School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

February 2015

Welcome to Dr Hans Oskierski - Senior Lecturer in Extractive Metallurgy

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The School is pleased to welcome Dr Hans Oskierski, recently appointed to the position of Senior Lecturer in Extractive Metallurgy.

Dr Oskierski obtained his MSc in Minerals Geosciences from the Economic Geology Department (IML) at RWTH Aachen University, Germany, in 2008, where he also worked as a part-time research assistant in the Laboratory for Geochemistry and Environmental Analysis from 2004 to 2009. He completed his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the Priority Research Centre for Energy (PRCfE) at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Based on a Postgraduate Research Award from the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) he carried out part of his doctoral research at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). In 2013 he joined the Advanced Geochemical Facility for Indian Ocean Research (AGFIOR) as an Isotope Geochemist at the University of Western Australia.
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Dr Oskierski’s areas of research are isotope geochemistry and CO2 storage by mineral carbonation with publications in the fields of environmental geochemistry, economic geology, isotope geochemistry and minerals engineering. During his research and professional appointments Dr Oskierski has employed a range of isotopic systems and analytical/mass spectrometric techniques for paleoclimate reconstructions, radiometric dating, development of genetic models for carbonate deposits and tracing of environmental pollutants/reactants.

Three Successful University Small Grant Projects

Please join me in congratulating Dr Artur Deditius, Dr Linda Li and Dr David Parlevliet on their recent success in the latest round of University Small Grants. This is a substantial achievement for our School, having secured three of only 17 projects campus-wide to be funded in this round.
The University Small Grant Scheme, administered by the Office of Research and Development and jointly funded by the School and the DVC Research, provides funds for either Pilot Research projects, including the establishment of collaborative relationships that can form the basis of a significant external research grant application, or Proof of Concept projects to facilitate and improve the translation of knowledge and technology resulting from Murdoch’s intellectual property.

Under the Small Grant Scheme’s conditions, grant recipients are required to submit a final report within two months of completing a Pilot Research Project. In addition, the winners are also expected to apply for an Australian Competitive Grant within a year of the project’s completion.

Thus, the grant winners are now hard at work on their projects and related grant applications, and we wish them all the best.

David Parlevliet: Novel Inclined Pond for Microalgae Growth and Electricity Production

Light from the sun is the main source of energy on Earth. There are several methods for capturing this energy including photovoltaics (solar cells) and biomass production (microalgae). While solar cells are relatively efficient and converting sunlight into electricity, the resulting electricity can be difficult to store using current technology and is best utilised in the vicinity of where it is generated. Biomass in the way of microalgae production can be used as a source for biofuel, which is easily transportable and storable, or other high value crops.
The main problem with storing or producing energy via biomass production is that only a small fraction of incident light energy is converted to biomass via photosynthesis (of the solar energy at the surface of a microalgae pond, only a small portion is used by the microalgae for photosynthesis). This energy is mainly in the blue and red parts of the spectrum and accounts for ~16% of the total irradiance. The remainder of the irradiance is normally lost to heat in the pond, and is undesirable as it increases the evaporation of the water within the pond and leads to an increased salinity. To avoid this, the portion of the solar spectrum not needed by the microalgae can be diverted away from the surface of the pond to reduce heating and evaporation. This increases the productivity of microalgae and the diverted portion of the solar spectrum can be directed to photovoltaic (PV) devices that generate electricity. We have previously investigated the growth of microalgae under different portions of the solar spectrum (image below).


The aim of this project is to design and optimise a novel inclined pond for the growth of microalgae which diverts unused parts of the solar spectrum via dichroic mirrors onto a PV device. This is a collaborative project between the VLS – the Algae R&D Centre’s Navid Moheimani and the SEIT’s David Parlevliet and Parisa Bahri.

Linda Li: Alleviation of reverse osmosis membrane fouling using free radical generating compounds to target microbial polymers

This project aims to reduce the cost of fresh water production from seawater desalination by alleviating fouling on separation membranes with the use of free radical generating compounds. The acquired knowledge will also bring significant benefit to other water treatment industries.

The novelty of the proposed project lies in two main aspects; firstly in the detailed investigation of key microbial foulants in full-scale desalination process, and also in the alleviation of biofouling by developing free radical generating compounds to target microbial polymers.

Dr Li will be working on the project in collaboration with Emeritus Professor Goen Ho, postdoctoral fellow Dr Lucy Skillman, and inaugural Walter Murdoch Adjunct Professor Sunny Jiang, of the University of California Irvine. The researchers involved have successfully gained several competitive grants and established a strong collaboration with NCEDA, other distinguished international universities including UC Irvine and the University of Hong Kong, and also with industry.

Dr Artur Deditius: Nano-scale phase separation during formation and leaching of Cu-sulfides

Deposition of silver, gold and other trace elements in copper sulfides is of crucial importance for the understanding of how ore deposits form, and also of how metal behaves during leaching of copper ores. Dr Deditius and his team will apply electron microscopy, spectrometric, spectroscopic techniques, experimental and computational methods to investigate behaviour of metals in copper sulfides.

Specifically, the project focuses on chalcopyrite, bornite, and copper sulfides as the main sources of economically important copper, silver and gold. Understanding of the crystalo-chemical form of metals in copper sulfides is essential to assess processes that facilitate metal recovery and are responsible for the formation of copper, silver and gold ore deposits.

SEIT's Top Teachers Recognised in 2014 Student Surveys

Please join me in congratulating Dr Nik Thompson, Dr Jocelyn Armarego, Associate Professor Tanya McGill, Mr Danny Toohey, Dr David Henry and Dr Gareth Lee, who all scored in the top 10% of teaching staff in the 2014 student surveys of teaching.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching), Professor Sara de Freitas, announced the top performing staff in early February, also noting that they may be eligible to apply for the Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning, or the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. These awards recognise and reward the deep and diverse contributions that staff have made to the quality of learning and teaching at Murdoch.

Walter Murdoch International Collaborators Visit

During February, the School has hosted two Walter Murdoch international collaborators, Dr D. Kirk Nordstrom and Professor Joachim Peinke.

Dr D Kirk Nordstrom arrived at Murdoch in late January and has been working with Dr Erich Koenigsberger throughout February on the measurement and evaluation of thermodynamic properties of mineral phases that are also of hydrometallurgical interest. Dr Nordstrom is an eminent geochemist who is renowned world-wide for his research in areas including acid mine drainage, arsenic geochemistry, geomicrobiology, and the evaluation of thermodynamically-consistent datasets for water-mineral reactions. He integrates field work, water sampling, water analyses (in his own lab), and geochemical modeling to interpret the results of water-mineral reactions in the environment. His field sites include numerous active and inactive mine sites and Yellowstone National Park. For him to discuss and debate solution chemistry and its applications with well-established leaders at Murdoch is a great opportunity and he invites any students and faculty who wish to learn more about environmental geochemistry to seek him out.


Dr D. Kirk Nordstrom

Professor Joachim Peinke arrived on 17 February from the University of Oldenburg, where he is a Professor of Wind Energy in the Department of Physics. Professor Peinke also holds the distinction of being the head of the Fraunhofer Institute of Wind Energy’s Department of Fluid and System Dynamics, a member of the board of directors of ForWind, one of the most prestigious wind energy research centres in Europe, and is the immediate past President of the European Academy of Wind Energy. Professor Peinke will be collaborating over the next two and a half years with Murdoch researchers Dr Jonathan Whale, Professor Tom Lyons and Dr Tania Urmee in the area of design of distributed wind systems in highly turbulent sites.

BASF Asia-Pacific PhD Challenge: SEIT Postgrads Reach the Final

Ashiwin Vadiveloo and Sofia Chaudry have reached the final round of the BASF Asia-Pacific PhD Challenge. The challenge is a regional competition for PhD candidates in the material sciences to use creativity and innovation to address the challenges of future mobility - such as alternative fuels, emissions reduction, sustainable production and achieving new lightweight materials to replace metal. You can read more about the challenge here.

Ms Chaudry is studying under the supervision of Professor Parisa A Bahri and VLS’ Dr Navid Mohemaini, and her thesis is entitled Development of process design for repetitive extraction of hydrocarbons from Botryococcus braunii - a species of microalgae. Mr Vadivaloo’s PhD research is on the topic of Sustainable use of light for chemical and electrical energy production. He is also supervised by Dr Mohemaini, along with EEP’s Dr David Parlevliet.

Ashiwin and Sofia are now invited to the Creator Space Shanghai event in late March, where they will participate in two further rounds of competition – once with their original team member, and once with a finalist from a different team. The winners of the BASF Asia Pacific PhD Challenge will travel to the BASF International Summer Course in Germany in August 2015 and the Global Science Symposium Shanghai in China in November 2015.

Please wish our students the best of luck in this prestigious international challenge.

Connections and Continuity Conference: Mathematics from School to University

Doug Fletcher and Helen Middleton were invited to a conference at University of Canberra convened by Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb to address the teaching and learning of mathematics in secondary and tertiary education. Chubb’s main concern is that Australian learning in Science, Technology and Engineering (STEM) is being compromised by declining levels of mathematical expertise acquired by the end of secondary education. The conference called together about a hundred secondary and tertiary maths educators from across Australia to share insights and develop a document that Prof Chubb could use to influence policy in education design.

Conference themes were transfer (between maths and other disciplines), finding and remediating gaps in student learning, assessment design as a motivating force, and negative cultural attitudes to maths. It was clear that relevant action on these issues could be taken at both secondary and tertiary levels.

Doug was impressed by the argument that since mathematics works like a language within the sciences (an indispensable tool used to acquire, develop, and express ideas), its learning should be embedded in the learning of science, without shying away from it for fear of trespassing on another’s academic territory. Also, universities need to take responsibility for the mathematical skills of students they allow to enrol, and ensure that those with insufficient maths backgrounds acquire the necessary skills before commencing their studies in science, technology or engineering.

Helen was inspired by the examples of projects some secondary teachers used in their mathematics classes in which students had opportunities to model mathematical thinking in science-based tasks. This notion of “crafting mathematics” to engage students and to reinforce the link between mathematics and studies in science was a strong theme at the conference, as the participants looked for ways of building confidence, resilience, perseverance and positive attitudes towards mathematics in our STEM students as they move from school to university.

Dr Amy Glen Presents at 38ACCMCC: 38th Australian Conference on Combinatorial Mathematics and Combinatorial Computing

In December, Dr Amy Glen presented a talk on her recent work concerning palindromically rich GT-words at the 38th Australasian Conference on Combinatorial Mathematics and Combinatorial Computing (38ACCMCC), which was held at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. This is “the” annual conference for Australian mathematicians working in the field of combinatorics and related areas of discrete mathematics and is one of the main activities of the Combinatorial Mathematics Society of Australasia (CMSA) of which Amy is a member of Council.

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Diagram from Dr Glen’s presentation, showing the shape of the graph of the complexity function of a generalized trapezoidal word (GT-word).

The 38ACCMCC had some impressive plenary talks by leading international researchers and there were many interesting contributed talks from participants from all over the world. The next ACCMCC will be held at The University of Queensland this December, and it looks set to live up to Wellington’s greatness, with an already top-notch list of invited speakers.

iVEC Success: Fire Safety and Combustion Kinetics Research Group

The Fire Safety and Combustion Kinetics Research Group has secured two computational time grants on the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre through a competitive merit allocation scheme. The Group is led by Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski and includes Dr Mohammednoor Altarawneh, Dr Juita and several PhD candidates working under their supervision.

These grants will enable students in the group to carry out very time-consuming molecular modelling on various chemical systems, including thermodynamic stability of surfaces, formation of halogenated pollutants, nitrosation reactions and kinetics of combustion reactions.

Results from computational modelling are typically contrasted and compared with experimental results obtained from the lab.

The Fire Safety and Combustion Kinetics Laboratory

Dr Martina Calais: Reflections on RSP

During my Research Study Program (RSP) I had the rare opportunity to focus on a new research area over an extended period as well as develop international linkages and research collaborations in a research strength area of Murdoch University, i.e. Engineering/Renewable Energy.

My main focus during the RSP was a collaborative research project on “Improving Photovoltaic Systems Integration in Remote Diesel Networks” with Dr Thilo Kilper, R&D Manager, Photovoltaic Systems, NEXT ENERGY, a research institute affiliated with Oldenburg University in Germany, and Murdoch University’s Adjunct Professor Craig Carter. The project was supported by a Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) Fellowship from early September 2014 – mid January 2015.

The joint research project with Dr. Thilo Kilper (NEXT Energy) and Adjunct Professor Craig Carter was primarily concerned with the review of regulatory frameworks, trends in photovoltaic (PV) system integration (both with and without batteries) and technical approaches to increase PV systems integration in remote diesel networks. Collaboration with Horizon Power, the Western Australian utility operating remote diesel networks and interested in this research, was extended.

Apart from the review work the RSP and HWK Fellowship facilitated and enabled the development of close collaboration with the PV Systems group at NEXT Energy as well as establish contacts to the Energy Meteorology group at Oldenburg University. One suitable approach to increase photovoltaic system integration in a small remote diesel network is the inclusion of short-term solar forecasting as part of a diesel network control strategy. The fellowship allowed for discussions with staff from the Energy Meteorology group of Oldenburg University. Their expertise in short-term solar forecasting using skycameras and their interest in application oriented research provides an excellent basis for exploring collaborative research opportunities in this area.

During the RSP and HWK Fellowship I also had the opportunity to engage with many researchers through a number of invited lectures and strengthen Murdoch University’s international partnership with Oldenburg University. Activities included discussions on sharing and joint development of new as well as updating of existing teaching materials on PV Systems. The development of a student exchange program for students studying Renewable Energy at Masters Level was also discussed and an agreement is currently being prepared.

Future Collaborations with Indian Minerals Technology Institute

A delegation from the School comprising the Dean, Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram and research intern Mr Avijit Biswal, were recently invited to meet with the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Andrew Taggart, to discuss future collaborations between Murdoch and the CSIR laboratory at the Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology, Bhubaneswar, India.

Mr Avijit is a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology, and is visiting us throughout 2015 under Dr Minakshi’s supervision. Mr Avijit aims to enhance his skills in the field of hydrothermal synthesis and electrochemical energy storage devices. He will be working on depositing electrolytic manganese dioxide from manganese sulphate solutions while adding dopants in the electrolytic bath, and examining its suitability for energy storage applications.

The discussion about proposed collaborations between the two institutions was fruitful and encouraging, and Mr Avijit made a presentation of a stunning ornate tablecloth to Professors Taggart and Dlugogorski.

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L-R: Dr Manickam Minakshi, Prof Andrew Taggart, Mr Avijit Biswal, Prof Bogdan Dlugogorski

Orientation 2015: Thank You to Staff

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all colleagues who made Tuesday’s orientation such an overwhelming success.

All those involved have done splendid work – student volunteers, mentors, Academic Chairs, academics, Heads of Disciplines, professional staff and many others among the School Community.

I would like to make special mention of Mandy and Emer, our Student Advisors, who planned and organised the day.