Top physicist to lead La Trobe ‘World Ready’ research

Posted on August 20, 2012

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Professor Nugent at the Australian Synchrotron

A leading physicist – currently directing one of the most important items of scientific infrastructure ever built in Australia, the Australian Synchrotron – has been appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research) at La Trobe University.

He is Keith Nugent, Laureate Professor of Physics at the University of Melbourne, an internationally recognised specialist in X-ray physics, optical microscopy and biophysical imaging. Professor Nugent will take up his post mid January next year.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, said this was a wonderful appointment for La Trobe and he was delighted Professor Nugent has agreed to join the University.

The appointment comes at a critical time, as two new world-class science facilities are about to be opened on the University’s Melbourne campus – the  $288million Agribio Centre and $94million La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS).

Professor Dewar said Professor Nugent would lead the reinvigoration of La Trobe’s research capacity to realise the University’s new ‘World Ready’ Strategic Plan. This aims to return La Trobe to the ranks of the top 300 global universities by 2017.

Revitalised executive  team

Professor Nugent said he was very excited at the prospect of working with a re-vitalised executive team to help build a new future for La Trobe University.

Born in Bath, England, Professor Nugent holds a first class honours degree from the University of Adelaide and a postgraduate degree from ANU in Canberra.

His scientific career highlights the changing nature and critical importance of interdisciplinary research and the wide-ranging implications this has for converging technologies of the future.

Research Director since 2005 of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coherent X-ray Science – in which La Trobe also has a significant and long-standing role – Professor Nugent has driven the development of coherent X-ray diffraction methods for imaging biological structures.

His research has developed X-ray and optical phase imaging methods. Some aspects of this work were commercialised via the listed company IATIA Ltd on which Professor Nugent has served as a Board member. These methods are now widely used in a number of areas such as medical imaging, industrial inspection and palaeontology.

‘Lobster eye’ telescope

He has helped pioneer a 360 degree X-ray optical instrument known as the ‘lobster-eye’ telescope, based on the capillary structure responsible for the animal’s vision. The technology was selected to fly on a mission with the International Space Station.

In 2001 Professor Nugent was made an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, a position renewed in 2006.

He is the only Australian to twice receive an ‘RD100 award’ – the R&D magazine ‘Oscars of Innovation’ – for the year’s 100 most technologically significant products and advancements.

A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Nugent has received numerous awards including the Academy’s Pawsey Medal for outstanding research in physics, the Walter Boas Medal for excellence by the Australian Institute of Physics, a Centenary Medal and the 2004 Victoria Prize.

Professor Nugent was appointed Director of the Australian Synchrotron in 2011.

New leadership for academic affairs and administration

Professor Long

The University has also announced the appointment of Professor Jane Long as new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Ms Natalie MacDonald, Vice-President (Administration).

‘Both Professor Long and Ms MacDonald are superbly qualified for these critical positions at La Trobe, and I am delighted that they will be joining us.  Their extensive experience and expertise will be a natural fit within the La Trobe community,’ says La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar.

Professor Long is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Winthrop Professor of History at the University of Western Australia, where her responsibilities include teaching and learning planning and policy, quality assurance, institutional benchmarking and e-learning.

She also has responsibility for admissions planning and policy for international and domestic students, the student learning experience – including cultural competence – and regional educational initiatives. She is a Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency  (TEQSA) accredited national auditor, and has been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK) since 1999.

Natalie MacDonald

Ms MacDonald is Director-General of the Queensland Government’s Department of Housing and Public Works – a service provider to all other Government Departments with more than 7,600 staff.

She has wide-ranging experience in leading the delivery of corporate services, information services, building and design, accommodation, maintenance, facilities management and procurement services.

Professor Long will begin her new appointment in early December while Ms MacDonald will join La Trobe in late September.