School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

April 2015

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I am pleased to present this month’s issue of the School of Engineering and Information Technology newsletter. This issue features further progress in the School’s major academic recruitment drive that was initiated last year, as well as some major milestones and achievements from among the current teaching and research staff - including two of the six Vice Chancellor's Citations for Excellence in Enhancing Learning that were announced earlier in the week.

In addition, our Metallurgy and Mineral Science students are asserting their strengths out in the wider industry and academic communities, with our School boasting three of the six winners of the Minerals Research Institute of WA’s annual Odwyn Jones Scholarships, and the Murdoch Mets student society putting in a spectacular effort at the International Mining Games in Kalgoorlie.

The global outreach and collaboration by our School’s researchers also continues, with the School hosting visitors this month from University College Dublin, University of the Andes in Bogota, and Shanghai Jiaotong University in China. The School Research Committee has also just announced the successful applicants for the 2015 School Dean's Small Grant Scheme, which will extend and consolidate the School's support and invigoration of its research profile.

As always, I would like to encourage all of you to share your milestones and achievements – as well as those of your students and collaborators - with the School community by contributing to this newsletter.

Best Wishes,

Welcome to Professor Bruce Gardiner

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Bruce Gardiner, who will join the School as Professor of Physics.


Professor Gardiner received a BSc (Hons 1, 1994) in Physics and a PhD in Chemical Engineering (1999) from The University of Newcastle. He has held teaching and research positions at the University of Western Australia (2009-2015) and University of Melbourne (2007-2009). Prior to this he held Postdoctoral positions at the University of Melbourne (Biomedical Engineering, 2004-2007; Applied Mathematics, 2001-2004); and Dalhousie University, Canada (Oceanography, 1999-2001).

Bruce's research spans a diverse range of fields, from physics of foams, bubbles and granular media to biological systems (e.g. cell-tissue interactions, physical and chemical microenvironments of cells, intra and inter-cellular signalling networks and systems biology). His biological research has been applied to projects in musculoskeletal systems, tissue engineering, colon cancer, glaucoma and kidney oxygen regulation. Bruce has authored over 75 publications, and in the past five years has been a CI on two ARC Discovery Grants, one ARC Linkage Grant, six NHMRC Project Grants and a Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia Grant. He currently mentors six postdoctoral fellows, a Masters student and eight fourth-year engineering students.

Bruce’s teaching experience includes physics, applied mathematics, chemical engineering, computer science and even medicine. In 2004, along with colleagues, he helped implement and teach into the new Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, and then in 2005, commenced the new Masters of Biomedical Engineering. There he taught two masters subjects Forces Fields and Flows in Biosystems and Biological Systems Engineering, which combines concepts from physics and engineering to understand biological systems and disease.

Welcome to Dr Polychronis Koutsakis

Please join me in welcoming Dr Polychronis Koutsakis, who has recently accepted appointment as a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology, to commence in early 2016.

Polychronis Koutsakis received his 5-year Diploma in Electrical Engineering in 1997 from the University of Patras, Greece and his Ph.D. degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering in 2002 from the Technical University of Crete, Greece. He was a Visiting Lecturer at the Electronic and Computer Engineering Department of the same University for three years (2003-2006). From July 2006 till December 2008 he was an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of McMaster University, Canada. In January 2009 he joined the School of Electronic and Computer Engineering of the Technical University of Crete, as an Assistant Professor, and in April 2014 he received tenure as an Associate Professor in the School.

Polychronis is a Senior Member of the IEEE. He was honoured for two consecutive years (2012, 2013) as Exemplary Editor of the IEEE Communications Society, for his work as an Editor of the IEEE Communication Surveys and Tutorials Journal.

He is serving as Deputy Coordinator for the FP7 European Commission Project “SpeDial: Spoken Dialogue Analytics”. He is also serving as the Technical Leader of the Technical University of Crete group working as a partner in the project. His research interests focus on the design, modelling and performance evaluation of computer networks, as well as on Machine Learning techniques for big data analysis and their implementation on Computational Linguistics.

Dr Koutsakis has authored more than 90 peer-reviewed papers in the above mentioned research areas, and is the co-inventor of 1 US patent (awarded in June 2012), owned by the Blackberry Ltd. company, developer of the Blackberry. He is the founder and co-chair of the IEEE series of workshops on mobile video (IEEE Video Everywhere).

Congratulations to Associate Professor Tanya McGill and Dr Doug Fletcher

Associate Professor Tanya McGill and Dr Doug Fletcher have both been announced as winners of the Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning. Our colleagues' achievements in securing two of only six citations announced in this round are a source of great pride to the School. Their citations were described in the Staff Announcements as follows:

Associate Professor Tanya McGill: For sustained commitment to undertaking and publishing research on information technology related learning and teaching.

Dr Doug Fletcher: For leading continual development of learning experiences and teaching skills in a large service unit through integrated content, active learning and pastoral care.

Administered by the Centre for University Teaching and Learning (CUTL), the objective of the Citations is described on the CUTL website as being to "… Recognise and reward the diverse contributions that individuals and teams make to the quality of student learning, particularly those who make significant contributions to student learning in a specific area of responsibility over a sustained period at Murdoch”.

Up to ten VC’s Citations are awarded each year. Recent past winners from the School include Danny Toohey and Jonathan Whale in 2013. As part of this honour, Tanya and Doug are both invited to apply for a prestigious National Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) Citation.

Congratulations to Dr David Henry

Dr David Henry has recently been promoted to Senior Lecturer. I am sure you will join me in congratulating him on his successful completion of the rigorous promotions process.

School Dean's Small Grant Scheme

As part of its Research Strategic Plan 2014-2016, the School has allocated funds in 2015 to support and encourage academic staff up to Level D (Associate Professor) to be actively involved in research and related activities that will increase quality research outputs across the School’s disciplines.

Projects under the Scheme can be funded up to $15,000, to be used to cover expenses including research assistance, equipment and travel support. Applications for the Scheme closed earlier in the month, and on behalf of the School Research Committee, I am pleased to announce that the following chief investigators' applications were able to be fully or majority funded:

Dr Mohammednoor Altarawneh (with Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski and Dr Juita): Toward Lower NOX-emission Processes

Dr Martina Calais (with Dr GM Shafiullah, Dr Sujeewa Hettiwatte and Adjunct Professor Craig Carter): The application of short term solar forecasting techniques using sky cameras to predict cloud induced variations in photovoltaic system output

Dr Ralf Cord-Ruwisch (with Prof Wendell Ela): Development of Technology for the Desalination of Brackish Water and Seawater using Salt Brines as the sole Energy source

Dr Xiangpeng Gao: Coproduction of Liquid Transport Fuels and Bio-oil/char Slurry from Microalgae Hydrothermal Liquefaction

Dr David Henry: Theoretical Investigation of Nanocluster Stabilization for Catalytic Applications

Dr Zhong-Tao Jiang (with overseas collaborators): Surface and interface oxygen interactions with super-hard coatings on inert Boron Nitride (BN) substrates

Dr David Parlevliet (with Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram and Prof Parisa Bahri): Techno-economic assessment of a novel energy storage system

Dr Drew Parsons: Developing novel separation technologies for recovery of rare earth metals

Dr Almantas Pivrikas (with Dr David Parlevliet and Emeritus Prof Philip Jennings): Fundamental limits to photocurrent generation in disordered light harvesting systems

Dr Eddy Poinern (with Dr Derek Fawcett and Suraj Kumar Tripathy at KIIT): A Combined Sonochemical & Solvothermal Approach Towards Synthesis Of An Optoactive Zno-Graphene. Nanosponge And Its Catalytic Performance in Water Remediation Applications

Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk (with overseas collaborators): Formation mechanisms of biophotonic chitin nanostructures in Erora opisena butterfly: Stochastic modelling of cellular compartmentalisation

Dr GM Shafiullah (with Dr Martina Calais and Dr Sujeewa Hettiwatte): Integration of Photovoltaic (PV) Systems in Remote Diesel Networks

Dr Tania Urmee (with Dr Jonathan Whale): A study of the policies that influence investment in renewable energy in the ASEAN region

Congratulations to the grant winners and partnerships, and we wish them every success in bringing their ideas to fruition.

Judith Mason Foundation Grant Success - Dr Nicola Armstrong

Dr Nicola Armstrong has been successful in obtaining a research award worth $58,000 for 2015 from the Judith Mason Foundation for her project “Using an integrated ‘omics approach to better understand AD development”.

The overall goal of this proposal is to unravel the relationships between the epigenome (‘above’ the genome), the genome and transcriptome with respect to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) development. The grant will fund the generation of DNA methylation and miRNA expression data on three groups: cognitive normal, aMCI and possible/probable AD cases. Key changes in DNA methylation and microRNA expression that are associated with the development of AD will be identified. The findings of these analyses will by themselves add to the collective knowledge of AD. These data will then be integrated with existing genetic and gene expression information on the same individuals in order to gain a better understanding of the disease.

This unique set of data on three different stages of AD will then be used to enable the development of specialised statistical methods for data integration, tailored to AD, with the aim of leveraging the maximum amount of information from these data and the long-term goal of unravelling the biological mechanisms that are involved in AD development.

Australian Synchrotron Beamtime Success - Dr Manickam Minakshi

Dr Manickam Minakshi has secured beamtime at the Australian Synchrotron for the 2015/2 operations cycle, for his project on Infrared Analysis of the CoMoO4 electrode modified with chitosan for energy storage applications. Manickam’s experiment at the facility, located near Monash University in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Clayton, in Victoria, is scheduled for late May.

Manickam explains the advantages of gaining access to the Synchrotron’s facilities: “The Synchrotron’s light source provides high-brightness infrared beams, providing 1000 times more light per unit of area than the conventional thermal FTIR source we have here in the School. Therefore, studying samples using the Synchrotron is more useful and will lead to publications in high quality journals.”

As one anonymous application reviewer commented, “This work proposes to extend on the legacy of three years of visits to the [Australian Synchrotron], the results of which have been included in 4 publications to date. Mid and far IR characterisation have contributed to a suite of techniques including Raman spectroscopy, x-ray spectroscopies, advanced microscopies and electrochemistry.”

Professor Wendell Ela's Visit to East Coast NCEDA Researchers

Story supplied by Sandie Rawnsley at NCEDA

Professor Wendell Ela and Neil Palmer (CEO, the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia) recently visited NCEDA Participating Organisations in NSW, Victoria and SA. The trip was organised in order to provide Wendell with an opportunity to meet key Australian desalination researchers and leaders. The visit started at the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology at the University of NSW where Neil and Wendell met the Director, Prof. Greg Leslie, the Head of Chemical Engineering, Prof. Vickie Chen and NCEDA project principal investigator Dr Pierre Le-Clech who has projects on forward osmosis and low pressure ultrafiltration membranes. At the University of Technology Sydney they met with Prof. Vigi Vigneswaran and Prof. Hokyong Shon.

Prof. Vigneswaran has completed a number of projects on absorption membrane bioreactors for pre-treatment of reverse osmosis feed water to reduce membrane biofouling and Prof. Shon has done some ground-breaking work on fertigation in agriculture using brackish water forward osmosis. Later they travelled to Wollongong to meet emerging researcher Dr Long Nghiem who recently completed a project including a field demonstration of reverse osmosis and membrane distillation of brackish produced water from coal seam gas extraction which performed well and achieved 95% recovery.

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Prof. Wendell Ela with Dr Long Nghiem at the University of Wollongong with the Aquastill spiral-wound air gap membrane distillation unit used in Long’s NCEDA-funded coal seam gas project.

In Melbourne, Prof. Stephen Gray, Prof. Mikel Duke and Dr Marlene Cran met with Prof Ela at the Werribee campus of Victoria University. Prof. Duke described a recent project on the use of robust high performance ceramic membranes to pre-treat reclaimed wastewater. At Deakin University Prof. Michael Porter and Dr Mike Tan discussed projects which revealed the favourable long term economics of desalination in Australia’s major cities (Porter) and advances in corrosion protection for materials used in seawater desalination at the Institute for Frontier Materials at the Geelong campus (Tan).

In Adelaide the recently appointed DVC(R) of University of SA (Prof. Tanya Monro) outlined UniSA’s new strategy for technical research under the Future Industries Institute and the pair visited Prof. Jennifer McKay from Water Law who leads a project investigating governance of desalination infrastructure, and Prof. Chris Saint, Director of UniSA’s Centre for Water Reuse and Management.

MRIWA Odwyn Jones Scholarship Awards – Three Murdoch Winners

The Minerals Research Institute of WA have recently announced the six winners of the 2015 Odwyn Jones awards, three of whom were from Murdoch. The Odwyn Jones Awards were instituted to honour the contribution to innovation in the minerals industry made by Curtin University’s Emeritus Professor Ifan Odwyn Jones AO.

The three recipients in our School were Kate Grogan and Christopher Gilbertson, both studying a Bachelor of Extractive Metallurgy, along with Ian Wilkins, who is studying Honours in Physics and Nanotechnology.
The awards, worth $5,000, are open to final year undergraduate or Honours students at Western Australian universities who demonstrate academic excellence and are undertaking a research project in an area aligned with MRIWA’s objectives.

In addition, our recent Extractive Metallurgy graduate Joshua Vinicombe was selected as the winner of the Best Thesis prize from among the scholarship recipients in 2014. Joshua’s award, along with those for the 2015 scholarship winners, will be presented by the Minister for Mines and Petroleum at a ceremony at the end of April.

Murdoch Mets Represent at the International Mining Games & New Leaders Conference

Story supplied by Lia Cherico, Murdoch Mets Club

This year the Murdoch Mets travelled across to Kalgoorlie to take part in the 2015 New Leaders Conference and International Mining Games. This week-long event consisted of a two day conference where students had the opportunity to attend an array of presentations consisting both technical and professional development sessions. The students were given the chance to network with industry representatives from a range of mining companies as well as fellow students from not only across the country but students from overseas, including Brazil and America.

As part of the conference the Mets were taken on a tour of the KCGM Super Pit, the biggest gold open pit mine in Australia! This was definitely an amazing experience they’re sure to remember.

The International Mining Games were then held at the end of the week with over 300 students representing universities from all over the world. Students competed in various ‘old style’ mining events including track stand, gold pan and air leg. Murdoch was fortunate enough to send two teams with overall placing 16th and 19th, a brilliant effort. One of our own students Minh Le was titled International Champion for her smashing time of 20 seconds in Gold Pan.

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The Murdoch Mets delegation at the National Mining Games

The annual New Leaders Conference and International Mining Games is by far the pinnacle of the year for our students and the club hope to send a team to attend next year’s event in Montana, USA.

Environmental Engineering Research Visitor from Shanghai Jiaotong University

Emeritus Professor Goen Ho and the Environmental Engineering Group were proud to host Professor Yiliang He, Director of the Institute of Water Pollution Control at Shanghai Jiaotong University, for a visit and research presentation this month.

Professor Yiliang’s visit included discussions with the Dean, Environmental Engineering researchers and a tour of the research group’s laboratories and facilities. During the visit to the campus, Professor Yiliang also took the opportunity to admire the campus flora, and was particularly impressed by a striking red flowering eucalypt unique to the South West of WA.
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Left: Prof Yiliang with Emeritus Prof Goen Ho and Prof Bogdan Dlugogorski; Right: Emeritus Prof Goen Ho and Prof Yiliang with the red flowering eucalypt

Future research collaborations were also initiated during the visit, including a reciprocal visit by Professor Ho to Shanghai Jiaotong University, and the submission of a paper to the forthcoming Sustainable Water Management Conference, which will take place here at Murdoch in late November.

Chemistry Research Visitors This Month

Professor Earle Waghorne, from University College Dublin, Ireland, visiting Glenn Hefter from 14 March to 14 April, working on calorimetric studies of solvation in mixed solvents. Earle Waghorne is a world authority on the solvation behaviour of both electrolyte and non-electrolyte solutions. He has published around 100 papers with many thousands of citations. He spent most of his working life at University College, Dublin, Ireland, recently retiring from there as Head of Department. He is currently Editor of the Journal of Solution Chemistry.

During his visit, Professor Waghorne kindly gave a School Research Seminar, entitled Solvation in Mixed Solvents: What Calorimetry Can Tell Us.

Ms Diana Riveros, from University of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia, is spending 5 months as a research trainee as part of her PhD studies, working with Prof Glenn Hefter on heat capacities of electrolyte solutions. Please make her feel welcome. She will be located in SC3.066.

New School Resources Manager and Deputy Resources Manager

Mr Andrew Foreman has been appointed as the School Resources Manager and Mr Ken Seymour as the Deputy Resources Manager. Andrew and Ken between them have chalked up close to 42 years of service to the University, with Andrew historically heading up the Chemistry technical services area, and Ken having concentrated upon Extractive Metallurgy and Mineral Science.

All technical staff in the School will now report to the School Resources Manager.

Please join me in thanking Andrew and Ken for their willingness to serve in new and enhanced roles.