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Extinction expert inspires evolutionary scientists of the future

29/09/2022. By Carmelle Wilkinson.

A fieldtrip to Svalbard (between Norway and the North Pole) known for its rugged and remote terrain is not for the faint hearted – just ask John Curtin Distinguished Professor and WA Scientist of the Year Professor Kliti Grice.

The extremely cold and unpredictable polar conditions bring a plethora of hazards to those brave enough to explore its magnificent, including frostbite, hyperthermia, severe sunburn, and the threat of avalanches.

Armed with an arctic suit, gloves, thermals, enough dry food to last two weeks, a satellite phone and rifle for protection from the polar bears, Kliti and her team were there to sample the largest extinction event in the Earth’s history, across the Permian-Triassic boundary.

Occurring about 252 million years ago, erupting volcanos in Siberia are believed to have triggered the mass extinction when the supercontinent Pangaea was formed.

This extinction event involved a cascade of events which caused global warming of the planet, an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, acidification of the oceans and depleted oxygen levels in the water – leading to the extinction of 95% of marine and 70% of terrestrial species at the time.

 “Being out in the field with geologists like my colleague Professor Richard Twitchett (Natural History Museum, London) in Svalbard examining rock samples in the Arctic, was an experience I’ll never forget,’’ she said.

“We had some great findings on that fieldtrip, this followed research published in Science which was actually submitted the day I had my son. So, it was a very special time for me for many reasons.

“Our global finds included the presence of toxic hydrogen sulphide in the oceans during the biggest mass extinction event.”

Growing up in West Yorkshire in the Bronte countryside, England on a hobby farm, Kliti enjoys being outdoors and travelling and exploring new places.

After completing her PhD in Organic Geochemistry at the University of Bristol, Kliti moved to The Netherlands Institute for Sea Research on the island of Texel, and then onto Perth in 1998 where she began working at Curtin.

Highly regarded for her research into mass extinction events that have shaped life on Earth, Kliti is a leading Australian scientist and pioneering female in STEM and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, who last year received an Australian Laureate Fellowship the only recipient in WA.

This year, she was announced WA’s Scientist of the Year at the 2022 Premier’s Science Awards.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice with the Deputy Premier of WA, Hon Roger Cook MLA at the 2022 Premier’s Science Awards.

A champion in her field, and the first Curtin female researcher to win this prestigious title, Kliti is a dedicated educator and mentor for WA’s evolutionary scientists of tomorrow.

Being named WA’s Scientist of the Year is such a remarkable achievement, you must be so proud. How did it feel when you heard your name called out?

I felt deeply privileged to be considered for this award along with the other two finalists, both of whom are outstanding scientists and would have been equally deserving winners.

The valuable support I’ve received from Curtin and the Australian Research Council (ARC) over the past 22 years with the excellent array of infrastructure and equipment to support my research has made all the difference.

The honour of being recognised not just for my work, but the work of my team of students, technicians and researchers, significant global collaborations and my own my mentors along this journey was a wonderful feeling.

Unlocking the secrets of Earth’s early life through important research must be exciting work. What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

I guess going back to my school days, science was one of my favourite subjects. In particular, chemistry.

I also loved geology, art (creativity) and loved being in nature, so it was a natural progression to reconstruct ancient environments and ecosystems.

For me, researching mass extinctions raises some big Earth Science questions, of significant paleobiological interest and I love trying to answer these questions.

Someone once said to me it must be very depressing working on extinction events, but it really isn’t, because with extinction events, evolution of life occurs and that’s pretty exciting.

When we extract tiny molecules, which are invisible to the naked eye from rocks and fossils, and analyse them, we can learn so much from such a small sample.

You are taken back in time and can look through the lens to events that occurred millions of years ago.

These small molecules can also tell us a lot about global warming, ocean acidification, rising and falling sea levels, toxic gases, tsunamis and wildfires to asteroid impacts for example, which can benefit our understanding of our planet’s environment and ecosystems.

Most of us know about the extinction of the dinosaurs, but your work looks at the planet even prior to this time, doesn’t it?

Yes, I research the past 600 million years and the big five mass extinction events to help resolve the cause or consequence of key contributors to massive losses in biodiversity and habitats.

I look at what caused these events, what life was destroyed, who recovered and who evolved by looking at the molecular fossils, from microorganisms – eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea and their stable isotopes in rocks.

Most of us know about the dinosaur mass extinction 66 million years, which was unique because it was due to a meteorite impact, but the other mass extinctions were caused by changes in the atmosphere and oceans due to plate tectonics.

My team and I study the molecular signatures (biomarkers) of biomolecules that have been made by micro-organisms, plants and animals, and deposited in lakes and oceans, thousands and hundreds of millions of years ago.

What research are you currently working on at Curtin?

Last year, I was fortunate to receive an Australian Laureate Fellowship. The project aims to unlock a hidden record of our planet’s past and the life it supported, by analysing fossils for new evidence of natural products.

By analysing these preserved and uncontaminated fossils (including soft tissue) in concretions from different geological settings and timeframes we are better positioned to answer ecological, paleoenvironmental and evolutionary questions of contemporary relevance.

For example, reporting the oldest report of intact red blood cells (four times smaller than modern) in a 183 million year old vertebrae of a reptile like organism (ichthyosaur) was attributed to an evolutionary adaptation to low oxygen conditions in the atmosphere and oceans.

Based on your understanding of past extinction events, what’s the likelihood of a naturally occurring mass extinction event happening in our lifetime?

Unless there is a giant asteroid or comet on a collision course with Earth – and we have no evidence this is imminent – I thankfully cannot see a mass extinction event happening in our lifetime. 

Would you like to see more females join the field?

Absolutely.

Actually, it’s been wonderful to see more diversity in the lab over the past few years. Some 65-70% of female scholars at PhD level have researched in my lab.

When I started over 20 years ago, it was very different.

I hope I can continue to inspire our next generation of scientists and encourage more females to pursue a career in science – it’s an incredibly rewarding career path.

Do you have any advice for other students interesting in STEM?

Love what you do, set goals, celebrate your successes be bold to chase your dreams.

Be confident in your ability and learn as much as you can from your mentors and peers.

I love working with PhD students and early and mid-career scientists and helping them develop and take their first steps into their careers.

I also like sharing the excitement of finding something new about evolution or molecules with the students and people I work with, for me that’s the greatest reward of all.

I’d also tell students to be open-minded about what opportunities are out there, embrace multidisciplinary science and enjoy your productive collaborations, reach for the highest goals and surround yourself with a great team with different skills.

I also have a very supportive family – my son and my husband who have shared this valuable journey with me, sharing all the responsibilities as parents and celebrating science.

___

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The festive season is here and sadly, so are the cyber criminal grinches! 🛍🎄

Curtin graduate and Security Engineer Andre De-Moeller is no stranger to dangerous online scams, everyday he’s on a mission to prevent them from happening.

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So, why might some of us be more likely to fall victim and how do we safeguard ourselves from these scams? 🤔

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The festive season is here and sadly, so are the cyber criminal grinches! 🛍🎄

Curtin graduate and Security Engineer Andre De-Moeller is no stranger to dangerous online scams, everyday he’s on a mission to prevent them from happening.

It’s the season of phishing, and as we buy gifts for loved ones and friends over the holiday period, we can become more susceptible to attackers targeting our login credentials and credit card details.

So, why might some of us be more likely to fall victim and how do we safeguard ourselves from these scams? 🤔

Andre shares his top tips via the link in bio. 👆

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The first person in her family to attend university, Harlene has always believed a tertiary education was her destiny.

The developmental psychologist sat down with us to share her incredible career journey, which has led her across the Pacific Ocean and over the Nullarbor to Curtin.

Read our full interview with Harlene via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #ViceChancellor #leadership #highereducation #university #education #futureofeducation #careerjourney #westernaustralia #academics #innovation #psychologist

If it weren’t for the generosity of a stranger, Curtin’s Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne would never have discovered the transformational power of a higher education. 📚

The first person in her family to attend university, Harlene has always believed a tertiary education was her destiny.

The developmental psychologist sat down with us to share her incredible career journey, which has led her across the Pacific Ocean and over the Nullarbor to Curtin.

Read our full interview with Harlene via link in bio. 👆

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Congratulations to Curtin Medical School graduate Dr James Leigh on being named a prestigious Rhodes Scholar. 👏👏👏

Next September, James will make his way to @oxford_uni where he plans to do a one-year Master of Science in Applied Digital Health followed by a Master of Science in Translational Health Sciences.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have received the scholarship, which will allow me to develop the skills to conduct and lead research projects relating to digital health technology, including the design of safety protocols for innovations like artificial intelligence.”

James was part of our first cohort of Curtin Medical School graduates and during his time at Curtin was awarded the Don Watts High Achiever Scholarship.

We wish you all the best James and we look forward to watching your journey in the next few months! 💫

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinGrad #RhodesScholar #Scholarship #OxfordUniversity #congratulations #university #medical #graduate #doctor #healthsciences #leadership

Congratulations to Curtin Medical School graduate Dr James Leigh on being named a prestigious Rhodes Scholar. 👏👏👏

Next September, James will make his way to @oxford_uni where he plans to do a one-year Master of Science in Applied Digital Health followed by a Master of Science in Translational Health Sciences.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have received the scholarship, which will allow me to develop the skills to conduct and lead research projects relating to digital health technology, including the design of safety protocols for innovations like artificial intelligence.”

James was part of our first cohort of Curtin Medical School graduates and during his time at Curtin was awarded the Don Watts High Achiever Scholarship.

We wish you all the best James and we look forward to watching your journey in the next few months! 💫

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinGrad #RhodesScholar #Scholarship #OxfordUniversity #congratulations #university #medical #graduate #doctor #healthsciences #leadership
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Curtin graduate and Perth surrealist Liam Dee’s (BA Illustration, 2010) latest self-portrait, ‘Oversaturation’ reflects the life of a colourblind artist. 🎨🖌

Recently named as a finalist in the 2022 Lester Prize, for Liam, the process of painting himself came with many mixed emotions, as reflected through the impeccable detail and composition of the intricate work.

It was during his time studying graphic design at Curtin where Liam found his passion for fine art.

“I guess I owe a lot to my time at Curtin, being a design student, it gave me a good understanding of visual communication, balance and composition but also helped me make lifelong friends and good industry contacts.”

His biggest piece of advice for aspiring artists and creatives is to expand your knowledge and push boundaries. 💫

“I like the idea that if DaVinci were alive today, he wouldn’t be a painter. He would be innovating on the forefront of technology with all the tools at his disposal. Do not limit your scope, expand your knowledge, and find mediums that push the boundaries.”

Check out more of Liam’s breathtaking work in #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinGrad #CurtinUniversity #art #exhibition #perth #perthart #perthartists #graduates #portrait #art #painting #surrealism #monochromatic #acrylic #contemporaryart #perthcreatives #australianart #australianartist

Curtin graduate and Perth surrealist Liam Dee’s (BA Illustration, 2010) latest self-portrait, ‘Oversaturation’ reflects the life of a colourblind artist. 🎨🖌

Recently named as a finalist in the 2022 Lester Prize, for Liam, the process of painting himself came with many mixed emotions, as reflected through the impeccable detail and composition of the intricate work.

It was during his time studying graphic design at Curtin where Liam found his passion for fine art.

“I guess I owe a lot to my time at Curtin, being a design student, it gave me a good understanding of visual communication, balance and composition but also helped me make lifelong friends and good industry contacts.”

His biggest piece of advice for aspiring artists and creatives is to expand your knowledge and push boundaries. 💫

“I like the idea that if DaVinci were alive today, he wouldn’t be a painter. He would be innovating on the forefront of technology with all the tools at his disposal. Do not limit your scope, expand your knowledge, and find mediums that push the boundaries.”

Check out more of Liam’s breathtaking work in #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinGrad #CurtinUniversity #art #exhibition #perth #perthart #perthartists #graduates #portrait #art #painting #surrealism #monochromatic #acrylic #contemporaryart #perthcreatives #australianart #australianartist
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Our last #CuriousCorner episode for the year is here and it’s the sweetest one yet! 🍬🍩

Self-confessed lolly and ice-cream lover Chelsea interviews her mum, #CurtinGrad and nutritionist Rebecca Russell to learn more about why we crave ice-cream and lollies in summer.

Do you have a curious child who wants to learn more about the world around them from our bright community of alumni leaders and experts? Send us a message to get involved. 📩 

#CuriousCorner #CurtinGrad #nutrition #nutritionist #alumni #healthyeating #healthyfood #nutritiontips #summerfoods #perthkids #perthfood #perth #foodtips

Our last #CuriousCorner episode for the year is here and it’s the sweetest one yet! 🍬🍩

Self-confessed lolly and ice-cream lover Chelsea interviews her mum, #CurtinGrad and nutritionist Rebecca Russell to learn more about why we crave ice-cream and lollies in summer.

Do you have a curious child who wants to learn more about the world around them from our bright community of alumni leaders and experts? Send us a message to get involved. 📩

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Our global search for Carrolup artworks unearthed a historic piece drawn by 13-year-old Noongar artist, Ross Jones, more than 70 years ago. 🖤❤️💛

On hearing Curtin’s international search for works created by Australian First Nations children at WA’s Carrolup Native Settlement after they were forcibly removed from their families in the 1940s, Manjimup-based retired neonatal paediatrician Dr Patrick Pemberton recognised the piece in his home.

Purchased by his father from the London-based Foyles Art Gallery in 1951, the @johncurtingallery retrieved a photo in their archives of Ross, at age 13, holding the same stunning pastel drawing.

The process of reconnecting Carrolup artworks with families is at the heart of Curtin’s Carrolup Centre for Truth-telling - an ambitious undertaking to create a permanent home for the collection in Australia and provide an opportunity for others to learn about this tragic period in Australian history. 

Tracing the art of a Stolen Generation: the child artists of Carrolup was supported by Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries Western Australia, Australian High Commission in the United Kingdom, BHP, @aubritish, @johncurtingallery, @curtinuniversity, @porticolibrary , @ukaustraliaseason & @britisharts 

If you think you may have found a historic Carrolup children’s artwork, get in touch with @John Curtin Gallery.

[Image description: John Curtin Gallery’s Manager Kathleen Toomath with the located artwork by Ross Jones at Carrolup].

📸: Brad Coleman, John Curtin Gallery

#StolenGeneration #Carrolup #CarrolupCentreForTruthTelling #CarrolupCentre #CarrolupArt #FirstNations #AboriginalArt

Our global search for Carrolup artworks unearthed a historic piece drawn by 13-year-old Noongar artist, Ross Jones, more than 70 years ago. 🖤❤️💛

On hearing Curtin’s international search for works created by Australian First Nations children at WA’s Carrolup Native Settlement after they were forcibly removed from their families in the 1940s, Manjimup-based retired neonatal paediatrician Dr Patrick Pemberton recognised the piece in his home.

Purchased by his father from the London-based Foyles Art Gallery in 1951, the @johncurtingallery retrieved a photo in their archives of Ross, at age 13, holding the same stunning pastel drawing.

The process of reconnecting Carrolup artworks with families is at the heart of Curtin’s Carrolup Centre for Truth-telling - an ambitious undertaking to create a permanent home for the collection in Australia and provide an opportunity for others to learn about this tragic period in Australian history. 

Tracing the art of a Stolen Generation: the child artists of Carrolup was supported by Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries Western Australia, Australian High Commission in the United Kingdom, BHP, @aubritish, @johncurtingallery, @curtinuniversity, @porticolibrary , @ukaustraliaseason & @britisharts

If you think you may have found a historic Carrolup children’s artwork, get in touch with @John Curtin Gallery.

[Image description: John Curtin Gallery’s Manager Kathleen Toomath with the located artwork by Ross Jones at Carrolup].

📸: Brad Coleman, John Curtin Gallery

#StolenGeneration #Carrolup #CarrolupCentreForTruthTelling #CarrolupCentre #CarrolupArt #FirstNations #AboriginalArt
...

As we reflect on the year, Curtin soon-to-be graduate Nina Dakin’s ‘Branching Future’ illustration brings to life the eclectic collection of inspiring and heartfelt stories of #CurtinCommons. 🍃✍️

For many cultures around the world, trees symbolise a creative source of storytelling. A writer puts pen to paper enlightened by Curtin’s brightest minds and leaders while sitting under a London plane tree on our Bentley campus.

This year in Curtin Commons we have been fortunate enough to share the stories of Australian actress Kate Mulvany, @masterchefau extraordinaire Brendan Pang and Australian Scientist of the Year Kliti Grice, to name a few.

A passionate illustrator and creative designer, Nina’s mesmerising work has been featured in @grokmagazine, @curtinwritersclub, 
@paperbird_books and recently she presented on a panel at @perthcomicartsfestival. 

Thank you, Nina, for your beautiful illustration that brings Curtin Commons to life! ✨👏

If you haven’t already, check out #CurtinCommons via the link in bio. 👆

#CurtinCommons #CurtinGrad #illustration #creativedesign #animationdesign #timelapsevideo #storytelling #illustrationdesign #leaders #waleaders #community

As we reflect on the year, Curtin soon-to-be graduate Nina Dakin’s ‘Branching Future’ illustration brings to life the eclectic collection of inspiring and heartfelt stories of #CurtinCommons. 🍃✍️

For many cultures around the world, trees symbolise a creative source of storytelling. A writer puts pen to paper enlightened by Curtin’s brightest minds and leaders while sitting under a London plane tree on our Bentley campus.

This year in Curtin Commons we have been fortunate enough to share the stories of Australian actress Kate Mulvany, @masterchefau extraordinaire Brendan Pang and Australian Scientist of the Year Kliti Grice, to name a few.

A passionate illustrator and creative designer, Nina’s mesmerising work has been featured in @grokmagazine, @curtinwritersclub,
@paperbird_books and recently she presented on a panel at @perthcomicartsfestival.

Thank you, Nina, for your beautiful illustration that brings Curtin Commons to life! ✨👏

If you haven’t already, check out #CurtinCommons via the link in bio. 👆

#CurtinCommons #CurtinGrad #illustration #creativedesign #animationdesign #timelapsevideo #storytelling #illustrationdesign #leaders #waleaders #community
...

As the year draws to a close, we are proud to celebrate the outstanding creations of our latest arts graduates. 🎨🎓

The 2022 Curtin Art Degree Show is the largest fine art graduate show in Western Australia, featuring the amazing work of our latest graduates.

Take a wander through the free multi-gallery exhibition that showcases eye-catching paintings, printmakings, sculptures, videos, performances, and other interdisciplinary art forms.

You don’t want to miss this, make sure to visit before it closes tomorrow, see the details below. 

🗓 Monday 21 Nov – Tuesday 22 Nov | 10AM – 4PM daily

📍Buildings 202, 203 and 212, Manning Road entrance, Curtin Bentley.

Check out a sneak peek of some of the work on display below. 👇

#CurtinGrad #CurtinUniversity #finearts #graduates #artschool #artschoolife #graduateartshow #contemporaryart #perthart #perthartist #perthartists #perthartlist #curtinlifeaustralia

As the year draws to a close, we are proud to celebrate the outstanding creations of our latest arts graduates. 🎨🎓

The 2022 Curtin Art Degree Show is the largest fine art graduate show in Western Australia, featuring the amazing work of our latest graduates.

Take a wander through the free multi-gallery exhibition that showcases eye-catching paintings, printmakings, sculptures, videos, performances, and other interdisciplinary art forms.

You don’t want to miss this, make sure to visit before it closes tomorrow, see the details below.

🗓 Monday 21 Nov – Tuesday 22 Nov | 10AM – 4PM daily

📍Buildings 202, 203 and 212, Manning Road entrance, Curtin Bentley.

Check out a sneak peek of some of the work on display below. 👇

#CurtinGrad #CurtinUniversity #finearts #graduates #artschool #artschoolife #graduateartshow #contemporaryart #perthart #perthartist #perthartists #perthartlist #curtinlifeaustralia
...

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It’s often said that starting a business with your bestie rarely works, but if work forms such a big part in our lives why should we spend it with people we don’t get on with. 🤔💭

Reflecting on the past 20 years working as a product & service design professional, Curtin graduate Guy Buchan (BA Design 1996) shares how friendships have helped shape the success of his design-led ventures.

Guy shares his top tips when it comes to friendship and business via the link in bio. 👆

#CurtinGrad #friendship #business #design #entrepreneur #entrepreneurialmindset #creativeentrepreneur #london #startup #innovation #workculture #businesstips

Do you work with your best friend? 💼🤝

It’s often said that starting a business with your bestie rarely works, but if work forms such a big part in our lives why should we spend it with people we don’t get on with. 🤔💭

Reflecting on the past 20 years working as a product & service design professional, Curtin graduate Guy Buchan (BA Design 1996) shares how friendships have helped shape the success of his design-led ventures.

Guy shares his top tips when it comes to friendship and business via the link in bio. 👆

#CurtinGrad #friendship #business #design #entrepreneur #entrepreneurialmindset #creativeentrepreneur #london #startup #innovation #workculture #businesstips
...

Curtin graduate Suguna Veerapandia had her eye on Yugen Paramesvaran from the moment she stepped foot at Curtin. 💘🎓

A bowling night arranged through mutual friends eventually drew them together, from there they exchanged numbers, met up the next day and it flourished from there.

Surprisingly, their most memorable moment on campus was during the stressful exam period.

“Those were the nights we were so stressed and happy at the same time because to escape the stress we would play chess, go for walks and order HANS’ nasi lemak every night without fail.”

Since graduating, Suguna is now a Marketing Executive at MCIS Life, while Yugen is working for Young Living Malaysia with hopes to one day become an Operations Director in his dream company.

Want to read more heart-warming graduate stories? check out #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinGrad #CurtinCouples #CurtinMalaysia #lovestory #memories #graduatelife #university #highereducation #cutecouplesgoals

Curtin graduate Suguna Veerapandia had her eye on Yugen Paramesvaran from the moment she stepped foot at Curtin. 💘🎓

A bowling night arranged through mutual friends eventually drew them together, from there they exchanged numbers, met up the next day and it flourished from there.

Surprisingly, their most memorable moment on campus was during the stressful exam period.

“Those were the nights we were so stressed and happy at the same time because to escape the stress we would play chess, go for walks and order HANS’ nasi lemak every night without fail.”

Since graduating, Suguna is now a Marketing Executive at MCIS Life, while Yugen is working for Young Living Malaysia with hopes to one day become an Operations Director in his dream company.

Want to read more heart-warming graduate stories? check out #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinGrad #CurtinCouples #CurtinMalaysia #lovestory #memories #graduatelife #university #highereducation #cutecouplesgoals
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Congratulations to former Curtin student and two-time Olympian Peter Bol on being named the 2023 WA Young Australian of the Year. 💫

Originally from Sudan, Peter has become a household name by being the first Australian to make the 800m final in 53 years after winning his semi-final at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Last night, Peter was recognised for not only his impressive athletic achievements but also his outstanding work off the field, where he dedicates his time towards coaching and mentoring our next generation of sporting superstars.

We are so proud of all the inspiring work you do Peter! 👏

Read Peter’s inspiring story in #CurtinCommons via the link in bio. 👆

📸: @ausdaywa

#CurtinGrad #AusoftheYear #ReflectRespectCelebrate #WereAllPartOfTheStory #athlete #olympian #communityleader #leadership

Congratulations to former Curtin student and two-time Olympian Peter Bol on being named the 2023 WA Young Australian of the Year. 💫

Originally from Sudan, Peter has become a household name by being the first Australian to make the 800m final in 53 years after winning his semi-final at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Last night, Peter was recognised for not only his impressive athletic achievements but also his outstanding work off the field, where he dedicates his time towards coaching and mentoring our next generation of sporting superstars.

We are so proud of all the inspiring work you do Peter! 👏

Read Peter’s inspiring story in #CurtinCommons via the link in bio. 👆

📸: @ausdaywa

#CurtinGrad #AusoftheYear #ReflectRespectCelebrate #WereAllPartOfTheStory #athlete #olympian #communityleader #leadership
...