Superb Supervisors

18 Sep 2007

The University of Queensland has rewarded three of its academic staff for their outstanding supervision of research higher degree students. 

The Awards for Excellence in Research Higher Degree Supervision, worth $10,000, have been announced for 2007 by the University for: 

- Associate Professor Richard Baldauf, from the School of Education 
- Professor David Craik, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), and 
- Dr Sarah Roberts-Thomson, from the School of Pharmacy

Dr Baldauf is an applied linguist whose research interests centre around language, culture and education, particularly in the Pacific basin and as they relate to teaching English to speakers of other languages. 

His students attest to his outstanding qualities as a scholar, an intellectual and a mentor. They greatly value his constructively critical approach and his enthusiasm for and active engagement with their research projects. 

He has an outstanding record of supervision of international students and has been especially helpful to several candidates whose supervision he took over late in their candidature. 

He has successfully established the Thesis Family concept in which students are taught skills as referees and editors, giving them a broader insight into the research process, thereby benefiting their professional social development. 

He has successfully supervised to completion 12 research students and has 10 currently under supervision. 

He also plays a major role in the School of Education mentoring junior staff and shares his expertise with a group much wider than his research students. 

A senior lecturer in the School of Pharmacy, Dr Roberts-Thomson's research interests include transcription factors in cancer as well as nutrition and toxicology. 

She has successfully supervised three students to completion and has nine currently under supervision. 

Her students describe her as uniquely able to inspire, leading by example and providing a highly enjoyable research environment that is structured yet creative, flexible yet focused. 

Her expectation that every candidate publish while under her supervision is clearly met � since 2000, her students have published 21 papers, many in top-tier journals. 

As postgraduate coordinator for her school, Dr Roberts-Thomson has shown outstanding leadership and is credited by her Head of School, Professor Nick Shaw, with being instrumental in the recent growth in the school's research student numbers. 

She has an exceptional ability to solve problems and generate good outcomes for students and the school. In a UQ Graduate School review of confirmation procedures in 2005, the School of Pharmacy was among the best practice models. 

Australian Research Council Professorial Research Fellow and Group Leader for NMR Spectroscopy Research at the IMB, Professor Craik's research focuses on drug design and development. 

With a particular focus on conotoxins and small circular plant proteins, his research is interdisciplinary across physics, biology and chemistry. 

Professor Craik's students are drawn to him by his reputation as an outstanding researcher. He leads by example and has created a highly productive team. He has successfully supervised to completion more than 20 PhD students and has 10 currently under supervision. 

He mentors and guides them through their candidatures. The students particularly value his strong commitment and dedication to maintaining weekly, face-to-face meetings and the range of discussion opportunities he provides including one-on-one sessions, small group meetings and social gatherings such as a writing retreat 

The writing retreat is an innovation in research supervision, where students can write in a newsroom style and atmosphere. To do this, Professor Craik takes them to UQ's Moreton Bay Research Station on Stradbroke Island. 

He strongly encourages and equips his students to publish in significant international journals and to attend conferences to present their work. The group's publication record is outstanding. 

Director of the UQ Graduate School and Dean of Postgraduate Studies, Professor Alan Lawson, said high-quality research supervision was the most crucial factor in students completing research higher degree studies. 

"UQ prides itself on finding a perfect match between research higher degree students and supervisors from the start of their candidature," he said. 

"This is a two- to four-year relationship requiring compatibility and enthusiasm by both parties. 

"Research elsewhere has shown that a failure of this relationship leads to a cessation of study altogether in 90 percent of cases so it is imperative the relationship is strong and nurtured from start to finish. 

"UQ provides training and support to ensure the best possible outcomes for our students and staff." 

The awards were introduced in 2000 to recognise, encourage, and reward sustained excellence in graduate student supervision at UQ. 

First proposed by the Students Union Postgraduate Area, the awards are administered in collaboration with the UQ Student Union, and funded by the UQ Graduate School. 

All UQ academic staff with advisory responsibility for research higher degree students are eligible for nomination. 

Nominations are endorsed by the relevant Head of School and supported by at least four people: a UQ staff member; a current research student; and two former (completed) research higher degree students. 

Professor Lawson said all 2007 winners demonstrated an enthusiasm for and commitment to postgraduate mentorship, pastoral care, and supervision. 

Media inquiries: Dr Baldauf (3365 6496), Professor Craik (3346 2019), Dr Roberts-Thomson (3365 3193), or Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (3365 1931).