Showcasing Early Career Researchers 2017

Showcasing Early Career Researchers celebrates good research, communicated well.

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Entrants were asked to submit a 30-second video demonstrating that they could convey the aim of their research clearly and effectively. Forty-one video entries were received and from those, five finalists have been chosen to attend the CRC Association conference in Canberra, Collaborate | Innovate | 2017, from 23–25 May and give a five-minute oral presentation about their research. The judges were looking for entrants who demonstrate excellent oral presentation skills. One of the five finalists will be selected as the overall winner by an audience vote at the conference.

See the five finalists

Entries received

Mr Andoh Michael Afful, Space Environment Research Centre

Enhancing Space Debris Object Characterisation for Reliable Orbit Determination and Prediction

Space based systems are a critical enabler of a modern networked capability indispensable to services critical to our every day life. The principal threat to space operations is driven by smaller and much more numerous debris objects. This study leads to a better understanding of the space environment and its effects on technology and space-dependent systems and thus will contribute immensely to support the current capabilities of existing space situational awareness techniques in Australia.

Ms Helene Aflenzer, Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC

Impact of ocean acidification on the availability and toxicity of trace elements and nutrients

My research will look at the combined effects of ocean acidification and the increase in temperature in Southern Ocean environments. It will observe the impacts on trace metals and nutrient chemistry as a result of the ocean’s uptake of anthropogenic CO2 and the effect on marine organisms such as phytoplankton. Various modern analytical techniques will be used for experiments. This will be beneficial for fisheries and conservation managers as they depend on nutrient quantity and quality.

Mr Teuku Aulia Geumpana, CRC for Spatial Information

Information Priority to Improve Performance in Disaster Response

Limited network resources in disaster area may exacerbate the communication of important information between emergency teams. The combination of wireless mobile services and spatial information services may speed up the data collection during the emergency operations. However, when insufficient bandwidth presents, it will prevent some information from reaching the control room in time. My framework will prioritize information based on its urgency even in such vulnerable disaster environment.

Ms Ut Bui, Wound Management Innovation CRC

Identify risk factors associated with infection in chronic leg ulcers

Chronic leg ulcers often take a long time to heal. Infection causes delayed healing and negatively impacts on patients; the healthcare system and society. Identifying risk factors for infection in chronic leg ulcers has been highlighted for decades, yet little has been done. My project will identify risk factors predicting infection in chronic leg ulcers. This will enable individualised interventions for each patient, thus, promote wound healing, reduce costs and improve patient quality of life.

Ms Ru Ying Cai, CRC for Living with Autism

Emotion regulation in adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The prevalence of affective disorders such as anxiety and depression in individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is much higher than in the general population. Previous research has shown emotion regulation and intolerance to uncertainty to be associated with the development and maintenance of affective disorders and both are malleable by treatment, however no research has assessed the impact of both on mental health outcomes. Thus, my PhD research will assess this mechanism.

Mr Jiaqi Chen, Excellerate Australia

Design of Vehicle Frontal Protection Systems Capable of Meeting Future Pedestrian Safety Requirements

This research is between QUT and Toyota Australia, addressing the potential risk our widespread bull bars impose on pedestrians during road accidents here in Australia. With little knowledge previously existed in the industry, I have developed a deep understanding of global best practice to create a pedestrian friendly vehicle frontal protection system. I used dynamic FEA and physical test to validate the new material and structure to provide a real-life solution for the public–targeting 2019.

Miss Edith Drajkopyl, CRC for Mental Health

The nature and severity of central nervous system dysfunction after concussion in contact sports

Do you or your children play sport? Playing a sport increases a person’s risk for concussion. My research seeks to understand the way brain function changes following sport-related concussions. I’m investigating if the number and force of head impacts in contact sport are linked with concussion, and if common concussion tests are valuable for identifying this type of brain injury. My research can help the Australian health industry better test and manage concussion and make sport safer.

Dr Luchun Duan, CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Understanding bioavailability of contaminants in soils to improve risk assessment

People are often exposed to toxic contaminants in soil and dust. Australian guidelines for soil assessment are based mainly on total contaminant concentration, but this does not take into account bioavailability: we do not absorb 100% of any contaminant. Therefore risk can be overestimated. My PhD showed that the absorption rate of contaminants differ depending on the soil type. I plan to use this to improve risk assessment of contaminated land in Australia.

Ms Stefanie Duguay, Queensland University of Technology

“It’s just me”: Investigating queer women’s social media participation and representation

Queer women experience high rates of anxiety and depression from the double disadvantage of sexual stigma and gender inequality. Incorporating digital methods, this research identifies how queer women counteract this by using social media for self-validation, connection, and challenging gender and sexual norms. Also identifying features and regulations that inhibit these activities, I provide recommendations for future social media development that fosters positive outcomes for diverse users.

Mr Carlos Espejel, CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction

Mine planning optimisation to increase profitability and extend the life of mine

Carlos Espejel’s research is in mine planning optimisation. He incorporates the benefits and complexities of a solution stack of innovative technologies identified by CRC ORE to separate non-valuable material before reaching the process plant. His tool has the potential to add significant additional value to a mining project.

Dr Steve Gehly, Space Environment Research Centre

Sensor Network Optimization for Space Object Tracking

Space has become an increasingly important part of our global infrastructure, with satellites supporting a number of crucial applications. Debris left behind by previous missions poses a serious hazard to active spacecraft, and must be monitored by sensors in order to prevent collisions. The network of sensors must be tasked efficiently to search for new objects and maintain knowledge of the large catalog of known space objects; my research develops innovative algorithms to achieve these goals.

Ms Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs, Low Carbon Living CRC

Urban heat stress resilience

As the frequency and intensity of heatwaves are growing, strategies to improve our resilience are becoming more vital. The elements of heat stress resilience, including adaptation, vulnerability and the built environment, have not been explored in connection with the associated negative impacts on public health, water and energy use. This study has analysed the interplay between heat stress resilience and heatwave impacts to identify new means for the adaptation to and mitigation of heatwaves.

Dr Anjali Jaiprakash, Queensland University of Technology

Vision Based Leg-manipulation Device

Knee arthroscopy is a common, minimally invasive surgical procedure where surgeons move the leg to create spaces in the knee joint to use a camera and tools to fix problems in the knee joint.
Many surgeons believe that knee arthroscopy is a difficult procedure with a long learning curve. There is a high incidence of unintended damage due to surgeons operating at their physical and mental limit. A robotic leg manipulation device with vision will bring us one step closer to safer surgeries.

Mr Chao Ji, CRC for Polymers

Harness the intramolecular electrons of enzymes: An alternative pathway for enzymatic fuel cells

We demonstrate for the first time that the intramolecular electron transfer within single enzyme molecule can be harnessed to generate electrical power. By decoupling the redox reactions within a single enzyme (e.g., laccase), we achieved electricity from recalcitrant pollutants (e.g. bisphenol-A, syringaldehyde, phenol) and toxic organics (e.g. hydroquinone) in a sole-enzyme based EFC. The novel enzymatic power generation is shown to be potentially feasible utilising wastewater as fuel.

Dr Wei Kang, Data to Decisions CRC

Beat the News

The Beat the News™ program seeks to develop, integrate and evaluate technology that will automatically and accurately predict the occurrence of future population-level events such as social disruption, political crises, election outcomes and disease outbreak. The predictions will be generated through analysis of open source information, and importantly the combination of data from a diverse range of sources.

Mr Timothy Kodikara, Space Environment Research Centre

Effects of Energetic and Dynamic Coupling of the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere System on the Estimation of Upper Atmospheric Density

To protect the space assets we need to be able to precisely predict the orbit of satellites and any other objects in the environment. More than half of the total Earth-orbiting satellites are in the 160-2000 km altitude range (LEO) (worth hundreds of billion USD). The largest uncertainty in prediction in the LEO region comes from the poor estimation of atmospheric drag. The aim is to forecast precise air density to predict the orbit with an accuracy better than 50m, 1-2 days in advance.

Ms Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez, Queensland University of Technology

Platformed racism: the mediation and coordination of an Australian race-based controversy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

My research examines how social media platforms amplify, manufacture and curate racist discourse through their design, technological affordances and policies. The entanglement between the national specificity of racism and the medium-specificity of platforms triggers a new form of racism that I call ‘platformed racism’. I study platformed racism through an Australian race-based controversy, the booing of the AFL Indigenous star Adam Goodes, as it was mediated by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Miss Stacey McCormack, Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC

Advancing Antarctic ecosystem models for management applications

My work addresses the uncertainties related to managing marine ecosystems. I specifically focus on a region of Antarctica that is a hot spot for biological activity, from krill up to the well-known Antarctic predators. Ecosystem models are the only tool we have available to explore the potential impacts of climate change and fishing. Information provided by these models is vital to guide sustainable management decisions and protect Antarctic environments for the future.

Mr Dylan McFarlane, Plant Biosecurity CRC

The role of fungi and their associated volatiles in the ecology of Tribolium castaneum

Tribolium castaneum, the rust red flour beetle, is a major pest of bulk stored grain products worldwide. The beetles feed on these grain products and cause significant financial losses each year. Recently, the beetles have also been shown to feed on several fungal species that have infested stored linted cotton seeds. My research focuses on identifying these fungal species and assessing the attraction of the beetles to each of them, in order to produce pheromone lures for pest control purposes.

Ms Jacqueline Morris, Plant Biosecurity CRC

Psyllid microflora; implications for liberibacter disease surveillance and control

Both zebra chip and citrus greening disease complexes are caused by Candidatus Liberibacter species and pose a severe economic threat to Australia. The psyllid species that vector these pathogens are not present in Australia. However, Australia is a centre for psyllid diversity and little is known about whether there are Liberibacter-like organisms in native psyllids or if they can confound diagnostics for exotic pathogenic species.

Ms Charity Mundava, CRC for Spatial Information

Biomass Assessment Tools to Assist Grazing Management in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia

Understanding and accurately predicting on-farm biomass (the level of available green feed) to match with livestock feed needs has the opportunity to increase total farm productivity by 11% ($96 per hectare) for sheep and 9.6% ($52 per hectare) for cattle production. Charity’s research is focusing on establishing the stocking rates on Liveringa Station, a pastoral lease property of 263 000 hectares located in the Kimberly Region. The results will lead to environmental and financial gains.

Dr Kathryn Napier, Plant Biosecurity CRC

Delivery of an integrated Internet-based bioinformatics toolkit for plant biosecurity diagnosis and surveillance of viruses and viroids

The detection of exotic plant viruses is critical for Australia and New Zealand plant and agricultural industries. Existing Post Entry Quarantine screening protocols for imported plants rely on multiple time-consuming and expensive assays. We implemented an automated viral surveillance and diagnosis web-based bioinformatics toolkit to detect viruses in quarantine plant samples in a single test. This toolkit improves screening efficiency and diagnostic accuracy, and also decreases cost.

Mr Tim O’Leary, Low Carbon Living CRC

Adaption to energy regulations and energy performance disclosure models for Australian Housing

Set in the background of evolving approaches to building energy assessment, the introduction of 6 star requirements for new homes and emerging residential energy disclosure schemes for the nations older housing stock ,the research examines regulation, design and construction, verification methods and tools that underpin a step change to lower carbon attributed to housing. Energy market disruption and climate change tell us that its never been a better time to live in a more energy efficient home.

Ms Rachel O’Reilly, CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation

Australian sheep meat eating quality, an international perspective.

Despite the USA and China being Australia’s strongest export markets for sheep meat products, the perceived eating quality of Australian sheep meat for these consumers is unknown. My PhD investigates the eating experience of untrained American and Chinese taste panels consuming Australian sheep meat. Greater insights into these key export markets will assist the Australian sheep industry to tailor products and marketing strategies, ensuring product sustainability into the future.

Ms Amal Osman, CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity

A new approach to direct targeted therapies for obstructive sleep apnoea

Patients that have sleep apnoea have pauses in their breathing during sleep. The most common cause of sleep apnoea is a highly collapsible or anatomically narrow upper airway. This research is the first to compare a new 10 minute test while the patient is awake with the more costly and time-consuming method to measure airway collapsibility during sleep. Our exciting findings highlight the potential for our new approach to be used clinically to help determine the appropriate therapy for patients.

Ms Stacey Rabba, CRC for Living with Autism

The development and efficacy of a Family Support Program for newly diagnosed children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

The diagnostic process for autism can be a difficult and overwhelming time for families. The current study will develop and investigate the impact of a Family Support Program (FSP) for families of newly diagnosed children with autism. In doing so it aims to identify and understand the unique needs of parents in this critical post-diagnosis period. By understanding these needs we can provide a tailored counselling session and online resource to more effectively guide parents on this new journey.

Mr Shasidran Raj, Space Environment Research Centre

Space debris tracking using lasers

Space debris is a growing environmental threat. Traveling as fast as 14km/s, a collision with even a fleck of paint can damage solar cells, windows on the ISS and an astronaut’s visor. To avoid a collision , we have find and track these space debris. Lasers can provide high accuracy range measurements but if we can analysis the reflected light and understand how the space debris motion has changed the modulating signal, we can gain a more in-depth prediction of its orbit.

Mr Baljeet Rana, The HEARing CRC

Improving speech understanding in noise for hearing-impaired listeners.

Understanding speech in noise is the most common problem faced by listeners with hearing loss, even with their hearing aids. Spatial cues that help understanding speech in noise are often present at high frequencies but unfortunately, that is where we see maximum hearing loss. We artificially generated these natural high-frequency cues at low and mid frequencies. Results showed that listeners with hearing loss can perform similar to listeners with normal hearing by using these artificial cues.

Ms Nerida Spina, Queensland University of Technology

The effects of NAPLAN on the everyday work of teachers

Politicians tell us NAPLAN helps ensure a quality education for all. To do so, it should change what happens in classrooms for the better. To investigate, I looked at the effect of NAPLAN on teachers’ work, and found that although there are only 3 test days a year, it dominates classroom life – narrowing what’s taught, and justifying practices that increase inequity. We must understand NAPLAN’s impact if we are to build an excellent and equitable education system.

Dr Carly Tozer, Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC

From Antarctic ice cores to Australia’s climate: Hydroclimate reconstructions for improved water resources management

The understanding of drought and flood risk in Australian catchments is limited to short gauged climate records (around 100 years). I use Antarctic icecores to produce catchment-scale climate reconstructions for the past 1000+ years. These long records improve our understanding of the true risk of climate extremes and therefore the vulnerability of our infrastructure. Water authorities are engaged with this research, which helps inform long-term catchment planning and infrastructure investment.

Ms Bep Uink, Murdoch University

Leveraging technology to capture life as it is lived: A translational research partnership with adolescents living in socio-economic disadvantage

I deployed innovative “in situ” methods with some of Australia’s most vulnerable youth-those living in low income communities. These youth can face poor mental health due to high stress from economic hardship and lack of access to services. Yet a hindrance to improved health has been identifying what stressors vulnerable youth face, and how these impact everyday wellbeing. I answered these questions by leveraging smartphones to capture fine-grained momentary experiences among 200+ at-risk youth.

Mr Anthony Umeh, CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Residual contaminants in soil: determining risk to reduce clean-up costs

When soil is contaminated, a fraction of the contaminants can easily enter our bodies. In the other fraction, the contaminants are locked up in the soil. We often don’t know how dangerous this locked-up fraction is. Without this information, the law often requires 100% of the contaminants to be removed, which is expensive and often impossible. I am investigating the risk posed by locked-up contaminants. This knowledge will contribute to better and cheaper management of soil contamination.

Mr Lucas Wager, Wound Management Innovation CRC

DNA tweets to heal wounds

Healing can take years in the elderly. Yet,unlikely help stems from cancer metastasis research.Metastasis is the uncontrolled spread of cells and some processes that promote metastasis, also promote healing. Controlling these processes are microRNAs – short messages, like ‘DNA tweets’ of what was once thought to be Junk DNA. These tweets are information that drives cancer metastasis. We have used next generation sequencing technology to search healing cells for these microRNAs. Now we’re testing if these tweets can be sent to problem wounds to encourage healing.

Mr Stephen Whyte, Queensland University of Technology

The online market for sperm donation: Human mating in the 21st Century

Due (in part) to a more than four decade long worldwide shortage of men donating their gametes to sperm banks and healthcare facilities, a new online (informal) marketplace has emerged. The result is an online market place, in which recipients and donors choose who they will produce life with, free of any medical or legal regulatory frameworks. My research seeks to quantify informal donor and recipient demographics, and develop a more nuanced framework for understanding participant psychology, and what that means for reproductive medicine, fiscal policy, wider society moving forward.

Dr Ayanka Wijayawardena, CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Predicting the risk posed by mixed metal contaminants in soil

Soil is often contaminated with metals, such as lead, and metalloids, such as arsenic. It is bad enough that, on their own, these contaminants can be toxic to people and animals. When they are mixed, however, their toxicity can become even greater. Despite this, mixed metal contaminants are not well understood. With my team, I am developing tools that predict the risk posed by metal mixtures depending on soil properties. These tools will ensure better decisions about managing contaminated land.

Mr Deane Woruba, Plant Biosecurity CRC

Probiotic diets to increase sterile Queensland fruit fly male fitness and performance as part of the sterile insect technique

The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a sustainable method for the control of Australia’s most destructive horticultural pest, the Queensland fruit fly (Qfly). SIT involves rearing and releasing sterile male Qflies to mate with wild females resulting in non-viable offspring. However, the sterile males are not as competitive as the wild males in mating with the wild females. My project aims to improve the mating performance of the sterile males by using beneficial gut bacteria as probiotics.

Dr Yang Yang, Space Environment Research Centre

Statistical Orbit Determination for Space Debris

Did you know over 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junks,” are orbiting our Earth? Understanding the current and future position of these objects is very important to the safety of space flights and the protection of our space assets. My research focuses on improving the accuracy and robustness of statistical orbit determination, and providing reliable orbital information for space tracking, catalogue maintenance and conjunction analysis. This work will contribute to Australia’s capabilities in Space Situational Awareness.