School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

October 2014

School Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Grants Announced

As the School moves toward the end of an exceptionally busy year in the development and consolidation of its research profile, the Research Committee have recently approved a series of interdisciplinary collaborative grants.

Applications were sought from teams of investigators, aligned with different disciplines within the School, to put forward projects that demonstrate collaboration and synergy between the disciplines leading to recognisable and sustainable outputs.

The grants will fund work to be undertaken from now and through 2015. Reports on the outcomes of the projects funded will be due in early 2016.

Seven projects were funded under the scheme. The successful research teams and their projects are:

Project Title

Martin Anda:

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry (CMC)

Jonathan Whale:

Electrical Engineering, Energy and Physics (EEP)

Kevin Lee:

Information Technology

Master Planning for Green Infrastructure: a new Engineering Design protocol to enable Sustainable Cities

Brenton Clarke:

Mathematics and Statistics (MAS)

Artur Deditius:

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry (CMC)

Robust discriminant analysis of Au NPs formation in pyrite as a function of As content and temperature

Leonie Hughes:

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry (CMC)

Duncan Farrow:

Mathematics and Statistics (MAS)

Optimisation of PHA production in a two-stage reactor system

Mohammednoor Altarawneh: 

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry

Zhong-Tao Jiang:

Electrical Engineering, Energy & Physics (EEP)

Design of perfectly inactive reactor's wall

Gamini Senanayake:

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry (CMC)

Devindri Perera:

Mathematics and Statistics (MAS)

Experimental determination and mathematical modelling of solubility of rare earth metals ions in mixed acid systems relevant to leaching and separation

Tania Urmee:

Electrical Engineering, Energy & Physics (EEP)

Parisa Bahri:

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry (CMC)

Investigation of factors affecting high penetration of domestic solar water heater (SWH) systems in Australia

Manickam Minakshi: 

Electrical Engineering, Energy & Physics (EEP)

Linda Li:

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry (CMC)

Hierarchically structured porous materials for supercapacitors:  Studies on the morphology of electrode and its energy storage capacity

Visit by Walter Murdoch Adjunct Professor Sunny Jiang

The School was pleased to host Walter Murdoch Adjunct Professor Sunny Jiang for a two week visit during late September 2014.

Professor Jiang, Professor of Environmental Engineering at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, University of California Irvine, was appointed as an inaugural Walter Murdoch Adjunct Professor in 2012. Since then, she has visited the campus on two prior occasions to work with Dr Lucy Skillman, Emeritus Professor Goen Ho and the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA).Sunny Jiang.JPG

During this most recent visit, Professor Jiang gave a seminar at NCEDA on the collaborative work between her research group and Goen’s research group on overcoming a serious problem in seawater reverse osmosis desalination - biofouling by bacteria and their exudates. Professor Jiang met Dr Lucy Skillman, Dr Linda Li, PhD students Veena Nagaraja and John Xie on the collaborative research project and preparation of joint papers for publication.

2014 Australian Institute of Physics Postgraduate Conference in WA

Report by Dr Chris Creagh

The 2014 AIP PG Conference was held on the 3rd October at Murdoch University in a smallish lecture theatre with another tutorial room close by set up as a café/lunch/informal meeting room. Despite a technical problem with the projector the day ran smoothly and the ten post-graduate presenters acquitted themselves well and kept to the schedule.

The conference was opened, and kept running to schedule, by Dr David Parlevliet, chair of the AIP in WA, who gave a short talk about the benefits of being an AIP member to the gathered group. David then introduced the Dean of Engineering & Information Technology, Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski who formally welcomed the students and their supervisors to the conference. Later he also informally joined us for lunch and commented that there seemed to be “a lot of interested and committed students”.

As well as the talks by the post-graduate students the conference also managed a small poster presentation session after lunch put on by the third year project students. It is hoped that this section will grow a little larger in the coming years and that third year students interested in doing further research will be encouraged to attend the conference by their supervisors.

The feedback from all of the attending students was that the day was a success and they found the experience positive because of :

  • the variety of topics
  • the opportunity to network with other students and also talk to friends
  • the opportunity to find out about the research of other research groups
  • the sense of community
  • the opportunity to hone their presentation skills

The presenters considered that presenting for 15min with 5min of Q&A worked well and that the presentation space was good but two students who remembered a previous residential PG conference said “I think it’s better to be in a village house” because “we stay overnight to have more discussion”.

Food was good, sufficient, satisfying and healthy “particularly lunch with fruit” but not quite as good as the residential PG conference.

Recommendations for future conferences included having more presenters / variety of physics fields represented and possible invite some supervisors to give a talk. The feedback form was completed before the informal “Grill the supervisors” session at the end of the day which would have filled this request and in which the students fully engaged.

The student who won the best presentation prize was Carl Blair (Aust. International Gravitational Research Centre) closely followed by Lisa Willig (Spintronics and Magnetisation Dynamics Research Group). An official thank-you was given to Dr. Christine Creagh for her behind the scenes organisation of the conference.
Peter Metaxas from UWA has put up a tentative hand to host the PG Conference at UWA next year.

Modelling the Fate of Organics One Molecule at a Time: Presentation by Dr Harry Ridgway

Dr Harry Ridgway presented a seminar at the School on October 2, as a guest of Dr Ralf Cord-Ruwisch and the National Centre for Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA).

Dr Ridgeway is a Consulting Professor Stanford University, Visiting Professor at KAUST Saudi Arabia, and founder of AquaMem Scientific Consultants. He also contributes to Seawater Desalination research projects at Victoria and Murdoch Universities, and the National University of Singapore.

Dr Ridgway’s presentation, titled “Modelling the Fate of Organics One Molecule at a Time”, was introduced as follows:

Harry Ridgeway cropped.jpgThe rate of chemical discovery has increased exponentially since the late 1970’s and today there are nearly 90 million known synthetic chemicals. However, information about the fate of most man-made chemicals is poor or non-existent, especially when they enter the biosphere where they can be transformed into novel products harmful for humans or the environment.

Computational chemistry combined with faster processors and more efficient algorithms have begun to play an increased role in predicting chemical fate and toxicity. Nowadays, several general modelling approaches are in use, including quantitative structure activity relationship (QSAR) analysis and group contribution methods that expose correlations between compound structure and recognized reaction pathways/products. In recent years Dr Ridgeway and his team have developed a “stepped forced molecular dynamics” (SFMD) algorithm that forces bimolecular collisions and tallies product outcomes based on semi-empirical molecular orbital (MO) calculations.

Harry’s vast expertise on biofouling, the key problem of RO seawater desalination plants contributes to biofouling projects at Murdoch University. A common manuscript on the mechanisms of biofouling, including modelling aspects, is in progress.

Field Trip:  Mumbida Wind Farm & Greenough River Solar Farm

In late September, Engineering students in ENG352 Energy Supply Systems, along with postgraduate Renewable Energy students in PEC620 Case Studies of Renewable Energy Systems, visited renewable energy facilities in the Geraldton area on a field trip to supplement their classroom activities.

The two-day visit covered two major facilities, the Greenough River Solar Farm (GRSF) and the Mumbida Wind Farm (MWF). The GRSF was until very recently the largest solar farm in Australia at 10MW and utilises thin film solar cell technology on a scale rarely seen in Australia.

Both wind and solar farms visited are close to Geraldton and the visit gave the chance for students to see renewable projects up close and also to speak with the site personnel and gain an invaluable insight into the project’s design.

Adjunct Professor Craig Carter and Sujeewa Hettiwatte also attended the trip, giving the students the chance to ask questions. Craig was involved in a professional capacity with the implementation of both projects and gave a running commentary during the site visit - highlighting significant information to the students as well as answering their questions.

The site tour gave students insight into the challenges of designing and maintaining renewable resources in remote areas of WA and supplemented there studies in renewable energies. The group’s itinerary also happily coincided with a lunch stop at The Pinnacles, at Nambung National Park near Cervantes.

Soft X-ray Workshop and Symposium - Australian Synchrotron

Dr Manickam Minakshi has recently returned from a Soft X-ray spectroscopy workshop and symposium at the Australian Synchrotron facility in Melbourne.

The two day workshop offered hands-on experimental demonstrations of X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) techniques, and was followed by a series of presentations on recent research and developments in the field.

Dr Minakshi was one of ten applicants chosen for the event, and is expected to be beneficial for him to submit a beamtime proposal for the next round in 2015.

Transnational Education in Information Technology: Kaplan Staff Engagement Visit

During September, three of the IT academic staff, Associate Professor Tanya McGill, Dr Nik Thompson and Mr Danny Toohey, visited Singapore as part of the Kaplan Staff Engagement programme. This involved meeting with the programme management and marketing staff at Kaplan to discuss how the implementation of the MUCC courses in Singapore will progress and what potential impacts it may have. Meetings were held with the affiliate teaching staff, several of whom have been involved with the Murdoch IT programmes since their inception in Singapore. These meetings allow for exchange of feedback about how units are being delivered and how well (or otherwise) some activities translate to the Singapore context. We were also able to spend time in classes talking with the students, so they will be able to put some faces to the names of their Unit Coordinators. Of course, a visit to the Murdoch Singapore office was made allowing us to catch up with Peter Waring, the Singapore Principal, the efficient professional staff in the office (Alfred Chen and Veronica Mitchell), and the learning support academic, Dr Anne Palmer. A further highlight of the visit was the opportunity to visit Republic Polytechnic, in particular their data analytics research group and forensic computing teaching labs.

Several staff from the School were also present for the Singapore Graduation Ceremonies during October. The School Dean, Bogdan Dlugogorski, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, Danny Toohey, and Head of IT, Tanya McGill, joined 25 other Murdoch academics and Singapore dignitaries to congratulate some 1100 graduating students, of which 80 were from the IT majors. Singapore Graduations are always very festive events with many families and friends in attendance. The IT graduates were particularly grateful for the opportunity to meet the Interim Vice Chancellor and School Dean after the ceremony.

Physics Fun Day at Adventure World - 25 September

Report by Rebecca Fisher, tutor in PEN120 General Physics

Recently I was able to participate in the STAWA Physics Day at Adventure World. This year the Murdoch tent was demonstrating an infrared camera used for thermal imaging, set up so that the live feed from the camera was displayed onto a screen within our marquee.

Over the day we saw a steady stream of students and staff from many different schools across WA coming by to have look at our infrared camera images, have a chat about what the camera was showing, about studying science and physics in general. The students particularly seemed to enjoy trying to work out which part of them had the highest temperature, or which of them was the hottest out of a group.

Although it was hard to compete with the waterslides and attractions of the park, it was great to see so many students interacting with the various displays put on by all the participants across the event. It was also a great opportunity to meet with some of the science teachers from around the state and pass along some information for the students about studying science at Murdoch University.

Even though the rides at Adventure World may have been the highlight for some students, being able to show physics in action and reinforcing the idea that science isn’t confined to the pages of textbooks was a rewarding experience. I hope that this event will continue to be successful in the upcoming years, introducing many more students to the more practical (and fun) sides of studying physics.

ANZSSA WA Duty of Care Conference: Sharing Good Practice

Our Student Advisor team, Mandy Middle and Emer McKernan, attended the Australia & New Zealand Student Services Association (ANZSSA) conference in late September. The theme of the conference, which centres around duty of care, was Sharing Good Practice. Throughout the day, a variety of plenary and roundtable sessions were on offer, presented by Student Service practitioners from across the nation and focusing on topics such as interventions for facilitating successful first year study, mental wellbeing and Aboriginal youth, and college level transnational education projects.

Take-home messages from the day included:

  • The need to utilise evidence-based practice to inform strategies for student success
  • That student success is everybody’s concern and responsibility
  • To stay motivated and engaged, students need vocational direction, industry feedback and career guidance
  • Research shows that non-traditional students (low SES, first-in-family) are capable of succeeding as well as their medium and high SES peers; they just require higher levels of support to succeed
  • Equity isn’t about everybody getting the same thing … Equity is about everybody getting what they need to be successful
  • The biggest gain and benefit to student retention is made through improved pedagogy, curriculum design and transition-sensitive assessment.
  • The importance of students’ positive relationships with Academics cannot be understated. They make a critical contribution to continued participation and engagement

The Student Advisor network is currently in the process of expanding our pre-enrolment/Orientation support to enhance scaffolding and preparedness prior to students commencing study.

We are also exploring the development of more of a case management model to provide targeted support to particular student cohorts who may be at higher risk of non-engagement and failure.

If anybody has any thoughts or ideas they would like to contribute to the process, please don’t hesitate to contact with us.