Professor Angela Ittel

Co-Chair, TU9 German Universities of Technology

What inspired you to get into your field of study?

I’ve always been fascinated with life course development and interested in how people make decisions, how their life experience influences their decision making. I’m also convinced that we can optimize our own personal development through systematic reflection on our choices.

Other topics that have interested me are the impact of relationships/friendships/mentorships on our lives. How mentors or other people motivate us and influence our choices.

If a student stopped you for advice on the best way to approach their time studying with one of your universities, what would you say?

Use your time wisely, be open and curious and take advantage of being in close proximity to all the great, interesting, intrinsically motivated and intelligent people around you, whether they be world renowned scientists or your seat neighbour in the lecture. Talk to people, ask questions and use this time to build up your network. And definitely try to spend some time abroad whenever possible. International experiences are so unique and life changing.

Do you have a surprising or fun fact to share from your time studying or working in Higher Education?

Not in my dreams did I think that I would be president of a university someday. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity and full of respect towards this responsibility. Life is full of unexpected turns and twists.

What is the biggest challenge facing higher education and research in the world?

The geopolitical situation and rising tensions have challenged our understanding of cooperation and exchange in science. There is the danger of isolating and closing down avenues for exchange in times where we have to rely on reliable and sustainable cooperation to solve the global challenges, we all face. Governments and universities alike have to find a strategy to navigate these ever more complicated times.

Do you have a hobby?

I love to cook and hold dinner parties. I’m also a great advocate of daily exercise.

What is your favourite food?

I’m a vegetarian and like all vegetables in almost any form.

Can you tell us of a book, film or TV show you recently read or watched that you would recommend and why?

Barbie – what a devasting portrait of the way our society views gender equity

What’s your dream holiday destination and why?

I don’t have a dream holiday destination. There are too many interesting places in this world to see.

How does German education compare to the rest of the world?

German universities are rightly known for their top-notch scientists and cutting-edge research and the tight connection between research and teaching. Especially our Universities of Technology offer a unique mix of basic and applied research opportunities and have active collaboration with the industry, which students benefit from. Hence it is not surprising that Germany is a very popular destination for students. A very unique aspect of course is that university education is free. Public universities do not charge students (national or international) any or very small fees.

What are the main benefits of having a free-education system?

High student fees can be an impediment for students from lower income households. Even in Germany, where studying is comparatively cost-effective, the cost of going to university can be daunting due to inflation and the rising costs of living. However, it is imperative for our societies to ensure that all prospective students, no matter their socio-economic background, are able to receive a university education.

How can Australian-German relations help better the student experience?

I’m convinced, that a study abroad term is singularly enriching and should have a place in any student’s biography whenever possible. Being able to come to Australia, take classes at some of the finest universities in the world and experience the Australian way of life will be a boon to any German student. For Australian students, a term at one of Germany’s universities would offer insight into cutting edge research, excellence in teaching and produce, hopefully, lasting friendships. Students can also profit from the close connection of our Universities within the TU9 Alliance. Because we share similar values and goals, even closer relations between Australian and German universities will benefit both sides immensely.


Dr Jen Matthews

UTS Future Reefs Program

What inspired you to get into your field of study? 

In 2009, during a diving trip in Thailand, I saw corals for the first time. Their vibrant colours – dazzling blues, fluorescent yellows, neon pinks, and bright whites – left me in awe. However, my excitement turned to concern when I learned that these breathtaking corals were actually dying, bleached by the extreme sea temperatures. This sparked a profound curiosity in me: If corals could look so incredible even in distress, how truly magnificent must they be when thriving in good health? Bleaching occurs when the crucial symbiotic relationship between coral animals and tiny algae in their tissues breaks down. This relationship is nutritionally motivated and relies on optimal nutrient exchange to allow corals to thrive and survive, especially under stress. But we still know almost nothing about optimal coral nutrition, let alone ways we can utilise it for conservation! This realisation has been the driving force behind my research journey.

If a student stopped you for advice on the best way to approach their time studying with your university, what would you say?

Take every opportunity you can to get involved. It’s only through experiences that we can discover where our passions lie, and passion is the best driver for a career.  This might mean contacting professors or researchers you admire, lecturers who inspired you, or even branching into different disciplines beyond your core studies – and don’t be sacred, they’re humans too and the worst they can say is no.

Do you have a surprising or fun fact to share from your time working in UTS?

We have a few corals in tanks that we use for our research and display that an amazing team of students maintain, and a few fish in there to help keep them healthy. Recently though, a young angel fish went a bit rogue and started eating the other fish and coral! That fish has now been rehomed on its own and is thriving. The surviving fish are now safe, and probably very happy the angel fish has gone!

What is the best thing about being on campus?

I love the diverse activities always occurring on campus. UTS has such a community feel, like you’re all involved in a joint mission to improve society through new knowledge and innovation.

What is the biggest challenge facing higher education and research in Australia?

Retaining talent. A lot of innovative, pioneering, and interdisciplinary science comes from earlier career researchers, but these are typically the people on temporary and highly competitive fellowships or contracts, which massively restricts their capacity to contribute. Providing security through permanent positions will help foster that talent and strengthen our research capacity in Australia.

Do you have a hobby?

I love swimming and drawing (although whether I’m any good at them is debatable!).

What is your favourite food?


Can you tell us of a book, film or TV show you recently read or watched that you would recommend and why?

“Outlive, The Science and Art of Longevity” by Dr Peter Attia. I recently became a mum and even at 2 years old, she’s an active little thing! This book has helped me rethink about my health and aging, and how I might continue to keep up with her for decades to come.

What’s your dream holiday destination and why?

Mexico – I would love to go diving in the Yucatán cenotes and eat the delicious Mexican food (and I thoroughly enjoy a margarita!)

Could you tell us a little bit about your current research?

Just like any living organism, corals require optimal nutrition for their health and survival, especially when faced with environmental challenges. I integrate tools and techniques from chemistry, forensics, ecology, and marine biology to identify the best nutrition for corals to thrive and survive. With a deeper understanding of coral nutritional needs, I am exploring novel possibilities for reef conservation, including new ways to diagnose stress, and rebuild degraded reefs through targeted nutrient supplements for corals in early life stages. I am looking forward to another busy coral spawning season later this year, including some exciting new approaches and collaborations that hold immense promise as active interventions on GBR. I am especially excited about expanding my research on therapeutic nanotechnology, which has shown tremendous potential to revolutionise aquaculture, but has never been applied to reef systems. Every potential way we can safeguard these vital ecosystems and preserve them for future generations is important and worth exploring.

How has UTS helped in your research and the goal of conserving coral reefs?

The Climate Change Cluster (C3) is a hub of scientists with a common goal to enhance ecosystem resilience and sustainability, and they have been incredibly supportive of my research endeavours and professional aspirations. The facilities in the wider Faculty of science, such as the Australian Institute of Microbial Imaging, Proteomics Core Facility, and access to the ProtoSpace technology have all been instrumental in driving my research discoveries and innovative contributions.

What does winning the Young Tall Poppy 2023 award, mean to you?

This award is truly a catalyst for me, propelling my outreach potential and forging valuable connections. I am very excited about the incredible opportunities it offers, particularly in terms of inspiring others and expanding my network. It grants me the platform and resources to reach out and engage with aspiring individuals, fostering a spirit of curiosity and ambition. I fundamentally believe that by fostering diversity and inclusion in STEMM, we can unlock untapped potential and drive progress that benefits us all. I aspire to be a role model, showing young women and girls that they, too, can excel in STEMM fields, breaking barriers and contributing to ground-breaking advancements.