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Lumen Summer 2010 Issue
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Global Impact

From the Czech Republic to the jungles of PNG and the bustling streets of Tokyo, you'll find an Adelaide alumnus in almost every corner of the world. Ben Osborne profiles three outstanding alumni who cross the boundaries of culture, country and comfort in the quest to make a meaningful contribution to the world around them.

Tasting success in the Czech Republic

Debra-Jayne Kimlin

Bachelor of Wine Marketing, 2004

Debra Kimlin lectures in wine marketing and tourism at the National Wine Centre -- but half a world away from Adelaide in Valtice, in the Czech Republic.

Debra toured many of Europe's wine regions after graduating and was smitten by the South Moravian region of the Czech Republic, discovering that old world wine and castle ruins make for great surroundings. After a wine education job in Shanghai, China didn't turn out as planned, Debra decided to return to the region, initially to teach Business English.

"I found a country starving for training not just in English, but in basic business skills, and started delivering my own style of content-language integrated learning," she said.
"It only took a few months to find that my wine business experience and knowledge was also in great demand.

"Now, along with my business skills, teaching, and writing articles for the national wine industry magazine, I edit public relations material and lecture in wine marketing and tourism to wine students, producers and industry-related businesses at the Valtice Chateau, which is the home of the Czech National Wine Centre."
The Czech wine industry is nowhere near as advanced as Australia's, which provides a challenging - but ultimately satisfying -- work environment.

"The industry is highly segmented, highly regulated, and highly disorganised," she said.
"Most of the wine producers here are very small operators: in Moravia alone, there are 19,364 growers among only 16,980 hectares of registered vineyards.

"However, amidst the chaos and scars of former regimes, a new era of wine production and marketing is emerging that is realising the need for market research, innovation and improvement in wine quality. There are some world-class ice wines and flavoursome white wines being produced here -- Sauvignon Blanc takes on a whole new persona in this climate.

"Nevertheless, I think the future profitability of this region will come more from wine tourism than from wine production, and the infrastructure for this is already coming together. They have a great story to tell, dating back to the days of the Roman Empire, and hopefully they will find the right sort of people to listen.

"It's challenging work in a challenging environment, especially when you're trying to absorb a Slavic language at the same time, but I love it and I'm pleased to be playing a small part in helping the Czech wine industry begin to grow."

Discovering new species in PNG

Dr Kristofer Helgen

PhD in Biological Science, 2007

It's a mix of the new and the old for Dr Kristofer Helgen as he helps oversee the world's largest scientific collection of mammal specimens at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution.

The biologist returned to his US homeland in 2006 after completing a Fulbright Fellowship and PhD at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum, under the guidance of former museum director Professor Tim Flannery and the late Professor Russell Baudinette.

Already in his career Dr Helgen has found 100 new species of mammals -- including a giant rat and 16 new frog species -- earlier this year in Papua New Guinea, which attracted worldwide media and public attention.

"These moments of basic discovery are fundamentally exciting for me," Dr Helgen said. "And my feeling is that these discoveries grab hold of people's attention because it is such a powerful illustration of how little we know about our own planet, even in an age of Google Earth and Wikipedia, where so much knowledge of every kind seems to be literally at our fingertips.

"There are many areas of the world, especially forested regions in the tropics, that have never been explored biologically in any detail.

"At the same time, many of those areas are rapidly changing or even disappearing as a result of many kinds of impacts and exploitations, such as logging, forest clearance for agriculture, and many other forces.

"There is a sense of both wonder and urgency in being a biological explorer."

While the discoveries capture headlines, there is much more to his role as Research Zoologist and Curator of Mammals at the Smithsonian, particularly his research into those mammals already found or which are even extinct.

"My principal interests as a biologist are filling in major gaps in our understanding of basic biology for all 5000-6000 species of mammals on the planet," he said.

"This includes: identifying all species taxonomically, documenting their distributions, figuring out what they 'do for a living' -- where do they sleep? how do they move? what do they eat? -- and identifying which ones might be of greatest concern for conservation attention or of greatest interest to other scientists studying other sorts of biological questions.

"Another focus for me at the moment is studying past disease epidemics by examining preserved museum specimens collected over the past 200 years. These collections are likely to be some of science's best tools for understanding the dynamics of diseases important to both human and animal health in the recent past."

Changing the face of Japan

Riccardo Tossani

Bachelor of Architecture (Hons), 1980

Designing one of Italian fashion icon Giorgio Armani's newest Tokyo stores is the perfect global blend for architect Riccardo Tossani.

Since graduating from Adelaide with a Bachelor of Architecture (Honours) in 1980, Riccardo has lived and worked in Italy, the United States (including obtaining his Master of Architecture at Harvard), and since 1997 - and perhaps most importantly - Japan.

It's a world view which has been ingrained into Riccardo from an early age, growing up in a multicultural environment in Adelaide with a strong focus on Italian history, culture and language.

At age 26, and after three years of running his own practice, he decided to expand his intellectual horizons beyond Australia by embarking on a "journey without itinerary to discover both the world and a deeper ideological purpose."

After practising in Florence, Italy, Riccardo studied at Harvard and then spent nine years working up to being a senior member of renowned Los Angeles firm Johnson Fain Pereira (now known as Johnson Fain), including a stint opening their Guam office in the South Pacific.

Riccardo worked on a diverse range of projects during that time, including a Superconducting Supercollider in Texas, a new CBD for Bangkok, a new town plan for near Sacramento, California, as well as resorts in Micronesia.

While studying at the University of Adelaide, Riccardo developed a fascination for Japan after seeing images of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic pavilions by famed Japanese architect Kenzo Tange.

"I was fortunate enough to have visited the country for business purposes, but I realised that more time needed to be spent there if I were to understand anything beyond the superficial," he said.

"I thought six months or so should do it. More than 12 years later, I have barely scratched the surface."

Riccardo began what was initially a sabbatical in Tokyo, but which developed into starting a new practice with his Japanese-born wife, fellow architect Atsuko Itoda, whom he had met while working in California.

His firm's work has subsequently won numerous Japanese awards, expanding his multicultural operating environment and global professional reach.

"All this for me has meant an exciting and productive career, where in just 12 years my firm has completed a body of work that would have taken at least twice as long in most other places, and where my design principles and ideologies continue to be exercised by an ever-broadening world view," he said.

With so many alumni working in diverse fields around the world, we want to know whom you'd like to see profiled for Global Impact. Tell us by emailing

Debra-Jayne Kimlin with Pavel Krška, Director of the Czech National Wine Centre

Debra-Jayne Kimlin with Pavel Krska, Director of the Czech National Wine Centre
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Dr Kristofer Helgen
Photo by Muse Opiang of the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research

Dr Kristofer Helgen
Photo by Muse Opiang of the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research

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Riccardo Tossani

Riccardo Tossani
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