It was good to see many of you at the recent conference of the Australian and New Zealand Associations of von Humboldt Fellows in Geelong. This letter provides some reflections on the conference and other activities in 2022, together with Christmas and New Year greetings.
2022 Conference at Deakin University
On 18-20 November the joint conference of the Australian and New Zealand Associations, entitled Humboldtian Research towards a Sustainable World, took place at the Waterfront Campus of Deakin University in Geelong. The Association’s 2019 meeting at Macquarie University had accepted Deakin University’s invitation, conveyed by Professor Jean du Plessis, to host the next occasion. While planning for the 19th biennial conference commenced in mid-2020, a decision was taken in February 2021 to delay the gathering by 12 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with the hope that interstate and international travel would have resumed by November 2022.
In early 2022, planning for the conference recommenced with the local organising committee at Deakin University comprised of Professor du Plessis (Faculty of Business and Law) (Chair); Professor Rosanne Guijt (Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment); Associate Professor Shiri Krebs (Faculty of Business and Law); Associate Professor Ross Marceau (Institute for Frontier Materials); and Ms Jess Holmes (Senior Event Coordinator, Deakin University). The organising committee met regularly with executives of the Australian and New Zealand Associations, and Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows (AAvHF) Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson successfully applied to the Humboldt Foundation for a Kolleg grant in support of the conference.
The AAvHF was delighted that Dr Thomas Hesse, Deputy Secretary General of the Humboldt Foundation, journeyed to Australia for the conference. He spent a week in Victoria, visiting local universities and then representing the Stiftung at the conference in Geelong and providing an update on the Foundation’s work.
The Waterfront Campus was an ideal location for the conference and the organising committee arranged a most engaging program. Speakers ranged from eminent invited German professors to doctoral students intending to apply for a Humboldt Fellowship. The papers were of a high standard and covered a wealth of contemporary issues under the ‘umbrella’ of Humboldtian Research towards a Sustainable World. The conference program included exploration of the wool stores’ precinct in Geelong where the Waterfront Campus is located, a visit to the Waurn Ponds Campus and a convivial conference dinner with jazz musicians. The Australian Association is most grateful to Deakin University, Professor du Plessis and his team for their very warm hospitality.
The New Zealand Association has offered to host the 2024 conference. The likely venue is the University of Otago in Dunedin.
The Association’s Awards
The Association offers two awards in association with its symposia ― the Peter Schwerdtfeger Award to an early career researcher and up to two Distinguished Fellow Awards. These recognise, respectively, the academic or professional achievement of early career AAvHF members and of long-standing members who have excelled in their professional field and/or provided sustained service to the Association. The awards were announced and presented during the conference dinner. The Peter Schwerdtfeger Award was won by Dr Christoph Nitsche from the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University, a former Feodor Lynen Fellow. The Distinguished Fellow Awardees were Professor Kathy Andrews, Director of the Griffith Institute of Drug Discovery at Griffith University, and Professor Gary Bryant, Associate Dean Physics in the School of Science at RMIT University.
Dr Christoph Nitsche, Professor Kathy Andrews and Professor Gary Bryant
I acknowledge with gratitude the work of the 2022 AAvHF awards sub-committee with membership of Professors Jeff Malpas (chair), Elspeth McLachlan and Roger Read. The sub-committee, in considering the nominations for this year’s awards, noted the very high level of achievement demonstrated by all 2022 nominees. Its recommendations to honour the above awardees were warmly applauded by the conference dinner attendees.
In 2022, the AAvHF received a most generous donation from Australian Humboldt Fellow Professor David Pollard who, following his Humboldt Fellowship at Bochum University, had a distinguished career at Yale University in the United States where he still resides. The purpose of the donation was to recognise Professor Pollard’s mentor and Humboldt Gastprofessor, Professor Peter Gänßler. The Association’s general meeting in Geelong requested the Executive to explore recognition of this donation within the AAvHF awards structure.
Celebrations of Humboldt’s Birthday
The Australian Association has had a long tradition of celebrating Alexander von Humboldt’s birthday with dinners in capital cities across the country. With COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021, we introduced a national online celebration of Humboldt’s birthday, which proved popular and is now an annual event. The occasion allows the AAvHF to gather online nationally and also to invite representatives of the Foundation in Bonn and our New Zealand counterparts to join us. This year we met on 14 September, and we were privileged to have the President-Elect of the Humboldt Foundation, Professor Dr Robert Schlögl, as our keynote speaker. He titled his address Global Energy and Australia: Relevance for Germany? Following the address and questions fielded by Professor Schlögl, Dr Katrin Amian, Head of Division for North America, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, provided an update on the Foundation’s programs. Our celebration concluded with a toast to Humboldt delivered by AAvHF Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Finlayson.
This year also saw dinners to mark Humboldt’s birthday held in a number of locations – local representatives in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, Associate Professor Thomas Haselhorst, Revd Dr Stephen Hultgren and Dr Sarah Turpin-Nolan, respectively, arranged local celebrations. I was pleased to attend the Melbourne dinner held on 28 September in University House at the University of Melbourne where we were joined by Honorary Consul-General Michael Pearce SC.
New Alexander von Humboldt Foundation President
During the course of the year the appointment of the next President of the Humboldt Foundation, Professor Dr Robert Schlögl, was announced. While Professor Schlögl does not commence his role until January 2023, we wondered if he might agree to be guest speaker at the above-mentioned 2022 celebration of Humboldt’s birthday, given his strong research links with Australia. He graciously agreed and the Association was privileged to have him address the gathering. On behalf of the AAvHF, I express our sincere gratitude to Secretary General Dr Aufderheide for conveying our invitation to Professor Schlögl and making the arrangements for his participation.
An internationally recognised chemist, Professor Schlögl is currently Director at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin and at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim an der Ruhr. With his research focus on energy conversion processes and catalysts, he is currently co-leading a major project entitled HySupply, funded by the German and Australian Governments. Of the project, which explores conditions for the export of renewable hydrogen or hydrogen-based energy sources from Australia to Europe, he has stated: “With hydrogen, we can pack the energy of the Australian sun into tankers and bring it to Germany … we are investigating how this can be done on a large scale and over long distances” [https://www.fhi.mpg.de/1002874/2022-02-25-australia].
Deaths of Australian Fellows
Since I wrote to you last year we have been advised of the passing of two AAvHF members, Dr Wim Wouts and Dr Rebecca (Bec) Harris:
- In December last year, Dr Wouts’ wife, Alice, informed us that “he died peacefully at home according to his wishes”. In expressing our condolences to her, we noted with appreciation his input to our Association’s activities not only in more recent years when he was living in Perth but also during earlier times in New Zealand.
- Also in December, we lost Tasmanian Humboldtian Dr Harris, Director of the Climate Futures Programme at the University of Tasmania. A globally respected climate scientist, her 2016 Fellowship took her to the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig. Dr Amian from the Stiftung paid tribute to her as follows: “I met Rebecca several times during her time in Germany as a Humboldt Fellow. She was passionate about her research and full of ideas and energy. It is so sad to learn that she has passed away, leaving her projects, family, friends and colleagues much too early”.
Tribute to Dr Judith Reinhard
Earlier this year Dr Judith Reinhard resigned as Head of Science and Innovation at the German Embassy in Canberra to take up the role of Senior Program Manager Hydrogen with Rheinmetall Defence Australia.In her seven years with the Embassy, Dr Reinhard took German-Australian cooperation in science, research and technology to a new level – some members of our Association were her partners in these endeavours. On the AAvHF’s behalf, I thank Dr Reinhard warmly for her contributions to the Association, facilitated through her role at the Germany Embassy. She gave generously of her time, expertise and access to a network of contacts to support AAvHF activities. I was pleased to represent the Association at a farewell lunch hosted by the Ambassador, H.E. Dr Thomas Fitschen, on 3 May. It offered an occasion to express our appreciation to Dr Reinhard personally and to offer her congratulations and best wishes as she took up her new role. The AAvHF’s general meeting in Geelong passed a motion of appreciation to Dr Reinhard for her service to the Association.
“Once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian” – AAvHF members, through research partnerships and other collaborations, continue to foster German-Australian cooperation. Locally, there is also participation in key activities such as the Falling Walls Lab and German Week in Brisbane. As AAvHF Honorary Secretary, Associate Professor Finlayson is tireless in his efforts to bring such events and other opportunities for German-Australian interaction to members’ attention and to encourage participation.
In Melbourne, Honorargeneralkonsul Pearce SC hosts an annual Runden Tisch. The afternoon gathering brings together some two dozen German groups based in Victoria and encompassing aged care, cultural, educational, industrial, media, professional and religious bodies. After a 2-year break due to COVID-19, this activity resumed this year, and I represented the Australian Association at the gathering on 19 October.
Gratitude to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Members of the Association value the academic and cultural opportunities that have been offered to them by the Humboldt Foundation. Significantly, the Stiftung commits to supporting “fellows and award winners for their entire lifetime” and, once again, Bonn provided a Kolleg grant to support our conference. In turn, many Fellows become ‘ambassadors’ for Australian-German collaboration, contributing to the spirit of international cooperation underpinning the Stiftung. The general meeting in Geelong resolved to increase its efforts to promote the Foundation ‘down under’.
I would strongly encourage AAVHF members to recruit other Humboldtians to join the Association and to take part in our activities, thereby fostering the Australian branch of the Humboldt family. Membership is open to Alexander von Humboldt and Feodor Lynen Fellows and applications can be made by submitting the membership form, which is available on the AAvHF website at https://www.humboldtaustralia.org.au/membership/. The biennial membership fee is $40. For queries about membership status, please contact the Honorary Treasurer Professor Bryant. His contact details are:
Professor Gary Bryant
Associate Dean Physics, School of Science, RMIT University
GPO Box 2476, Melbourne, 3001
Service of AAvHF Executive
The general meeting of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows elected the following office bearers for the period 2023-2024:
|AAvHF Executive and National Committee 2023-2024|
|President||Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM|
|Vice-President||Professor Jeff Malpas|
|Secretary||Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson|
|Treasurer||Professor Gary Bryant|
|Australian Capital Territory representative||Professor Hans Bachor|
|New South Wales representative||Dr Glen Wheeler|
|Northern Territory representative||tba|
|Queensland representative||Associate Professor Thomas Haselhorst|
|South Australia representative||Revd Dr Stephen Hultgren|
|Tasmania representative and Webmaster||Dr Nathan Kilah|
|Victoria representative||Dr Sarah Turpin-Nolan|
|West Australia representative||Dr Scott Stewart|
|Member of the executive (immediate Past President)||Professor Rob Robson|
|Member of the executive||Dr Christoph Nitsche|
Our Association is fortunate to have Fellows who generously serve on the national committee. They play a key role in organising and supporting events locally and fostering the national work of the Association. I express gratitude to them all and, in particular, to Dr Peter Jarvis from the University of Tasmania, who had previously served on the national committee but did not stand for re-election on this occasion.
The Association has received outstanding support through the dedicated and professional contributions of Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Finlayson, Treasurer Professor Bryant, Vice-President Professor Malpas and Webmaster Dr Kilah. I thank them all most sincerely for their commitment of time and expertise to the AAvHF and to me as President. In particular, I highlight that:
- Associate Professor Finlayson regularly communicates with Fellows and distributes, on behalf of the Association, a wide range of updates and requests received from national and international contacts,
- Professor Bryant continues to play a proactive role in maintaining and growing the Association’s membership, and
- Professor Malpas provides leadership in relation to the AAvHF awards sub-committee and initiatives to raise the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s profile in the Australian context.
Forty Year Anniversary
The Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows was officially constituted at a conference of Australian Fellows held at the University of Melbourne in 1983. Thus, 2023 will be the fortieth anniversary of the Association. We need to think about how we might celebrate that milestone.
You are most welcome to contact me (Gabrielle.McMullen@acu.edu.au) or the Honorary Secretary Associate Professor Finlayson (email@example.com) if you have suggestions for the development of the Australian Association and, in particular, for celebrating the 40th anniversary. Thank you in anticipation.
I am privileged to serve as President of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows. In this capacity, I seek to recognise the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s generosity to Australian Fellows and Wissenschaften, as well as to promote academic cooperation between Australia and Germany.
Frohe Weihnachten und alles Gute zum Neuen Jahr!
With very best wishes,
Gabrielle McMullen AM
President, Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows