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2023 Round 2 Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to our 2023 Round 2 Graduate, Veteran & Arts Scholarship Recipients!


The American Australian Association is delighted to announce the selection and award of the following scholarship recipients. Meet our scholars and find out more about their career aspirations below.

2023 US to AUS Graduate Education Fund Scholars

Alexander Funk graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He then completed a Masters of Biology at Eastern Kentucky University before moving to Australia to pursue a PhD in Natural Sciences at Macquarie University. He studies reptiles and amphibians and is particularly interested in the impacts and management of invasive species. Throughout his studies, Alex has conducted research on the ecology of Appalachian salamanders and the threats they face from human development, disease, and invasive species. As a PhD candidate, he is investigating the safety, effectiveness, and targeted implementation of a promising new genetic approach to the management of invasive cane toads in Australia. He hopes that his research will serve as a roadmap for future scientists and aid in the protection of native biodiversity both in Australia and across the globe.

Alexander Wendt is a researcher whose focus is the conservation of amphibian species and their habitat. Whether collecting samples from frogs caught in Yellowstone National Park, surveying for amphibians in the cloud forests of Ecuador, or determining flatwoods salamander population connectivity while at Georgia Southern University, he has strived to increase the understanding of a taxa often overlooked. Alex is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Melbourne where he is using genetic techniques to promote understanding of amphibian populations and discover ways that frogs cope with the deadly fungal disease caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which plagues amphibians worldwide. His efforts have focused on the endangered alpine tree frog whose populations have dwindled by more than 80% since Bd was introduced. Alex hopes to identify what evolutionary pressures this fungus has placed on the species, and to create a plan to keep them from going extinct.

Alyssa Peterson is currently a second-year PhD Student at the University of Queensland and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. During her undergraduate studies, she triple-majored in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Religious Studies. Her current research is focused on understanding how insect-specific viruses in mosquitoes transmit throughout populations by infected mother to offspring. These viruses may serve as a novel and ecologically friendly approach to arbovirus biocontrol. To implement this research, Alyssa has planned a collaborative project with the World Mosquito Program to create a strategic public health plan for the use of insect-specific viruses in the field. Outside of the lab, Alyssa enjoys getting involved in the community, and is the President of the Student Society at QIMR Berghofer, the ECR Representative for the Australasian Virology Society, the Higher Degrees Committee Student Representative at QIMR Berghofer, and teaches undergraduate students at the University of Queensland.

Brian Reese is fascinated by the paradox that the immune system prevents attacks on itself but must attack cells of its own body that become cancerous. He wants to unravel how the immune system strikes this perfect balance between autoimmunity and cancer. In Dr. Robert Anthony’s lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Brian set out to determine the role of IgG glycosylation in food allergen tolerance, and he identified a novel role of FcgRIIa in food allergy. Brian will investigate breast immune cells, specifically ductal T-cells, and their ability to keep cancerous cells at bay. Cancer-specific immune responses will be tracked using challenging and specialized methods such as in vivo microscopy, spatial transcriptomics, and tissue genetic engineering. This will reveal the function and regulation of breast T cells and will open avenues to boost their anti-cancer function therapeutically.

Growing up in South Florida, Corinne Allen developed a passion for the ocean from a young age and pursued her B.S. in Marine Science and Biology at the University of Miami. There, she worked at the intersection of research and restoration, testing intervention strategies to increase the survival and fitness of reef corals in the face of climate change. She is continuing her research journey as a PhD student with the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Melbourne. Her research explores the use of assisted evolution approaches to enhance coral resilience. Specifically, she will explore whether the use of bioengineered corals with heat-evolved symbionts is a viable strategy to enhance coral thermal tolerance in the field.

Eli Bieri is a PhD candidate advised by Dr. Jodi Rowley at the University of New South Wales Sydney and the Australian Museum. He spent his childhood searching for salamanders and frogs with his later studies enabled him to pursue his passion in locations ranging from California to the Amazon Rainforest. In 2021, he graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and began a Fulbright-supported Master’s project at UNSW and the Australian Museum. His current research investigates how threatened frog species respond to wildfires in Australia, specifically interested in the relationship between climate change and amphibian diseases.

James DelBene is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University studying the integration of socio-cultural values (mainly intangible and non-monetized values) into marine and coastal decision-making. Using an interdisciplinary approach, Jim will conduct case studies in New South Wales, Australia, working with resource managers, policymakers, and community members to improve knowledge exchange with decision-makers around socio-cultural values. Throughout his professional and academic career, he has engaged with decision-making in state and federal governments, including as an environmental consultant for the energy sector and NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in the U.S. Senate. He completed his M.S. in Marine Science with a Sub-concentration in Marine Policy at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at William & Mary and holds a B.S. in Biology from Hope College. Jim seeks to continue his efforts to deliver more equitable outcomes that produce resilient and sustainable communities.

Jason Dail is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland within the Remote Sensing Research Center. His focus is on utilising imaging radar satellites to improve the detection of clearing and regrowth in woodlands. Improving these estimates is crucial as they contribute to numerous models, projects, and policies including, carbon accounting schemes, wildfire management, regulation and compliance detection, and land management policies, as well as international treaties and initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. Previously, Jason completed a Bachelors in Geosciences and a Minor in Geospatial Technologies at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Afterwards, he taught English in South Korea before pursuing a joint international Masters in Environmental Risks and Human Security in Germany at the University of Bonn and the United Nations University. He recently worked at the Coastal Studies Institute in North Carolina supporting mangrove mapping before commencing his PhD.

Leighton Levering is set to graduate from the University of Florida (UF) in May 2024 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Sciences. As an undergraduate, he has worked as a research assistant in the Altieri Lab, where he has worked on several coral ecology projects in the Florida Keys and Panama. In 2023, Leighton was selected for the Undergraduate Scholars Program, a highly competitive research fellowship. With this fellowship, Leighton is studying the effects of ocean deoxygenation on coral growth on the Caribbean coast of Panama. In addition to research, Leighton is the president of the Marine Biology Club at UF, which works to increase student involvement in marine science research. Leighton plans to pursue a master’s degree at James Cook University where he will study the effects of different types of stress events on coral reef communities.

Madeline McKenzie graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology. In 2018 I completed a Master of Science majoring in Marine Biology and Ecology from James Cook University (JCU), in Townsville, Queensland. A few years later in 2020 she completed a Graduate Diploma of Science majoring in Environmental Earth Science from JCU. Currently she is completing a PhD from JCU that is focused on investigating the utility of the upside-down jellyfish, Cassiopea, as a biomonitor to contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). This work includes various laboratory and field based ecotoxicological experiments to investigate the effects of CECs exposure on the host jellyfish as well as its endosymbiotic zooxanthellae. This research has been presented at various scientific conferences and will be published to ensure it is available to a wider audience.

2023 Sustainable Health Care Funding Scholar

Lane Carrandi is a health economist and public health researcher. Her work focuses on the implementation of evidence-based practices in clinical settings. Through her work in healthcare and industry organisations and academic institutions, she has identified that one of the main barriers to implementing new innovations in healthcare is resources—both money and time. Lane is currently undertaking a PhD at Monash University to develop an economic implementation toolkit with end users. The toolkit will guide clinical trialists, service providers, and healthcare funders through the complex process of implementing innovations, ultimately advancing healthcare practices, and driving innovation. Lane completed a Bachelor of Science in the USA and a Master of Public Health in Australia. She has authored 10 peer-reviewed publications, including 6 first-author publications in health economics and 3 first-author publications in implementation science. She has also actively contributed to industry, state government, and federal government evaluation reports.

2022 US to AUS Veterans’ Fund Scholars

Christopher Hamblin is a 10-year veteran of the United States’ nuclear navy where his expertise in nuclear chemistry, radiation health physics, and radiological supervision was utilized to support and operate the nation’s nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. During his time as an active-duty service member, Christopher completed a baccalaureate in nuclear energy engineering technology and obtained nationwide recognition as a certified radiation protection technologist. During his academic career with nuclear energy, he researched the viability and design of contemporary and future nuclear technologies with a deliberate focus to cater his research under the umbrella of solutions to anthropogenic climate change. Christopher is motivated to continue these efforts by learning about all aspects of the clean energy sector, including renewable technologies and clean energy policy, with the Master of Energy Change degree at the Australian National University, such that he can influence the world and progress society to a greener future.

Matthew Murray was a 2001-02 Congress-Bundestag Scholar and returned to Germany his Junior year at Georgia Southern University to attend the University of Applied Sciences of Ingolstadt.  He graduated from Georgia Southern in 2007 with a BA in International Studies.  Shortly after graduation, Matt enlisted in the Army National Guard as a Small Arms Repairer, and quickly went on to work for Tanks Automotives and Armament Command, CONUS and OCONUS. In 2014 he went on active orders and deployed to Central America in support of Regionally Aligned Forces missions. He then became a member of the Georgia NG Military Funeral Honors Team.  In 2019 he deployed to Afghanistan with his long-time Unit, the 48th Infantry Brigade, earning a third ARCOM and sixth AAM.  He is currently pursuing a Master of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University.

Travis Lamont Reynolds Jr. served on two tours to the Middle East with the US Army and after discharge traveled to South Africa to study wildlife biology and conservation as an intern. Travis started his academic career by earning his bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology at Northern Arizona University, earning a 3.5 GPA. In July 2023 Travis began his master’s degree in marine biology at the University of Western Australia, researching the recovery and restoration of kelp forest ecosystems along the southwestern coast of Australia. Travis’s research will investigate the restorative properties of ‘green gravel’, a mechanism that will allow kelp spores to colonize depleted regions of lost habitat. Additionally, Travis will also engage local Noongar communities to gain insights into the cultural significance of kelp forests and develop management plans to ensure such ecosystems are maintained for future generations.

Cameron Zbikowski, a U.S. Navy and Iraqi War Veteran, is celebrated for his commitment to veterans. A top 10 finalist for Student Veteran of the Year, he stands out as a fellow of esteemed institutions, including the Hauenstein Center’s Cook Leadership Academy, SVA Leadership Institute, and VFW/SVA Legislative Research Program. Notably, he was awarded the U.S. State Department’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Cameron also drafted, advocated, and lobbied for H.R.5754 – the “Patient Advocate Tracker Act”; resulting with President Biden signing the act into law. With a Bachelor’s in Human Resources Management from Grand Valley State University and a Diploma of Business from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, Cameron is to pursue a Masters of Business Process Management at Queensland University of Technology.

United States Studies Centre Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Yancey Orr is the United States Studies Centre – American Australian Association Fellow. He is also an associate professor of environmental science at Smith College. During his fellowship, he is conducting comparative research on how Indigenous communities consult federal governments in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Canada. As part of this project, he will be developing international workshops on Indigenous representation. He has conducted academic and applied fieldwork in The Philippines, Indonesia, Western New Guinea, Australia, and North America. This has included consulting for resource extraction industries including developing comparative analysis of Australia and the United States. By developing academic techniques, his work aims to better understand how knowledge and behavioral norms develop within small-scale communities and complex societies. He has published on topics such as Indigenous histories and environmental interaction, Southeast Asian terrorism, and film and television. The National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation have funded his research. He has held academic appointments in Canada, Australia, France and several institutions in the United States as well as serving as an associate editor of Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal. He has a PhD from the University of Arizona, an MA from UC Berkeley and an MA and BA from Yale.

2023 Round 2 Arts Fund Scholars

Annabel Newland is a recent Australian Film Television Radio School graduate with a Bachelor of Arts: Film Production degree. She wrote and directed her graduate film SWEET, which was accepted into festivals globally including TIWFF, ECU, and The Perfect Light Film Festival. Newland has written for multiple online publications like Side-Note, Axiomatic Magazine, and for brands like Louis-Vuitton and Converse. She was also the creative director of Converse’s PRIDE Campaign across Australia and New Zealand in 2022. Recently, she worked on the production team of Causeway’s latest feature film THE MOOGAI, premiering at Sundance in 2024. Annabel is currently completing her Masters at AFI in Screenwriting and resides in Los Angeles. She hopes to continue developing stories that speak to the queer female experience, focusing on representation on screen and exploring beauty and realism in the monotony of everyday life.

Australian violinist Anthony Chan is an emerging force in the classical music world. His performance experiences have included solo and orchestral concerts at venues such as the Het Concertgebouw, the Sydney Opera House and Hamer Hall. He has been invited to attend festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, the Vivace International Music Festival and the Keshet Eilon Summer Mastercourse Series and he plays regularly with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Anthony holds a B.M. from New England Conservatory of Music and is currently pursuing his M.M as a scholarship recipient at The Juilliard School where he studies with Daniel Phillips. He hopes to use this opportunity to study at Juilliard to build the necessary connections for him to achieve his dream of creating a world-class chamber music organisation in Australia. Mr. Chan currently plays on a GB Guadagagnini violin on generous loan from Juilliard.

Jack Lister is an acclaimed Australian choreographer, creating work for stage and screen. A graduate of The Australian Ballet School, Jack joined Queensland Ballet (QB) in 2014. In January 2020, Jack joined Australasian Dance Collective (ADC) as a company artist and was appointed Associate Choreographer with QB. In January 2022, Jack was appointed Creative Associate of ADC. Jack quickly established a name as a respected emerging maker within Australia’s dance landscape. Cited as “a young choreographer who is going places”, Lister has gone on to create works for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Queensland Ballet, and Australasian Dance Collective, presented globally to critical acclaim. 2024 sees Jack premiere his first commissioned work in the United States, before undertaking a 3-week professional development and networking trip capacitated by the American Australian Association Arts Fund, allowing him to visit 7 US cities and connect with countless companies and theaters for future collaborations.

Kate Pass is an award-winning double bassist and composer from Western Australia, currently studying her Masters of Music at The New School in New York. This 2-year program combines Kate’s love of performing and composition, and enables her to study with renowned artists such as Buster Williams, Reginald Workman, Dave Douglas, Samir Chatterjee and Jane Ira Bloom. Kate’s work focuses on the intersection between composition, improvisation and performance, and how this intersection allows for universal connection through music. Since 2016 Kate has led her own band “Kohesia Ensemble” which combines Iranian and Australian musicians and explores elements of Persian music and jazz. She has released 3 albums with Kohesia Ensemble, and performed at an array of festivals and events in Asia, USA, Europe and Australia. Kate obtained a Bachelor of Jazz Performance (Honours) from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Edith Cowan University), assisted by a full scholarship.

Lara Mladjen graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (First Class Honours) from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in 2022 under the tutelage of Dr. Elizabeth Sellars. She has performed in masterclasses for musicians including Ray Chen, Satu Vänska, and The Australian String Quartet, and has played with Ensemble Liaison, Australian Youth Orchestra, iOpera, and Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, among others. Lara’s exploration of historically informed performance, under the mentorship of Rachael Beesley, has led her to The Juilliard School, where she is currently undertaking a Master of Music (Historical Performance). Through her study of repertoire and performance practice from the 17th and 18th centuries, Lara aspires to contribute meaningfully to Australia’s thriving early music scene. Her focus involves refining her performance abilities and developing a creative pedagogical approach to nurture early performance practice aesthetics among younger musicians.

Mama Alto is a jazz singer, cabaret artiste & gender transcendent diva based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a transgender & queer person of colour, living with disability, working with the radical potential of storytelling, strength in softness and power in vulnerability. Her critically acclaimed solo performances are programmed at premiere venues & festivals around Australia, including Melbourne Recital Centre (VIC), Adelaide Cabaret Festival (SA), Festival of Voices (TAS) & more. She is currently an ensemble member in Taylor Mac & Matt Ray’s “Bark of Millions.” She has collaborated with legendary figures including burlesque house Finucane & Smith, playwright Declan Greene and visual artist Brook Andrew, and is co-creator of highly acclaimed cabaret “Gender Euphoria,” Australia’s largest ever entirely trans & gender diverse main stage production and sold out hit of Sydney WorldPride 2023. Mama Alto has been recognised with awards and fellowships from the Australia Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria.

2023 APRA AMCOS Global Professional Development Scholar 

Ayda Akbal is a Turkish-Australian composer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is passionate about expressing human emotion and culture in her work. Through the support of the American Australian Association Graduate Education Fund, Ayda will be commencing a full-time internship at the score-production company Joy Music House (Los Angeles) in 2024 – under the mentorship of Catherine Joy (Founder and CEO). Her screen music career thus far has taken her across the globe, travelling to the US after being accepted into New York University’s Film-Scoring Summer Intensive, as well as earning a scholarship-supported place at both APRA AMCOS’ Screen Music Songhubs (South Australia) and the MESS x AMC Game Audio Intensive (Melbourne). Ayda’s extensive work in film, theatre, advertisement, and audiobooks has appeared in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Sydney, Florida, and Marrakesh. She is an active member of her screen music community – always pushing for diversity and inclusivity.

2023 Australian International Screen Forum Scholar

Isabella Giovinazzo is a bold, innovative actor/filmmaker who graduated with a BA from Swinburne film-school. Acting credits include: 7 Network’s ‘HOME AND AWAY’ (winner Most Popular Drama 2014, 2015, 2016), Disney/ Touchstone Picture’s ‘REEF BREAK’, CBS/ Network 10’s ‘PLAYING FOR KEEPS’, SBS’s ‘SEX & DEATH’, Channel 5 UK’s ‘LIE WITH ME’, among others. Currently, Giovinazzo is entering production on Regional Arts funded, autobiographical short film ‘FINN’ – a proof of concept for their upcoming feature film.  In preparation for their debut feature, Giovinazzo will undertaking a Director’s Attachment on similarly themed ‘THE KISS QUOTIENT’ – a romantic comedy based on the best-selling novel, about an autistic women’s exploration of physical intimacy. Giovinazzo will shadow 6x AFI/ AACTA winning director Elissa Down (‘THE BLACK BALLOON’, Netflix’s ‘IVY & BEAN’) on Kristin Burr produced (Disney’s ‘CRUELLA’, ‘CRISTOPHER ROBIN’) on the upcoming Lionsgate film.

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