Home' InDaily : September 8th 2011 Contents 2|Vol22No7August2011
Leading researcher gains new role
. .. continued from page 1
The outstanding research record of
Professor Graeme Young in the treatment
and prevention of bowel cancer has
resulted in his appointment to a new
position at Flinders as Professor in Global
GI (Gastro-intestinal) Health Research.
Since his appointment as foundation
Professor of Gastroenterology at Flinders
in 1997, Professor Young has headed a
large research initiative at the Flinders
Centre for Innovation in Cancer and more
recently has contributed to the
development of the Flinders Centre for
Cancer Prevention and Control.
He has several teams of research
personnel covering population screening,
clinical research, epithelial biology and
molecular biology which have attracted
major funding from Australian and
Professor Young’s research in the area of
faecal occult blood test-based screening of
colorectal cancer and his championing of
the cause of testing was instrumental in
establishing the national screening
program for bowel cancer in Australia,
which commenced in 2007. His work has
achieved significant improvements in early
detection of the disease as well as
increasing participation rates of testing by
nearly 70 per cent.
He was made South Australian of the Year
in 2007 in recognition of his efforts.
The Head of the Faculty of Health Sciences,
Professor Michael Kidd, said the new
position will allow Professor Young to
continue his own internationally respected
research, while also taking a mentoring
role with other teams of researchers.
“Professor Young’s work has had a profound
effect on our understanding of bowel
cancer, particularly in improvements in its
prevention and detection, and through his
role as Professor in Global GI Health,
Flinders will continue to enjoy the benefits
of his knowledge and expertise,” Professor
Since 1993, Professor Young has also been
involved in research to reduce the high
levels of infant mortality in developing
countries due to dehydration resulting
from bacterial and viral infections. In 2008,
Professor Young and international
colleagues were awarded $2 million by the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for
their initial work on a food-based
treatment that aims to increase the
Thereitis uses a unique 3D compression
algorithm that sorts objects according to
how the user wants to see them organised.
It can be “pointed at” any folder on a hard
drive, database or website to create a
rotating cube of floating images or icons
that can then be sifted and selected.
Mr Wyeld said tens of thousands of
images or icons can be viewed at once, and
searches can be narrowed or ordered using
any of the parameters available, such as
date, name, colour, price, or other property.
“The user can visually swim around in the
collection on their screen until they find
what they are looking for, with similar
objects clustered in zones,” he said.
“We pick up familiar objects in our
peripheral vision long before we even
recognise them, so searching large
collections makes a lot of sense, because
Professor Graeme Young
effectiveness of oral rehydration using a
simple starch additive.
The international collaborative team,
which includes WHO, is in the final step of
negotiating several multimillion dollar
grants to fund the collection of clinical-
trials evidence for the new therapy..
Despite his numerous personal honours,
Professor Young is emphatic that
collaboration is the most effective
approach in research: “Achieving
something big comes from building teams
that are able to put the building blocks
together in the right way,” he said.
this is how we do things anyway.
“No longer is there a need to describe what
one is looking for in words. A simple point
and click returns thousands of possible
results, not in a list but as a collection of
icons or images.
“And almost before you know it, there it is!”
Cover: Mr Theodor Wyeld in front of a Thereitis
Making it all add up for maths teachers
When Flinders mathematician Professor Raja
Huilgol decided to offer a refresher topic in
mathematics for primary school teachers, he
thought he might get 50 or 80 takers; in the
event, enrolments exceeded 200.
Professor Huilgol is offering his students in the
Bachelor of Arts (Primary Education) a mixture
of history, technique and extension.
“Some people would argue that primary maths
teachers only have to understand maths up to
Year 8 level, but I want them to be able to give
those students who are interested at least
some idea of what mathematics is about at
secondary level,” he said.
Professor Huilgol said that mathematics is the
only universal language in the world, and
therefore requires symbols of its own so that
everyone can understand it.
“You mustn’t think of it as a burden but as
something to enjoy.”
To be successful, he said, practitioners need
to become familiar and stay in touch with
“Once you become familiar with and
memorise how to solve, say, quadratic
equations, it will take you two minutes – if
you have to go back and work it out from
scratch it will take you half an hour,” he said.
While it can be useful to employ local
examples to illustrate theory – Professor
Huilgol uses Adelaide’s grid layout to teach
Cartesian coordinates, and football results
as a source of statistical problems – he
warns that students (and their teachers) still
need to learn the abstractions.
“You don’t want these problems to become
so culturally specific that you lose your
sense of broad logic – and you do need to
learn the important formulae so that you
always know, for instance, how to
calculate the volume of a sphere.”
Mathematical modelling – whether of
ecosystems or of financial markets – can
never be perfect, and those who rely on
models need to be aware of their limitations
as well as their power, according to Flinders
University’s newly appointed Professor of
Mathematics, Jerzy Filar.
Professor Filar, who has an international
reputation for his work on models that are
inspired by the environmental impacts of
development, has come to Flinders as one of
a series of strategic appointments of
“Regulation that interferes with the way that
people do business is usually not welcome,
but whether it’s water, air or soil, if we
degrade the biosphere too much by our
human development activities, in the end
our lives will become much worse,” he said.
Professor Filar’s work uses systems of
equations to capture an understanding of
how development affects an ecosystem.
“We are doing this in increasingly
sophisticated ways,” he said.
Professor Filar, who edits the international
Journal of Environmental Modelling and
Assessment, said the mismatch in time-scales
between human processes and those of the
biosphere poses one fundamental problem.
“Most human development processes are
related to products that have a life of a few
years, but the response time of a critical
natural process, such as the deep layer of the
ocean, for instance, is
about 360 years, or many
“And, ultimately, it is the
slow variables that have
the most profound effect.”
Professor Filar likens the
effect to eating daily
snacks to boost energy,
which over a period of
years creates the risk of
major health threats from
“But the good news is that
you can often control the
slow variables by
controlling the average of
the fast variables,” he said.
Professor Filar said there are inherent
dangers in applying a mathematical model
without any understanding of its basis: “It’s
like driving a car without knowing what’s
under the bonnet.”
The reliance of stock markets on financial
mathematics is a case in point.
“If users like stockbrokers and financial
analysts don’t understand the assumptions
underlying mathematical models, then very
adverse phenomena can result,” Professor
“The model is only good if it’s applied within
its proper domain.”
Better understanding of such issues is part
of his argument for an urgent need to
improve mathematics education in Australia.
“With fewer university courses requiring
mathematics as a prerequisite, fewer
schools are offering specialist mathematics
at Year 11 and 12 and a downward spiral is
developing,” he said.
“And this is despite the fact that
mathematics has penetrated more aspects
of society than ever before – medicine,
weather prediction and mineral
exploration all use advanced mathematics.
It is somewhat of a paradox: supply is
decreasing while demand is increasing.”
Doing the numbers on the environment
Professor Jerzy Filar
Professor Raja Huilgol
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