School of Biological Sciences
Professor Adrian Linacre has experience from the courtroom to the battlefields of World War I … and his students at Flinders University benefit from it.
As South Australia Chair in Forensic Science, Professor Linacre is a world-leading expert in DNA. His career has taken him to the courtrooms of the UK as an expert witness in murder cases. He has worked with the Red Cross in Kosovo to identify the victims of war crimes and he has brought closure to many families by identifying soldiers killed in Belgium and France during World War I. He has assisted police throughout Asia to solve murder cases.
"My experience filters down to the students" he said. "It's not as if I've read a book and now know the subject. I've actually done it - I've done the casework, I've been to the coalface, I've been at the crime scene."
For Professor Linacre, teaching his University students is about integrating knowledge with the practical application. "Forensic science is the real world," he said. "The students respond enormously to someone with field experience. All you need to do is put up an image of a crime scene, and a couple have me in it. I then show them this is what we actually did. The students' eyes light up, you can see them understand the application for it. It's real. We go through real cases I worked on and we apply knowledge and process to them."
When Professor Linacre lectures under-graduate students or supervises post-graduate candidates, the focus is always on science with a purpose. His students can often see immediate results to their work, which can be unusual in the field of scientific research.
"What always attracted me to forensic science is its rapid absorption into the real world – you come up with a procedure it can be immediately applied," he said. "With forensic science, you can do something for a court case and it has an immediate impact. It enables you to test the theory and answer the question ‘Does this work‘?"
Professor Adrian Linacre
School of Chemical & Physical Sciences
At Flinders, we've got a number of staff who have worked in a vast range of roles and at different levels with industry – a number of them before they went back to get their PhDs.
That perspective makes it easier to engage with industry. Our staff can empathise and understand the position of companies and work out a solution that is win-win for everyone. An academic who has commercial experience will focus on the benefits – which is the motivation of many businesses. Our people here who've worked in industry understand that motivation.
Nanoconnect is a venture that is working with Australian companies to develop new technology or apply existing technology to their needs. What it's done is bring issues to our attention. Some problems we never knew existed and with industry being able to talk about them very openly, it has identified research gaps and opportunities for our students to work on them or in collaboration with the company itself.
It means we're doing relevant research which is still scientifically-based but on an issue that is a problem to industry and something people care about. Relevance can be an issue to some researchers and some universities with no external input are running off doing research which doesn't link with industry.
In nanotechnology, a lot of the research is being done in universities. The big issue in our discipline is that there are not enough graduates out there who understand the benefits of nanotechnology. It's a case of producing graduates with an understanding of that and we are doing that
Professor David Lewis
School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics
Industry input is very important in fields like ours that are changing all the time.
The School works closely with industry in three ways. The first is developing innovation and proactively solving problems for industry. Our research drives innovation but also producing the people who will produce that innovation.
A lot of research questions are questions that industry wants answered. There is a very strong link between what we research and what industry needs to know. Industry likes the applied end of research. They like having universities there to help solve their problems. Sometimes they want us for our knowledge of what is possible and what is not possible than necessarily the artefact that is going to be developed.
Secondly, we create new industry through the work done by PhD candidates and students. We have a number of biomedical engineers here for whom there is no company associated with the work they're doing. There may be a spinoff company that will be created to accommodate the new work they are doing – so there is new industry.
The last important part of the partnership between industry and the School is in supplying graduates for industry itself. Knowing that we're providing the graduate skills that industry wants is critical for us – particularly in engineering and computing. We have industry people come in as guest lecturers, talking about their industry experiences directly with the students. We teach students a blend of what's in the textbook and what's done in real life.
We are training students for the next big thing so they are capable of leading their organisation through the change.
School of the Environment
The focus we have on industry gives a pathway into the 'real world' for our students.
Work integrated learning is a case of flavouring everything we offer – our curriculum, the best practice case studies we study, the topics we offer – with the impact our people can have on industry with the academic knowledge and rigour we give them during their time at Flinders.
One of the things about our discipline in environmental health is that we focus on how the environment impacts on human health. The graduates and postgraduates we produce are out in the community addressing real community issues. These links with the community give us direction on our projects and research focus – issues like wastewater, drinking water or surface water.
The best, most engaging projects for both undergraduates or postgraduates are when they understand why they're researching an issue as much as the issue itself. It's not just academic – they can see that there is an academic endeavour but there is a real-world outcome to it. Students really enjoy that aspect
Professor Howard Fallowfield