School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

November 2017

Dean - Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

Welcome to the November School Newsletter.

Although the end of the year is drawing near, momentum in the School is as strong as ever.

Congratulations to Professor Bruce Gardiner and Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk on the successful funding for their Discovery Project from the ARC. This is a great personal achievement for both of them and a sign of their reputation in their discipline and amongst their peers. Please join me in congratulating them, their success means a lot to all of us, but it also lifts the profile of the School. In addition, Bruce and Gerd have also been awarded funding for the 2017 Australia-Germany Joint Research Co-operation Scheme. The winning project was one of 73 successful submissions from a total of 203 applications. I also would like to add that, Bruce has been awarded another ARC DP Grant, with colleagues from the Universities of Melbourne and Western Australia.

Heartfelt congratulations as well to the following staff for successfully completing their probation, Dr Piotr Kowalczyk, and Dr Ferdous Sohel, and a sincere well done to Dr Ryan Admiral on his promotion to Senior Lecturer.

Although classes and exams may be finished, student support is still available from the Student Advisors. Both Mandy Middle and Dianne Noonan are around to offer guidance and advice on course queries, transfers, unit selection, exam preparation, deferred assessments, appeals and retrospective withdrawals. Mandy and Dianne are at Level 2, Building 245, Science and Computing; Mandy: 9360 6951, Rm 2.010 and Dianne: 9360 6514, Rm 2.017, students and staff can write to

I hope you enjoy this month’s edition of the School Newsletter.

Remember, whether you are a student, an academic, administrative or technical staff member, if you have a story to share please send it to the SEIT email - Please mention the article title in the subject line of the email.

If you are a student or staff reading this Newsletter, please let your friends and family know about Scholarships for Honours, Postgraduate degrees, details are included a the end of the Newsletter.

Best wishes,

Bodzio Dlugogorski


IT Industry Panel Event 2017
New Colombo Mobility Scholarship – The Student Experience
Mature Student Mid Semester Event
Semester Two – Mentor Thank You Event
AINSE Winter School Review – From a Student Perspective
2017 Western Australian Junior Mathematics Olympiad
Start Your Journey to Scientific Excellence
Are You Eligible for a ‘Murdoch First Scholarship’?
Apply for Honours and Post Graduate Courses
High Impact Research Publication
2018 Endeavour Research Fellowship
Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering
Murdoch University Incident Reporting System Update
From The School Manager
Inspiring Others at Wand Sharing Day – Associate Professor Tanya McGill
International Scholarship Applications Keep School Staff Busy
SEIT School Research Committee Information
Surveying Faults and Issues with Photovoltaic Systems and Components
Thoughts from The Australian Council of Deans of Science Meeting – Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk
Murdoch University Contributes to Western Australia’s Bid to be at the Forefront of Space and Technology Research and Development



The Discipline of Information Technology was delighted to host five Chief Information Officers from WA Government, at the IT Industry Panel Event for IT students and staff.

Photo 1 IT Industry Panel.jpg Adjunct Professor Jim Ellis, OAM Honorary Doctor of Science, facilitated the Panel’s open discussion with:
Photo 2 IT Industry Panel.jpg Giles Nunis, Chief Executive and Government Chief Information Officer, Government of Western Australia
Photo 3 IT Industry Panel.jpg Richard Burnell, Director of Information Communication Technology at the Department of Fire and Emergency Services
Photo 4 IT Industry Panel.jpg David Dans, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Education in Western Australia
Photo 5 IT Industry Panel.jpg Stuart Gibbon, Executive Director, ICT Strategy and Delivery at the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer in Western Australia
Photo 6 IT Industry Panel.jpg Christian Thompson, Executive Director of the Business Information Business Unit for the Department of Transport, WA

The group shared their expertise and knowledge, as well as aspects of their own journeys in the IT industry. In today's complex, ever changing world, the opportunity for students to engage with such high calibre industry experts is invaluable, providing them with the benefits of lessons learned, required ways of thinking, the need for vision, courage, resilience, flexibility and adaptability. Their insights, experience and advice are highly regarded and provide a valuable opportunity for IT students to learn about the 'real world' of industry.

"Being able to attend the IT Industry Panel event last week was a great opportunity to engage with experienced and influential members of the IT industry. I gained first-hand insights into IT career paths and was motivated by the panel’s encouragement and optimism. I recommend this event to all IT students, if not for the invaluable knowledge and discussions, then for the seriously delicious food." Meg Atcheson

Article and photos provided by Dianne Noonan, Student Advisor


Vanessa Ramos, 3rd year Chemistry student, recently presented her short research project associated with her participation in the Future Chemist International Summer Camp (FCISC), held in July at the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei. Vanessa was one of the several School student’s awarded a New Colombo Mobility Scholarship. Dr Drew Parsons facilitated the application, which is awarded by the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Basil Hanratty, 3rd year chemistry student, also attended under a USTC Scholarship.

Dr Drew Parsons won a $33,000 New Colombo project to send 10 students to the FCISC in 2017 from a consortium of Australian universities led by Murdoch, including the University of Newcastle, RMIT University, Flinders University and Australian National University. Dr Parsons was also appointed by USTC hosts to manage FCISC applications from other Australian universities. Dr Parsons has secured a $99,000 continuation of the New Colombo project from DFAT to continue participation in the FCISC in 2018-2020, also extending the project to the Future Physicist International Summer Camp (FPISC).

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Vanessa Ramos (left), Basil Hanratty (centre) and Dr Drew Parsons at the FCISC in China

Article and Photo provided by Dr Drew Parsons


On Wednesday 11th October, 2017, Student Advisors hosted a Mature Student Mid Semester event in Club M, Murdoch University. The theme of the event was Alice in Wonderland, due to the parallels between Alice in Wonderland and the student experience. The venue was creatively decorated to resemble a Wonderland and a wide range of themed warm and cold cocktail food was served. The event was funded by Student Services Education, Academic Registrar’s Office.

Although organised by the SAN Mature Student Network working committee, the event was a collaborative affair with various Murdoch services holding interactive themed ‘Pit Stops’ to provide students with the opportunity to simply chat, or to seek advice, or support. The pit-stops were designed to be relevant to the perceived needs of mature students at this stage of the semester as well as the end of year. The Pit Stop themes included:

  • ‘Managing life and exam preparation’ (CUTL)
  • ‘The balancing act’ (Student Advisors)
  • ‘The end goal’ (Careers)
  • ‘Staying mindful and managing stress’ (Counselling)Photo 9 Mature Age.jpg

It was terrific to see some of our SEIT students attend the event and take the opportunity to engage with other mature students and utilise the support and advice provided at the Pit Stops.

The evening was filled with conversation, energy and fun. The feedback from both students who attended the event, as well other Murdoch services that ran Pit Stops, was very positive and encouraging.

Photo 8 Mature Age.jpg‘We had a great night and fabulous response from students. Students were indeed “curiouser and curiouser.” What a very connected “feel” this event had. A real sense of care and support’, Lynlea and Tsin.

From Rebecca, a student, ‘What a great event. Thank you so much, it really helps being able to connect with other mature students and know that others are going through the same things as me. The Pit Stops were great and very helpful. Hope there’ll be more mature student events in the future.”

Student’s get ‘curiouser and curiouser’ and enjoy the themed food at the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ event.

Article and photos provided by Dianne Noonan, Student Advisor


Mentors from the MentorMe program across the university, provide an invaluable support service to our first year students, helping them to engage as active members of the Murdoch learning community and to navigate their way through the challenges, stresses and unknowns of a new learning environment. Individual Mentors give their own valuable time, volunteering to support first year students to develop a sense of connectedness, a sense of capability, a sense of purpose, a sense of resourcefulness and a sense of academic culture.

So on the 19th of October, down in the Senate Foyer, the Mentors and many of the Student Advisors gathered so that the Student Advisor Network could show their appreciation and say a huge THANK YOU to all the Mentors for their hard work and commitment to the mentees, and the program.

The event included door prizes, lunch, fun activities and a small token of appreciation for each Mentor. With an excellent turn out of over thirty Mentors from across Schools, there was much fun, laughter and collegiality. There was also some competitive energy, as cross discipline groups collaboratively competed to ‘engineer’ the tallest and most stable marshmallow and pasta tower.

Photo 10 Mentor.jpg Photo 11 Mentor.jpg
Students take on the marshmallow and pasta tower challenge

Article and photo provided by Dianne Noonan, Student Advisor


Kirsten Emory is an undergraduate student at School of Engineering and Information Technology and is currently enrolled in Bachelor of Science, Physics and Nanotechnology. Miss Emory shares her experience at AINSE Winter School, 2017.

I’m honestly not sure where to start as this trip was such an amazing experience and I have so much to brag about. To start, I should explain what AINSE Winter School is. AINSE Winter School is held in Sydney at a facility called ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), in Lucas Heights. It is home to Australia’s only nuclear reactor and a range of world class facilities.

Before AINSE Winter School, I had no idea how much amazing research was going on right here in Australia, and to top it off, the facilities at ANSTO are world class, meaning researchers fly from all over the world just to use the equipment there. As a soon to be graduate, I thought Australia didn’t have much to offer in terms of research for physics and was concerned I would have to move across country to access any type of physics job, or research.

The Winter School ran from the 17th to the 21st of July 2017. During the 5 days, the AINSE program was amazing and pack full of relevant lectures on current research and site tours. AINSE arranged for a variety of research lectures, but just to name a few; Professor Mike James gave a lecture on the Australian Synchrotron, Dr Tracey Hanley gave a talk on Radiation Damage and Nuclear Materials and Dr Jamie Schulz, from the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering, went through some research currently being conducted in his area. We also had the honour of touring the facilities at ANSTO, such facilities included; Radiochemistry, Gamma Irradiation, Aquatic ecosystems and OPAL. My favourite tour would have to have been the OPAL tour. OPAL stands for Open Pool Australian Light Water reactor. It is used for a wide range of purposes such as nuclear medicine, research and industrial purposes. The reactor is state of the art and such a fascinating site to see.

This AINSE Winter School opportunity was given to me as a scholarship, which means I had all of my expenses paid for such as, flights, accommodation and food. AINSE also organised for all the students to have a lovely dinner on board a boat in the Sydney harbour, so we were well looked after and pampered. I would also like to say a very big thank you to all the AINSE staff, they were all extremely nice and helpful. I would also like to thank ANSTO for letting me tour through their world class facilities.

While staying at ANSTO I also met a lot of other students from partnering universities with AINSE, who I became really good friends with. I must admit before I got to ANSTO, I expected a lot of the other student to be typical ‘Sheldon like’ scientists, but it was quite the opposite. All the students were so easy to talk to and I had countless intriguing scientific discussions. It was nice to meet people with the same thought processes and interests as me.

I had an amazing time at AINSE Winter School, it was really an eye opener to all the amazing research and facilities that Australia has. I would highly recommend for other students to take this once in a life time opportunity. Again I would like to thank AINSE and ANSTO and I would also like to thank Murdoch University’s, School of Engineering and IT, Dr Chris Creagh and Dr Aleksandar Nikoloski for choosing to send me on this trip, I am extremely grateful.

Article submitted by Kirsten Emory


The 2017 West Australian Junior Mathematics Olympiad (WAJO) is organised every year, by the Western Australian Mathematics Olympiad Committee.

For many years, the Mathematics and Statistics group at Murdoch University have sponsored a prize in the Olympiad and this year the sponsorship went towards the ‘Murdoch University Award for Excellence’ team prize.

The following is an extract from the letter of thanks sent to Professor Graeme Hocking, who also presented at the prize ceremony.

Dear Graeme

The Western Australian Junior Mathematics Olympiad (WAJO) 2017 was an outstanding success and I want to thank you for your sponsorship of this event and thereby your support for our young Western Australians. At WAJO this year, we had 472 students participating in Perth, as well as our satellite venues in Bunbury and Karratha. They comprised 122 teams from more than 30 schools. The Prize Ceremony was an enjoyable experience for the participants, their parents and teachers.

Thank you for your support before and on the day, in particular for sponsoring the ‘Murdoch University Award for Excellence’ team prize and attending the prize ceremony.

For your records, the Award went to a Year 9 team from Scotch College (Team1).

Once again thank you for your support of the WAJO. I hope that we may again call on your support for WAJO 2018.

With best wishes
Associate Professor Michael Giudici
Chair, Organising Committee
WA Junior Mathematics Olympiad

A list of all prize winners is now available on the WAJO website at:


Dean's Scholarships for Scientific Excellence


Photo 36 2K scholarship back page.JPG



To find out more go to


To find out more go to



Associate Professor Hamid Laga and his collaborators have just published a research article in the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, the best journal in the field of artificial intelligence and pattern recognition with an impact factor of 8.329.

Hamid Laga, Qian Xie, Ian H Jermyn, Anuj Srivastava (2017) “Numerical Inversion of SRNF Maps for Elastic Shape Analysis of Genus-Zero Surfaces,” in IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, Vol. 39, Issue 12, pp. 2451 – 2464.

On this article, Hamid collaborated with his colleagues in Florida State University (USA), Durham University (UK), and Amazon. They have developed a new mathematical framework and a set of computational, algorithms for the statistical analysis of complex 3D shapes that undergo complex deformations including bending and stretching. In the article, the authors have applied their framework to the analysis of 3D human body shapes, and 3D brain structures. The framework, however, can be applied to solving a wide range of problems, ranging from the analysis of disease and disease progression in anatomical structures, to 3D modelling and simulation in computer graphics.

Photo 12 Research Publication.jpg

3D human body shapes used for statistical analysis

Article provided by Associate Professor Wong, Acting Associate Dean Research


Photo 13 Xiangpeng.jpg
Congratulations to Dr Xiangpeng Gao for securing a 2018 Endeavour Research Fellowship, which will allow him to work at Prof Jun-ichiro Hayashi’s laboratory at Kyushu University in Japan for 4 months.

During his visit, Dr Gao will conduct proof-of-concept research on producing high-quality metallurgical coke from lipid-extracted hydrochar, which is a carbon-rich solid byproduct of biodiesel production based on microalgae hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC).

The project’s innovative features are two-fold:

  1. From a microalgal biodiesel perspective, HTC of microalgae produces hydrochar that retains nearly all the lipids in the raw biomass. The hydrochar can be easily separated from water by simple filtration, and extracted with organic solvent to recover lipids for biodiesel production. This avoids energy-intensive drying that is otherwise required for extracting lipids from raw microalgae, and thereby reduces energy consumed for lipid extraction. In addition, the lipid-extracted hydrochar will be used as feedstock to produce high-value metallurgical coke, further improving the economic performance of microalgal biodiesel production.
  1. From a metallurgical coke perspective, using abundant low-rank solid fuels (e.g., lignite and biomass) as feedstock for metallurgical coke production, is important for sustainable metallurgical industries, reducing the consumption of increasingly expensive coking coal and improving the reaction efficiency of blast furnaces. To do this, dedicated hydrothermal treatment (i.e., HTC) of the fuels is required to densify the energy content and improve the coke's mechanical strength. To avoid this energy-intensive step, the project will use lipid-extracted hydrochar, which has been hydrothermally treated and is a byproduct of the HTC-based extraction biorefinery, as feedstock for metallurgical coke production.

Beyond the research project and anticipated ongoing research collaboration between Murdoch University and Kyushu University, Dr Gao’s visit will foster teaching collaborations between the two organisations, which have common interests in the areas of renewable energy and carbon management.

Article information provided by Dr Xiangpeng Gao


Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski has been elected to Chair the Western Australian Division Committee of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. Professor Dlugogorski is also part of the Academy’s Membership Committee, chairing Sector Group D: Materials and Emerging Technologies.


Incident reporting is an important responsibility that all staff must make themselves aware of. The University recently updated the MUIRS reporting system, please familiarise yourself with this new version. In the unfortunate event that an incident occurs, ensure that you register the matter on the MUIRS

Photo 14 MUIRS.jpg

For more information on identifying risks and hazards, incident reporting and investigation, go to Murdoch Policy and Procedure Management.

If you have any queries, relating to an incident, or how to register the matter on MUIRS, contact your Supervisor in the first instance, or Brad McKell, Occupational Safety and Health Office, 9360 6546 or email, or


As we quickly approach the end of another year, there are some important end of year deadlines that we need to be mindful of to ensure that we capture everything that we need to in 2017.

Travel Bookings – all travel bookings need to be requested, approved, booked and paid for before 25th November in order to be charged to 2017.

Credit Card Purchases – all transactions made by credit card prior to the 25th November will be charged to 2017. All credit cards need to be reconciled and then presented to Mary for verification by 6th December. Once verified the Dean needs to review and approve them before being delivered to Finance. Transactions undertaken between 26th November and the 31st December will all be charged to 2018 unless, the expense is over $2,000 and Finance are asked to accrue the expense.

Invoices to be paid – any invoices that are received and need to be paid in 2017 must be appropriately approved and presented to Finance by 11th December.

Staff & Student Reimbursements – any staff members or students requiring a reimbursement need to present the completed necessary paperwork and invoice for authorisation and processing before the 11th December.

HR Processing Deadlines - for casual and fixed term pays in the lead up to the end of year are:
For the fortnight ending 8th December -> deadline for approved online timesheets through MyHR 29th November. Submission of the timesheet has to be before this deadline.
Fortnight ending 22nd December -> deadline for approved online timesheets through MyHR is 13th December. Submission of the timesheet has to be before this deadline.
Fortnight ending 5 January 2018 -> deadline for approved online timesheets through MyHR is 18th December. Submission of the timesheet has to be before this deadline.

Limited Services Period – December / January Christmas & New Year break
The University will be closed from 4pm Friday 22nd December and will reopen on Thursday 4th January 2018. All staff across the University are strongly encouraged to take Thursday 4th January and Friday 5th January off as annual leave as there will be limited services available on campus on these. Please keep an eye out for an email from the University overviewing what their expectations are in regard to the leave over this time.


Associate Professor Tanya McGill, School of Engineering and Information Technology, recently presented at this year’s WAND Sharing Day. Tanya is recipient of a national Australian Award for University Teaching (AAUT), Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. Tanya was joined at the event, by other nationally recognised Learning and Teaching award winning recipients from Western Australia.

Tanya provided valuable insights of how good teaching practitioners nurture a climate of collaboration, while imbedding innovation and good practice in their teaching. Tanya expressed the need to support students to engage in collaborative learning and shared her conviction to always see the learning journey from the prospective of the student. In order to create a collaborative learning environment, she came to understand that it was not about her as a performer, but rather about the teaching and learning strategies and what she does to support the students. Sustainable, accessible learning, requires an environment that allows students to create, develop, collaborate and engage. While, throughout her teaching career Tanya has strived to engage students and enhance her teaching with best practice, she recognised the benefits of taking full advantage to learn from others and what they have done, then take those ideas and practices and build on them.

Tanya’s advice to others was to go ahead and apply for the award, as it provides a good framework for the basis of critical reflection. One of the benefits of critically reflecting on your teaching, is that in doing so, you identify your strengths as well as the areas where you are less strong, providing the opportunity to consider how you can continue to strengthen and develop your teaching, as well as your own learning about teaching.Photo 15 Tanya McGill.jpg

While the application process may at times seem onerous, Tanya noted that beyond the financial reward, there are benefits that include validation, respect, confidence, the provision of a greater voice within the university, and opportunities to be involved in Learning and Teaching activities beyond the university.

Good practice flourishes and students benefit when advocates like Tanya have a willingness to promote scholarship and disseminate and share, their own beliefs and strategies for good practice in teaching and learning.

Associate Professor McGill presenting at the WAND Sharing Day

Article provided by Dianne Noonan


The months of October and November are ones of intense activity in the postgraduate research area. All this activity doesn’t have much to do with the School’s current research students beavering away in labs and offices. Their activities are intense all year-long and hardly change at all during the Spring. The burst of activity arises in the offices of staff trying to inveigle, lure and attract the very best and brightest new students into their research groups and onto their most treasured research projects. October and November are when the postgraduate research scholarships are decided.

After the closing date of 30th September, all applications for the Research Training Place (RTP) International scholarships must be examined and checked. Each application has a check-list of components that includes a CV (that’s a curriculum vitae, not a cyclic voltammogram giving the working potential), language proficiency certificate, certified copies of academic transcripts and the list goes on. All must be examined to ensure they are complete and correct. That doesn’t sound too onerous except that the School, this year, is blessed with more than a hundred applications. A cursory look through each one, just seeing that the required documents are present, takes about two person-days. However, that’s actually the easy bit. The School has only 6 RTP International scholarships to distribute this year, so the competition is ‘brisk’ to say the least. Intense and ‘cut-throat’ are probably more accurate.

This year, the ranking processes are taking place within the School because the central administration has given each of the School Dean’s the strategic responsibility of awarding the RTP scholarships allocated to their Schools. Previously these were awarded on a university-wide ranking system that was ‘blind’ to the School and discipline of the applicant. The SEIT Dean and the School Research Committee decided that the ‘best recent graduate applicants’ be awarded the 6 EIT international scholarships. To bring this sound strategy into effect, the scholarship sub-committee of the SRC was given the task of drawing up guidelines to identify and rank the applicants. That committee then made those recommendations to the Dean, who then makes the decisions. Note that, the Dean makes the decisions so disappointed applicants, supplicants, mendicants and petitioners should all queue outside the Dean’s office.

There were almost 200 applications across the University and more than half of them wanted to study with our School staff members. For the 2018 round, the committee decided that ‘recent graduates’ referred to those graduating in, or after, 2014. The research potential of the applicants was then assessed by considering only those publications made in the highest quality journals and conferences since 2014. Adding a score for research potential to scores for the u/g GPA and the p/g qualification gave a total score upon which the applicants were ranked. The top twelve applicants were then recommended to the Dean, who approved the order established by the sub-committee. The list has been referred back to the Graduate Research Office and Research Degrees and Scholarships Committee, which will do due diligence to assure the University that all successful applicants exceed the minimum standard expected for PhD candidates.

That RDSC meeting takes place on the 3rd of November, so shortly after that, the successful applicants and their supervisory teams will be notified.

I would like to add my profound thanks to the SRC sub-committee who prioritised this work to meet tight deadlines and whose diligence and attention to detail ensured that all applicants received a fair and uniform consideration. My thanks to Almantas Pivrikas, Ferdous Sohel, Nicola Armstrong, Hamid Laga, Drew Parsons and Gerd Schroeder-Turk. However, don’t breathe too deeply folks, the domestic RTP scholarship round has just closed and the school has 4 of those to allocate.

Article provided by Dr David Ralph, Postgraduate Research Director


The School Research Committee (SRC) includes academic staff from across all disciplines in the School, as well as the School Dean, School Manager and School Post Graduate Research Director.

In the last Research Committee meeting, the committee members have reviewed the role of the research committee to align with the School Strategic Research Plan. The focus is to grow the excellence and reputation in research of the School, by encouraging staff to increase the quality of their publications, improve national and international collaborations and joint grant applications, increase industry collaborations and improve the number and rate of HDR completions. In order to enable these, it is also noted that the research infrastructure of the School needs to be enhanced.

Two sub-committees have also been formed and they are the scholarship sub-committee and the grant sub-committee. The role of the scholarship sub-committee is to look after the allocation of the scholarships, and the role of the grant sub-committee is to review the current School research grant schemes.

The SRC has set up the Undergraduate Summer Project Scholarship. This is to provide outstanding undergraduate students currently enrolled in the School, an opportunity to work on some research projects, supervised by the academic staff within the School. There is a total of 5 scholarships on offer for the Undergraduate Summer Project Scholarship 2017. Each recipient will receive $3,000 for a maximum of a 10-week project.

The next round of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2018 is currently underway. This is an exercise by the Australia Research Council (ARC), to compare the outcomes of Australia's university research with international benchmarks. The ARC has announced that Clarivate Analytics will be replacing Scopus for ERA 2018, in providing the citation information.

If you have any ideas or suggestion that can better align the research activities within the School to the School Strategic Research Plan, you are most welcome to contact the SRC members.

Article provided by Associate Professor Kevin Wong, Acting Associate Dean Research



The demand for PV systems has grown phenomenally over the last decade in Australia, with a total installed capacity of over 6.2GW as of June 2017. Although PV systems are very reliable, conditions in Australia can be very harsh and so equipment can fail and installations can be suboptimal. Very little information is available on the types of problems that occur, where they occur and how often.

To address this, survey work capturing typical faults in PV systems has been supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and coordinated by Murdoch University, with input from the Australian PV Institute (APVI), the Clean Energy Council (CEC), UNSW and Ekistica. Anyone who owns, operates, installs or inspects PV systems can enter their experience of faults in PV systems, via a new, user-friendly version of a web-based survey. Module manufacturers are also encouraged to provide data collected from warranty returns.

System faults can generally be classified in terms of component selection, and installation quality, or a combination of both. Analysis of distributed PV systems in Australian capital cities showed a wide range of performance. The worst 25% of systems had yields at least 10% lower than the best 25% performing systems in Darwin and Perth, while the difference was more than 16% in Sydney, (see Figure 1 below). The study indicated that the low performance can be only partially explained by non-optimal tilt and orientation.

Photo 16 Figure 1 PV Article.jpg

Figure 1: Distribution of measured performance (average daily yield) of distributed PV systems in Australian capital cities

The concern for any investor in PV systems, whether they are a household with a 5 kW array, a factory with a 100 kW array, or a large multi-MW ground-mounted system such as those funded by ARENA’s Large Scale Solar funding round, is the reliable and safe operation over the lifetime of the system, and to achieve the expected financial return. Significant deviations from such expectations, such as needing to replace PV modules earlier than expected, or failures of components such as the wiring used, can have a large and negative financial impact.

The following figures illustrate examples of issues found from previous PV system inspections that survey participants are encouraged to report on.

Photo 17 Figure 2 PV Article.jpg
Figure 2: System with inadequate cable protection for PV wiring. This cable protection is needed, as heat and especially UV radiation will affect the insulation of the cables. Over the expected lifetime of the PV system (25 years or more), these cables can deteriorate and increase the risk of short-circuits and fire, or will require expensive replacement work, thus affecting the financial return of the system.
Photo 18 Figure 3 PV Article.jpg
Figure 3: Example of accumulation of leaf litter under PV array panels due to the installation not facilitating self-cleaning. This is of concern because flammable material in close vicinity of a PV array installation presents a fire risk since high resistance faults (caused for example by component failures, bad joints or vermin activity) can lead to arcing.

Although 11.92 V is not a hazardous potential, unlikely to be detected without a Voltmeter, Figure 4 demonstrates that an unearthed PV array can be at a potential different from earth. This particular case was not hazardous when inspected, but under differing conditions and particularly in systems where transformerless PV inverters can cause capacitive leakage currents, missing equipotential bonding of framework and PV array support structures can pose an electrical shock risk.

Photo 19 Figure 4 PV Article.jpg

Figure 4: Unearthed PV module frame at potential relative to earth.

The web-based survey has been developed to increase understanding by the PV industry around problems found with different system components when exposed to the range of climates in Australia. It will help to improve future PV system design, installation practices, component selection, product development and product approvals for Australian conditions.

The survey will be open until March 2018 and a summary of the information collected will be made publicly available through a final report posted on the Australian PV Institute (APVI) website. A link to the “PV Module and System Fault Reporting Portal” can be found here.

Article provided by Dr Martina Calais


“We need to reclaim the term impact! All science must have impact. Basic science has impact in the store of knowledge. Somehow we’ve got into a position where impact is defined solely as one thing: the dollars that can be extracted from a project”. These words, paraphrased from notes I kept, are from the closing speech by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, Professor Peter Rathjen, to the Australian Council of Deans of Science’s inaugural National Research Forum, held in Sydney from 25-26th September 2017.

These reflective thoughts marked the end of a very interesting two days of discussions around all aspects of science politics, from measuring research impact, graduate pathways in Australia, effective engagement practices for industry and universities, all amongst a distinguished group of about 40 Deans’ of Science Schools, including Associated Deans’ of Research, from many of the Australian Universities. I enjoyed the chance to ‘sit in’ for Dean and get a more profound idea of how Australian Science politics works.

The agenda of the meeting was clearly set out to focus the discussion predominantly on the topic of university and industry engagement. Several impressive examples of schemes were described, that are in place elsewhere, to foster a closer engagement between the university and the industrial sector, including:

  • Tony Patti’s presentation of Monash University’s GRIP “Graduate Research Industry Partnership” that incorporates a close industry-link to the plastics industry for their chemistry and materials science PhD training program
  • Glen Sheldon’s presentation of the Australian Mathematical Science Institute’s National Internship research program, in place since 2008, which has facilitated more than 240 placements of internships paid at $3,000 for students as part of their PhD program, with a payment of $5,500 to the academic supervisor as well.
  • Warwick Dawson’s presentation, a la “Partner or Perish”, on UNSW’s very large scale engagement with in particular, the Chinese Industrial Research Sector, through the Chinese “Torch” scheme.

These were some of the impressive schemes that seemed to facilitate genuine and profound interaction between the university research sector and the industry. What they had in common was, these additional interactions do not come for free, rather these schemes were all facilitated by additional staff positions, dedicated to running the schemes and additional funds for the students, supervisors or industry partners. Several speakers described the reward systems (workload systems, selection criteria, etc), that need to be put in place to incentivise academics to embrace more industry engagement, and the reluctance of many academics to jump on board!

I was somewhat surprised by the unquestioning willingness to adopt the imperative, that the university sector needs to be more proactive to embrace industry and foster stronger ties; and the willingness to accept, that it is the universities’ (rather than the industry’s) responsibility to strengthen these ties. The general mood appeared to be one of being fairly agreeable to the idea, that the value of a PhD could as well be defined by its impact for industry. While the expression ‘productive society’ was used several times in relation to research outputs, I do not recall the expression ‘smart society’ being used too often. Several new names for PhD programs were proposed, to reflect the industry engagement, including ‘ePhD’ for entrepreneurial PhD or ‘Industry Focused PhD’.

There was a lot of discussion about how to facilitate closer engagement with industry, with some impressive schemes and results. By contrast, there was little discussion about the ‘Have your cake and eat it too’ aspect of it, that evidently, these schemes require significant resources, both time and money, on the part of the university and on the part of the academic. It is everyone’s best bet, where these resources will come from, probably from the more traditional aspects of academic life and education. There was also almost no discussion about whether the bright young Australian students will be more enticed by industry-related PhD projects, than conventional science PhD projects.

What I have personally taken away from the meeting, apart from discussions with some inspiring scientists, were several good ideas how we can close the gap between us and industry. Foremost, the importance of creating an interface where industry and university can meet. Both Monash and UNSW representatives showed plenty of slides of industry and university folks happily socialising and happily sharing stories. This is something where we can, and must, do better. Why not try to just have a few “i-seminar-u-bbq” events, simply to start getting the two communities to hang out more with one another.

What I also took away from this meeting was the strong desire to contribute to a robust, genuine debate about what defines a PhD and what defines the value of the university for society. I believe it should be every academic’s desire, (in fact everyone’s desire) to do things that matter, and I believe the majority of academics want to do just that – matter. As Peter Rathjen said, science and research and science education and research training, matter not just through their impact to industry. They matter through a whole spectrum of ways and some are more immediately obvious than others. In my books, the key impact universities have is the education of smart graduates. Through their pursuit of their careers, these graduates will then take the scientific way of thinking, our way, into all corners of society, and hence create a smarter society. I believe that Peter Rathjen said just that, when he concluded that, “there’s a far greater need for scientific thinking in the world than just within those who go on to do research science as a job” (*).

(*) Interestingly, he also stated “Scientific disciplines need to teach into a far greater array of courses than just science” – an interesting thought for the question of how to best design the Murdoch spine.

Article provided by Dr Schroeder-Turk


Professor Bruce Gardiner, recently took part in meetings at Parliament House to discuss Western Australia’s potential to become a world leading hub for space research and technology development.

Western Australia’s geographical location, widespread remote locations and current space infrastructure, places the state in an ideal position to play a significant role in future space and technology developments.

The delegation was hosted by WA Senator, Linda Reynolds and WA Chief Scientist, Peter Klinken. The group also consisted of representatives from Curtin, ECU and UWA, and from CISCO, the CSIRO and WA State Government.

As a result of the meeting in Canberra and the Federal Governments’ recent announcement that an Australian Space Agency will be created, the group will start a scoping study, which will outline the states capacity to have a Western Australian Space Industry, Science and Technology Centre.

Photo 20 Bruce at Parliament House.jpg

Left to right: Tom Goerke from CISCO; Tim Walton from Curtin; Prof. Peter Quinn from UWA; Prof. Bruce Gardiner from Murdoch; Minister Pyne; Prof. Phil Bland from Curtin; Senator Reynolds; Brett Biddington from ECU; WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken; Chris Tallentire MLA; Prof Stephen Tingay from Curtin

Article content provided by Professor Bruce Gardiner, photo courtesy of Senator Linda Reynolds