When I told my husband and daughters that I wanted to move half-way around the world to take up a senior role at the University of Newcastle, they weren't the least bit fazed.
Pursuing new and exciting opportunities has been a hallmark of my career.
So, in mid-March I moved to Newcastle with my husband and youngest daughter from Moscow, Idaho in the US, to take up the role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation.
Despite diving into a demanding new job in a new country from the confines of lock-down, we felt right at home from the start. Newcastle - like Moscow - is a friendly, university-city and a paradise for those like me and my family who love the outdoors.
In the face of exceptional global challenges, universities are proving themselves uniquely poised to be nimble and drive immediate impact, even at a time when their own organisations are themselves feeling the financial strains of the pandemic.
During my first 100 days here - in the midst of a global response to the COVID-19 crisis - I've witnessed researchers from across all disciplines come together with industry and government to design and manufacture much-needed personal protective equipment for medical personnel; teams from the university and the Hunter Medical Research Institute join a world-leading cohort working to fast-track therapies - as well as repurpose existing treatments - to reduce the burden on our health system; and humanitarians and economists merge to evaluate the financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 on those most vulnerable.
As a newcomer, this multi-disciplinary, multi-organisational response was a very early indication of the resilience and capability of the region, and a wonderful example - though under terrible circumstances - of the benefits that can be unlocked when as a community we all work together.
It has never been more evident that there is no single field, industry or sector that alone can deliver the creative, out-of-the-square thinking needed to address the global challenges we face.
We need our researchers to work across disciplines, with industry partners, and with policy makers and legislators to create and deliver the right solutions.
IN THE NEWS:
- 'Avoid 10 person gatherings': NSW steps up health advice as 14 new cases found
- Malcolm Roberts raises major allegations against coal industry bodies in new video as parties unable to clarify Mount Arthur court case
- Parry Street in Newcastle West closed after fire crews tackle Rahmani Rug Gallery blaze in driving rain
My first day on the job as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation coincided with the launch of the institution's five-year strategic plan - Looking Ahead.
This plan will see the university galvanise its collective expertise, resources and innovative spirit around four core priorities: helping people live better, healthier lives; creating stronger, more connected communities; advancing next generation resources; and growing local and global industries.
Its focus on engagement and ground-breaking research to drive positive change perfectly aligns with my values and professional experiences across industry, government, not-for-profits and academia.
Just one example of our alignment with these areas is the university's commitment to tackling climate change through the development of world-class renewable energy technologies.
This month, the team behind our unique 'printed' solar panels installed the country's only public functional display of this revolutionary technology to power lighting in Sydney, while another group of our engineers progressed a design to generate water from air and isolate green hydrogen as an energy source.
As these technologies progress towards market readiness they reinforce the prospect of new, high-technology manufacturing industries for Australia.
In doing this, we continue to boost the potential of our regions and harness its innovative spirit.
As we face a new future - one with an increasingly volatile funding environment but an ever-growing need for solutions - we must continue to shift our focus to a collaborative working model.
One which opens the doors of the university and invites in the world.
We need students, researchers, academics, alumni, industry and community members to work together and experiment with new technologies, policy concepts, cultural ideas and innovations that deliver outcomes, impact and scalability.
It's this collaborative approach that will spark new conversations, ignite ideas and ultimately fuel more of the projects to power our communities and beyond.
My role is to bring people together, champion the value of research, and ensure there is a clear path for connection and collaboration.
Jumping into my next 100 days (and the 100 after that), I'm excited by the opportunities to join with my colleagues and all of you in my new community to take our region's research to the next level and, in doing so, help our region prosper.
Professor Janet Nelson is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation at the University of Newcastle.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here