosen career. Looking back over my record critically, maybe I got it right two-thirds of the time. Always room for learning to do it better!”

Find out more about Hugh’s work by visiting Hugh's profile webpage on the Researchers website.

March 2020

Marco Casarotto

Associate Professor Marco Casarotto
Senior Research Fellow and Group Leader
John Curtin School of Medical Research
ANU College of Health & Medicine

Marco’s supervisory approach:
“Reflections of a HDR convenor: It has often been said that a relationship between a PhD student and their supervisor is likely to last longer than a modern-day marriage. There is little doubt that this relationship is critically important during and after a person’s PhD degree. My role as HDR convenor has been to act as an academic ‘relationship’ councillor and facilitator. So, what has given me the greatest satisfaction during my period as HDR convenor? Well, that can be summed up by the smiles of the students (and their families) on graduation day.”

Find out more about Marco’s work by visiting Marco's profile webpage on the The John Curtin School of Medical Research website.

February 2020

Hieu Nguyen

Dr Hieu Nguyen
Senior Research Fellow, Senior Lecturer
Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering
ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

Hieu’s supervisory approach:
“Effective supervision and mentorship are the most important characteristics of a research student’s experience in the university. They are major factors driving program completion and success. As a supervisor, I should empower my students to take ownership of their education and help them realise that they are responsible for their learning outcomes with the highest standard. My practice is not something magical, but down-to-earth: work, learn and share the knowledge together. I don’t try to be a superman knowing everything in front of my students. Utilising their own talents and honestly sharing my weaknesses and thoughts are the keys.”

Find out more about Hieu’s work by visiting Hieu's profile webpage on the Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering website.

January 2020

Diane Smith

Dr Diane Smith
Research Fellow
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR)
ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Diane’s supervisory approach:
“My supervision approach has a simple focus – to recognise the individual and intercultural needs of HDR scholars, and the very real multiple demands each is under – from their family, communities, peers and professional lives, as well as the often unique demands of their Indigenous Studies. Supervision is, above all, a two-way working relationship – personal, collegial and professional. The balance in that is often delicate and changeable, but critical to outcomes. Through understanding the needs in each individual case, I try to identify the specific support that I, other colleagues and peers, the ANU and the wider community can provide that will make the most difference at a particular point in each scholar’s program.”

December 2019

Amelia Maddock

Amelia Maddock
Student Research Administrator
Medical School
ANU College of Health & Medicine

Amelia’s approach to supporting HDR candidates:
“Completing a PhD can be one of the most challenging and rewarding moments in a student’s life. Remembering that they are individuals with unique experiences and backgrounds helps me to consistently provide the support and guidance they need to succeed. I am privileged to be a part of each student’s journey, and am grateful to see them grow both professionally and personally.”

November 2019

Charlotte Galloway

Dr Charlotte Galloway
Acting Director – Centre for Art History and Art Theory
School of Art and Design
ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Charlotte’s supervisory approach:
“I supervise both practice-led and art historical research candidates - for me, understanding individual motivation and goals is an important foundation stone in the candidate-supervisor relationship. This helps establish a framework that will support achievement of necessary milestones and administrative tasks while encouraging the creativity and curiosity that all academic research requires. As an active researcher myself, acknowledging that everyone brings different expectations, skills and experiences to their candidature is also critical as this impacts on the way we engage with and undertake our research activities.”

Find out more about Charlotte’s work and the School of Art & Design by visiting the School of Art & Design website.