Researcher biography

Professor Kate O'Brien applies modelling and data analysis to explore sustainability challenges in engineered, ecological and human systems. Sustainability is a wicked problem which requires integration, synthesis and communication of complex ideas across different disciplines. Professor O'Brien works with a diverse network of local and international collaborators, from academia, government and industry, to tackle important questions such as: In restoring valuable coastal habitat, what is the minimum patch size required for success, and why? How much oil can individual fossil fuel producers extract without compromising global climate targets? Why is gender equality in the workplace so hard to achieve? She uses modelling as a tool to connect ideas across traditional disciplinary boundaries to promote innovation and tackle complex, open-ended problems. Professor O'Brien is the Director of Teaching and Learning in the UQ School of Chemical Engineering, and is passionate about teaching students critical thinking and other transferrable skills needed to lead the shift from the current "take-make-waste" paradigm to genuine sustainability. She teaches new academics to take a practical, student-centred approach to teaching called "Ruthless Compassion", and she is passionate about finding creative solutions to work-family conflict.