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Curtin University
Note to staff

15 July, 2008


Curtin led team discover key to earliest life on earth – article in Nature


A Curtin lead team, headed by Dr Alexander Nemchin from the Department of Applied Geology has recently published findings in the prestigious journal Nature that question the accepted timeframe for the beginnings of life on Earth. The researchers found a key indicator to the earliest life forms in diamonds from Jack Hills in Western Australia.

The 4.2 billion year old diamonds found trapped inside the Jack Hills zircon crystals are the oldest-known samples of Earth’s carbon. The team’s discovery of very high concentrations of carbon 12, or “light carbon” within these crystals is remarkable as it is a feature usually associated with organic life.

Dr Nemchin believes the latest research will revive debate on the early evolution of life on Earth.

Evidence for ancient life stretches back in time to at least 3.5 billion years ago, in the form of single-celled organisms that did not require oxygen. The discovery of light carbon in the Jack Hills crystals raises the question – did a simple life form exist on Earth 700 million years earlier than previously thought?

The Curtin team’s findings are published in the 3 July 2008 issue of Nature. Their paper, entitled “A light carbon reservoir recorded in zircon-hosted diamond from the Jack Hills”, reports the composition of 22 diamond and graphite inclusions from 18 Jack Hills zircon grains.

The discovery will assist mankind in our understanding of the development of the planet and help us to better assess the conditions of the Earth up to 4.5 billion years ago.

This is a tremendous achievement recognising the outstanding contribution the Curtin lead team has made to this field of study. Congratulations to all researchers involved in the project.

English/English Literature Conference

Recently, the School of Media Society and Culture (MSC) hosted approximately 6000 secondary students and teachers on campus as part of the successful English/English Literature Conference held annually. Since it began in 1986, the conference, which runs over four days, has continued to develop strong links between the School of Media Society and Culture’s Communication and Cultural Studies Program and secondary English and English Literature students.

On each day of the conference staff of MSC, alongside specialist lecturers from the secondary and tertiary sector, presented 37 lectures on 24 topics. Students and teachers attended 5 lectures over a day with a choice of eight lectures in any one timeslot.

Congratulations to all staff involved who made this such a successful conference.

Australian Learning and Teaching Council Grant

I am pleased to announce that Professor Shelley Yeo, Faculty of Science and Engineering and Dr Carmela Briguglio from CBS, are part of a project team in conjunction with UniSA, which has been successful in securing an ALTC grant for their project entitled “Moderation for fair assessment in transnational teaching and learning”. The grant, worth $220,000, is for a two year period commencing in July this year. The project will examine the experiences of lecturers and administrative staff involved in a variety of disciplines and transnational teaching modes to identify issues of assessment in moderation practices. A key deliverable will be the development of a tool kit for the academic community which will support inclusive practice from quality assurance and quality control in moderation of assessment in transnational education.

Congratulations too, go to Professor Yeo and Dr Briguglio.

Engineers Australia – Top 100

Congratulations also go to Professor Moses Tade, Dean of Engineering, who has been recognised in Engineers Australia list of the top 100 most influential engineers in Australia – the only West Australian academic to be given a place. The Top 100 list focuses on present rather than historic achievement and is compiled each year by an eminent panel of advisors. Professor Tade has been recognised as a Top 100 engineer due to his outstanding leadership and advocacy for Curtin’s outreach scheme, as well as for his role in securing a number of industry sponsored scholarships for engineering students.

This is great recognition for Professor Tade.

Curtin involvement in investigating social impacts of drought

I am pleased to advise that Professor Daniela Stehlik was recently appointed to the Australian Government’s expert panel examining the social impact of drought on farm families and rural communities.

The Panel is conducting one of three investigations under the National Review of Drought Policy.

As Director of the Alcoa Centre for Stronger Communities and a leading social scientist Professor Stehlik brings to the role more than 15 years’ experience of working with rural communities around Australia.

Professor Stehlik is frequently asked to advise Federal and State government agencies. In April she participated in the Government’s Australia 2020 Summit that I also attended and last month she was involved in the National Rural Women’s Summit.

I wish Professor Stehlik all the best in this endeavour.