School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

May 2015

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I am pleased to present the fifth edition of the School Newsletter for 2015. I hope that even with the semester’s teaching drawing to a close (and the piles of marking looming!) you will be able to take a moment to review the month’s recent and upcoming events.

A major achievement of the Research Committee in recent weeks has been the production of a brochure on the Strategic Research Areas in the School, which is now available online here, and in hard copy from the School Office. The brochure informs about our present areas of research strength in which we seek new collaborations and focus the recruitment of new PhD students and staff. I need to thank Professor Glenn Hefter for taking the leadership and everyone who has helped him with it.

Late last month, we celebrated the achievements of our top students in 2014 at the annual awards night, a truly uplifting occasion and a timely reminder of the great responsibility and privilege that we hold: to nurture the aspirations, hard work and talent among our students - our future researchers and academic leaders.

Finally, an addition to Information Technology’s staffing profile in Singapore is announced, as are some new arrivals to provide leave and secondment cover in the School Office. We are also reminded of this year's 40th Anniversary of the commencement of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Murdoch, and a special reunion event taking place early next month - your last chance to RSVP is fast approaching.

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,

Congratulations to Dr Florence Mwagwabi

Please join me in congratulating Dr Florence Mwagwabi, who has accepted appointment as Lecturer in Information Technology, based in Singapore.
Florence has been working at Murdoch University as a sessional Lecturer since 2010. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Japanese Studies and can speak, read and write Japanese. To pursue her true interest, she went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Information Technology from Griffith University. She worked at the Arizona Superior Court where she developed an information security training program before pursuing her PhD, shortly to be conferred by Murdoch University, in the same area.


Florence’s research interests include end-user security behaviours, information security policy compliance, password authentication systems and understanding the semantics of user-generated passwords. Florence starts her tenure at Murdoch University’s TNE operation in Singapore in June 2015. She is particularly excited about the opportunity to expand the impact of her research to organizational security with an international context.

Mathematical & Physical Sciences at Murdoch: 40th Anniversary Reunion and a Brief History

Forty years ago, the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences enrolled its first students. To celebrate the achievements of the School, in all its guises over this time, we would like to invite you to its 40th Anniversary Reunion - a semi-formal gathering with dinner and drinks.

The Reunion event takes place on Tuesday, 9th June at the Murdoch Tavern from 6.30pm. RSVPs have been extended until 29 May, so please come along to catch up with staff and old friends. Further details are shown in the invitation below.

A Brief History of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Murdoch

by Emeritus Professor Philip Jennings

The University opened in 1975 with six Schools. These were planned and agreed upon at the Contacio conference by the ten Foundation Professors early in 1974.

The professors of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics agreed to form a School to be called the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The foundation Dean was Professor Jim Parker, foundation Professor of Chemistry. The School included 4 Disciplines - Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Mineral Science. Computer Science was added in 1984 and Engineering in 1996.

Subsequently Computer Science left to join the Business School in 1997 and was renamed IT. Engineering left to establish its own School in Rockingham in 1997. In the following years there were many changes of name and and various different combinations occurred. The School of MPS persisted until 2002, without Engineering and IT, until a new Dean decided to recombine MPS and Engineering under the banner of the School of Engineering Science. After several more mutations in recent years we ended up back where were in 1996 but with a different name for the school.

Engineering returned from Rockingham in 2007 and that helped to build a stronger School. That's a brief summary of a very long story.

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Scholarship Success for Chemistry Honours Students

Two students in the Discipline of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry have been awarded scholarships to help support their Honours level research.

Nick Daniels has been awarded an $8000 stipend from Alcoa Australia to pursue the development of a quantitative analytical protocol to determine the amount of gibbsite and boehmite in alumina product. The two minerals are essentially different forms of aluminium hydroxide but have vastly different properties when it comes to further processing of the precipitated hydroxide product into alumina, and finally, aluminium. Nick will be utilizing a range of vibrational spectroscopy techniques including IR, DRIFTS, NIR, and Raman to investigate the effect of particle size and shape on the quality of spectra from lab synthesized and plant samples. It is anticipated that this fundamental understanding will then allow characterization of the amount of boehmite and gibbsite in Alcoa’s product stream. Nick’s Honours project continues the close, and productive, ties between the researchers in the discipline of Chemical Metallurgy and Chemistry and the local alumina industry. Supervision is being provided by Professor Glenn Hefter, Dr David Henry, and Dr Damian Laird.

Issues with soil wetting and penetration of rainfall into soils are well known to anybody who tries to grow plants and crops in WA. CMEC Honours student, Luke Kitchens is looking at how organic compounds leached from a range of native Australian species can affect soil hydrophobicity through a combination of computational chemistry modelling and experimental work carried out in the laboratory and field. Understanding how leachates from various species may affect soil hydrophobicity is important for farmers with stands of trees next to agricultural crop paddocks, foresters who need to plan re-vegetation, and conservationists who are looking to minimize the spread of Phytophtera cinammomi, the fungal agent that causes the well-known Jarrah ‘dieback’ disease in native forests. Luke’s project is a model of interdisciplinarity with his primary supervisors located in CMEC (Dr David Henry) and the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences (Professor Richard Harper). The scholarship funds are provided by Water Research Australia and the WA ChemCentre is actively involved with providing specialist chemical analysis services and advice.

The School of EIT congratulates Luke and Nick on the award of their respective scholarships and looks forward to hearing about their research successes in their final Honours seminars to be presented in November this year.

Bright Sparks Award at Australian Computer Society WA Conference

Harshani Perera, a PhD candidate under the supervision of Dr Fairuz Shiratuddin and Associate Professor Kevin Wong, has won the inaugural Bright Sparks session at the Australian Computer Society’s WA State Conference.

The Bright Sparks session took place during the morning of the Conference, held on May 7 at UWA’s University Club, and featured project presentations by ICT students from high schools, universities and technical and vocational colleges. In being selected as the morning’s best presenter, Harshani was awarded the privilege of presenting at the main conference session in the afternoon.

Harshani’s research is in the area of computer analysis of electroencephalography and the possibilities for its application in detecting dyslexia.

The Chair of ACS’s WA Young IT Committee, George Coldham, commented: “The presentation was extremely well received and definitely deserved to be considered the best on day. It is to your credit, you are researching something that will have a considerable impact in people’s lives, and we thank you for sharing your findings with us.”

Metals Show Sets Bunbury's Young Minds Alight

Story supplied by Pepita Smyth, Development & Communications Office

Murdoch University’s roaming metallurgists visited Bunbury and Busselton this month to fire up high school students about the magic of metals. PhD candidate Graeme Thompson and technical offsider Stewart Kelly visited Bunbury SHS, Australind SHS, Newton Moore SHS, Busselton SHS, Ocean Forest Lutheran College and Bunbury Catholic College.

“The students were treated to an enthralling session, as some of these experiments have quite a sparkle to them,” said Graeme.

“We showed them metal reactions in flames that produce coloured sparks, like those used in fireworks, and we also will demonstrate how iron oxide and aluminium can react to create molten iron ore at 2500 degrees.”


“The molten iron ore produced in the reaction can be used to fuse railroad tracks together, so it’s a good demonstration of chemistry’s power and its application.”

Students also tried their hand at being true metallurgists, with the chance to extract copper metal from ore using acid, steel wool and electricity.

The visit was part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Talent for Metallurgy’ program, which travels around Western Australia to inspire students to take an interest in mining industry careers.

The program has been funded for $100,000 over five years by Rio Tinto with support from the University, which Graeme sees as a sound investment for students and the nation.

The visit also attracted the attention of local media, with the Bunbury Catholic College visit being featured in the South Western Times on May 21.

School Award Ceremony Photos are Now Online

The School recently held its annual Award Ceremony, to acknowledge and showcase our students’ excellent academic performances during the 2014 academic year. Across all of our study areas, sixty five awards were presented. A short selection of the winners is shown below, the evening’s programme with the full list of awards and recipients will be linked to this page shortly.

Bowie Family Prize for the Best academic performance in Physics and Nanotechnology Part II core units, by an external student: Richard Saverimuttu

Energy Resourcing Prize in Environmental Engineering for the best academic performance in 'Environmental Technology for Sustainability' by a student in the Environmental Engineering major: Melissa Gray 

Frank Gillespie Memorial Prize in Physics and Nanotechnology for the best academic performance in the final year of the Physics and Nanotechnology major: Ian Wilkins

Global Industry Development Network Prize for the best academic performance in the Master of Renewable Energy: Jake Ward

Information Technology Prize for the best group project in 'Games Technology Project' and 'Information Technology Project': Bryan Yu, Aryanza Bizar, Hannah Klinac, Anopan Kandiah and Alex Mlodawski

Jim Ellis Prize for Best Information Technology Graduate for the best academic performance by a student graduating with an Information Technology major: Dylan Pindur

Kerry Searcy Prize in Chemistry for the best academic performance in Semester 1 of 'Foundations of Chemistry' by a Chemistry student: Rebecca Triggs

Nicholas Searcy Prize in Applied Mathematics for the best academic performance in 'Applied Mathematics': Jason Kamadu

Royal Australian Chemical Institute Prize for the best academic performance in the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry by a graduating student: Jake Nelson

Walter and Marie Tauss Prize in Calculus and Matrix Algebra for the best academic performance in the OUA unit MAS130 Calculus and Matrix Algebra: Stephen Nicolas

West Australian Mining Club Prize in Mineral Science for the best academic performance in 'Introduction to the Minerals Industry': Paul Hansen

School Dean, Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski, commented in his address: “Your School is truly world class with academics from across the globe teaching at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels undertaking research that is of international significance. Congratulations on being recognised as high achievers in our field and I wish you all the best for your continued studies and a long association with Murdoch University.”

The many generous and supportive prize donors were also recognised as crucial to the success of the School, the University and its students, as Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Taggart remarked on opening the event: “Recognising excellence in education requires considerable support and commitment from industry and personal donors. Without the generosity of our partners and donors this evening’s prize and scholarship ceremony would not be possible”.

A gallery of photographs taken at the event is available online here.

Landscaping Works Under Way for Science & Computing Courtyard

Landscaping works have commenced in the outdoor area between the Science and Computing and Physical Sciences buildings. The works include the installation of seating in the form of raised garden edging in and around the area between the Robertson lecture theatre and the Physical Sciences Building.

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These enhancements were championed in late 2014 by School Manager Rebecca Treloar-Cook, in collaboration with the Campus & Facilities Management Office. They will provide much needed beautification of the outdoor space and also create seating in both sun and shaded areas to encourage student interaction, group discussions, and provide them with a comfortable place to sit and wait before and after lectures.

Changing of the PRD Guard: Dr David Ralph

Due to the impending retirement of Associate Professor Lance Fung, Dr David Ralph has agreed to take on the important and onerous role of Postgraduate Research Director for the School.

Dr Ralph’s tenure in the role commenced on 15 May, and will be for a term of three years. Please join me in thanking David for his willingness to serve in this role.

Welcome to Sharon Woodfield

Sharon Woodfield has recently joined the School to cover the position of Student Advisor, whilst Emer McKernan is away on maternity leave. Sharon will primarily be supporting Information Technology students, and will be working Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sharon will be located in the Student Advisors' office alongside Mandy Middle, in SC 2.010. Please make Sharon feel welcome.

Sharon joins us with an extensive background in Student Support and Equity from Curtin University and Career Counselling experience from UWA. She is also involved with the University’s Murdoch Aspirations and Pathways for University (MAP4U) project in the Rockingham/Peel region. In particular her role is to work with parents in the community aiming to bridge the knowledge gap for parent on what career options are today and to demystifying the High School journey and beyond.

Welcome to Shannon Thomson-Edwards

Shannon Thomson-Edwards has recently joined the School Office team as Administrative Assistant. Shannon will provide some much needed coverage in the Office's front-of-house position whilst Emma Tristham is acting in the position of Academic Support Officer, Service and Engagement.

Shannon comes to us having previously worked at Curtin University's Rio Tinto Centre for Materials and Sensing in Mining, as well as Leighton Contractors and a period running her own business. Please make Shannon feel welcome.