Postcard from the Past

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Mariana Sontag Gonzalez

Earlier this year, I had an amazing opportunity of visit a lab in Freiburg, Germany, after receiving a grant from UOW’s Global Challenges. This visit was crucial for my PhD project, in which I focus on dating archaeological sites in Indonesia.

Tens of thousands of years ago, modern humans reached the exotic places I am researching on their migrations across the globe. But before they got there, other kinds of humans had already called these islands home. On the Indonesian island Flores, the short human-like Homo floresiensis (aka the Hobbit) was already inhabiting the cave of Liang Bua (which means Cool Cave, see picture below) 50 thousand years ago. We don’t yet know so much about the species living on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, because no fossil remains have been found, only stone tools. But these tools are distinctly different from the stone tools used by modern humans later on.

Such archaeological sites are really exciting (well, I think so, at least!) because they are all that remains of past peoples and studying them gives us a unique window into what life was like 50 or one hundred thousand years ago. Archaeological scientists are able to tell us what kind of foods they ate and whether or not they were newly arrived at the location where the remains were found. In contrast, my research revolves around providing the chronological framework through which their story can be told. I work with optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating, where we obtain a physical signal from sand grains which lets us determine when a layer of sediment was buried, and that gives us an age for archaeological sites. More specifically, we use machines that shoot lasers onto grains of sand and record the light that is emitted back because of electrons being repositioned within the mineral. These machines also need to hold the samples at the right temperature (between 200 and 300°C), so that we only receive the special signal we are interested in.

Work trips for archaeological scientists like myself usually involve going straight to the excavation to collect samples (this is where we put on our hats and play Indiana Jones for a few days). This can be a lot of fun, even though there are no guarantees of luxuries like showers or hot water! During my latest trip, however, I visited a German lab in Freiburg where I did important work on the reproducibility of my results, specifically at the temperature used by different machines. While the location is less exotic than on fieldwork, this kind of lab exchange is really vital to give credibility to my measurements. The years’ worth of results of my PhD project would be meaningless if other researchers at different institutions were not able to reproduce my findings.

At Freiburg, I spent of lot of re-screwing and repositioning various attachments to the luminescence reader (see picture above) together with my host, UOW-alumna Dr. Daniela Mueller. This didn’t always lead to the results we wanted, but always led to our learning something new! And of course the weekends provided enough relaxation through sightseeing of the beautiful old town (see below) and of nearby places. I had a great trip where I learned a lot and I hope to be able to return there (either for business or for pleasure)! So that’s it from me, because I have to go back to analysing the data I measured so that you can all (hopefully soon) read about the work we are doing on when human-like people roamed the Earth and what they did or ate and how they interacted with their environment, thus elucidating our shared human past.

Postcard from Germany

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Inka Santala

I consider myself lucky for being able to travel overseas and present my research at two international conferences just when finishing the first year of my PhD. This was all made possible by the Global Challenges Travel Scholarship and continuing support from my supervisors and peers.

Starting my PhD in June 2017, I knew I wanted to look at urban sharing and how local communities are finding new ways to resist ongoing privatisation and commodification of public spaces and services. I was fascinated by the growing counter-movement that wanted to challenge capitalism and typical market-encased urban subjectivities by promoting co-production, shared consumption and a new kind of active citizenship. However, since getting started, I have come to understand the multiple complexities and social challenges involved. I want to create a more comprehensive picture of the process, the practices of sharing, motivations behind these as well as potential implications when it comes to dominant urban ideologies, capacities and agency.

Getting the chance to travel to Germany and take part in the 5th International Workshop on the Sharing Economy could not have been better timed considering the stage of my research project. Having done some preliminary analysis on the local context enabled me to compare the situation with other parts of the world and share my ideas and observations. In the workshop I got to meet other researchers working in the field and hear about different projects currently ongoing in Europe. This was extremely valuable in giving me inspiration and ideas on how to develop my project further.

In addition, I got to present my first paper draft at the 5th Global Conference on Economic Geography and had chance to debate on the possibilities and challenges related to my theoretical framework. During the conference, I learned how other geographers are studying alternative economic practices and applying similar theories to support their empirical work. I found the conference valuable in giving me examples and ideas on how to deepen my analysis as well as made it possible to establish some important research contacts. Now I feel encouraged and motivated to continue my research project to the next stage and search more answers for my question: whether sharing might be able to transform our lives and the urban environments we are living in?

How fabrics can change our future

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar Syamak Farajikhah,

In mid-November 2017, I had the opportunity to stay in Melbourne for a week to do a lab visit at RMIT University School of Fashion and Textiles and initiate some collaboration.

The Global Challenges Travel Scholarship provided my funding and facilitated my trip to Melbourne. I am currently a PhD student at UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) working on producing different fibers and textile-based microfluidic devices. Visiting RMIT University and having access to their fascinating textile fabrication facilities, provided me the opportunity to make different textile designs as low cost templates for textile-based microfluidic devices.

RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles

Continue reading

In search of the innovative urban poor in the Global South

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Razia Sultana

It is really hard to conduct research with a small HDR fund when your fieldwork is overseas!  The Global Challenges Travel Scholarship opened up a window of opportunity for me to back up my PhD field travel costs and present my research findings within an international arena. I am really fortunate to have that kind of opportunity!

Put broadly, my higher degree research addresses one of the pressing global challenges of today-that is, climate change. My field site is in Bangladesh which is one the most vulnerable countries to global climate change and faces various natural catastrophes almost every year. In particular, the issue of climate change has been complex for Dhaka– the capital city- due to frequent rural-urban migration, rapid increase of informal settlement and lack of knowledge about different mechanisms of coping and adaptive capacity of socio-economically disadvantaged.

Green infrastructure practicing in Korail Slum Dhaka

Throughout my time researching I would like to explore urban green infrastructure (UGI) as a form of climate change adaptation in Bangladesh’s urban slums. The focus of my study is how a green infrastructure method could be applied to urban slum communities to make them more resilient to climate change. By green infrastructure, I refer to all types of vegetation that bring socio-economic dividends and help address climatic challenges, while building the relationship with nature. Examples include, community gardens for food security, organic flood barriers such as trees for property security, rooftop lawns for thermal comfort and so on.

Continue reading

Postcard from Ubud

By Global Challenges Scholar Hayley Scrivenor

“It was a Greek word, of course: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, meaning ‘omission’ or ‘falling short’: ‘An ellipsis could indicate an unfinished thought… or at the beginning of a sentence, a trailing off into silence… which could also be indicated by a long dash known as an em dash—which was known as aposiopesis…

[Aposiopesis] according to The Dictionary of Rhetorical Terms meant ‘becoming silent’ and indicated ‘the inability or unwillingness to continue.”

Wilson, Josephine (2017), Extinctions, University of Western Australia Press, Perth.

Janet DeNeefe, Founder and Director of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF), addressing festival attendees at the UWRF Festival Welcome on 26 October 2017.

Continue reading

When a conference is in Disneyland…..

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Namita Roy

As a tourism marketing researcher, it is exciting when you are invited to be part of a niche group of researchers learning qualitative research techniques specifically oriented towards understanding tourist (consumer) culture. When things get super-exciting is when the workshop is on board a historic warship and is followed by a conference in Disneyland!  All thanks to my Global Challenges Travel Scholarship which helped me financially to make this trip possible.

Conference Venue: Disneyland

I travelled to Los Angeles, California, USA to attend the qualitative research workshop hosted by consumer culture researchers, followed by the Consumer Culture Theory Conference by University of California, Irvine. The research workshop gave junior marketing researchers a chance to have a one on one mentoring session with stalwarts in the field of consumer culture. Not only they helped me work on my own PhD data, the workshop also provided directions to attendees individually about publishing in the Journal of Consumer Research which is a highly ranked journal in the field of consumer research.

Continue reading

Post Card from the Northern Territory: Strengthening relationships

By 2017 Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Ruth Crowe

When working with any community, building strong and trusting relationships is essential. Having a regular presence in communities allows for friendships to grow and positive conversations to be established. This, however, can be considerably difficult when you are located more then 4,000km from the communities you work with.

Winning one of the Global Challenges Travel Scholarships helped to bridge the distance for me in 2017. I was able to travel to the Northern Territory in July where I spent two weeks with the community I am connected with.

Continue reading

Post Card from Portugal…searching for inspiration from sky and coast


By Global Challenges PhD Scholar, Thomas Doyle

Most fourth year PhD students spend majority of their time stressing over writing a thesis and submitting that thesis in time before funding runs out… while I also had these problems… I was lucky enough to be able to do this in Portugal (Fig. 1)… where at this time of the year, it was sunny, warm and full of happy people!

Figure 1: Statue of Christ, Lisbon.

Continue reading

Postcard from Boston

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Lisa Belfiore

This year I attended the Controlled Release Society Annual Meeting & Exposition in Boston. I had the opportunity to present a poster on my PhD research and listen to a range of interesting talks addressing the broad theme of improving drug delivery in a variety of health and medical applications. At the conference, I was able to meet leading researchers in drug delivery science, including the plenary speaker, Professor Robert Langer – a highly distinguished researcher in the field; a chemical engineer, scientist, entrepreneur and inventor. In addition to his plenary speech, Professor Langer also presented a smaller, more informal talk for PhD students and post-docs, and gave some useful advice for achieving success in science.

Opening session of the Controlled Release Society Annual Meeting & Exposition

Continue reading