UQ's 2018 Fulbright Scholars - Dr Anna Urbanowicz, James Hill, Karri Neldner and Dr David Ireland
28 February 2018

Four researchers are preparing to travel to the United States of America to advance their work after being awarded Fulbright Scholarships.

University of Queensland autism researcher Dr Anna Urbanowicz, innovation expert Dr David Ireland, and PhD students James Hill and Karri Neldner have joined the ranks of a distinguished group of almost 5000 Fulbright scholars worldwide.

UQ Faculty of Medicine researcher Dr Urbanowicz has been awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship to Portland State University, where she will work on improving the hospital experience for adult autistic patients, their support people and hospital staff.

“Research in the area of adulthood in autism is emerging, and as the population of adults on the spectrum grows, so too does the need to support them,” Dr Urbanowicz said.

“I’ll be working with a research team whose work is co-produced, which means that autistic adults are involved in the projects from research design through to the analysis of the data.

“I really want to learn from the researchers in Portland about how they partner with autistic adults on the spectrum so I can come back to Australia and do research partnering with adults to improve their health and wellbeing.”

Fulbright Professional Scholarship winner Dr David Ireland, from the UQ Business School, will spend four months at Stanford University focusing on ways to help people and organisations meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“I’ll be surrounded by some of the world’s smartest people and will be working on some of the world’s most pressing and challenging issues,” Dr Ireland said.

“The methods we use at the moment are not appropriate for dealing with the complexity, the interconnectedness, the size and criticality of the challenges that we are facing.

“It is a chance for me to make a positive impact and make the world a better place for generations to come.

“At the same time, the Fulbright Scholarship will be about building strong connections between Stanford and UQ.”

UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience PhD student James Hill has won a Fulbright Queensland Scholarship to visit the University of Michigan, where he will undertake research and training in sophisticated imaging techniques.    

“We’re at a stage where we have a promising Parkinson’s disease drug and we’re really interested in knowing how it works,” Mr Hill said.

“The Fulbright scholarship is going to allow me to work with a leader in radiochemistry, using positron emission tomography (PET imaging) to track molecules and learn about how they move through the body.

“PET imaging is playing an increasingly important role in the development of central nervous system drugs, making it crucial that we keep pace with world-leading institutes like the University of Michigan.”

Karri Neldner, a PhD student in UQ’s School of Psychology, has won a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to visit the University of Texas, where she will examine chimpanzee – the closest living relative of humans –  to better understand the evolutionary history of tool-making and innovation.

“While we know that human adults are extremely good at innovating with tools, we find that young children really struggle,” Ms Neldner said.

“Pilot testing I’ve conducted suggests that chimpanzees might be better than the average pre-schooler at creating new tools to solve practical problems.

“By examining chimpanzee behaviour and comparing it to the behaviour of young children, we might be able to determine the necessary building blocks required for innovation to occur.

“Doing so will allow us to foster and encourage the building blocks in children that will help them become better problem-solvers, and also develop a society that values innovation and creativity.”

The Australian-American Fulbright Commission scholarships are awarded to foster understanding between the United States and Australia and encourage excellence, innovation and creativity.

About 50 scholars travel between Australia and the US each year through the Fulbright Program.


Media: Belinda McDougall, UQ Communications, communications@uq.edu.au, 07 3346 7890.