School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

August 2015

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I am pleased to present the August edition of the School of Engineering and Information Technology Newsletter. This month’s edition finds us well established in second semester. Just as it seemed the year was only starting, we now find ourselves entering the planning process for 2016 budgets and activities.

This edition leads with a major achievement for the School, in the form of significant strategic funding for a major new biomass conversion research facility. Also featured is the visit by Dr Vanessa Guthrie as part of the ATSE Eminent Speaker Series, and some excellent results from first semester’s student surveys of teaching.

Research achievements also continue, with the School being visited by a Swiss collaborator working on one of the small grant projects that were announced earlier in the year, and the Australian Synchrotron research facility in Victoria will also once again host our researchers.

I am also pleased to welcome Rebeca Potocznyj to the School Office team, stepping in to the role of School Administrative Officer.

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,

Funding Announced for Biomass Conversion Pilot Facility

We are thrilled to announce that a team led by Professor Parisa Bahri have secured a major investment from the University’s Capital Planning Investment Committee to establish a biomass conversion facility on the campus. The successful grant was announced in July by the University’s Chief Operating Officer, Darren McKee.

The state-of-the-art facility will be the first of its type in Western Australia, and only the second in Australia. It will put Murdoch University at the forefront of Renewable Energy, Environmental Engineering, Algae, and Instrumentation and Control Engineering research and education.

The proposed facility consists of two pilot plants offering Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL) and Pyrolysis technologies. These processes can be used to convert various types of biological waste substances into usable products such as biofuels.

A number of SEIT staff contributed to the winning bid, including Dr Xiangpeng Gao, and A/Prof Graeme Cole, along with Dr Navid Moheimani from the Algae Research Centre, nested within the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences.

The new biomass pilot facility will significantly increase the capability of the group, and also provide an excellent platform for applied as well as fundamental research. The facility is also expected to attract further investment from industries and government bodies for future upgrade and expansion of the system, as well as facilitate increased collaboration with industries.

Please join me in congratulating Professor Bahri and the team on securing this important new development for the School and the University.

Engineering at Murdoch - Top of the League for Student Satisfaction

Our Engineering programmes have achieved the national top rating for student satisfaction, with a score of 93%, according to the Good Universities.

Whilst Murdoch is not among the biggest Engineering universities overall in terms of enrolment volumes or number of offerings, our performance in the satisfaction ratings speaks to the unmatched dedication and skill of the teaching staff, and the quality of experience for our students.

Upon the release of the ratings, School Dean Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski commented: “This is truly fantastic news – a great tribute to all Murdoch Engineering staff for the years of their hard work and commitment.”

Welcome to Dr Farhad Shahnia

Please join us in welcoming Dr Farhad Shahnia, who will join the School in the near future in the Electrical Engineering, Energy and Physics discipline.


Dr Farhad Shahnia received a BSc (Hons, 2004) and an MSc (2006) both in Electrical Engineering from University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran and a PhD (2011) in Electrical Engineering from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia. He is currently a senior member of IEEE. Farhad’s industrial experience includes a 3-year R&D engineering position at Eastern Azarbayjan Electric Power Distribution Company, Tabriz, Iran (2006-2008). He has also held teaching and research positions as a research fellow at QUT (2011) and as a Lecturer at Curtin University, Perth, Australia (2012-2015).

Farhad's research falls under the ‘smart grids’ and ‘microgrids’ topics, with a focus on the application and control of power electronics-based devices in electric distribution networks. He has edited 4 books and has authored 5 book chapters and over 100 peer-reviewed scholarly articles in international conferences and journals in the above research areas. He has been also a chief investigator in one successful Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant for 2015-2017 on the microgrid topic.

Two of Farhad’s conference papers have been selected as the Conference Best Paper in IEEE conferences in 2011 and 2014. He has also received the IET Premium Award for the Best Paper in IET Generation, Transmission and Distribution journal in 2015. One of his journal publications was listed under the most cited articles of the Elsevier Electric Power System Research Journal in 2015.

Farhad has been the supervisor/co-supervisor of 5 completed High Degree by Research (HDR) students and is currently in the supervisory team of another 16 HDR students at Curtin University. He was also the recipient of the Curtin Postgraduate Research Supervisor Award in 2015.

Semester One's Top Teachers Announced

Unit and Teaching survey results for first semester were announced earlier in the month. I'm pleased to congratulate Information Technology’s Associate Professor Tanya McGill, and Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering & Chemistry’s Dr Dan Churach, who respectively achieved the top survey scores for Teaching and Unit excellence.

The following staff achieved Teaching survey results in the School’s top quartile:

Dr Martina Calais (EEP)
Associate Professor Graeme Cole (EEP)
Dr Amy Glen (MAS)
Terry Koziniec (ICT)
Dr Linda Li (CMC)
Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram (EEP)
Kevin Ong (ICT)

The top quartile of Unit Surveys in the School were as follows:

Dr David Henry  CMC CHE312 Materials Chemistry
Dr Linda Li CMC ENG221 Pollution and its Control
Dr Gareth Lee EEP ENG297 Circuits and Systems II
Dr Trevor Pryor EEP ENG307 Resources for Renewable Energy
Dr Martina Calais EEP ENG421 Renewable Energy Systems Engineering
Dr Nik Thompson ICT ICT287 Computer Security
Terry Koziniec ICT ICT363/609 Network Switching
Dr Graham Mann ICT ICT612 Human Factors in Information Technology
A/Prof Tanya McGill ICT ICT615 IT Research Methods
Dr Fairuz Shiratuddin ICT ICT621 IT Group Project
Ha Nguyen MAS MAS164 Fundamentals of Mathematics
Dr Helen Middleton MAS MAS180 Introduction to Statistics
Dr Duncan Farrow MAS MAS305 Environmental and Biological Modelling
Dr Chris Creagh EEP PEN231 Modern Physics
Dr Manickam Minakshi EEP PEN592 Energy in Society

In informing the staff of their high achievement, School Dean Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski noted: “Your commitment to excellence in teaching is greatly valued by the School and contributes to our reputation among students, and through them, to potential future students as well.”

SEIT Teaching Grant Winners Announced

The Teaching Grants Scheme provides grants to enhance learning and teaching in the School.

The Scheme prioritises Projects that promote innovative teaching practices, flexible learning and assessment practices, and improved student retention outcomes. Applications for the Scheme were sought in July.

I am pleased to announce the two winners of grants under this year’s Scheme:

  • Prof Gamini Senanayake and his team who will prepare the way for a fully online graduate course in Electrochemical Technology
  • Dr Helen Middleton and colleagues from Mathematics and Statistics who will implement a flipped-classroom, collaborative learning approach to mathematics tutorials.

Both have been awarded the full amount applied for, and we look forward to the contributions they will make to innovative learning and teaching in the school.

Australian Synchrotron Beam Time Funding Success - Dr Fang Xia

Dr Fang Xia has secured 48 hours of beam time funding from the Australian Synchrotron, for the forthcoming experiments on the powder diffraction beamline at the beginning of December. This funding will enable him and his team to carry out exciting research on understanding the mechanism of oxidative pressure leaching of gold telluride minerals. This is the first time the powder diffraction beamline is utilised for high pressure leaching of minerals.

The powder diffraction beamline offers rapid collection of high quality datasets, ideal for carrying out state-of-the-art time resolved in-situ powder X-ray diffraction experiments. The technology will enable the monitoring of pressure oxidative leaching of refractory gold telluride minerals under the high temperature and pressure leaching conditions.

The behaviour of dissolution, nucleation, and growth of minerals during the entire leaching process will be revealed in great detail, and this knowledge will aid the design of new technology for more efficient extraction of refractory gold telluride minerals.

To facilitate high quality research at Murdoch University, it is important to utilise national large facilities such as the Australian Synchrotron and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. The next round synchrotron beam time funding application is open now, and will be closed on 15th September.

ATSE Eminent Speaker Series - Dr Vanessa Guthrie

This month, we were honoured to host Dr Vanessa Guthrie, as part of the ATSE Eminent Speaker Series. Dr Guthrie is the Managing Director/CEO of Toro Energy Limited, and visited us to give a presentation on the role of uranium in meeting the energy needs of the future, and also to reflect on her distinguished career in the mining industry.

The event was held in the University’s flagship public venue, the Kim Beazley Lecture theatre, and was open to the public. High school students with an interest in continuing to University study in mining and metallurgy were offered special invitation to the event. Lia Cherico, a representative from the Murdoch Mets club kindly gave a vote of thanks to Dr Guthrie.

Dr Vanessa Guthrie has over 25 years’ experience in mining operations, company strategy, sustainability, indigenous affairs and environment. She was the winner of the 2013 Outstanding Professional Women award from the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy and in the same year, was recognised in the world’s Top 100 inspirational women in mining. Dr Guthrie also holds a Prime Ministerial appointment to the Australia-India Prime Ministers’ CEO Forum, to help drive the bilateral economic relationship between Australia and India.

Research Seminar by Dr Bodo Wilts: Shaping The Rainbow

During late July and early August, the School was visited by Dr Bodo Wilts of the Adolphe Merkle Institute, Fribourg, Switzerland.

Dr Wilts is a collaborator of Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk, and visited pursuant to Gerd’s small grant scheme project “Formation mechanisms of biophotonic chitin nanostructures in Erora opisena butterfly: Stochastic modelling of cellular compartementalisation”

Dr Bodo Wilts studied physics in Göttingen and then moved to Groningen for a PhD working on natural photonic structures. In 2013, he finished his PhD with the title ‘Brilliant biophotonics – physical properties, pigmentary tuning and biological implications’ and moved to the University of Cambridge, UK, and subsequently to the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg, Switzerland, to continue working on the optics of synthetic and natural nanostructured materials.

Dr Wilts’ visit culminated in a research seminar on August 6, on nanostructures found in insects and butterflies and the coloration effects they can cause.


In this seminar, participants were shown how some butterfly species cleverly combine pigments and nanostructures for best visual appearance. There's plenty of inspiration for nanoengineering in these butterflies!


Four colleagues from Information Technology attended the Robocup Junior  finals as judges in early August.

The event took place at Curtin University’s stadium, and featured student entrants from all parts of the State. Robocup is an educational enterprise designed to help young people expand their skills in robotics as well as social, intellectual and problem-solving skills. The competition showcases student robotics projects in three main categories - Rescue, Dance and Soccer.

Our representatives at the event, Dr Terry Koziniec, Dr Nik Thompson, Dr Graham Mann and Kevin Ong, served as judges for the Soccer event, and Dr Christian Payne judged the Rescue category.

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Robocup also gives entrants a chance to compete at the national and international levels. The National competition this year will be held in Adelaide in September. The event was also featured on the ABC News.