School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

June 2015

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I am pleased to present this month’s edition of the School Newsletter. It is difficult to believe we are already halfway through the year. This month’s edition starts with introductions to two of our newest colleagues, and celebrates the achievements of many others who gained well-deserved recognition at the University’s Staff Awards ceremony earlier in the month.

Whilst the Academic Performance Development Review exercises progress, and as we enter the hectic exam marking period, we also take a moment to reflect on the matter of staff leave – important not simply for budgetary reasons, but more so as a matter of staff wellbeing.

Also featured is Be a Met for A Day, a major high schools outreach exercise supported by Rio Tinto and spearheaded by Graeme Thompson and the Extractive Metallurgy group, along with the announcement of the School’s Equipment Grant scheme for 2015, and more achievements in research. 

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 Dr Fang Xia

I am pleased to welcome Dr Fang Xia, who has recently joined us as a Senior Lecturer in Extractive Metallurgy. Dr Xia received his Bachelor and Master degrees from East China University of Science and Technology, and in 2009, his PhD degree from the University of Adelaide.
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He has gained research experience from a number of Asia-Oceania and European universities and institutes, including East China University of Science and Technology (China), University of Rennes I (France), Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) (Italy), the University of Adelaide (Australia), South Australian Museum (Australia) and the CSIRO. He has an interdisciplinary research background, covering the fields of inorganic materials synthesis and characterization, chemical mineralogy, extractive metallurgy, and the development of hydrothermal reactors for in situ synchrotron X-ray and neutron scattering studies on hydrothermal/solvothermal materials syntheses and minerals leaching. He has published 40 journal articles in journals such as Chemistry of Materials, Crystal Growth and Design, Journal of Applied Crystallography, American Mineralogist, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, and Minerals Engineering.

Welcome to Dr Ferdous Sohel

Please join me in welcoming Dr Ferdous A Sohel, who will join the School as a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology. Dr Sohel received his PhD in 2009 from Monash University, Australia. He has held various academic positions at The University of Western Australia for more than seven years.

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He is a recipient of the prestigious Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) funded by the Australian Research Council. His research interests include Computer Vision, Image Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Pattern Recognition, and Video Coding. He also has led research projects that used aerial data (shark detection and tracking) and satellite images (fuel load mapping for bushfire prediction). Dr Sohel has published in high quality journals and conferences, e.g., ACM Computing Surveys, IEEE Trans. PAMI, CVPR, and ICRA. Dr Sohel collaborates in projects with researchers across UWA, from interstate and the USA and EU. He is a recipient of the Early Career Investigator award (UWA) and best thesis medals (Monash).

SEIT Staff Honoured at Annual Awards

Several among our colleagues have been recognised at the annual Staff Awards ceremony, held at the University Tavern on June 10. The awards night acknowledges the achievements and contributions of staff in categories including excellence in Research, Professional Services, outstanding results in unit surveys and early career achievement. The Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and in Enhancing Learning that were announced earlier in the year, were also presented during the evening, along with recognition those staff marking 20, 30 and 40 years of University service.

Our School’s winners were:

Dr Amy Glen – Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in the category of General Teaching Excellence

Dr Doug Fletcher – Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning

Associate Professor Tanya McGill – Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Enhancing Learning

Danny Toohey – Australian Award for Learning and Teaching

Dr Nik Thompson – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (awarded in both categories, based on Unit Surveys and Teaching Surveys).

Mandy Middle, Emer McKernan and Sharon Woodfield, as part of the Student Advisor Network – Australian Awards for Learning and Teaching – Award for Programmes that Enhance Learning

Dr Brenton Clarke - 30 Years of Service

Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake – 20 Years of Service

Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Taggart paid tribute to the award winners in his address: “You each exemplify everything that is great about our University and you are helping to build a positive, high performance culture among our colleagues. … Murdoch has retained a strong sense of community about it, particularly among our staff who have remained passionate and supportive of the University despite facing a number of recent challenges and changes.”

A full list of award recipients and photo gallery can be viewed here.

School Equipment Grant Winners Announced

The School Research Committee has announced the successful applicants for the 2015 Equipment Small Grant scheme. The Scheme provides support for the purchase of low- to medium-cost equipment to support research and teaching activities and contribute tangibly to high quality academic outcomes.

Congratulations to the following staff who secured funding under the ESG:

Dr Zhong-Tao Jiang: Thin Film measurement system

Dr Linh Vu, Associate Professor Graeme Cole and Professor Parisa Bahri: Conductivity sensor and transmitter for the Pilot Plant’s Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor

Dr Lubomir Hnedkovski & Professor Glenn Hefter: VO4 Vacuum Oven

Dr Fairuz Shiratuddin, Dr Shri Rai, Dr Hong Xie, Associate Professor Kevin Wong: GoPro, software, accessories and projector

Dr GM Shafiullah: Power Quality and Energy Analyser and Electrical Energy Monitoring Device

Dr Artur Deditius: Polarising microscopies for reflected and transmitted light

Dr Nicola Armstrong: Mathematics & Statistics research server with storage capacity.

Dr Linda Li, Dr Aleks Nikoloski and PhD Students: Shaking Water Bath

Dr Eddy Poinern: Bench top high speed, high gravity Sigma centrifuge

Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake, Dr Manickam Minakshi and Dr Touma Issa: Electrochemical Quartz Crystal Microbalance (EQBM)

Dr Almantas Pivrikas: Dual-channel arbitrary function generator

The Research Committee received over twice the value in proposals as there was budget available, and all were considered in detail by the ESG sub-committee. Inevitably this meant that not all good proposals were able to be funded. Congratulations to all the winners and commiserations to those who were unsuccessful this time around.

Combustion Plenary Lecture in Umea, Sweden

Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski and Dr Mohammednoor Altarawneh have co-authored a plenary lecture at the 14th International Congress on Combustion By-Products and Their Health Effects, PIC2015, Umeå, Sweden, June 14-17, 2015

The lecture titled “Recent Progress and Future Challenges in Formulating Reaction Mechanisms for Formation of Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants” has covered chemical pathways that generate polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) and their sulfur, nitrogen and bromine analogues. PCDD/Fs constitute a group of the most toxic pollutants. Significant part of the lecture dealt with the mechanisms developed recently by the authors, their PhD students and collaborators, in the Fire Safety and Combustion Kinetics research group at Murdoch University.

The PIC congresses are held every two years with the goal to provide an international forum to discuss topics on the origins, fate, and health effects of combustion. Combustion is in this context defined in a wide sense, including all forms of thermal treatment of fuel materials and hazardous substances. This field has gained significant relevance due to the increasing need for mechanistic, diagnostic, and analytical answers to complex problems concerning air toxic exposure. The main theme of PIC 2015 has been the origin, fate and health effects of combustion-related air pollutants in the coming era of bio-based energy sources.

Pawsey Supercomputer Mid-Year Round

Dr Mohammednoor Altarawneh has participated in the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre's selection panel that reviewed proposals for computational times in the mid-year round. On this occasion, three proposals from the School were successful. The photo below shows the “Magnus” supercomputer on which major engineering and computational chemistry codes are installed.

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Leave Balances and Targets

Schools have been tasked with reducing the amount of accrued annual leave among their staff. In addition to representing a major impact on the budget, annual leave that is left untaken also represents a significant impact on work-life balance and wellbeing.

The chart below shows the amount of leave currently booked in each discipline (and staff category), alongside the target hours identified by the University. Simply put, the target is for all staff to book and take their full 2015 leave entitlement, and also to reduce any residual leave balance from previous years.
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It is acknowledged that in order for this goal to be achievable, it is necessary for workloads to be managed in such a way that tasks can be adequately covered during leave absences. It is also recognised that for some of you this has been a difficult balance to strike – the recent academic recruitment drive has hopefully gone some way toward addressing this. However, if this persists as an issue for you, I encourage you to discuss it further either with myself, or your Head of Discipline or line manager.

BAMFAD in Full Swing

Story supplied by Jo Manning, Office of Development & Communications

Almost 450 high school pupils from WA schools are gaining an insight into the role of metallurgists in the WA mining industry in a series of special careers events at Murdoch University in June and July.

Sponsored by Rio Tinto, and with in-kind support from Murdoch University, the Be a Met for a Day sessions began on Tuesday, June 9, involving pupils from years 10 to 12 performing experiments in ourlaboratories, attending lectures and meeting key members of staff. BAMFAD runs over five sessions throughout June and early July.

Not only will the students learn about the importance of metallurgy to them as an applied science, but also the value it may contribute to Australia. During the day the students will be involved in common processes in extractive metallurgy including hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, mineral processing, the chemistry of metals and the mathematics and statistics involved in the minerals industry.

“We hope the attendees emerge from their experience at Murdoch seriously considering pursuing this sort of career in the mining industry,” said organiser and PhD candidate Graeme Thompson.

“Even when the industry is not in boom, the mining companies still need to add between 60 and 100 highly paid new extractive metallurgists each year. Currently universities Australia-wide are graduating about 50, so there is still good demand for this career. The undergraduate students will also get the opportunity to apply for government/industry scholarships, participate in international mining games and obtain vacation employment during summer holidays to enrich their experience.

“Not only are we hoping to educate pupils about the opportunities available to them in this field but also inform their accompanying teachers and laboratory technicians.

“Their visits to campus also give the pupils an invaluable taster of university life, whether they decide to pursue a career in chemical and metallurgical engineering or not.”

As part of Rio Tinto’s $100,000 sponsorship over five years, Murdoch University staff have also visited high schools throughout the north west and south west of WA to present small, practical information sessions and demonstrate experiments. As part of the sponsorship, Graeme and lab technician Stewart Kelly visited schools in Bunbury and Busselton earlier this month.