School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

April 2016

BodzioAutumn’s cooler, wetter weather has truly set in, so hopefully the April Newsletter will bring us a little light and warmth as we share and congratulate one another on our recent successes and achievements.

Let’s start with a very warm welcome to Dr Giles Oatley who will be joining us very soon as a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology.  Giles and his wife Cristina are relocating to Perth from the UK.  I have no doubt that they will both be made to feel very welcome.

Read more about Giles and his achievements below.

The recent announcement of the Senate Medal Awards gives us another reason to celebrate as we join together to congratulate Andrew Foreman on being one of recipients.  The medals are presented by The Honorary Awards and Ceremonial Committee in recognition of effective and faithful service to the University.  Andrew received his Award for the outstanding contribution he has made to improving safety practices across all science disciplines at the University.  Well done Andrew, a fantastic and well deserved achievement.

Another highlight has been the Award Ceremony for the Schools of Engineering & Information Technology, Health Professions, Psychology & Exercise Science which took place on Wednesday 13th April.  It was a truly fantastic evening which highlighted some of the amazing talent we have at Murdoch University.  Our congratulations go out to all the recipients.  Their achievements are as a result of hard work, determination, talent and the dedication and support of all the Murdoch staff.

Remember, whether you are an academic, administrative or technical staff member, if you have a story to share please send it to Teresa Ratana at  Please mention the article title in the Subject line of the email.

Best wishes



Dr Giles Oatley, Senior Lecturer in Information Technology

Dr Giles OatleyDr Giles Oatley received a BSc (Hons, 1988) in Biochemistry from University of Leeds (UK), an MSc (Distinction, 1996) in Cognitive Science and Intelligent Systems from University of Westminster (UK) and a PhD (2000) in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Sunderland (UK). He is currently a member of the BCS (MBCS, UK), a Chartered IT Professional (CITP, UK), and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA, UK).

Giles’ research output includes over 10 journal articles and over 40 conference papers, including publications in: Social Network Analysis and Mining, Artificial Intelligence and Law, Expert Systems with Applications, Knowledge Based Systems. His research has been supported by a range of UK funders including Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC1), The Home Office2, HEFCE and HEFCW3, The Nuffield Foundation, and The Department of Trade and Industry.  The funding total amounts to nearly £1.25Million, appearing on some bids as Principal Investigator, on others a member of a larger team. Most recently, related to sports data analysis, Giles secured funding for a rugby study related to concussion, and also funding related to sensory textiles for people with dementia, implemented in a UK care home with a strong focus on music therapy.

Footnote 1: The EPSRC would be equivalent to the Australian Research Council (

Footnote 2: The equivalent to the UK's Home Office is the Australian Department of Immigration and the Department of Justice.

Footnote 3: HEFCE and HEFCW are Higher Education Funding Council for England and Wales respectively.

Giles’ research interests focus largely around modelling human behaviour, developing an understanding of the value of different sources of data, and the aspects of behaviour and personality that they can reveal.  In 1996 he wrote an innovative computer game for indirectly determining a users’ personality, and his affective and behavioural computing research continues, being applied to “serious games”.

For over 15 years Giles has data mined and modelled criminal behaviour, the resultant analyses often embedded in decision support systems.  The UK police forces and crime and disorder partnerships he has worked with include: consultant with City of London Police (Fraud Review Team - National Fraud Intelligence Bureau); Cleveland Police (prediction of repeat victimisation); Northumbria Police (information extraction and text analysis); West Midlands Police (classification and prediction of burglary networks); Greater Manchester Police (gun crime and gang networks); and, North East Retail Crime Partnership (retail crime networks).

Giles has been the supervisor/co-supervisor of 6 completed PhD/ High Degree by Research (HDR) students and has two more students recently submitted and receiving their viva voce exam in the near future.


New Coatings for Solar Energy Conversion Systems – Manuscript Published in RSC Advances

Our paper recounts a first attempt to deploy TiAl/SiNx thin film coatings as solar selective surfaces (SSS) for applications in solar energy conversion systems.  The investigation was led by the Surface Analysis and Materials Engineering Research Group (SAMERG) at Murdoch University, and involved our collaborators at University of Adelaide and UNSW in Australia, as well as in Bangladesh, Hong Kong/China, Malaysia and the UK.  We have demonstrated that, apart from outstanding mechanical and thermal durability, a modified TiAlSiN exhibits a high solar selectivity of 22.63 which exceeds conversional mixed metal oxides SSS coatings.  We used synchrotron radiation assisted spectroscopic techniques at Australian Synchrotron, such as NEXAFS and HT-XRD in combination with laboratory characterisation facilities to reveal the effects of structure changes on the optical properties and solar selectivity of mixed metal-metal oxides and metal-metal nitrides thin films.  The paper constitutes part of a PhD degree of Mahbubur Rahman carried out in our School in area of surface physics.  In his doctorate studies, Mahbubur focused on discovery of new high performance and high durability optical thin film coatings for SSS applications.  He did very well! His project resulted in six articles in Q1 ranked journals (SCI/SJR).

DOI for the article: 10.1039/C6RA02550A

M. Rahman, Z-T. Jiang, P. Munroe, L. S. Chuah, Zhi-Feng Zhou, Z. Xie, C-Y Yin, K. Ibrahim, A. Amri, N. Mondinos, M. Altarawneh, B. Z. Dlugogorski, “Chemical bonding states and solar selective characteristics of unbalanced magnetron sputtered TixM1-x-yNy films”, RSC Advances

Article submitted by Dr Zhong-Tao Jiang

Sea-Urchin and Cauliflower Shaped Materials for Energy Storage – Manuscript Published in ChemElectroChemSea-Urchin and Cauliflower Shaped Materials for Energy Storage – Manuscript Published in ChemElectroChem

Transforming the existing Duracell primary battery into a secondary battery (shown in diagram - left) with enhanced storage behavior and a low cost is of significant interest.  Such technology could underpin future energy-storage development.  To acquire this, doped electrolytic manganese dioxide (EMD) with hierarchical nano architectures have been employed as a cathode in the Duracell system.  We have developed EMD (cathode) in the laboratory possessing several shapes including sea-urchin, cauliflower and pyramidal nano structures.  We examined the in-situ doping of transition-metal ions such as nickel and cobalt in a bath containing manganese sulfate in sulfuric acid to electrodeposit EMD without employing any templates or surfactants.  In-situ doping of nickel and cobalt in EMD material enhanced the storage capability of the Duracell secondary battery.

A copy of the paper is available

Article submitted by Dr Avijit Biswal, post-doctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram

Nanospheres for Capacitor Applications – Published in RSC AdvancesNanospheres for Capacitor Applications – Published in RSC Advances

Water-soluble, Pluronic (F127), poly(ethylene oxide)–poly- (propylene oxide)–poly(ethylene oxide), PEO–PPO–PEO, triblock copolymers are known to adsorb onto molybdenum species, such as cobalt molybdate (CoMoO4).  Above the critical micellization concentration (CMC), the added F127 tri-block copolymer forms micelles and self-assembles into a variety of aggregates.

The role of the polymeric surfactant on CoMoO4 during the synthesis and its effect on the physico-chemical and electrochemical properties have been studied here for the first time.

The F127 surfactant changes the rod-like structure of CoMoO4 (below left) to nanospheres (below right) with a size of 250 nm.  The results published in RSC Advances recently, confirm that the unique morphology and mesoporosity made the CoMoO4 material suitable for next-generation supercapacitors.

A copy of the paper is available

Article submitted by Maryam Barmi, post-doctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram

SEIT Teaching Grant for a Next-Generation 3D Printer: Fostering Engagement of Physics and Mathematics with Biomedical ApplicationsGRANTS AND AWARDS

SEIT Teaching Grant for a Next-Generation 3D Printer: Fostering Engagement of Physics and Mathematics with Biomedical Applications

A SEIT Teaching Grant to buy a next-generation 3D printer has been awarded to a project led by Eddy Poinern and involving Bruce Gardiner and Gerd Schröder-Turk.  Funds have been made available to buy a Minolta ColorJet 3D Cube 4.5 Printer, which affords advanced abilities to 3D-print multi-coloured structures as well as prototypes for biomedical materials.

The various incarnations of three-dimensional printing technology have an increasingly prominent role in biomedical applications including tissue engineering and artificial scaffolds to aid bone regeneration.  The School heard about some of these developments in two recent Snot-to-Tissue seminars by Prof Dalton from Würzburg University in Germany and Dr Sabetta Matsemuto from Harvard University.

The grant will help the School strengthen the visibility and availability of this exciting technology both through hands-on components of undergraduate courses and honours-level research projects, and outreach activities.  The acquisition is intended to act as a catalyst to drive closer engagement between various projects in the school: geometric microstructure modelling in applied maths, systems biology tissue modelling in physics and nanostructure synthesis and imaging in nanotechnology. Eddy Poinern’s existing connections to Fiona Stanley will further enhance the student exposure to real-world biomedical applications as well as foster stronger connections between our school and Fiona Stanley hospital.


Spotlight on Student Support

As we are over half way through Semester 1, it is an appropriate time to highlight some of the activities that go on behind the scenes to ensure our School provides a supportive and welcoming environment in which our students can strive for success.

Student support and engagement is the main concern for Mandy Middle, our Student Advisor.

The first part of the year is an incredibly busy time for Mandy as she endeavours to make contact with all our incoming students, ensuring they are set up for a positive experience.  Here are just some of the activities she has been involved in so far this Semester:

  • Early outreach, support and redirection to IT students with INVALID enrolments in MAS162 enrolments
  • Alerting, coaching and signposting to all Physics and Engineering students starting their study, requiring MAS164 in their first semester
  • Welcome emails to all new students in the weeks prior to Orientation redirecting them to upcoming key dates and sign-posting to “How To” videos and documents to assist with timely and efficient enrolment and class sign-up
  • Facilitation and delivery of the Advisor network’s UniEdge transition programme for new students
  • Dissemination of information, signposting and connecting students up to relevant programmes such as UniEdge, clinics and help classes
  • Coordination, facilitation and delivery of the Semester 1 Orientation and course advice sessions for our commencing students (177 out of 240 attended)
  • Coordination and facilitation of industry guest speaker visits in the Engineering transition Unit BEN100
  • Phone and email contact campaign to students who had accepted offers, but not yet enrolled in Units; provided advice and follow up
  • Coordination and facilitation of the Engineering Peer Mentoring programme
  • Raise profile, visibility and accessibility of the Advisor role and service through first-year lecture visits: reinforce the importance of engaging and connecting; promotion of Careers Week
  • Regular bulk emails to new students to highlight, inform and promote science and maths help, PASS, SEIT student societies and ways to get involved
  • The provision of on-going assistance and support prior to and during the start of semester with Unit selection inquiries, course advice and other matters related to building study readiness.  This includes on-going traffic via phone/email queries, walk-ins and requests for appointments
  • Extensive consultation with the Careers services to identify ways to improve the participation rates of students in the Careers Week events.  All speed interviews were fully booked
  • Mandy Middle and Chris Creagh are also investigating options for the creation of more informal learning spaces to facilitate peer learning
  • Maintaining on-going communications and positive relationships with academic staff, continuing to build and develop relationships and identify areas for collaboration with the Careers Service, CUTL and the Counselling Service
  • In response to recent reports on attrition, make contact and follow up with students who have failed a unit, or failed more than 50% of their enrolment in the previous semester, and invite them in to meet and discuss setting up an action plan to help improve their academic performance (students who had previously been sent a ‘Cause for Concern’ letter from the Student Centre, are now being contacted by Student Advisors).
  • Targeted bulk emails to students in 3rd and 4th year engineering with information about vacation work and graduate opportunities

These activities ensure Mandy is kept very busy indeed.  Her role is pivotal in ensuring a good start for our students as they commence their studies at Murdoch and take on the challenges that University life brings.


FameLabFameLab Semi-Final Success

The FameLab semi-final were presented by the British Council and hosted by the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle on the evening of Thursday 14th April.  One of our students Rorie Gilligan (School of Engineering and IT) and Kaija Strautins (IIID) competed in the WA semi-finals, which brings together some of Australia’s brightest early-career researchers.

Armed only with their wits and a few props, 13 scientists were given just three short minutes to present their ground-breaking research in the most exciting, innovative way possible.  Caterpillar-killing parasitoid wasps, self-care apps and the health of high-rise dwellers are just some of the subjects covered at the WA Semi Final, but the true story of FameLab is the potential to develop the next generation of science media voices, spokespeople and role models for Australian science.

FameLab helps early-career researchers acquire valuable skills to communicate their work accessibly and attractively to a non-scientific audience.

We are very pleased to say that Rorie (pictured above right) has made it through to compete in the National Final at the Western Australian Museum in May and will be in the running for a spot at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK in June, where finalists from more than 25 countries will come together to compete for the title of FameLab international champion.

Congratulations Rorie and good luck in the National Finals.

Article submitted by Emma Tristham


Energy Monitoring Device and Power Quality Analyser Are Ready to UseEnergy Monitoring Device and Power Quality Analyser Are Ready to Use

Recently the Electrical Engineering, Energy and Physics (EEP) Discipline purchased an Energy Monitoring Device (Power Tracker) and a Power Quality Analyser (Fluke) using a SEIT Equipment Grant.

The Energy Monitoring Devices allows real-time measurement of energy consumption across many different electrical appliances.  The Power Quality Analyser is used to investigate/measure power quality, in particular voltage and current, harmonics, power factor, real/reactive power and energy consumption, of a live three-phase/single-phase power system.

The equipment assists in identifying key energy consuming appliances in any system/home/building being studied, which assists in the development of appropriate energy management systems that will reduce overall energy consumption in that facility.

The equipment has already been made use of within ENG338 - Energy Supply and Management. Students were able to demonstrate the real-time energy consumption and power quality attributes of different electrical systems.  Also, Cindy van Heerden and Ahmed Alfaki recently used the Energy Monitoring Devices to assist with the completion of their Engineering Thesis (ENG470).  The title of Cindy and Ahmed’s projects are ‘Demand response implementation into residential sector’ and ‘Investigating a fast, reliable and cost-effective communication technology for managing residential loads’ respectively.

We are aiming to use the Power Quality Analyser in our current research project running with AMPC (Australian Meat Processor Corporation) on ‘Investigation into Voltage Optimisation Technology for Abattoirs’.

An Energy Monitoring Device User’s Manual has been developed with the assistance of Cindy van Heerden.  This manual will be available for students to use to assist them in their understanding of the equipment and its functions.  It will also prove valuable for teaching and research purposes.

Please feel free to use this equipment for your own teaching and research purposes and we hope you will find them of benefit.

Students using the Power Quality Analyser to measure voltage, current, harmonics, real/reactive power, power factor and energy consumption of the system

Article submitted by Dr GM Shafiullah

Murdoch University High Quality Chemistry Teaching Echoed by Presentations on Best Practice at RACI Chemical Education Symposium, Melbourne March 2016

Dr Leonie Hughes recently attended the RACI Chemical Education Symposium in Melbourne.

The Symposium had two aims: to showcase some of the innovative thinking around chemistry education in Australia, and to facilitate rich discussion across institutions.

The two day event covered the following themes:

  • Laboratory learning
  • Individualised learning
  • Reaching the regions
  • Authentic assessment

In addition, there were workshops on handling qualitative and quantitative data in chemical education research.

Dr Hughes presented a poster on behalf of herself, Dr Kate Rowen and Dr Damian Laird, all from SEIT, as well as Dr Amanda Woods-McConney from the School of Education.  The poster presented initial findings from data collected during a recent Senior Secondary Chemistry Teacher Professional Development Session (Divide and Analyse, November 2015, previously reported in the November 2015 School newsletter).  The posters were displayed electronically which made for some interesting use of technology.

The Symposium was attended by members of the chemistry academy from universities all over Australia. It was hosted by Monash University in their new Green Chemical Futures facility.

The presentations and posters represented 15 different institutions covering the Group of Eight, IRU and other institutions.  Many informative discussions were held on best practices in teaching that have wider applications than to chemistry alone.  It was gratifying to find strong evidence that many of our chemistry academics and many of our chemistry units are at the forefront of high quality teaching approaches.

There was considerable discussion about meeting the non-content related threshold learning outcomes (TLOs), for science in general as well as chemistry specifically, for our students.  One study presented findings on confidence of graduate students in various skill areas identified as important for employers.  Their findings indicated their institution (Monash University) delivered excellent outcomes to students concerning their technical skills and content mastery, but don’t sufficiently develop other important skills (team work, communication, problem solving, ICT skills etc.), many of which form the bulk of the TLOs (only 2 of the chemistry TLOs refer explicitly to chemistry content knowledge).  There was a clear sense that this would be common across the country and, in light of RACI Accreditation being based on the TLOs, considerable work may be needed to ensure we meet these other learning objectives.  Having developed the research skills Unit BSC304, I was encouraged to find that many of my assessment practices in that unit should be suitable as evidence to meet the TLOs of our students in partnership with the core content units.

Article submitted by Dr Leonie Hughes


Women of Achievement - Harshani PereraWomen of Achievement - Harshani Perera

Harshani Perera, a PhD candidate under the supervision of Dr Fairuz Shiratuddin, Associate Professor Dr Kevin Wong and Ms Kelly Fullarton had the privilege of attending the AICC (WA) Annual Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE Women of Achievement Event on the 16th March 2016.  Harshani was one of the four students selected by Murdoch University to attend this event which has been extremely successful over the last four years and is growing from strength to strength each year.

The event is for leading women in their fields from the public, private and academic sectors.  Since the inception of this prestigious AICC (WA) annual event in 2013, it has attracted high achievers including; chief executives, business owners chairpersons, dignitaries and politicians.  Featured key presenters have been Professor Lyn Beazley AO FTSE CIE, former Chief Scientist of Western Australia, in 2013 speaking on “Confidence to Achieve”, Dr Fiona Wood FRCS, AM, Director of the Burn Service of WA, Consultant, Royal Perth and Princess Margaret Hospitals, in 2014 speaking on “The Importance of Resilience in Achievement” and in 2015 Ms Carol Schwartz AM, Founding Chair, Women's Leadership Institute Australia, leading an engaging discussion on “Women in Leadership in Australia”, with Robin McClellan, CEO, Leadership WA as MC.

This year’s featured key note presenter was Dr Linda Friedland, international health expert, medical doctor, television personality, international speaker and bestselling author, spoke on “Resilience and its importance as a woman of achievement”.

Ms Perera had the following comments to make about attending the event:

"I am grateful for the amazing opportunity given to attend the Women of Achievement Event. I had the privilege of meeting and networking with inspiring women here in Western Australia. Further the keynote speech was immensely helpful to learn about how to move forward and overcome failures through resilience.  Overall it was a fabulous opportunity to enhance my growth personally and professionally. ”