School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

May

Dean - Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

It is hard to believe that first semester is already drawing to a close. I hope that it has been a successful first half of the year for our students, particularly our first year cohort.

My heartfelt words of congratulations go to Dr Danny Toohey for completing his PhD with excellent comments from the examiners. This is an extraordinary outcome considering that Danny also carried a high teaching and administration load, including being Academic Chair for our programs in Singapore and Dubai. Well done Danny – you are one of our highest achievers!

I would like to say a very big thank you to all of our School staff for their hard work this semester. To our academic staff, for their tireless efforts in supporting our students, and the administration and technical staff who in turn support both academics and students. It has been a challenging time, as the University deals with economic constraints and overall a testing period for the tertiary sector. The strength of our School lies in everyone working together and supporting each other.

Some wonderful examples of the commitment from School staff and our students who light the way for high school students interested in STEM disciplines, were the Engineering Challenge and BiG Day In™. These events are featured in this month’s Newsletter, as well as other articles from our staff and from around the School and the University.

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Louis Grynfeltt left, helps a student with the AV display, at the recent BiG Day In TM

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 - SEIT@murdoch.edu.au. 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 in the Newsletter.

Best wishes,

Bodzio Dlugogorski

CONTENT

SEIT PhD Student Acepted on ASBTE Executive
Are You Eligible for a ‘Murdoch First Scholarship’?
Dean's Scholarshiip for Scientific Excellence
Help Lead the Way to Clean Energy Storage
Apply for Honours and Post Graduate Courses
Congratulations to Staff Gaining Promotion or Tenure
Learning and Teaching Spotlight - Calling All Unit Coordinators, 'Your School Needs' You!
Update from the Technical Resource Manager
Equipment Grants Scheme Results For 2018
Data Science Week
Dr Nicola Armstrong Appointed as Director of BioInfoSummer 2018
Bacteria Used In New Wastewater Technology
Commercialisation and IP Workshops
Science and Engineering Challenge 2018
Award Wining IMNIS Mentoring Program for MPhil/PhD Students to Continue in 2018/2019
The BiG Day In TM
Year Nine Students discover Soil Science Chemistry

OUR STUDENTS

SEIT PHD STUDENT ACCEPTED ON ASBTE EXECUTIVEPhoto 2 Azin Poster.jpg

Congratulations to Azin Azadi for being nominated and accepted as the Western Australian student representative on the Australasian Society for Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering (ASBTE) Executive. She should be very proud of this achievement.

Azin has recently joined the school as a PhD student working with Professor Bruce Gardiner and Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk and recently presented a poster of her work at the annual ASBTE conference held in Fremantle in April this year.

Article provided by Professor Bruce Gardiner            

Azin Azadi and the poster she presented at the ASBTE conference

ARE YOU ELIGIBLE FOR A 'MURDOCH FIRST SCHOLARSHIP'?

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START YOUR JOURNEY TO SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE

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HELP LEAD THE WAY TO CLEAN ENERGY STORAGE

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APPLY FOR HONOURS AND POST GRADUATE COURSES

If you or someone you know is interested in continuing postgraduate study, see the opportunities available below:

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To find out more go to http://Murdoch.edu.au/Honours-courses

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To find out more go to http://postgraduate.murdoch.edu.au/

OUR STAFF

CONGRATULATIONS TO STAFF GAINING PROMOTION OR TENURE

The following staff have gained promotion and continuing tenure this month. A great achievement by all and a wonderful moment for the School, please join me in congratulating them when you meet them.

Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering and Chemistry
Associate Professor Aleks Nikoloski (promotion)
Dr Hans Oskierski

Electrical Engineering, Energy and Physics
Professor Bruce Gardiner
Dr Drew Parsons
Dr Almantas Pivrikas

Information Technology
Dr Polychronis Koutsakis

LEARNING AND TEACHING SPOTLIGHT

Calling All Unit Coordinators, Your School Needs You!

The IRU (Innovative Research Universities) Calibration Project has been gaining attention recently. What is it I hear you asking? In a nutshell, it is an academic peer review of student outcomes in a unit. Participation by having units calibrated is good because it is evidence of external benchmarking, which is required by the TEQSA Higher Education Standards.

I have heard that this process may become mandatory in the near future, with schools being required to have a certain percentage of units calibrated. It would be great for EIT to get on the front foot and start having units calibrated this year. I have also heard that almost all professional accreditation bodies are requiring external benchmarking. If your course has an accreditation process impending, then having some calibrations done would be a fantastic component of the preparation.

The process is not onerous for unit coordinators with full support provided by Alison Black, Quality Assurance Coordinator. Alison presented on the process at our March Learning and Teaching Committee meeting and it was very clear that she does most of the work. Another advantage of the process is its value as a professional development experience for unit coordinators.

Please consider putting up your unit for calibration, it can even be a Semester 1 2018 unit. Historically, courses offer ‘capstone’ type units, but any unit can be calibrated. If you are interested, drop me an email k.rowen@murdoch.edu.au and I will put you in touch with Alison to get the ball rolling.

Article provided by Dr Kate Rowan, Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching

UPDATE FROM THE TECHNICAL RESOURCE MANAGER

Space News

The Network and Gaming Labs and student space renovations are well under way with demolition works completed and refurbishment tracking well.

Cabling is currently being installed (see photo below) and the builder has advised that the final clean is scheduled for Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd of June.

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The School has engaged with PDCSO (Property, Development Commercial Service Office) to furnish and increase the postgraduate student workstations in 340.3.001. This will mean that some CMEC technical staff will be required to move offices. All affected SEIT staff will be advised when the moves will need to take place. I would like to also add that, after ongoing constructive dialogue with PDCSO and the Separation Science Group, the School has been allocated all of 245.2.051.

Equipment News

The School has recently ordered two pieces of equipment, a Struers DiscoplanTS, which is a thin section cutting and grinding machine and a Struers Labosystem-300 for polishing; both acquisitions are replacing equipment which is over thirty years old. The new equipment will enhance both teaching and research activities. We are still trying to determine the best location for these instruments, please contact me for further information.

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Discoplan TS LaboSystem-300

The Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) has been commissioned and while there are some minor outstanding issues with supply of parts, the instrument is operational. If you are interested in running any samples please contact Marc Hampton.

Other News

The Technical team is developing a project to create a jobs/tasks scheduling database. This would be for activities that require workshop use and would assist in managing the technical staff workloads, with the possibility of applying the database to other areas in the School.
Also the School recently provided technical assistance for Dr Chris Smith and the presentation of his Naked Scientist science show held at Guildford Grammar School on Friday 4th of May. Thank you to not only the technical staff who prepared and assisted in presenting the show, but also to the staff that covered activities back at the School.

Safety

In the last two months, the School has had five low level incidents and one medium level rated incident. There are two incidents still under review and it appears that the students involved in these may have had existing medical conditions.

Staff are reminded to continue to update and fill out RAMP forms. Please remind any postgraduate students working in your labs that they are responsible for wearing their PPE.

I have engaged University ITS to look at a storage solution to centralise and make more accessible, general safety information, and equipment and instrumentation information to School staff and students.

Technical Staff

The technical staff, like all, are struggling with the demand on their workloads and as always will continue to do their best to meet staff requests. With semester two approaching, if there are any changes to undergraduate unit experiments, please advise the technical staff as soon as possible.
Please be aware some technical staff are taking long service leave and I will be trying to get partial relief, but there are no guarantees. We are unsure if Caitlin Sweeney will continue her secondment in Outreach, but staff will be advised when further information becomes available.

Article provided by Andrew Foreman, Technical Resources Manager

EQUIPMENT GRANTS SCHEME RESULTS FOR 2018

The process for allocating the Equipment Grant Scheme for 2018 was somewhat delayed pending clarification of the School budget, but eventually applications for about $200,000 were received from the academic and technical staff. These were assessed by a Sub-Committee of the SEIT Research Committee. Sub-Committee members for this year were, Professor Glenn Hefter (Chair, Associate Dean Research), Dr Kate Rowen (Associate Dean Learning & Teaching), Mr Andrew Foreman (Technical Services Manager), Dr Amy Glen, Dr Manickam Minakshi and Dr Ferdous Sohel, bearing in mind that the EGS funds both research and teaching equipment. The recommendations of the Sub-Committee were subsequently endorsed by the SRC and approved by the School Dean.

As only $130,000 was available under the EGS, and as the accounting rules imposed a $5,000 minimum, inevitably not all requests could be funded, or in some cases could not be funded in full. A list of the successful applications is provided below. The Sub-Committee thanks all participants for their applications and passes its commiserations to those who were unsuccessful on this occasion.

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Article provided by Professor Glenn Hefter, Associate Dean Research

DATA SCIENCE WEEK

Data Science week is an opportunity to promote research and activities that make use of large data sets. The Health, Agriculture and Environment sectors rely on the accurate collection and analysis of large data sets to identify correlations, trends and efficacy of different treatments and approaches. Although there is a great variety in the types of data collected, there is often a high degree of similarity in the techniques used to analyse the data.

Photo 6 Plant Data Science week.jpgA range of activities will run during Data Science Week on 17th May, including a half-day Symposium at Murdoch on Health, Agriculture and Environment. The symposium will bring together expert scientists from the three fields to present their latest research and to provide opportunities to discuss the current best practices in the analysis and interpretation of data in these fields. A number of researchers from SEIT will feature at the symposium including Dr Nicola Armstrong from Maths and Stats presenting on “The Genetics of White Matter Hyperintensities”, Dr Rick Tankard also from Maths and Stats presenting on “Identifying disease-causing repeat expansions in next-generation sequencing data”. The symposium will also feature presentations from two of our PhD candidates, Mr Nicholas Daniel (Chemistry), “Soil water repellency: A molecular-level perspective of an agricultural constraint” and Mr Karl Svatos (IT) “Modern day machine learning pipelines and the complexities of large scale IOT roll-outs on IT infrastructure”

Article provided by Dr David Henry, Symposium Chair

DR NICOLA ARMSTRONG APPOINTED AS DIRECTOR OF BIOINFOSUMMER 2018

Congratulations to Dr Nicola Armstrong on her appointment as Director of BioInfoSummer 2018. BioInfoSummer is a key research training event in Australia, jointly funded by the Department of Education and Training and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI). Held over 5 days, the event allows attendees to develop their bioinformatic skills, national networks and employability, and nurtures the collaborations between the mathematics, statistics and information technology disciplines. In 2018, AMSI BioInfoSummer will be hosted by the University of Western Australia in partnership with Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University. This is the first time AMSI BioInfoSummer will be held in Western Australia. The event will run from 3rd to 7th December 2018.

BACTERIA USED IN NEW WASTEWATER TECHNOLOGY

A group of scientists in the School of Engineering and IT have combined in depth knowledge of bacterial processes in soil and water with the engineering requirements of industry. After 20 years of well-cited research, this has led to multidisciplinary research projects such as the production of biocement, microbial fuel cells, and a novel low energy option for biological wastewater treatment.

Consisting of Dr Ralf Cord-Ruwisch (Leader), Mr Liang Cheng (Postdoc), Dr Raphael Flavigny (PhD graduate), Mr Md Iqbal Hossain (PhD student), the research group have realised that the 100-year-old technology of degrading bacteria by bubbling air into water to supply oxygen to pollutants was ineffective and expensive. This discovery is the result of collaboration with industry and the Water Corporation over a number of years and shows that it costs cities a significant slice of their electricity budget and is key driver of high water costs. The group also researched alternative processes such as anaerobic digestion and microbial fuel cells, but could not deliver in terms of reaction speed, or treatment efficiency

By collaborating with industry and the Water Corporation over a number of years, the research group consisting of Dr Ralf Cord-Ruwisch (Leader), Mr Liang Cheng (Postdoc), Dr Raphael Flavigny (PhD graduate), Mr Md Iqbal Hossain (PhD student), have realised that the 100-year-old technology of degrading bacteria by bubbling air into water to supply oxygen to pollutants was ineffective and expensive. In fact it costs cities a significant slice of their electricity budget and is key driver of high water costs. The group also researched alternative processes such as anaerobic digestion and microbial fuel cells, but could not deliver in terms of reaction speed, or treatment efficiency.

By learning from nature, where soil bacteria called GAO have evolved the capacity to absorb pollutants in the absence of oxygen and store them as oil droplets (or to be precise, as a precursor of bioplastics, as studied in another research project by a different group in the School), the team has built completely different bioreactors. These use concentrated biofilms enriched with recently discovered, naturally occurring GAO bacteria, which absorb pollutants while exposed to the wastewater and then breathe air directly after draining of the treated wastewater. By building engineering technology around this existing natural opportunity, (where the capability of bacteria to take oxygen from air by what is termed passive aeration) a process was developed that proves to clean wastewater by cutting >80% of the electricity costs for aeration.

The process used is called Passive Aeration Simultaneous Nitrification and Denitrification (PASND) and the limited net growth of the biomass also reduces excess sludge production (the second highest operating cost) by more than 70 percent. The research work makes extensive use of process control implementation in experimental laboratories, mathematical modelling of complex chemical and biological processes, process optimisation, cost benefit analysis, and is a good example of how ongoing impact research at the university directly feeds into engineering teaching.

Murdoch University encourages their researchers to take inventions to market and the research group have filed a patent application and formed a start-up company to commercialise the technology. This clearly disruptive technology will be facing a well-known conservative and risk-averse water industry. The next step is pilot evaluation and could be a collaboration between Murdoch University and the start-up company.

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Unique phenomenon of a network of amoeba cells found to predominate in the biofilm of the described PASND process

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Discovery of “fruiting bodies” formed as a result of social behaviour of the amoeba predominating the biofilm.

Article provided by Dr Ralf Cord-Ruwisch

FOR EVERYONE

COMMERCIALISATION AND IP WORKSHOPS

A reminder to research staff and postgraduate students to attend the Commercialisation and IP Workshop being run by Research and Innovation.

The workshop is specifically tailored to the School of Engineering and IT and covers:

  • IP basics - what is a patent, when to patent, trademarks, confidential information
  • Commercialisation – what to know and who to talk to at Murdoch University
  • Conflicts of interest

When and Where:
Friday, 8th June 2018
1:00pm to 4:00pm
350.3.003, The Launchpad

Registration link: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/commercialisation-ip-workshop-seit-tickets-45331955098

For more information on this and other Research and Innovation events go to: http://our.murdoch.edu.au/Research-and-Innovation/Events/

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING CHALLENGE 2018

For the second year in a row, Murdoch University and SEIT supported the National Science and Engineering Challenge that ran over four days in April. During this time, 700 students from 27 schools came through the doors. The event provided a wonderful opportunity for SEIT to promote our Outreach programs and courses and to make positive connections with Heads of Science and secondary school teachers involved in the STEM curriculum. There was much interest in what was on offer at Murdoch.

The Challenge is a national initiative of Newcastle University in partnership with Rotary Clubs that aims to enrich secondary school students’ perceptions of science and engineering and to allow them to experience aspects of science and engineering they would not normally have the opportunity to participate in and experience within their own school environment. In particular, the Challenge focuses on inspiring Year 10 students to consider a future career in STEM by choosing to study the enabling sciences and mathematics in Year 11 and 12.

The Murdoch University and SEIT presence focussed on running the ‘Confounding Communications’ activity, which was formally sponsored by SEIT. Each group of students invented encodings schemes for transmitting sets of symbols using only pulses of coloured light (Red, Green, Blue + combinations). Groups competed on their ability to communicate messages along a fibre-optic using their encoding schemes. This was a half-day-long activity and feedback from both students and teachers on our presentation of this activity and the staff and Murdoch students assisting, was very positive.

With a number of Murdoch IT students volunteering their time, Murdoch University was able to provide a very ‘hands on’ engagement experience. SEIT students gained valuable experience as event staff and provided the opportunity to add some volunteering experience to their curriculum. SEIT academics, Outreach staff and School staff supervised and supported activities and helped to establish an authentic link to the secondary schools attending the event.

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The Murdoch University presence dwarfed that of other local sponsors providing us a significant ongoing branding opportunity. Due to the substantial number of MU volunteers available on some days, we were frequently able to contribute staff to assist with the running of other activities. This visible presence, along with the Murdoch University and the SEIT-branded collateral that was provided to the secondary students, extended the Murdoch University presence across the event floor.

The positive contribution of our SEIT students, staff and Outreach Officers provided many rewards in the form of promotional opportunities, recognition of our service to the Western Australian education system, and in particular, the fostering of, and enrichment of secondary school students positive perceptions of science and engineering.

Article provided by Dianne Noonan, Student Advisor

AWARD WINNING IMNIS MENTORING PROGRAM FOR MPHIL/PHD STUDENTS TO CONTINUE IN 2018/19

“IMNIS, the Academy’s PhD student mentoring scheme, has taken out the award for the Best Higher Education and Training Collaboration 2016 at the Business/Higher Education Round Table national awards. Murdoch University’s School of Engineering, is one of the key partners in the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) PhD student mentoring scheme, since 2016, which aims to develop a new generation of industry-aware PhD graduates” - News@Murdoch Thursday 17th November 2016.

Only 30% of PhD students in Australia go into Industry or Government compared to over 70% in most industrialised countries. The mentoring program initiated by Dr Peter Lilly launched in 2016, aims to raise the level of Industry-University collaboration in Australia. IMNIS is an initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE). It is coordinated via various professional bodies such as the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, Engineers Australia and the Society for Petroleum Engineers, as well as other interested groups.

  • IMNIS is supported by the relevant Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)  Deans and Heads of School;
  • It is focused on STEM PhD students in their 2nd year and above, and requires active participation by them to enter and remain in the program; and
  • Over time, this could become a standard part of PhD programs for STEM students in Australia.

Parisa Esmaeili Moakher, a Murdoch PhD candidate conducting her research on “Energy Optimization in Residential Buildings”, participated as a mentee in the pilot program in Minerals and Energy in 2016. She recommends the inspiring book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg to all her peers, it provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship and building a satisfying career. Thirteen students from the School of Engineering & Information Technology participate in the mentoring program in 2017/18, compared to only three in the initial pilot program in 2016/17.

The feedback from the current mentees is positive and encouraging.

John Demol, PhD candidate in Mineral Science and Extractive Metallurgy said, “Definitely getting some useful perspectives on a variety of career related topics.”

Sangita Bista, Environmental Engineering PhD candidate advised, “It is a great thing to have within the industry, so that the postgraduates do not feel isolated from the industry.”

Anup KC, Electrical Engineering PhD candidate stated, “It was really wonderful to share my research experiences so far and my future endeavours. I had a nice time talking to my mentor and receiving practical suggestions for my personal and professional progress.”

Industry minded PhD candidates from a range of disciplines participate in the current program.

Kevin Ong, IT PhD candidate said, “The meetings with my mentor have provided me with some clarity regarding career pathways that I would be interested in and could pursue following completion of my PhD. We have also engaged in productive discussions regarding how I might pursue these pathways and possible opportunities for engaging with industry.”

Kamal Siddique, Chemistry and Engineering PhD candidate stated, “It was indeed a nice platform provided by IMNIS that supplement a high profile industrial professional person. This helps me in acquiring a comprehensive knowledge of skills industries look into the postgraduates. I thank Murdoch University and IMNIS for providing such a collective networking opportunity."

Jomana Al-Nu'airat, Chemistry and Engineering PhD candidate proudly shared her experience in the program, “My PhD project is all about spontaneous fires of coal, and guess what? Not one of the coalmines I contacted over two years agreed to provide me with a bucket of coal. My mentor and his friends in the mentor loop helped me communicate with BHP Billiton and Mt Arthur Coal to get coal samples immediately. I will always be thankful to them. The best advice I can give to my fellow PhD students is to pencil down their goals and learn how to engage with industry and work to build a professional industrial network.”

The Dean of Engineering and Information Technology, Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski, an ATSE Fellow and the current Chair of the Western Australian Division Committee of ATSE, encourages the continued participation of MPhil/PhD students in this program.

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, Executive Director of IMNIS, is keen to see the mentoring program to become a standard part of PhD programs for STEM students in Australia. Dr Evans-Galea, thanked all the mentees from our School that volunteered and contributed to the success of the program, which is now nationally recognised and progressing to the third round.

Rosie Price, Academic Support Officer, Research will send an email to all the current MPhil/PhD students who qualify for expression of interest to participate in the next round (2018/19).

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Francis Norman from NERA and Engineers Australia is an IMNIS mentor and presented at the program event

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AusIMM members with student mentees participating in the IMNIS program

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AusIMM members and IMNIS mentees enjoying the camaraderie

Please visit the IMNIS, ATSE and School websites for more information:

https://www.atse.org.au/content/publications/media-releases/2016/imnis-wins-collaboration-award.aspx

http://www.atse.org.au/content/industry-mentoring-network-in-stem-imnis.aspx

https://www.atse.org.au/

http://www.murdoch.edu.au/School-of-Engineering-and-Information-Technology/Research/Strategic-Research-Areas/

Article provided by Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake

BiG DAY IN

At the recent BiG Day In™ held at Curtin Stadium, the School’s Discipline of Information Technology exhibited their IT student’s design and VR capabilities. The BiG Day In™ is an IT careers conference designed by students for students. Aimed at both high school (Years 9-12) and University students interested in careers in technology, it is intended to show the breadth of and overall help students explore suitable careers in IT and Computer Science related employment.

Leading speakers from companies such as Bankwest, WiseTech Global, Palo Alto Networks, the Department of Social Services Cyber Security, Westpac, Microsoft talked about the future of technology and how students can get involved in shaping the future. In between industry speakers, students visited exhibitor stands to learn about where a career in IT can take them. The Murdoch VR exhibition provided engaging, hands on activities that saw students lining up to have a turn and learn about this immersive computer-generated world. The VR games on offer were designed by Murdoch IT students, thus creating further positive publicity for Murdoch University and the IT discipline. Fitted with VR headsets and armed with hand controls, it was a great source of amusement to onlookers as each user interacted with the virtual environment.

The event afforded Murdoch University the opportunity to establish an authentic link to Schools and individuals through interactions with the students and teachers and of course, through the very well received, ‘headsets/hands on’ VR activity. Murdoch’s presence was well supported by Louis Grynfeltt, Mohd Fairuz Shiratuddin (IT staff), Mayin Chong (Future Students) as well as Anna Whitcher and Sava Markovic (IT Comp Science/Games Tech student volunteers). May, Anna and Sava responded to the many questions about studying IT and distributed Murdoch University-branded/ SEIT-branded promotional merchandise.

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YEAR NINE STUDENTS DISCOVER SOIL SCIENCE CHEMISTRY

Over the last few months, Dr Leonie Hughes, with assistance from Miss Caitlin Sweeney, has been developing an ongoing soil science project for year 9 students at Applecross Senior High School.

This project has been the brainchild of Dr Hughes and will see the students test soil that they have sampled from Wireless Hill for various indicators of soil health such as pH, conductivity, soil repellency and water content.

The project aims to show students how chemistry can be applied, a concept many students struggle with. It also showcases to the students the great research that is happening at Murdoch University in the area of soil science chemistry, with Dr David Henry delivering a fantastic lecture to the students explaining his research and the applicability of soil science chemistry.

Heartfelt thanks to Dr Leonie Hughes for developing and delivering this project which will have a positive impact on the students, not only in terms of giving them a positive experience with Murdoch University, but also with Chemistry. 

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From far left Dr Leonie Hughes, Dr David Henry, Caitlin Sweeney with the Year 9 students from Applecross SHS

Article provided by Caitlin Sweeney, Science Outreach Officer