2020 Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Research) Awards

From uncovering how history can impact the world and its future to researching and teaching in water management, the winners in the postgraduate research category are following their passions and learning new ways to understand and improve the world around them. We invited them to share their stories.

Natasha Nagle from the United States of America

Winner: Natasha Nagle from the United States of America

Studying: PhD in Geoarchaeology at Flinders University

With degrees from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Cambridge, research experience in Israel, Australia, Italy and the USA, and formal study in at least 10 countries, Natasha is a truly international student. Here in Adelaide, she’s conducting her PhD research on the geoarchaeological understanding of early human dispersal into South East Asia and Australia. Since arriving in Adelaide early in 2020, Natasha has taken on leadership opportunities in and out of the classroom and contributed to the Flinders and broader South Australian communities through artistic, scientific and entrepreneurial pursuits.

What inspired your love of history and archaeology?

When I was eight years old, I walked out of a Scholastic book fair with a Percy Jackson book which irrevocably changed my life. I absolutely love that series, and I would not be in the position I am without it. It was my first introduction to ancient history and mythology, and my interest expanded from there. Archaeology is the best way to mash my love for ancient history and mythology and my love for the geosciences together. I am so, so happy I decided to pick up that book.

You’ve studied in several countries around the world, what brought you to Adelaide for your PhD?

I came here to work with my supervisor Dr Mike Morley who was looking for new PhD students to work with him on his ARC Future Fellowship. That’s how I initially found out about Adelaide, but now that I’m here, I’m so glad that Adelaide is Adelaide. It’s a great place to live and study, and I’ve had nothing but great interactions so far. I’m thrilled the project directed my gaze to Australia and Adelaide.

Tell us about the Discover Acting short course you took at TAFE SA.

I took the Discover Acting course because, in academia, presentation skills are such a big part of how you communicate and disseminate your research. I’m ok at giving presentations, but it’s a nerve-wracking experience, so I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to help me deliver better, more engaging presentations. It was also a lot of fun.

Tell us about the Hahndorf Academy Community Archaeology Project.

It came about when the team at the Hahndorf Academy were putting in a new shed and unexpectedly found buried foundations. They got an archaeological permit and thought it would be a great opportunity to bring in the community to learn about the history of the site and what we do as archaeologists. There were teams of students like me helping community members get hands-on experience digging in the trench or cleaning and categorising finds. We also had some school groups come in to take a tour and get their hands dirty. I loved that project so much. All the people who worked there were fantastic. I love getting to meet new people and teach them a little bit about what I know and learn from them at the same time. It was the most incredible experience.

Where do you hope your PhD studies in Adelaide will take you and your career?

I would love to work with the Smithsonian, National Geographic or UNESCO. Those are my top ‘going for it’ kind of positions. My PhD in Adelaide is the next crucial step towards achieving my goals and giving me confidence, as well as a better understanding of archaeology and its place in our world and how it can benefit humanity. If we don’t understand the past, we very readily make the same mistakes.

Highly Commended: Jessica Maria Bohorquez Arevalo from Colombia

Studying: PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Adelaide

Jessica has excelled in her research, exploring the use of deep learning and fluid transient waves to detect abnormal events in water pipelines. She has published three journal papers, including one in the top 10 most-read articles of the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. Her research has also led to the university applying for multiple patents based on her methodologies. One of Jessica’s proudest achievements was her participation in the 2019 Three Minute Thesis competition. After participating at her university, Jessica went on to compete and win against researchers from more than 50 universities across the Asia-Pacific region.

While Jessica initially chose to study in Adelaide based on the opportunity to be supervised by world-renowned experts, when she arrived, she found what she calls the perfect city to conduct studies. Here, she’s pursuing her passion for teaching, researching and inspiring young people to get involved in water management and conservation. Jessica says, “My journey would not be complete without the University of Adelaide. This institution has taught me resilience, perseverance and dedication, faculties I will cherish for the rest of my personal and professional life.”

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