Senior Research Fellow - Dr Mark McDonnell - University of South Australia

Uploaded by UniSouthAustralia on 16.02.2011


My name is Dr Mark McDonnell
I'm a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Telecommunications
Research at the University of South Australia.
I'm currently an Australian Research Fellowship
recipient from the Australian Research Council.
One of the major advantages of having a
fellowship such as mine is the autonomy that it gives me.
My work to me is not a job, it's like a hobby.
I get to work on exactly what I want to work on
research-wise, this allows me also to manage
my work-life balance quite well.
My research interests are in the field of computational
and theoretical neuroscience, which
means modelling biological systems
to do with the brain, so neurons within the brain
but both mathematical and simulation based modelling
and also looking at theoretical aspects
of how the brain works and how the neurons within the brain
contribute to how we think and how we process information.
To me, understanding how the brain works is one of the final frontiers
of science and it will lead to enormous breakthroughs.
So, one of the projects I've worked on is
signal processing for cochlear implants
or bionic ears. So, bionic ears are
surgically implanted, biomedical prosthetics that allow
profoundly deaf people to hear by bypassing
the outer parts of the ear entirely using electrical stimulation
of the nerve of hearing, and some of
my work has led to proposals for improved
ways of doing that electrical stimulation and it will enable deaf
people to be able to perceive, for example, music better
than they can at the moment.
So, I have students here at ITR, PhD students
plus also honours level undergraduate students.
More broadly I collaborate quite widely with researchers
both within UniSA, other universities
in South Australia and Australia and around the world.
It's not experimental work, it can all be done on a computer
or using mathematics and enables this
worldwide collaboration in a fairly simple way.
It was back in about 2004
I was getting towards starting to write my PhD thesis
and suddenly I thought, well what am I going to do afterwards
I need to find a post doctoral position
and it was suggested to me to apply for a fellowship
I knew that ITR was a world class research environment
for information theory.
I approached the director of ITR and Alex Grant
and proposed to write an ARC fellowship, which I did.
It took two attempts but I was ultimately successful.
I've found the research environment at UniSA
very exciting because UniSA is
rapidly improving and increasing its
research outputs and there's room to breathe
because of this and it's quite exciting.
I quite regularly travel overseas to conferences
and I usually also spend some time working
with some of my collaborators at their home institutes on the same
trip away as a conference or they often come to the same conferences
as me and we do work at the conferences as well.
As well as the travel, the financial support has
allowed me to buy the resources that I need for my work
some high-end computers, books, so on
and to employ casual research assistants.
Another very important factor that has contributed
to UniSA being such a great research environment for me is
the mentoring I've received through the development programs.
These programs have provided me with mentorship
both in research and research leadership
and I don't think I would have got these opportunities elsewhere.
Right now, work-life balance is uppermost in
my mind because I have a five month old son
and this has been a new challenge in my life
to be able to balance time spent with my family
with time spent on my research
It's something I'm still learning, but
having a fellowship makes it a much
simpler scenario than it might be.
What excites me is the opportunities to
grow and expand a new research area.
Mathematical and Computational Modelling of Neuroscience
is a rapidly expanding research field
around the world and in Australia and it's really exciting to
be in this kind of field at a university which is also simultaneously
progressing its research.