In summary

  • Winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award (Early Career) winner Dr Amie Hayley shares about her research and her Swinburne story
  • The 2020 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards celebrated the creativity and resilience of the Swinburne community 

Dr Amie Hayley, a Rebecca L. Cooper Al and Val Rosentrauss Fellow at the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award (Early Career) at the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards 2020.

Amie tells us about her award win, how her nomination came about and how she has been managing the challenges brought about by COVID-19.

What does winning the VC’s Award for Research Excellence (Early Career) mean to you?

In part, I self-nominated to better reflect on some of the achievements that I have made over the past five years as an early career researcher (ECR) at Swinburne. The extenuating circumstances of 2020 meant that I often felt as though I was working harder than ever, without achieving very much at all. So I wanted to remind myself of the accomplishments I had made over my time as an ECR and set a good precedent as I transition into the next stage of my research career - Early-Mid Career Researcher (EMCR). It was a huge thrill and very humbling to have been successful!

Can you tell us a bit more about your research?

Collectively, my work aims to examine the mechanisms of drug-related harm in Australia and develop new ways to leverage emergent technology to better detect and manage drug-affected and impaired driving. Through experimental drug-behaviour research, my work seeks to inform the development of next-generation vehicle safety platforms such as eye-movement-based driver state monitoring systems (DSMS), which can then be adapted to potentially detect and monitor driver impairment due to drug or alcohol use.

This is a rapidly developing field, which provides an exciting intersection between biomedicine, engineering and novel technologies – something I have always been interested in.  

How did you adapt to the circumstances in 2020?

Unable to conduct my clinical research projects, I adapted to last year’s circumstances by refocussing my efforts on developing strong interdisciplinary research partnerships that will help support long-term research goals. This meant fostering collaborations through grant writing/submission and by finding alternate ways of moving my research into COVID-friendly platforms (such as implementing a survey research).

How did you stay connected to Swinburne and your colleagues in 2020?

Transitioning from a very social workplace to a solitary work environment meant that we had to find new ways to keep in touch. Our centre held quizzes and casual meet-ups via Zoom or Teams every few weeks and my smaller team held regular Friday afternoon check-ins over a glass of wine or beer. I also made sure to keep the group WhatsApp active and to check in with my colleagues and students to make sure they were keeping well over the year.

While in lockdown, I also found the time to renovate my office, which was something I had been meaning to do for some time. This has helped me better separate my work time from my home time and has made the working from home experience feel less like ‘living at work’.

  • Amie says that having a separate workspace has helped her balance home and work.
  • Amie’s cat, Hugo, has been enjoying her newly renovated home office space.

What is your initiative helping Swinburne to achieve?

My research initiative aims to position Swinburne University of Technology as the leading Victorian institution at the interface of multidisciplinary drug-driving research and novel technologies.

What do you love most about working at Swinburne?

To me, Swinburne stands out because of the genuine sense of friendship and community and the support of personal and professional growth. I love that I have the independence to pursue and develop my research, while also feeling supported to produce the best work I can.     

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

I am hopeful for the opportunity to travel again, even if only interstate. Having spent the majority of 2020 inside my home, I am really looking forward to a change of scenery!

What are you doing outside of work that we might also enjoy? 

Recently I have been binging a show called Fargo, available on Netflix - there are multiple seasons (bonus for extended lockdowns) and it is set around interconnected stories of crime/drama in remote parts of the United States. Great actors and an interesting setting.

I have also had the time to read several fantastic novels. A favourite was God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. Another was Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – this was both interesting for the statistics around the historical exclusion of women in the development of many areas of medicine/technology, as well as how it might help me better address this omission through my own work.

I also set a time limit on my social media use – it was getting out of hand and the weekly wrap-up of time spent on my phone was a wake-up call to reduce my daily use!

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