Celebrating our Southern Cross academic stars

Academics who are leading the way in teaching and research

A picture of the learning centre with the sun shining through the trees

Leading teaching and research for what matters

From wound dressing for astronauts to tracing the origins of humanity, a group of Southern Cross University academics has been recognised for their outstanding work in the latest round of academic promotions. A total of 17 academic leaders and researchers were acknowledged through the rigorous process of academic promotion. Their work covers diverse areas in science, education, health, agriculture and engineering.


Professor Peter Coombes

Testing orthodoxies and proposing new ways of thinking

Peter is the Chair of Engineering at Southern Cross and is widely recognised as a world-leading researcher in water systems. His important contributions to international organisations such as International Water Association and UN ESCAP, and locally via the Australian Water Association (AWA), Stormwater Australia, Chief Scientist for the Victorian Government and Australian Rainfall and Runoff Technical Committee, provide clear evidence of his global impact. His work has had a tangible impact on the way government approaches issues such as stormwater management and urban water supply in Victoria and Australia. Peter’s peers consistently describe him as someone who is willing to bravely test orthodoxies and propose new ways of thinking. He provides a wonderful role model for integrity and collegiality within the School of Environment, Science, and Engineering.

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Professor Lexi Lasczik

Generating curiosity, creativity and criticality

Lexi is known in Australia and internationally as a leading and distinctive Arts-based educational research (ABER) scholar. Lexi’s work centres on enhancing the educational experiences of students in classrooms through high quality Arts experiences. Lexi presents interesting, intellectually stimulating lessons and is an invigorating and caring teacher who generates curiosity, creativity and criticality. The genuine care she shows for her colleagues and students is a testament to the quality of her work as an Arts education scholar and teacher. She earned her PhD in 2004 from the University of Sydney, but did not begin her academic career until 2011, having been a secondary Arts educator for 25 years. Lexi is generous in her promotion of excellence in scholarship/academia not only with her immediate academic colleagues, but also with her Higher Degrees by Research candidates and students. Her peers describe her as reliable, creative, dedicated, organized, effective, energetic, visionary, and action-oriented.

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Professor Damien Maher

Advancing environmental monitoring and science

Damien has made significant contributions to the field of carbon cycling, ecohydrology and greenhouse gas dynamics in coastal environments. Among other key research achievements, Damien and his research group have developed novel low-cost sensors for measuring water quality and assessing greenhouse gas emissions. The water quality sensors developed by his group are deployed throughout Australia by government agencies to improve water quality in rivers, estuaries and the coastal zone. Damien is not only an outstanding researcher, he has also provided unselfish service to Southern Cross and the broader community with a positive influence that raises the University’s reputation. He shows deep respect for Southern Cross values and acts as an excellent role model to other faculty and our students.

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Professor Thomas Roche

Innovating in ELICOS education and pathway programs

Thomas is widely recognised as a leader both in ELICOS education and pathways programs, and is sought after for his expertise on quality higher education program design and assessment. He completed his Ph.D. (Applied Linguistics) in 2006 at the Technische Universität Dresden, Germany. He is a successful innovator, having led not only the creation of a capability to deliver high quality online ELICOS education – an industry first, but also one of SCU’s most important initiatives of 2020, the Transition to University Program that has been deployed so successfully as a bridge between the University and schools in our regions. His expertise is well recognised on both the national and international stage, being regarded as a leading authority in his domain by our regulator, TEQSA and leading nationwide benchmarking projects with collaborating Australian Universities. Thomas has changed Southern Cross University for the better, consistently bringing out the best in others.

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Associate Professors

Associate Professor Wendy Boyd

Leading early childhood education research in Australia

Wendy has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service. She is a leading early childhood education researcher in Australia, and the chief expert in early childhood education in the School of Education. Wendy earned her PhD at the Queensland University of Technology in 2011. Wendy has made outstanding service contributions to quality improvements at Southern Cross, and is exceptionally collegial and values driven. It is academics like Wendy who enable the University to thrive through her generosity, integrity and rich participation as well as her calm, inclusive and collegial style of management.

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Associate Professor Mike Climstein

Research with impact well beyond academia

Mike is a valued and respected member of the Sport and Exercise Science discipline. Alongside his role as Course Coordinator for the Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology, he has maintained excellent teaching feedback and high research productivity. He completed his PhD in 1989 at Oregon State University, USA and has been awarded three professional association fellowships. Mike’s research is on topics which achieve considerable impact beyond academia, such as skin cancer screening and prevention among surfers, swimmers and stand up paddleboarders. His research in Masters Games athletes has led to increased awareness of the health and medical benefits associated with long-term participation in exercise, and his research has directly contributed to the majority of the evidence base on this topic. Mike is committed to the motto Kulia l ka nu’u (Hawaiian for ‘Strive to reach the highest’) and is known for demonstrating integrity in practice.

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Associate Professor Renaud Joannes-Boyau

Dating the human evolutionary journey and leading positive change

Renaud is a leader of positive change at Southern Cross. He earned his PhD at the Australian National University in 2010, joining Southern Cross in January 2011. A world-leading researcher on the dating of the human evolutionary journey and understanding the life strategies of our ancestors, Renaud has published in highly prestigious journals such as Nature. Equally important, his commitment to collegiality and integrity is seen in his service duties for which he nominates himself and in the day-to-day duties – Renaud always shows up, speaks up, lifts others up. He is a valued colleague and mentor for junior and senior academics at his work unit.

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Associate Professor Ricardo Vasquez Padilla

Establishing international collaborations in Engineering

Ricardo is the Course Coordinator and leader of Mechanical Engineering at Southern Cross. He is a highly respected and kind mentor to our students and colleagues who completed his PhD in Engineering Science in 2011 at the University of South Florida, USA. Ricardo brings passion to his teaching, research, engagement and service in the Engineering Discipline and across the University. He has established international and national collaborations, provided leadership in curriculum development and has a strong publication record. His research contribution in renewable energy and mechanical engineering, training of research higher degree scholars and undergraduate teaching is creating local and international benefits. Ricardo is described as the glue that combines the engineering discipline at Southern Cross, with a warm engaging manner that promotes collegiality and inspires ethical behaviour and integrity.

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Associate Professor Christian Swann

Promoting mental health through sport on the world stage

Christian is currently the Head of Human Sciences (comprising of Psychology, Sport and Exercise Science, and Biomedical Science) within the School of Health and Human Sciences. He received his PhD in Sport Psychology in 2013 from the University of Lincoln, UK. In his research, he works closely with Movember as a Subject Matter Expert and co-leader of the ‘Ahead of the Game’ program, which promotes mental health through sport and is the official mental fitness program of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. Christian also developed open goals to help people enjoy exercise, a concept now adopted by the Apple Watch and its hundreds of thousands of users. He has received international recognition for teaching effectiveness, innovation and leadership as evidenced by Senior Fellowship of Advance HE. Christian’s values stem from his background in sport psychology and centre on collegiality and collaboration, striving for better performance, and care for wellbeing. He is described by his peers as driven, thoughtful, reflective and always willing to take advice and learn.

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Senior Lecturers

Dr Peter Cook

Recognised at the highest levels for education expertise

Peter is an excellent teacher, with expertise in creativity, the arts, dance and education. He possesses over thirty years of teaching experience in Australia and internationally. His deep and principled understanding of teaching and learning has established him as a national Chair for the accreditation of teacher education programs for Higher Education Providers. Peter completed his PhD with Southern Cross University in 2020 alongside his work as Associate Director, Teaching and Learning in the School of Education. It is unique for an academic who is completing a PhD to shine amongst seasoned academics for research productivity. Peter has attracted the attention of leaders in his field both nationally and internationally with invitations to speak, collaborate in projects and be a visiting scholar with teams of researchers as far afield as Manila and New York. Peter is known as a skilled, patient, generous, insightful and considerate collaborator and is actively sought for his contribution to national and international teams.

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Dr Kitty-Rose Foley

Advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Kitty is a highly valued member of the Occupational Therapy team within the School of Health and Human Sciences. She undertook her PhD at the Telethon Kids Institute through Edith Cowan University, graduating in 2014. Kitty is known for her commitment to teamwork, and for her integrity. She has a strong sense of social justice and is an advocate for others, particularly for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. To that end, Kitty co-leads the Autism Meetup Community Engagement group which aims to build research capacity, community partnerships, and design transformational research projects. Kitty lives by the RM Williams quote: “to be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing” (1988).

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Dr Desirée Kozlowski

Curiosity, innovation, insight and fun in teaching and research

Desirée is an excellent and collegiate member of the School of Health and Human Sciences who performs on all levels. She leads the undergraduate psychology program at Southern Cross – rated by the Australian Good Universities Guide as #1 for psychology in Australia (2019 & 2020). Desirée values curiosity, innovation, insight and fun and brings these to her teaching and research. She recently embedded emotional intelligence training into her first-year unit based on research showing such training assists students to manage demanding work environments and promotes self-development, resilience, and wellbeing. That received outstanding student feedback. Desirée is another fantastic alumna of Southern Cross, completing her PhD here in 2015. She is renowned for the unwavering passion, commitment and enthusiasm for Southern Cross that she brings to every single interaction.

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Dr Hanabeth Luke

Working with farmers to build resilience across rural landscapes

Hanabeth graduated with a PhD from Southern Cross in 2017. She is a committed academic who has contagious collegiality and a sharp mind for integrity. In 2019, Hanabeth was handed the difficult challenge of leading a new program at very short notice; Regenerative Agriculture – a global first for a university. Not only did she pull this off successfully, the course attracted a total of 130 students in its first two intakes. Her coordination and now teaching in this new field has been outstanding, and the associated student enrolment growth makes an important contribution to the University’s financial sustainability. Her research has also been impressive and impactful, aided by major competitive grants from the Soil CRC for the multidisciplinary research she leads in the agricultural sector. Hanabeth’s teaching philosophy is to engage and connect students into the world of science and academia, from novice to confident, lifelong learner. She especially enjoys watching the minds of students open up to new ideas and conceptual understandings that can emerge through Indigenous co-learning approaches to knowledge-sharing.

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Dr Nedeljka Rosic

Innovating with ground-breaking ideas in biomedical and environmental science

Nela’s research has been internationally recognised in the field of biomedical and environmental science. She aspires to be a leader in the field of Biomedical research at Southern Cross. Nela earned her PhD in 2005 from the University of Queensland working on xenobiotic enzymes and drug discoveries. She also receives wonderful recognition from students for her innovative teaching style. Her research is focused on medicinal bio-products, skin protection, biomarkers and host-microbe interaction. Nela is an essential part of the team who won the NASA iTech Finals in 2020 for their cutting-edge wound technology (Rapid Repair). Nela values honesty, courage and innovative thinking.

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Dr Nasim Salehi

Enhancing student engagement through choice

Nasim is an extremely valuable member of staff within the school of Health and Human Sciences. Nasim graduated with a PhD from Griffith University in 2016, and prior to that completed a Master of Science in Health Services Management at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran. She seeks to enhance student creativity and engagement by maximising student choice around content, sequence, time, place, and the method of learning. Nasim is known as an enthusiastic, approachable, and inclusive colleague who treats students equally in discussions. Nasim values, empathy, kindness and fairness.

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Dr Ahmed Thabet

Establishing high quality university-industry partnerships

Ahmed is a foundation member of the mechanical engineering group in the School of Environment, Science, and Engineering, focused on research into composite materials, design of mechanical/structural systems and analysis of aerospace and marine structures. He is known for being an outstanding teacher, for his integrity, and for having shaped the curriculum and research activities of his discipline via an outstanding work ethic. Ahmed completed his PhD with UNSW at the Australian Defence Force Academy, having previously completed a Master and Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at Assiut University, Egypt. As Industry Training Coordinator for Engineering, Ahmed plays a vital role in establishing high quality university-industry partnerships and securing a number of industry-funded grants. He has linked current research to his teaching activities through the establishment of two advanced mechanical engineering laboratories for Engineering research students and fellow academics. Ahmed values seeing his students grow in knowledge, confidence and skills.

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Dr Carolyn Seton

Supporting and inspiring Women in Technology

Carolyn is an outstanding contributor to the IT discipline, researching in computer science education, cognitive load theory, digital literacy and other areas, and has also taught and developed several units in technical and user experience areas. She is a champion of the Women in Technology program at Southern Cross, and a strong female role model who supports and inspires our female students. She is a proud alumna of Southern Cross, having graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) in 2012 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 2019. Carolyn values being approachable and fair, and hopes to instil a love of technology in all of our students.

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