ANU Tomorrow: dark energy, pop music and human rights

Soon-to-be ANU Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt on stage at Llewellyn Hall

ANU is known worldwide for being the leaders in research in a wide range of different fields, yet how many students can name some of the incredible research that is being undertaken at our own university? This is what ANU Tomorrow aimed to rectify last Tuesday evening.

The first in a series of lectures organised by the Postgraduate and Research Students’ Association (PARSA), ANU Tomorrow was designed to showcase the leading research that ANU’s postgraduates are undertaking to the rest of the ANU community; research, as PARSA put it, ‘that will be the knowledge of tomorrow’. As explained by PARSA President Christopher Wilson, most of the leading researchers at ANU ‘are more well-known on the other side of the world than they are in our own community’.

The inaugural ANU Tomorrow lecture featured three of ANU’s leading minds from very different fields.

Dr Ryan Goss, a lecturer of the ANU College of Law, Rhodes Scholar, Deputy Director of Higher Degree Research Programs at the ANU College of Law and Early Career Academic Fellow of University House, presented research he had been undertaking in the puzzles of human rights law. Examining the different approaches undertaken in cases towards Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights – a right to a fair trial – in almost 1,500 cases has lead Goss to conclude that jurisprudence in the area is ‘marked by considerable uncertainty and inconsistency’. Goss stated that the research work being done in Law ‘helps our society to answer some of the biggest questions in any democratic society: what are the rules by which we are all governed, in what ways are those rules problematic, and in what ways can we improve those rules?’

‘Research in law might not involve laboratories or microscopes, but it’s vitally important work — and a lot of it is being done right here at the ANU.’

Samantha Bennett, Senior Lecturer and Undergraduate Convenor in the School of Music, and a sound recordist and academic from London, presented on the relatively new discipline of phonomusicology. Phonomusicology, the study of recorded music, looks at the space between performance and reception. Bennett is looking into sound recording analysis – how the people behind the instruments, the technology the music is produced on, and the place in which the music is recorded all influence the sound of the music itself.

Lastly, the night was concluded with a presentation from Nobel Laureate and soon-to-be Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, who posed three big questions for astronomy, including what other planets are out there, and what dark matter and dark energy are. These questions, Schmidt felt, would all be answered in the next 10 to 20 years. The future Vice Chancellor does know, however, that ‘the future of the universe is dark energy’, but that we just have to discover what dark energy is.

The event was the brain child of PARSA Education Officer, Bishal Chalise. ‘ANU is the top ranked University in Australia in a large part due to the quality of our research but often the superstar researchers that we have are better known internationally than they are on campus’ he said.

‘The ANU Tomorrow series gives the ANU community a chance to hear from world-leading experts on cutting edge research. The title of ANU Tomorrow comes from the idea that the thoughts and ideas you’re hearing during the presentation are going to the knowledge of the future’.

Wilson said that PARSA purposely chose these three leading researchers for their diversity, exhibiting the broad scope of research ANU’s post graduates are engaged in. But Wilson also said that they wanted to show not only how far reaching the research areas of ANU are, but also how they interlink. The world of academia is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, and Wilson said he wanted to highlight how research from what have traditionally been isolated fields are crossing over into each other. For instance Dr Bennett, in her presentation, stated that the field of physics plays a large role in the analysis she undertakes on pop music.

Although Chalise said that the choice of Professor Schmidt was definitely an easy one. The Education Officer also said that they were after experts in their field conducting research which is both topical and interesting, which all three definitely fulfil.

Of being given the opportunity to present at the event, Goss said that it was ‘a great chance to speak to the ANU community about some of the important and exciting research being done in the ANU’s Law School, but also to hear about the great work being done in other parts of the campus’.

PARSA hopes to continue ANU Tomorrow lectures, and is now calling for suggestions of speakers at the next lecture.

Written by  and originally published by Woroni.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team