Science, Engineering and Health 2010 Highlights
RMIT's College of Science, Engineering and Health (SEH) has internationally recognised expertise in a diverse range of disciplines, reflected across many outstanding endeavours and achievements in 2010. The College can take pride in the success of individuals and teams in many different areas of teaching and research, as well as in industry and community engagement.
The College is committed to the development of greater links with industry and to key aspirations in international collaboration and urban engagement.
Professor Kefei Zhang from School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences received funding from the Australian Space Research Program to develop advanced platform technologies for space-related research.
Australia's first Chinese Medicine Confucius Institute was opened at RMIT by His Excellency Xi Jinping, Vice-President of the People's Republic of China. The Confucius Institute will promote the study of Chinese culture and language, with a focus on Chinese Medicine. This is the culmination of a collaborative project between RMIT and Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, supported by the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing.
An RMIT-led research team led by Professor Kefei Zhang (School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences) received significant federal government funding. A grant of $2.85 million from the Australian Space Research Program, in addition to funding from partner organisations, will allow a team of national and international researchers to develop advanced platform technologies for space-related research. The project will develop a suite of satellite-based technology platforms for in-space tracking and navigation, precise positioning, space weather, atmospheric modelling and climate monitoring
The consortium includes researchers from the Bureau of Meteorology, Curtin University of Technology, the University of NSW, Electro Optic Systems, GPSat Systems Australia and National Central University, Taiwan, in conjunction with the World Data Centre for Meteorology and the Taiwan National Space Organisation.
Professor Zhang also took part in the joint Australia-China Science and Technology Week at the Shanghai World Expo. The Expo featured collaboration between his research team and the China University of Mining and Technology.
RMIT University and Huawei Technologies, a global leader in networking and telecommunications products, announced the establishment a high-speed broadband training centre. As part of the Next Generation Technology Training Centre, the $250,000 lab will train 2,000 students nationally in a range of technologies over the next five years.
Professor Adrian Mouritz and Dr Stefanie Feih (School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering) are collaborating with Virginia Tech to improve the fire safety of ships. The team received a $1 million grant from the US Office of Naval Research to investigate models to predict the softening and failure of aluminium ship structures. The project will involve numerical modelling of complex structures combined with experimental testing using state-of-the-art research facilities at RMIT and in the US.
Professor John Hawley (School of Medical Sciences) and other SEH researchers worked on an international project investigating connections between nutrition and exercise. The project includes researchers from the Australian Institute of Sport, McMaster University in Canada and the Nestlé Research Centre in Switzerland. The investigation will look at whether the combined effect of nutrition and exercise can positively impact the quality and quantity of muscle mass in both young and ageing adults.
Professor Buckeridge, Head of the School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, has been made an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious learned society of Hungary.
Professor Jorma Ahokas (School of Medical Sciences) was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Japan's Toho University. Professor Ahokas has collaborated with the staff of Toho's Department of Biology for more than a decade to extend the educational experience of their biology students through his expertise in toxicology.
Ben Marshall, currently undertaking an Advanced Diploma with the School of Engineering TAFE, became the first TAFE student to participate in the RMIT International Industry Experience and Research Program (RIIERP), which places more than 160 students a year with corporations in 16 countries. An innovative collaboration with the French government and industry is enabling students to gain invaluable industry experience with Degrémont and Airbus in France.
RMIT's undergraduate environmental research project in Vietnam reached an impressive milestone with 100 students now having participated in this valuable learning opportunity. In 2010, 12 students took part in an extensive two-week research project focused on the Clean Development Mechanism, an element of the Kyoto Protocol allowing developed countries to offset their emissions by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.
RMIT developed its agreement with Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China. The exchange offers students English language classes in technical areas including aerodynamics and aircraft design.
Two prominent Asian universities made fact-finding visits to the School of Computer Science and IT, underlining RMIT's status as a major player in regional computer science education. Institut Teknologi Brunei sent envoys for advice on staff training and other guidance, while a delegation from Nanjing University of Science and Technology came to learn about the School's programs, facilities and student experience.
Engineering (Aerospace) student Robert Buettner was accepted as the 2010 RMIT intern with Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, USA, gaining valuable experience within the business development office of the F136 Fighter Engine Team.
Professor Andrew Smith was appointed as Dean of the School of Applied Sciences. He brings a wealth of experience in academic leadership and graduate research methodologies as well as expertise in biochemistry.
Professor Suresh Bhargava appointed to the role of Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor International, a new position created to oversee the College's international engagement.
Research and Innovation
Dr Margaret Lech from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering received an award in the 2010 Telstra Innovation Challenge.
In 2010 SEH researchers addressed issues of concern at local, national and international levels and continued to achieve positive results through their advanced research and ground-breaking technology.
Professor John Handmer was presented with the Bushfire CRC Special Recognition Award for his work following the Black Saturday bushfires. Professor Handmer was a leading researcher and adviser to the CRC's Research Taskforce immediately after the fires.
Dr Stefanie Feih, Dr Tim Doyle and Dr Sebastian Sardina were among 69 leading Australian scientists to be awarded grants from the Australian Academy of Science to undertake important collaborative research under the International Science Linkages – Science Academies Program.
Professor Suresh Bhargava (School of Applied Sciences) was appointed as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in recognition of his status as a world-renowned researcher and university leader and his outstanding contributions to industry-related research.
Dr Margaret Lech (School of Electrical and Computer Engineering) won an award at the 2010 Telstra Innovation Challenge for her research on real-time stress and emotion recognition in speech.
SEH Director of Industry Engagement, Marketing and Development, Dr Elaine Saunders, was honoured by the American Academy of Audiology for her distinguished career in biomedical devices and the significant contribution she has made to the development of the hearing instrument industry. The Samuel F Lybarger Award was presented to Dr Saunders at the AudiologyNOW conference in San Diego recognised.
RMIT has signed an agreement with the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (AMCRC) and ANCA Pty Ltd collaborate on the Diamond Tool Manufacture Project. The project, to be funded by AMCRC over a four-year period, is of strategic importance as it supports further development of the University's advanced manufacturing research in the field of composites manufacturing.
Lauren Burns (School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering) received the John McCarthy Student Award at the International Council of Aeronautical Sciences' 27th Congress. Ms Burns' innovative research in biomimetic design of aerospace composite joints was also recognised earlier in the year with the award of a US$10,000 Amelia Earhart Fellowship.
Two early career researchers from the School of Computer Science and IT were awarded prestigious fellowships to undertake research in the Netherlands and the UK.
Dr Simon Puglisi received a Newton International Fellowship in a scheme run by the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, with only 50 fellowships awarded each year across all disciplines and all countries. Dhirendra Singh won an Endeavour Research Fellowship to work with the Man-Machine Interaction research group at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.
Dr Sharath Sriram (School of Electrical and Computer Engineering) was recognised with a prestigious gold medal awarded by the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering. for his research on high performance piezoelectric thin films.
Metallurgical Engineering graduate Zeljka Pokrajcic was awarded the prestigious Vittorio de Nora Award by the US Minerals, Metals and Materials Society. The award recognises outstanding materials science R&D contributions to the reduction of environmental impacts – particularly greenhouse gas emissions – as applied in global metallurgical industries and extractive processing.
Former RMIT Alumnus of the Year, Dr Amanda Barnard, won a 2010 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for her work investigating safe, lightweight sunscreens. Dr Barnard now leads the CSIRO's Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory and with Professor Ian Snook (School of Applied Sciences) was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant in 2010.
Learning and Teaching
Students from RMIT attending the XLAB International Science Camp in Göettingen, Germany.
RMIT TAFE students were well recognised with industry awards in 2010. Two students received prizes at the Master Builders' Association's Apprenticeship Awards. Diploma of Building and Construction student Daniel Collins won the Florence M Taylor Apprentice of the Year Award and Michael Butera took out the Student of the Year – Diploma of Building award.
Electrical Engineering student Tseada Zekarias was awarded the inaugural ABC Women in Broadcast Technology Scholarship, which includes four weeks' paid on-the-job training in the technical areas of the ABC.
A team of seven students from the Schools of Medical Sciences and Applied Sciences won a bronze medal in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition in which teams of undergraduates from more than 80 universities compete to create “biological machines” that can perform novel functions. The RMIT team created a machine that can economically produce a library of peptides overnight, for drug design and development purposes.
Twenty-one third-year students from the School of Applied Sciences took part in a three-day industry tour hosted by Alcoa in WA. The tour included visits to a working mine site, a rehabilitated mine site area, two alumina refineries, a residue handling area and the company's research and development laboratories.
Two RMIT students joined young students from 13 different countries to attend the XLAB International Science Camp in Göettingen, Germany. The three-week camp offered courses in biology, chemistry and physics, and was supervised by scientists from the University of Göttingen and affiliated research organisations.
Science in the community
RMIT's Elaine Saunders (left) with speakers from the National Science Week Breakfast.
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to science education and career development at all levels, the College was proud to be involved in several National Science Week events. The University hosted students from 30 secondary schools at a careers breakfast seminar compered by the ABC's Bernie Hobbs. Addressing issues of sustainability and natural resource conservation, the event included presentations by three young RMIT alumni.
RMIT also hosted two Science Week touring speakers. Cave enthusiast Dr Hazel Barton presented a public lecture on microbiology, and Daniel Keogh (ABC TV's Hungry Beast) delivered his entertaining Stupid Species show, using animations and stories to show the science and psychology of why everyone is capable of incredible stupidity. The University was represented at local secondary schools for careers presentations and a demonstration of aerospace engineering by PhD student Luke Webb.
More than 1,000 secondary school students took part in school holiday programs and laboratory medicine hospital tours in January and July.
Ninety Year 10 students from across metropolitan and rural Victoria visited RMIT for the Science Experience program in January. The RMIT program, sponsored by Boeing Australia, provided budding scientists with a taste of university life and a glimpse of potential careers in science.
Throughout the year the RMIT Science Roadshow travelled to rural townships in the Western District and to East Gippsland, inspiring school children of all ages to consider a future in science.
RMIT's new solar technology training facilities on the rooftop of building 57.
In 2010 a number of new and refurbished College facilities were completed, meeting the needs of national growth areas and allowing staff to continue to deliver high quality outcomes in teaching and learning.
In August, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, launched Labor's science policy during a visit to RMIT University. He paid tribute to the University's record on innovation and research, saying RMIT was known for excellence across a broad range of areas.
Senator Carr was on the City campus to inspect progress on the Design Hub and to open RMIT's expanded and renovated Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility, part of the School of Applied Sciences. The facility, which is supported by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the ARC, is devoted to physics research and is a linked lab node of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility.
Funding of $1.35 million from the State and Federal Governments supported the redevelopment of RMIT's facilities for dental health programs at the Royal Dental Hospital. The newly completed Dental Education Centre boasts a state-of-the-art dental laboratory, 70 seat lecture theatre, a new and improved computer laboratory and a four-chair clinical simulation and oral radiography room, as well as classrooms, records storage and student and staff spaces.
A government grant supported the development of new solar technology training facilities on the City campus that will allow RMIT to provide leading-edge vocational education in solar, wind and hydro technologies. Students in electrical programs will have the opportunity to gain practical experience in solar grid installation, monitoring and occupational health and safety. Energy-efficient lighting and control systems that will reduce energy consumption by up to a third were included in this project.