A quick Q&A with Dr Campbell Fraser

Dr Campbell Fraser

Griffith University, Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Senior Lecturer, Dr Campbell Fraser discusses his career, research tips and organ trafficking.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
At the age of 4, growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, I wanted to be a “bin man”, what would now be known as a refuse collector. The reason – the Glasgow “bin men” drove around in big blue trucks. I befriended my local bin men and they used to take me with them on their rounds – so every Thursday I got to ride in the big blue truck. Would never be allowed now!

2. Tell us about a previous job (work experience/volunteer work) that you’ve had.
My first job was as a sausage maker. I worked with some really interesting characters in that job –  a real education!  From there I went into banking, before going on to uni full time.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?
The BBC news– that is where I first go to in the morning when I wake up, Gmail app, and Washington Post – I am now an avid follower of US politics since the 2016 election result.

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?
I’d love to see what great leaders of the past would make of today’s politicians. So I would have Winston Churchill, Robert Menzies and Mahatma Gandhi on one side of the table, with Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte on the other. Now that would make an interesting dinner party!

5. Tell us about your favourite fictional character.
Simon Templar – AKA “The Saint”, by Leslie Charteris. A great series of adventure novels adapted for TV in the 1960s. Escapism at its best.

6. What’s the best thing about your current role?
Without a doubt, it is the people I get to meet.  By investigating organ trafficking, I have the privilege to work with some amazing people – people who save lives day in, day out. Often working on a shoestring budget in some of the poorest and dangerous areas of the world; these are truly remarkable people.

7. What sparked your interest in human/organ trafficking?
A few years ago, I had kidney failure and spent a year on dialysis before I received the ultimate gift of a donor kidney. I met a number of people involved in the international organ trade at this time, and as they say, one thing led to another…

8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would be very happy if I am still able to do exactly what is I am doing now.  My colleagues and I have made major progress in the fight against human trafficking, but much work remains to be done.

9. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
This year, I was invited by the Pope to the Vatican to present my work, and this has led to several invitations to speak around the world. While these are certainly highlights, the biggest highlight has been knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of some of the poorest people on our planet.  That is more important than anything else.

10. Tell us about your current research.
I’m currently investigating the links between organ trafficking in the Middle East and terrorism funding. I am working in collaboration with colleagues from the US government in Washington DC. This is taking my work in a whole new direction.

11. What wise advice do you have for new researchers?
Follow your nose and see where it leads you. Try to find a topic that is poorly understood, and that will maximise your scope. Never give up. If your research topic is important to you, then it is important, regardless of what others may tell you.

12. What’s the best resource you’ve discovered in your Griffith University Library?
Online journal access has fundamentally changed the way academics work. I can now be in a village in the Philippines and access the Griffith Library by VPN on my device. This is a huge timesaver. Griffith Library has online access to a vast number of journals relevant to my work, and I wouldn’t be able to function without it.

13. Can you give us your 3 best research tips

  • Be very cautious of information you find online – I would say probably 75% of reports of organ trafficking found online is false, and is written to promote political objectives. I always make sure I meet the people involved so I can obtain the information at the source. Understand the difference between truths, and reports which are based on a true story!
  • Remain courteous and professional when conducting investigations. On occasions, I have had to interview people-traffickers and their brokers, and no matter how much disgust I have for them, I have to keep a professional demeanour.  Always take the high road, you never know when you might need someone’s help in the future. You want to show Griffith University in a good light!
  • Always think of ways to increase your audience. The media is a great way to bring your research findings to a wider range of people who don’t read academic journals. Think about what would make a great story – and learn how to pitch it to journalists. This will increase the impact of your research, and get you noticed. Journalists are always on the lookout for exciting stories that their readers are likely to click on!

A quick Q&A with Dr Michael Westaway

Dr Michael Westaway

Dr Michael Westaway

Griffith University, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Research Fellow, Dr Michael Westaway discusses his career, research tips, and skeletal remains.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I can remember going to a careers and university planning day in Year 11 and bringing home a brochure on studying archaeology and palaeoanthropology at UNE. I hadn’t heard of the discipline of palaeoanthropology until that stage. From Year 11, I started to think archaeology might be a career I could try and pursue.

2. Tell us about a previous job that you’ve had.

My first really exciting job was working as a state project archaeologist for Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (AAV). I had never lived in Melbourne before and was paired up with a senior project archaeologist and our job was to develop a list of 50 key sites, as nominated by Aboriginal communities, that would be the subject of further investigation and management.

As I had also studied biological anthropology, I was given the role at AAV to investigate reports of Aboriginal skeletal remains, and I liaised very closely with the Coroners Department during this work. Quite often the skeletal remains that were reported were non-human, but we undertook a lot of really interesting rescue investigations of Aboriginal skeletal remains.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?

Very boring I’m afraid, mobile banking, the tide times and the Brisbane airport app are really the ones I use most. I wish I could say the Australian native bird identification app or something interesting like that, but I guess the tide times is the best one. I use it when I am heading to the sea for a swim (which I tried, reasonably successfully, to do every weekend this past summer).

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?

I’m not terribly inspired by modern celebrities, although I do like the way the philosopher Alain de Botton looks at life and relationships, so he is one (probably not technically a celebrity).

Barack Obama would be a great dinner guest but perhaps Angela Merkel would be better, she seems to be the most inspiring world leader at the moment. I am afraid the remainder are no longer alive, Thomas Huxley and Raymond Dart are people I’d like to chat to about their contributions to knowledge in evolution.

David Unaipon is another person (the man on the $50 note) who would be great to have a conversation with over dinner. He was such an inquisitive and intelligent individual, and from what I have read so far was the first Aboriginal person to consider scientific views of human origins at the time in the context of Aboriginal creation stories. He rallied enormous support from many Australians for Aboriginal human rights.

5. Tell us about your favourite fictional character.

I am a fan of the narrator in HG Wells’ War of the Worlds (not the Tom Cruise version, but the original seen through the eyes of the late 19th Century newspaper journalist whose name we never get to know).

6. What’s the best thing about your current role?

What is really exciting is the sense of discovery, whether it be going through museum collections and archives to find some piece of evidence that may lead to something far bigger, or investigating a remote landscape that might reveal an important new chapter into the past. The combination of research and fieldwork I find quite intoxicating, and it is really hard to curb my enthusiasm when in the midst of trying to make sense of something that doesn’t seem to fit into the current scheme of things. I undertake this type of fieldwork with students, and very importantly Traditional Owners, and I find it so inspiring when we all work together to try and make sense of Australia’s amazing Aboriginal past.

7. What sparked your interest in archaeology?

When I was a first-year student I had some inspiring and indeed life changing lecturers. The teaching staff inspired an interest in the archaeology of ancient Australia, placing its significance in the global context, and what I think certainly made the difference was the willingness and patience of the Head of School, Professor Isabelle McBryde, to take the time and discuss with me as a young first year student an exciting discovery of a shell midden I had made over the Easter Break.

8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to be continuing my role as a researcher at Griffith and teaching into a Master of Science program that is helping to building a new understanding of human evolution in our region, but very importantly also creating new insights into the complexity of Australia’s Aboriginal past. Critical to the success of this program will be the chance to provide training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, so that they can ultimately be the drivers of this new national narrative.

9. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Moving to Griffith University has been the highlight, without a doubt. I was approached by Professor David Lambert who had read some of my work on the fossil human remains from the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area. He asked whether I thought the Elders from the three Tribal Groups at the Willandra would be interested in seeing if we could recover ancient DNA from their ancestors and I suggested we go and ask them. They were very interested, and Dave, his postdocs and PhD students and I have been busy writing a new population history of ancient Australia ever since.

10. Tell us about your research into the skeletal remains of first-nation people.

Since the late 1990s, I have been involved in investigating skeletal remains of Aboriginal people, initially as a state archaeologists working with Aboriginal communities and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, but then as a biological anthropologist employed in the repatriation program at the National Museum of Australia.

11. What’s the best resource you’ve discovered in your Griffith University Library?

Definitely the books, much of the time they contain all kinds of important information. It is always a great relief to find that all our wisdom is not contained on the internet. I am a regular user of our library, the State Library (and particularly the John Oxley library) and also the Queensland Museum library. These institutions are very important, particularly for Queensland-based research into Aboriginal archaeology and culture.

12. Can you give us your 3 best research tips?

  • Universities have an increasingly important role to play in our society, and I think in the disciplinary areas that I work in, which straddles science and the humanities, it is very important to promote our research to a broader audience. Our scholarship is funded by taxpayers, and I feel very strongly that we should provide people with information that might help them make more informed decisions regarding the complex society we live in.
  • Communication is critical at all levels of research, and I have just finished rattling on about communication with the public and this, of course, should extend to all the stakeholders one works with. I think to take it to that next level, it is always good to try and undertake research in partnership with key stakeholders. In my research, I work very closely with Koori and Murri people, and together with my colleagues we always try to present and publish our research together.
  • I think it is important to appreciate and respect that your conclusions might not really be conclusions. Research is more to do with hypothesis testing, and on occasion, some researchers become so heavily wedded to their line of argument that they see any potential challenge to it is a threat to their reputation (in some cases perhaps it can be). I think the important thing is to recognise that new data can always emerge that may challenge your ideas, and perhaps if you are open-minded enough, maybe even change them!

A quick Q&A with Dr Adele Pavlidis

Dr Adele Pavlidis

Dr Adele Pavlidis

Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Adele Pavlidis discusses her career, the rise of roller derby and women’s AFL.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I went through a few things: psychologist, chemist, sportswoman. Interestingly, my strongest desire was to do a PhD and study philosophy! So I’ve ended up not that far from that goal.

2. Tell us about a previous job (work experience/volunteer work) that you’ve had.
I worked for about three years as a drug and alcohol worker at a residential rehabilitation facility. That time in my life taught me so much about compassion, boundaries, and effective communication. I met so many wonderful people who I still sometimes bump into. It was a privilege to watch residents’ change from complete hopelessness and despair to excitement and happiness about life. There was plenty of grief, but mostly joy and satisfaction.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?
Instagram, Facebook, and email. I am doing some research at the moment looking at the use of social media by sportswomen so some of my time on these apps is justified as work.

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?

  • Madonna – childhood favourite. She symbolised freedom and female independence to me. And she’s an amazing dancer.
  • Rosi Braidotti – contemporary feminist theorist. Her work is so cutting edge, but without being ridiculously inaccessible.
  • Tina Fey – her comedy is brilliant.
  • Lili Tomlin – brilliant comedian and actress. She made a huge impression on me as an 8-year-old when I watched Big Business
  • Bette Midler – such a star. Also in the 1988 film Big Business!

5. What’s the best thing about your current role?
I have time to think carefully about the types of projects that fulfil my curiosity and deliver a broader social benefit. I also love the flexibility and autonomy. Even though academic work can be demanding and stressful, it really is one of the most privileged jobs I can think of. There are not many occupations where you get to decide what you will spend your intellectual energy on, as well as decide on start times, etc.

6. What sparked your interest in sociology?
Working in the drug and alcohol field certainly sparked my interest in sociology. The more I learnt about the discipline in my undergraduate degree, the more I wanted to delve deeper and develop concepts for myself.

7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would hope to be tenured, working on international collaborations, travelling between Australia and a couple of other countries where my collaborators are situated. I see myself still working in the sport and leisure field, hopefully contributing towards policy debates to support more inclusive and just societies.

8. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
So many! Having my first book, Sport, Gender and Power: The Rise of Roller Derby, published just after finishing my PhD was pretty exciting. Securing funding to travel to Beijing, China to meet with academics working in the field of sport and gender, and talking with women playing roller derby over there was pretty amazing too. Also, traveling to Helsinki, Finland for an intensive summer school with the Finnish Youth Research Network was a highlight.

9. Tell us about your current research.
I am currently working on a suite of publications and data collection related to women in sport and feminism. Specifically, I am starting a one-year project focused on the AFL Women’s competition. It’s the very first year a professional women’s AFL competition is being held, and this means that there are lots of questions and challenges to overcome. Historically, AFL and many contact sports have been for men only. So, to have women play on network television (for some of the games), and get paid, is a huge change to the landscape of sport in Australia.

10. What wise advice do you have for new researchers?
Get great mentors. This doesn’t always mean the top researchers (though sometimes it does), but rather people who care about you and your career, people who have an ethics that they abide to, and people who maintain professionalism.

11. What’s the best resource you’ve discovered in your Griffith University Library?
I’ve always loved the library. I still love hardcopy books. Griffith library has a great collection of sociological, feminist and sport related books and I always have a pile of books checked out.

12. Can you give us your 3 best research tips?

  • Read a lot, but keep writing – don’t put off writing! Don’t wait until your ideas are ‘perfect’ before writing. Try out ideas in a research journal, take notes while you read.
  • Say yes to opportunities. It’s amazing what you can do with your time if you try. Organisation is one of my strongest skills, but do what you can to get organised and fit things in.
  • Collaborate. Working with others is one of the great things about academic work. When you meet people who are enthusiastic, whose work you really like, think about whether you could collaborate on something.

A quick Q&A with Creative Director, Richard Fabb

Photo of Richard Fabb and Hugo Weaving

Richard Fabb with Hugo Weaving

LiveLab, Creative Director, Richard Fabb discusses his career, winning a BAFTA and working with talented YouTubers.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
The first thing I ever wanted to be was an actor. I did lots of school plays and amateur dramatics (front-end of a pantomime horse). When I was ten, my mum took me to see Bugsy Malone which I thought looked like the most fun you could ever have.

2. Tell us about a previous job (work experience/volunteer work) that you’ve had.
In London, I was a volunteer for Samaritans, a charity offering emotional support to people in distress or at risk of suicide. Despite the sometimes harrowing calls, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?
Facebook, The Guardian, and Apple Music. Facebook is something I only joined after I moved to Australia, as a way to keep in touch with friends and family overseas. But I also use it now for industry connections and as admin on LiveLab’s page. I spent ten years in broadcast news (Channel 4 News in the UK). I remain a bit of a news junkie and always want to know what’s happening. The Guardian remains my paper of choice – and love that it now has an Australian edition. I’ve only recently moved over to Apple Music – and a part of me mourns the end of my vinyl and CD buying days.

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?
This is hard! Joni Mitchell (who I worship), the American writer Paul Auster, broadcaster Jeremy Isaacs (first Chief Exec of Channel 4), Bjorn Borg and Lord (Neil) Kinnock. I have no idea how they’d get along but they’ve all been big influences and I admire each one of them.

5. Tell us about your favourite fictional character.
I could easily say Jed Bartlet from The West Wing, or Ralph from Lord of the Flies. But I have to go for Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza from Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I know they are a couple but the story tells how their love survives a lifetime unrequited, so I couldn’t bear to separate them here.

6. What’s the best thing about your current role?
It’s unique. Griffith is the only film school with a permanent, full-time production studio. The heart of what I do is to get students working on external projects. I spend most of my time overseeing productions. I’m a big believer that student filmmakers can create outstanding work, such as the short film we produced with Hugo Weaving, called Ky’s Story – Living With Autism.

7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully still at LiveLab! We’ve done a lot in two years but there is plenty still to do. Griffith Film School is the largest film school in Australia; I’d like to think LiveLab can play a part in making it not just the biggest but the best.

8. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Winning a BAFTA was certainly a night to remember, but After Dark remains special. It was a live, late-night discussion show, originally on Channel 4, described by The Guardian as ‘one of the most inspired and effective uses of airtime yet devised’. It had no fixed end time and the conversation ran its natural course (usually between 2 – 3 hours long) into the small hours.

9. What wise advice do you have for new lecturers?

  • Pace yourself
  • Learn to love the portal (all of human existence is in it)
  • Tap into the knowledge and support of your colleagues (who at GFS have been a tower of strength)
  • Realise how young some of the students are and how fragile they can be, but also remember they have huge potential and talent.

10. Tell us about the YouTube project.
I’m part of the team running Create Queensland. It’s a collaboration between YouTube, Queensland Government, Screen Queensland, QUT and Griffith Film School (through LiveLab). It is the first YouTube project of its kind in the world. The focus is on nurturing the online and YouTube creative community – something that’s increasingly relevant to our students. There’s $900,000 over three years, helping to fund new content, pairing YouTube Creators with university students, facilities and expertise.

We’re also hosting three workshop/symposium events a year, called Queensland Creator Days. We’ll host one at GFS in late November looking at animation on YouTube.

11. How has LiveLab supported the winners of the Creator Originals prizes?
We’ve been working with two Youtube Creators: Elly Awesome, and Stephanie Hames who runs SasEffects (special effects makeup tutorials). We’ve produced a new interview series with Elly where she chats and has a meal with some of the top YouTube stars. And for Stephanie, we’re making five short horror films to profile the characters she creates in her tutorials.

12. Do any of your students have a YouTube channel that you’d like to plug?
I’m a fan of Crackermilk; a comedy channel run by some graduating 3rd years. Comedy is very hard to get right but they show real promise (strong language, adult themes, as the classifiers say).

A quick Q&A with Dr Natalie Osborne

Dr Natalie Osborne

Dr Natalie Osborne

Lecturer in the Griffith School of Environment, Dr Natalie Osborne discusses her career, participatory action research and saving the world.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a writer – I loved reading, and spent most of my childhood hiding in little nooks reading books. I was pragmatic (cynical?) though, and thought I’d need a day job too. Turns out I’m a much better academic writer than I am a novelist or poet!

2. Tell about a previous job (work experience/volunteer work) that you’ve had.
As unbelievable as it is to anyone who knows me, I taught dance classes for a while. After I graduated high school and didn’t quite know what to do next, I worked as an administrator in a real estate office by day, and in a dance school by night.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?
Twitter, Facebook and Podcasts.

Twitter is a key way I keep up with new developments in my field. It’s how I follow current events and activist campaigns, and how I network with colleagues. Bit of self-promotion thrown in there too!

I do a bit of activism and have recently gotten involved in a participatory action research project with a group of Brisbane activists on Lefebvre’s idea of The Right to the City. Facebook is a key organising tool for us; we use it to plan meetings, share draft work, get help and support, organise volunteers, and promote events using pretty dubious Beastie Boys and David Harvey memes.

I also spend a fair bit of time on public transport commuting between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, so the ‘podcasts’ app on my phone gets a lot of use. I love ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ and ‘Stuff you Missed in History Class’.

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?
Tough question for the socially anxious – I’d go with Margaret Atwood, David Harvey, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Mehreen Faruqi, and John Oliver. I’d hope that my hosting duties would prevent me from having to speak to any of them, though, because I would feel utterly intimidated!

5. Tell us about your favourite fictional character.
I could try and be highbrow here, but if I’m completely honest I’m going to go with the character whose picture I have on my office wall: Leslie Knope, from Parks and Recreation. She is an incredibly hard-working and energetic idealist, fiercely intelligent and kind, and she makes things happen.

6. What’s the best thing about your current role?
The best thing is the people I’m working with. My colleagues, my students, participants in research projects – every day I am surrounded by smart, passionate, dedicated people. They are working to make the world better, they give me hope. It’s a tremendous privilege to be in their company.

7. What sparked your interest in environmental planning?
I want to save the world, of course! I’ve always been passionate about social justice and the environment (I trace it back to watching Captain Planet a lot as a kid) – environmental planning seemed to offer me a way to link these two ideals.

8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ll be just edging out of the ‘early career researcher’ category so I hope by that point I’ve contributed some valuable work on social justice in cities to the national audience, and perhaps I’ll be starting to make an impact internationally.

I hope I’ll have stronger, deeper ties to grassroots organisations, and that I’ve had a hand in researching, planning, implementing, and reporting on some exciting radical planning interventions with activist partners that are making cities better, more just, and more sustainable from the bottom up.

9. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Getting a tenure-track job! I did not think that was going to happen. That aside – I guess being invited to do research with some pretty inspiring activists and community organisers. It meant a lot that they found me trustworthy and that they wanted to work with me.

10. Tell us about your current research.
My most recent endeavour is called ‘Grassroots in the Gabba’ – it’s participatory action research, working with Gabba Ward organisers and activists involved in the Right to the City – Brisbane group.

The research is focused on experiments in participatory democracy, grassroots urban politics, and radical/insurgent planning practice for a more just, sustainable city. It’s early days yet, but really exciting. The first paper will be based on a tactical urbanism event called ‘Break the Boundary’ that was run in August, and I’ll be co-writing it with one of the activists involved.

11.What wise advice do you have for new researchers?
The research environment in Australia is increasingly marked by hyper-competitive funding rounds and short contracts, and the recent emphasis on impact can too easily become corrupted into hype. This environment is not conducive to critical thinking or high-quality research. When we’re focused on making ourselves ‘competitive’ we make it impossible to imagine a better way to do things.

So, my advice for new researchers is to work cooperatively and collaboratively. Work horizontally, and reach out to the people in even less secure situations than yourself. Work on what you have a passionate and ethical commitment to, not what will churn out the publications. Protect your research from corrupting influences, and build a base of support and kindness that will allow you to speak truth to power as necessary.

12. What’s the best resource you’ve discovered in your Griffith University Library?
I don’t think I can pick one – the Learning Advisers are an amazing resource who provide invaluable support and input into my teaching practice. I don’t think I would’ve gotten through my PhD without inter-library loans and Bonus. The referencing tool is a lifesaver.

And although the online resources are great, when my inspiration is flagging I like to visit the library itself. Whether it’s for a change of scenery, to get some advice from one of the excellent librarians, or to wander the stacks and smell the books. To draw from Rupert Giles (famous fictional librarian), sometimes “the getting of knowledge should be tangible – it should be smelly”.

13. Can you give us your 3 best research tips?

  • Read a lot – never stop reading. In the measured university, reading is sometimes construed as a waste of time, but reading is how you tune, maintain, and improve your most important research instrument. Read often – and openly!
  • Be open to working with people who might be a bit outside the ‘norm’ in your discipline. For me, that often means working with people outside of academia – people at the grassroots. For you, that might mean working with someone in a different branch of science, or who uses different methodologies, or whatever. Great things happen at the margins – they’re the frontiers!
  • Keep a research/field notes journal. In my line of research, field notes are a source of data, but I think journaling is valuable in any project. It’s very easy to forget the little mistakes, changes, and decisions we make throughout the conduct of research, but these are important for reflection and reporting. I also find research journaling valuable for collecting emerging questions and ideas, and tracking how my thinking and analysis develops over the life of a project.

A quick Q&A with Dr Margaret Gibson


Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities at Griffith University, Dr Margaret Gibson discusses her career as well as her latest research on digital objects of the dead.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A lot of my childhood was filled with learning music and putting on plays with my siblings – creative pursuits. I did love old Hollywood movies (my mother’s family was obsessed with vintage Hollywood films) so suspect I had fantasies about being a glamorous actress!

2. Tell us about a previous job (work experience/volunteer work) that you’ve had.
I won a scholarship during the first year of my PhD (in 1992) to study for an academic year at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This was amazing in terms access to world- renowned academics teaching courses I got to do. I learnt a lot of difficult theory! I also got to do some teaching (TA) work in sociology while there.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?
Facebook, Snapchat, and ABC radio.

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?
I would probably want a mix of dead and living celebrities – Bette Davies, Nat King Cole, Cate Blanchett, Aaron Pedersen, and Audrey Hepburn.

5. Tell us about your favourite fictional character.
This is tricky…. I really love the Toy Story trilogy and all the characters. These are profound films about transitional objects, childhood, and mortality.

6. What’s the best thing about your current role?
I love doing my research and have always loved writing. I enjoy teaching and seeing students blossom as they start in first-year and go through to 3rd year, Honours and PhD years.

7. Tell us about your current research.
My research has shifted quite considerably into the space of digital objects of the dead and the place of media cultures in capturing and disseminating events in which human death and tragedy is unfolding.

Grief and mourning have sped up in modern media cultures and there are very interesting questions about public mourning and how people insert themselves (or not) into these mobile and other media spaces (e.g. live streaming apps, Facebook memorial pages etc.).

8. What sparked your interest in objects of the dead?
It was really when my father was dying. I started to write a diary because the reality of mortality was palpable. I was also pregnant at the time – so life and death were embodied realities in my world.

It was only then that I truly noticed my father’s things – the objects that made up his life, having a subjectivity and biography. I looked at objects as quasi-subjects that stand in the place those of who die or go missing.

This developed into my first book Objects of the Dead: mourning and memory in everyday life. Sociology has a rich history of thought on mortality and mortality is the fundamental question of human meaning and existence.

9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Not sure. I like where I am for now!

10. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I am proud of my book Objects of the Dead because it has reached so many people. I often hear from academics, postgrads and artists in other parts of the world, and just everyday people who have read it who tell me how valuable it has been to their research, creative work or personal grief experience.

11. What wise advice do you have for new researchers?
Publish early – start publishing at Honours if possible; build and foster your mentoring and research networks early.

12. Can you give us your 3 best research tips?
1. Research in an area you care about because it will produce quality work.
2. Choose an area of research that will sustain your passion in the long term.
3. Develop/foster research collaborations with people in your chosen field.

What to do with your online accounts when you die

What will happen to your Facebook account when you die? What about Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube?

It’s not something most of us have given any thought to. But Griffith University, School of Humanities, Senior Lecturer, Dr Margaret Gibson has. And she raises one interesting option in her Know more in sixty seconds video ‘What to do with your online accounts when you die’.

Apparently, you can sign up for automated death notices. They notify all your online services and your family and friends of your passing.

When you sign up to one of these services, you’ll receive an email each week to check if you are still with us. If you fail to respond after three messages, the system automatically notifies your family and friends of your death.

There are downsides to using this automated service, of course. And we are sure you can guess what they are. But if not, check out Dr Gibson’s short, snappy video.

Want to know more about digital objects of the dead? Check out these publications by Dr Gibson: