RMIT Professorial Academy

The RMIT Professorial Academy serve as ambassadors, advising on issues of importance to RMIT and the community, driving thought leadership and impact.

About the academy

The RMIT Professorial Academy was established in 2018 to bring together RMIT’s best minds in research, education and engagement to:

  • Serve as a source of advice on issues of importance to RMIT’s future and the communities we serve;
  • Stimulate strategic conversations across RMIT and externally through Fellows acting as Thought Leaders; and
  • Advocate and campaign for value creation and impact as Ambassadors.

The Academicians are known as Fellows of the RMIT Professorial Academy.

The Fellows have been appointed through recognition of their sustained outstanding performance and awarded with the Distinguished Professorship title before being inducted into the Academy.    

Distinguished Lectures

Optical microcombs: measuring almost anything – from earthquakes and tsunamis to the gases in our atmosphere to planets of distant suns.

17 May 2022, presented by Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell

Video blurb: From accurately tracking and estimating our Google Maps journeys to using biomedical imaging to gain detailed images inside our bodies, being able to measure things precisely underpins almost everything we do. 

In 2005, two physicists were awarded the Nobel Prize for developing an approach – the optical frequency comb – to measure almost anything with unprecedented precision. This approach gave us the GPS we use on a day-to-day basis, however, it was also expected to change the way we measure many other things, from the gases in our atmosphere to the discovery of earth-like planets in distant solar systems. 

Seventeen years on, the world-changing potential of optical frequency combs remains largely untapped, mainly due to their large size and complexity. Photonic chip technology – technology that can miniaturise entire lab benches onto a chip the size of a fingernail – may hold the answer. Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell discusses how photonic chip optical frequency combs could lead to 3D analysis of living organisms, map and monitor the geological structure of our lands and oceans, and allow brain-like machine learning to transform the behaviour of autonomous drones and satellites. 

Ageing Futures: quality care and decent work

30 November 2021, presented by Distinguished Professor Sara Charlesworth

The crisis faced across the OECD in the provision of aged care was made visible to the broader community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In making the link between the quality of care and the working conditions of the frontline workers who provide the care, the lecture draws on a body of collaborative research conducted over the last decade. 

Funded by the Australian Research Council and the Canadian Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council these different projects provide multi-level insights into the ways in which the interaction of gendered care, employment and migration regimes can produce both unacceptable care and unacceptable forms of work. 

These research findings also point to the systemic changes required to ensure that frontline workers have the economic security and time to enable diverse cohorts of older adults to age with dignity.

Cancer, ageing and vaccines

26 October 2021, presented by Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plebanski

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death for women globally. Early diagnosis is key to improve survival, but there are currently no reliable screening biomarkers for early stage disease. Moreover, after initial clinical responses to first-line treatment, in most women the cancer comes back, often resistant to the first-line drug platinum.

We have found new diagnostic biomarkers, and collaborate with nano-engineers to develop innovative devices so women can in the future be easily and reliably screened at GP clinics or at home. We further work with clinicians and chemists developing new drugs and immuno-therapies to treat platinum resistant cancers.

Since most patients are older women, we further investigate the unique characteristics of the immune system of older individuals. These fundamental big data 'omics' bioinformatics studies are also providing new insights on how to optimise vaccines to protect older adults, for example against influenza and COVID19, as well as cancer itself.

Why Wi-Fi matters: the past, present and future of a social technology

8 September 2021, presented by Distinguished Professor Julian Thomas


From café culture to home schooling, remote community networks, and smart cities, Wi-Fi is an invisible but fundamental element of contemporary life. Loosely regulated, low-cost, and largely overlooked by social researchers, this technology has driven the rise of the smartphone and broadband internet, and is now a vital element in the next wave of automation. During the pandemic, household Wi-Fi has been critically important for connected households, enabling new ways of working from home and maintaining social links.
At the same time, the closure of libraries, campuses and other public Wi-Fi locations has exacerbated disadvantage for people without ready access to the internet. This talk reviews the history of wi-fi, showing how a technology originally designed to connect cash registers came to play an important social role. It describes Wi-Fi’s immediate prospects, including its relations to high speed 5G cellular services, and its possible longer-run social futures, which may hinge upon its uniquely decentralised and inclusive capabilities for automation.

Transforming Australia's Biosolids Industry: advancing the next generation of waste

25 May 2021, presented by Distinguished Professor Andy Ball

The ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource, based at RMIT’s West Bundoora Campus, brings together Australia’s leading biosolids researchers and key industry and government stakeholders to advance the management, transformation and reuse of biosolids in agriculture.
The Centre's focus is 1) capability and knowledge building, 2) research development, extension and training, and 3) sustainable strategic partnerships.
The expected outcomes of the Centre are to develop a group of new, highly-trained industry-ready researchers, and advanced solutions in three major themes: improved technologies, enhanced products, and sustainability. This will provide significant benefits in the economic value of new applications and market opportunities as well as deliver cost-savings – all in an environmentally friendly manner. This presentation will examine the rationale and expectations of the 5-year research and training program.

Managing workers’ health and safety in complex supply networks: The construction industry experience

21 March 2021, presented by Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard

Construction accounts for 9% of the national workforce but 12% of work-related fatalities. Every year some 12,600 compensation claims are accepted from construction workers for injuries and diseases involving lengthy workplace absences. SafeWork Australia identifies supply networks as a national action area for work health and safety (WHS) improvement and construction as a priority industry. The complex nature of the construction industry’s supply network requires WHS risks to be identified and managed across multiple organisational boundaries and interfaces. In this lecture, RMIT Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard will present findings from an ongoing program of research examining organisational, structural and cultural challenges inherent in managing WHS in complex construction supply networks. The lecture will consider how best to integrate WHS into construction planning and design and present lessons relating to clients’ use of commercial mechanisms to embed WHS requirements in the commercial frameworks used to deliver projects.

Accountability & the Office: Historical Factory to Contemporary Covid-19

10 November 2020, presented by Distinguished Professor Lee Parker

From the emergence of the Industrial Revolution factory to today's multi-storey office building, the office has permeated organisational, economic and social activity for over 200 years. For profit, non-profit and public sector organisations, it has become a major site of clerical and professional labour, and a centre of strategic management, management control, service delivery and accountability discharge. Its location, configuration, functions and processes vitally impact organisational activity and outcomes. This presentation reveals the historical and persistent influence of scientific management on the office and its role as a site of internal and external surveillance, control and governance. Behind frontstage facades of innovative design, backstage agendas of cost efficiencies and client impression management will be unveiled. In today's covid-19 environment, the implications for occupational health and safety of corporate investments in open plan, hot desk and Activity Based Working designs and the pressures for their re-engineering and relocation, will be evaluated.

Engineering Cyber-Physical Systems: A nature-inspired simplexity approach

29 September 2020, presented by Distinguished Professor Xinghuo Yu

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) represent a broad range of complex, physically aware engineered systems which integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) into physical systems for efficient and effective automation and control. A typical example is a smart grid which allows affordable and secure power supply and use while helping reduce carbon footprints. Recent fast ICT advances have made situation awareness possible for better management and operation of CPS. This has also led to explosive growth of spatio-temporal information and complexity. An innovative way of thinking and doing is needed to tackle these large-scale complex problems efficiently and effectively.

In this talk, we will first review recent developments in CPS and their challenges. We will then advocate for a novel problem-solving paradigm, the so-called simplexity approach underpinned by a 'simple solutions for complex problems' philosophy, to deal with large-scale complex CPS. Several nature-inspired methodologies such as AI, swarm intelligence and complex networks will be examined for modelling, control and optimisation of CPS. Some real-world problems, such as money laundering network detection and autonomous microgrid network for power supply from our own research projects, will be used as case studies.

Precision medicine, positioning satellites and turbo-charging the internet - all printed on a chip the size of your fingernail

3 September 2020, Presented by Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell

My team works with technologies that have the potential to help every Australian stay healthier, safer, and more connected than ever. They are developing systems to diagnose and treat diseases, they’re turbo-charging the internet with ultrafast fibre optics and they are creating technologies for precise positioning of everything from self-driving cars to satellites.

How are we doing it? We’re using integrated photonics - the successor to microelectronics - where both electricity and laser light can be captured and controlled on a chip the size of your fingernail, all at a price of only a few dollars.

This technology is surprisingly adaptable and yet scalable to mass manufacture. In this lecture I will show how this technology is also accessible to even quite small companies, right here in Australia and I will share my vision of building a technology manufacturing base to advance our position as global leaders not just in science and technology but also industrial commercialisation.  

Molecular and Nano Engineering of Gold for Environmental and Biomedical Applications

3 October 2019, Presented by Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava

* due to technical limitations, we are unable to provide a transcript of this presentation. If you are experiencing difficulties viewing this video please contact Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava for more information.

Building upon his know-how on the development of gold-based materials, Prof. Bhargava has developed gold-based molecules and nanoparticles for cancer treatment and mercury sensing, respectively, combining research excellence with research relevance.

Prof. Bhargava’s research introduces a highly promising family of gold-based drugs which are found to be highly cytotoxic against various cancer cell lines with high selectivity. This patented family of gold-based drugs can provide a safe treatment to cancer patients with minimal side effects compared to current medicines.

Using gold at the nano level, Prof. Bhargava has created advanced materials for mercury detection and abatement technology. This patented technology is capable of measuring toxic mercury levels in harsh industrial processes and effluent streams

Combating the epidemic of "super-bugs"

3 July 2019, Presented by Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova

The threat of a global rise of untreatable infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria calls for the design and fabrication of a new generation of biomaterials. Following the discovery of the efficient, bacteria-killing nature of insect wing surfaces, the properties of these biological nanostructures have recently become the subject of intense investigation, promising to play a large role in combating the emerging, worldwide epidemic of "super-bugs."

The formation of bacterial biofilms has been prevented for many years through adapting the physical and chemical properties of a variety of medical tools, particularly the surfaces of instruments and implants. Recent studies of insect wings have shown that they are covered with nano-pillared arrays lethal to most species of pathogenic bacteria. Rather than relying on a combination of physical and chemical properties to combat biofilm formation, the mechanism of the antibacterial activity of nanostructured surfaces has been described in terms of purely physical, "mechano-bactericidal" effects. So far, several synthetic bactericidal surfaces, e.g., "black silicon," was synthesised as an analogue of an insect wing's protective surface and was reported to induce a biocidal effect, physically "bursting" the small, Gram-negative and Gram positive bacteria while leaving the host's large eukaryotic cells intact; however, the precise role of this and other nano-architectures in fighting pathogenic bacteria remains a complex mystery to be solved.

As a pioneer in biomimetic antibacterial surfaces, Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova has developed an innovative concept of eco-friendly bactericidal nanostructured materials, which are capable of physical killing of all types of bacterial cells including “super-bugs”.

Creating Efficient and Beautiful Structures

13 March 2019, Presented by Distinguished Professor Mike Xie

Distinguished Professor Mike Xie and his team have developed an innovative design methodology to remove under-utilised material from structures, producing highly efficient and strikingly elegant designs. This technique can significantly reduce the weight and the associated energy consumption of aircraft and motor vehicles. In this lecture, Mike will show a wide range of practical applications of his bi-directional evolutionary structural optimisation (BESO) method, including spectacular buildings and bridges, unmanned aircraft, mechanical metamaterials and structural connections. Mike will also demonstrate how such organic designs can be effectively realised using advanced manufacturing technologies including 3D printing. The new design methodology and advanced manufacturing technologies will change the way we design and construct our future built environment.

Creating healthy, liveable, sustainable cities

4 December 2018, Presented by Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti

In the 21st century, cities are facing massive health challenges globally: population growth, rapid urbanisation, traffic congestion, poor air quality, noise and climate change combined with increases in physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), road trauma, and obesity. Optimising city planning to promote physical and mental health and community wellbeing, in the face of rapidly growing urban populations is critical. Integrated regional urban and transport planning and local urban design strategies are needed to achieve cities that promote health and wellbeing, and to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. While local conditions will determine the mix of interventions, our overall goal must be to create safe, liveable, convivial and healthy cities that promote active and more sustainable lifestyles that reduce non-communicable diseases and other adverse health risks. This requires integrated metropolitan and regional urban and transport planning incorporating pedestrian- and cycling-friendly local urban design. There is an urgent need for policy-relevant research to be undertaken in partnership with policy-makers; as well as advocacy to ensure that the rhetoric of ‘healthy liveable, sustainable’ cities translates into well designed cities that can confront these major 21st century challenges. This is a big agenda that requires interdisciplinary research and genuine partnerships between researchers and policy-makers. The question is are we up for it? And if so, what needs to be done and how? This talk will consider these questions by drawing of recent policy-relevant research conceptualising and measuring ‘urban liveability’. Through the lens of the Urban Futures Enabling Impact Platform, it will consider not only the role of academics, but also the role of policy-makers in achieving the vision of a healthy, liveable and more sustainable future.

Nanophotonics: Ready for life and work

2 November 2018, Presented by Distinguished Professor Min Gu

Nanotechnology has transformed massively our everyday life and global economy for a sustainable future. Nanophotonics, which studies optical science and technology at a nanoscale, has enabled the development of optical and photonic devices that provide a green-technology platform. In this talk, I will show the development of ultra-high capacity optical data storage technology which provides greener, longer and faster solutions to the era of big data. I will also show an entirely new the development of three-dimensional optical display, which is a vital platform for flexible mobile devices. I will then present fractal supercapacitors inspired by natural fern leaves, which removes the bottleneck barrier toward the daily applications of the technology. Driven by these achievements, the newly established nanophotonics laboratory at RMIT has embarked on a new journey to next-generation artificial intelligence with the speed of light.

Academy Fellows

Distinguished Professor Andrew Ball

Director, Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Remediation, School of Science, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava

Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor India, School of Science, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Milan Brandt

Technical Director Advanced Manufacturing Precinct and Director, Centre for Additive Manufacturing, School of Engineering, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Sara Charlesworth

Professor of Work, Gender & Regulation, School of Management, Director, Centre of People Organisation & Work, College of Business

Distinguished Professor Brian Falzon

Director of RMIT University’s Space Industry Hub and SmartSat CRC Victorian Node

Distinguished Professor Anthony Forsyth

Professor, Graduate School of Business & Law

Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti

Vice-Chancellors Professorial Research Fellow, College of Design and Social Context

Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth

Professor, School of Media and Communication, College of Design and Social Context

Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova

School of Science, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard

School of Property Construction and Project Management, College of Design and Social Context

Distinguished Professor Qian Ma

Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and Materials, Professor of Design, Multifunctional Structures, School of Engineering, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell

Director, Micro Nano Research Facility, School of Engineering, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Adrian Mouritz

Dean, School of Engineering, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Lee Parker

School of Accounting College of Business

Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plebanski

Enabling Impact Platform Director, Biomedical and Health Innovation

Distinguished Professor Jason Potts

Professor of Economics, RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, College of Business & Law

Distinguished Professor Julian Thomas

Director, ARC Centre of Excellence in Automated Decision-Making and Society, College of Design and Social Context

Distinguished Professor Yimin (Mike) Xie AM

School of Engineering STEM College

Distinguished Professor Charlie Xue

Associate DVC (International) STEM College

Distinguished Professor Irene Yarovsky

Leader of Materials Modelling and Simulation, Research Group, School of Engineering, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Leslie Yeo

Professor of Chemical Engineering Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory, School of Engineering, STEM College

Distinguished Professor Xinghuo Yu

Chair, RMIT Professorial Academy, Vice-Chancellors Professorial Research Fellow STEM College

Academy Fellow Biographies

Distinguished Professor Xinghuo Yu is an Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Inaugural Chair of the RMIT Professorial Academy, and a Vice-Chancellor's Professorial Research Fellow. His research expertise is in control systems, signal processing, complex network systems, artificial intelligence in engineering systems, and smart energy systems.

Distinguished Professor Andrew Ball is a Professor in Environmental Microbiology and Director of the ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia's Biosolids Resource. His research expertise is in the fields of bioremediation, organic waste treatment, and environmental fate of organic pollutants. 

Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava is the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (India), STEM College and the Director of the Centre for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry. His research expertise is in the fields of industrial chemistry and advanced material sciences, specialising in gold nanoparticles, broader nanoscience and technology.

Professor Milan Brandt is the Technical Director of RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct and the Director of RMIT's Centre for Additive Manufacturing. He is the leading Australian researcher in the area of macro processing with lasers and has conducted work in laser cladding, cutting, drilling, welding, assisted machining and more recently additive manufacturing. This has resulted in technological achievements, patents, research papers and commercial products, which have been recognized internationally and nationally in both scientific and industrial circles. He has commercialized the results of his research and also actively promoted the benefits of laser technology to Australian industry through invited presentations, conference papers and industry seminars. Professor Brandt initiated and chaired several international conferences and workshops and has extensive links with many international researchers and organisations. He is a Board member and fellow of the Laser Institute of America and honorary fellow of the Welding Technology Institute of Australia.

Sara Charlesworth is Professor of Work, Gender & Regulation in the School of Management and is Director of the Centre for People, Organisation & Work in the College of Business. Sara’s research interests centre on gender inequality in employment at the labour market, industry and organisational levels. She is currently working on a number of Australian Research Council and internationally funded projects in the area of frontline aged care work.

Distinguished Professor Brian Falzon is the Inaugural Director of RMIT University’s Space Industry Hub and SmartSat CRC Victorian Node. Prior to joining RMIT, he was appointed to the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering – Bombardier Chair in Aerospace Composites, at Queen’s University Belfast, in 2013, and in 2015 became the Head of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He is internationally renowned for his work on advanced, lightweight composite materials and structures.

Distinguished Professor Anthony Forsyth is a Professor in the Graduate School of Business & Law. His research focuses on collective bargaining, trade unions, union education, labour hire and the gig economy. In 2015-16 Anthony chaired the Victorian Government's independent Inquiry into Labour Hire and Insecure Work. He is a co-author of the 6th edition of "Creighton & Stewart's Labour Law" (2016) and a co-editor of "Collective Bargaining under the Fair Work Act " (2018) (both published by Federation Press). Anthony is also President of the Australian Labour Law Association.

Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti is a Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow and from 2016-2020 was an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow. Between 2017-2020 she was RMIT’s Urban Futures Enabling Impact Platform Director, and between 2011-2016, she was a Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the University of Melbourne and Director of the McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit.

For over two decades, Billie and a multi-disciplinary research team have been studying the impact of the built environment on health and wellbeing.  From 2014-2020, she led an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities and worked closely with local, national and global policy-makers and practitioners in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and nationally.

Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth is a socially-engaged artist and digital ethnographer. Hjorth has two decades experience working in interdisciplinary, collaborative, playful and socially innovative digital media methods to explore intergenerational relationships in cross-cultural contexts. Hjorth has explored the socio-cultural dimensions of mobile media in many contexts such as Japan, South Korea, China and Australia.

Hjorth has published over 100 publications on the topic—recent publications include Haunting Hands (with Cumiskey, Oxford Uni Press), Understanding Social Media (with Hinton, 2nd Edition, Sage), Creative Practice Ethnographies (with Harris, Jungnickel and Coombs, Rowman & Little) and Ambient Play (with Richardson, MIT Press). Much of her participatory art projects seek to provide playful critical reflection on quotidian environment and media practices from mobile games about climate change, to transforming the gallery into a Minecraft/Lego game to what happens to our data after we die (#dataofthedead).

Hjorth has a strong track record in leadership from five Australian Research Council grants, co-founding the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) to university leadership roles like Deputy Dean in R&I (School of M&C) and Acting Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor. Hjorth was REC Humanities & Creative Arts member in the ARC ERA2018 and was part of the ARC Engagement & Impact pilot study in 2017. Hjorth is currently the Design & Creative Practice (DCP) Platform director at RMIT University. The Platform focuses on interdisciplinary collaboration and creative solutions to real-world problems—especially in relation to social innovation through playful, multisensorial methods. See


Professor Elena P. Ivanova received her PhD from the Institute of Microbiology and Virology, Ukraine. She has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, Japan and as a visiting Researcher at the Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland.

Elena’s Professional activity is concentrated in fundamental and applied fields of Nano/Biotechnology. Her research interests also focus on the design, fabrication and operation of planar micro-devices, immobilization of bio-molecules and micro-organisms in micro/nano/environments, bacterial taxonomy and bacterial interactions with macro/micro/ nano-structured surfaces.    

Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard from the School of Property, Construction and Project Management undertakes industry-based research into occupational health and safety and the health and work-life balance of construction workers. She was awarded an inaugural ARC Future Fellowship to deliver a program of research entitled Differentiation not disintegration: Integrating Strategies to Improve Occupational Health and Safety in the Construction Industry.

Professor Qian Ma currently holds the appointments of Honorary Professor of The University of Queensland, Australia, and Specially Appointed Guest Professor of Osaka University, Japan.

Qian’s areas of research include metal additive manufacturing (3D printing), alloy design, powder metallurgy of light alloys (Ti, Al and TiAI), solidification processing (heterogeneous nucleation and grain refinement), coating, and modelling.   

Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell from the School of Engineering is the RMIT Node Director of the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS). His research is dedicated to the creation of microtechnology solutions enabled by fundamental research in diverse disciplines spanning physics, chemistry and biomedical sciences.

Professor Adrian Mouritz performs research into fibre reinforced polymer composites and other engineering materials used in aircraft. Adrian has performed research which has led to significant discoveries on various topics associated with composite materials. This has included their mechanical, fracture and fatigue properties, impact and explosive blast properties, fire structural properties, non-destructive inspection and smart health monitoring, and damage tolerance using through-thickness reinforcement (orthogonal weaving, stitching, pinning).

Adrian has published nearly 200 research articles on composites which include three books, three edited books, 15 book chapters, and over 120 journal papers. He has received over five million AUD in research funds over the past 10 years from various sources, including the Australian Research Council, United States Office of Naval Research and the Composites CRC. 

Distinguished Professor Lee Parker from the School of Accounting is an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research at the University of St Andrews, and research advisor/assessor in management and accounting to universities, government research granting bodies and professional associations across the globe.

Magdalena Plebanski is an internationally-recognised award-winning researcher.

Her focus is on understanding the immune system in older individuals, and the development of practical immunotherapies and vaccines targeting cancer and infectious diseases.

Magdalena forged a stellar career in medical and health research. She came to Australia from Oxford University in the UK, where she showed new ways in which malaria parasites trick the human immune sys