Maximising Impact: Professor Andy Hill’s Journey

From medicinal science, prions, and neurodegenerative disorders to implementing a strategy for delivering applied research impact; prepare to be inspired.

From a young boy intrigued by the mysteries of medicine to the esteemed Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Impact at Victoria University (VU), Professor Andy Hill’s path has been a relentless pursuit of knowledge and innovation.

Andy has carved a niche for himself, transcending the ordinary to impact the very fabric of scientific and communal progress. His story is not just about individual success but a narrative woven with the threads of passion, perseverance, and pioneering research, illuminating the corridors of VU and inspiring a future where possibilities are boundless.

Aspiring medicinal scientist becomes a beacon for applied research

Andy’s journey is rich in academic curiosity and scientific discovery. From the tender age of seven, Andy was fascinated by medicine.

A quote from professor andy hill that reads: “my parents have a photo of me dressed as a surgeon at one of our dress up days at school. So, i think from an early age, i had an interest in medicine. And then as i progressed through school, i was still keen on medicine but also became interested in science in general. ”

While that initial interest never really waned, he soon fell in love with science, completing three science majors during his undergraduate studies. Exposure to newly developed DNA fingerprinting technology and a project determining monkey paternity, also instilled in him a passion for applied science.

So, when he had the opportunity to study prions for his PhD, he leaped at it. And boy did he excel! He made substantial contributions to that area of research, being involved in some of the work on Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and the link between bovine and human prion diseases.

A smiling, young andy hill standing in front of an educational poster about the brain.
Andy Hill as a young researcher, excited to be contributing to a solution to neurodegenerative diseases.

From there, Andy translated his newfound knowledge about prion diseases to a study of other complex protein misfolding, neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Since then, he’s continued to explore new technologies and build strong multidisciplinary teams, and he’s held several high-profile positions in the lead up to his post at VU. Yet, he still finds time to lead his own research group.

Clearly, medicine never really lost its shine for Professor Andy Hill, and that fascination laid the foundation for a career characterised by groundbreaking medicinal science research and transformative leadership.

Steering innovation and research impact

In his current role, Andy plays a crucial part in shaping the research landscape at VU as he rolls out the institution’s Research with Impact strategy. His strategic vision is deeply rooted in the idea of collaborating and partnering to create and apply ethical knowledge to address our world’s big problems in all three domains — people, place, planet. 

In fostering a culture of collaborative excellence, VU has formed several strategic partnerships, such as with the Western Bulldogs, Western Health and the new Footscray Hospital, and Greater Western Water. These collaborations aren’t just about shared objectives, but are deeply integrated into the fabric of the university’s mission to deliver impactful, community-centric research. 

Partnerships enable VU to contribute to local community welfare, develop strategies that can be applied in other national and international communities, and enrich student learning experiences beyond the classroom or lecture theatre. They’re a mutually beneficial activity Andy is keen to foster.

Under Andy’s guidance, within and beyond these collaborations, the university has specifically prioritised research areas that promise significant contributions to solving both local and global challenges.

A quote from professor andy hill that reads: “in fact, nine million australians are living in neighbourhoods where there are more children than childcare places. And one million live in areas where there’s no access to childcare at all. ”

For example, VU’s Mitchell Institute, a leading think tank on education, recently found there’s a serious lack of childcare across Australia, especially in low socioeconomic areas.

This work on ‘childcare deserts’ is helping policymakers deliver equitable access to quality, safe childcare. For instance, it informed the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Early Childhood Education and Care. Andy hopes this research will be applied across other policy areas to ensure equitable access for all Australians to other everyday necessities like healthy food and green spaces.

Andy also recognises the important work and contribution of VU’s Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit. This includes hopes to upgrade the Aboriginal History Archive and incorporate important new collections of records. This work is filling gaps in Australia’s knowledge of Aboriginal political movements, enriching our collective academic and public understanding of the complex histories and ongoing contributions of Aboriginal communities to political and social landscapes.

Another key area of speciality for VU is safe and inclusive sport. One team is looking at how uniforms are discouraging girls and women from engaging in a variety of sports and, similarly, how uniforms are a significant barrier to girls and women umpiring. Another team is exploring violence in sport in an effort to ensure all young people have a positive sporting experience. Overcoming these barriers to participation in sports could contribute to a solution to societal challenges associated with lack of exercise, like obesity, heart disease, and depression.

With climate change increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters and extreme weather events, VU’s work on disaster resilience is also particularly valuable on a national and international scale. The university has a whole network of researchers from a variety of disciplines across VU who are all collectively working to minimise the devastating impacts of natural disasters. Just one example is research looking at methods of detecting and locating power line breakages, which are a common cause of fires. Early detection using their purpose-built device could cut power supply to faulty lines to stop fires starting or spreading. Progressing this work, the team has plans to expand the device’s capabilities to include detection of hazardous overhanging vegetation, so it can be removed before it falls, risking ignition and/or line breakage.

Andy’s enduring legacy for Victoria University

Andy embodies the spirit of a leader who’s not just administrating, but actively contributing to the intellectual and strategic growth of VU. His leadership drives the research agenda and nurtures the next generation of ethical, collaborative scholars and innovators, making a lasting impact on the academic community and beyond. If you want to be part of a supportive team that’s making a real difference, while also developing skills to reach your full potential, make the move to Victoria University.

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