Showcasing Early Career Researchers 2015

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 video entries were received and from those, five finalists were chosen to attend the CRC Association conference in Canberra, Australia 2040 from 25-27 May and give a five-minute oral presentation about their research. The judges were looking for entrants who demonstrated 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

Ms Mahsa Amirabdollahian

CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Developing New Methods to Characterise and Monitor Contaminated Groundwater Systems under Uncertainty

Groundwater is about 17% of Australia’s accessible water resources and is susceptible to pollutants. The sources and extent of groundwater contamination needs to be investigated accurately, however the earth’s subsurface is enormously variable with underground data collection difficult and costly. I have developed a framework to rank contaminated regions based on the accessibility, reliability, and availability of geological data, making contamination management more accurate and cost effective.

Mrs Elisabet Andres Garcia

CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

Development of a novel decentralized wastewater treatment system based on combined adsorption and electrochemical oxidation in a 3D reactor

The increase of the population and the water scarcity in the coming years make necessary for us to think about alternative water supplies and more diversified water management systems. Decentralized water treatment plants and the use of reclaimed water provide an excellent opportunity for sustainable water demand. My research is focused on developing a decentralized system to treat waste water on site and produce a clean source of water that could be reused.

Mr Gaston Antezana

Young and Well CRC

Wellbeing agents of change – Technology mediated leadership

As much as technology can be an effective way to engage and improve wellbeing in young people, the inclusion of a human component is essential. My research is finding ways to train change-makers and leaders in our communities to use technology to enhance our human experience. The training uniquely balances e-health and wellbeing knowledge with effective behavioural, engagement and personal skills.

Mr Christoph Brodnik

CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

Transformative Change Strategies

My research is in the project area ‘Better governance for complex decision making’ and is involved in studying the nature and timing of highly successful strategies that lead to system-wide change processes in urban water management.

Dr Anthea Burnett

Vision CRC

Delivering new eye care technology to Indigenous peoples

My research focuses on the implementation of new eye care technologies that will reduce avoidable blindness and improve quality of life for Australia’s Indigenous peoples. I bring together patients voices, together with clinicians and stakeholders viewpoints to generate understanding around appropriate technology. To maximise effectiveness and impact, I incorporate economic and performance modelling to predict and understand how to implement the technology efficiently and appropriately.

Miss Patricia Condous

CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork

The effect of reducing sow confinement during parturition and lactation on sow and piglet welfare, behaviour and performance

The majority of sows are currently housed in farrowing crates during parturition and lactation, but there is concern that the restrictive environment has negative welfare implications. While confinement-free housing has the potential to improve sow welfare it often results in increased piglet mortality, primarily due to crushing by the sow. I am investigating if a period of confinement during the critical stage of a piglets life can reduce piglet mortality, while still improving sow welfare.

Ms Michelle Dever

CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation

Reducing the effects of worms in sheep

Worms are the most significant endemic sheep disease in Australia. Common clinical signs of worm infection in sheep include; diarrhoea, poor growth rates and mortality. My research is focused on reducing the effect of worms for meat-breed lambs, reduce selection pressure for development of drench resistance and develop strategies which will reduce the effects of worms and improve health and welfare.

Ms Maria Vilma Faustorilla

CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Accurate Measurement of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) in Soils and Sediments

Accurate measurement of petroleum contamination in soils and sediments is vital for risk assessment and site remediation. However, the ways that petroleum contamination is measured is inconsistent, with unfavourable impacts on the comparability of results. I am developing novel analytical techniques with quality-control parameters to ensure valid, reliable and reproducible data. This improvement will lead to better risk assessment and correct site remediation of petroleum contamination.

Dr Elise Furlan

Invasive Animals CRC

New eDNA Surveillance For Multiple High Risk Invasive Aquatic Species

Invasive aquatic species are a major threat to native species and ecological communities, nationally and internationally. Early detection of such species while they are still rare is the key to preventing their establishment but can be problematic using conventional sampling. Environmental DNA shows great promise for detecting species at low densities by detecting trace amounts of DNA species leave behind in their environment, but the sensitivity of the technique remains unknown.

Dr Vinita Godinho

Smart Services CRC

Understanding of money in Indigenous Australia, and implications for financial capability and well-being

Indigenous people are the most marginalised Australians, facing multi-dimensional disadvantage including financial exclusion, the lack of access to safe, affordable and appropriate financial products. Yet few studies investigate how they understand money, and want to use it. My study finds that their culturally-shaped understanding of money is distinctive from Western understandings. This has policy implications for the design of sustainable financial products and capability-building programs.

Mr Priyantha Indrajith Hathurusingha Arachchige

Australian Seafood CRC

Experimental studies and predictive modelling of taste taint in farmed barramundi (Lates calcarifer)

Barramundi fish has a high demand as a premium seafood protein. However, inconsistent quality associated with taint in the flesh as earthy/ muddy taste has been identified as a buyer resistance. A quantitative process model that predicts the taint concentrations with the time was developed. Low concentration of hydrogen peroxide will be used with a dedicated apparatus to control the development of taint molecules in growth waters. An extensive data collection for model validation is under way.

Dr Deepthi Iyer

Young and Well CRC

Dating violence, help-seeking and the role of technology: Perceptions among Australian young women

One in four sexually active adolescents experience unwanted sexual encounters, usually due to pressure from their partner and feeling afraid. These young people are at high risk of dangerous health outcomes such as depression, eating disorders, drug abuse and in severe cases, death. My PhD seeks to answer, what are young people afraid of? Why aren’t they seeking help? And what is the role of technology in seeking help?

Dr Kristen Karsh

Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC

The tipping point for polar phytoplankton in a warming ocean

Phytoplankton are the microscopic plants of the ocean. They form the base of the ocean food web, produce much of the air we breathe, and take up much of the carbon dioxide we produce. As the ocean warms, phytoplankton grow faster up to a point, after which growth abruptly declines and ultimately stops. That tipping point is unknown for almost all phytoplankton species found in the polar oceans. Finding that point is the focus of my research.

Mr Majid Khansefid

Dairy Futures CRC

Efficiency gains in dairy using genomics

The cost of feeding is the highest variable cost on dairy farms. I am helping identify the animals that eat less for the same amount of milk produced.

Ms Larisa Klarkins

Young and Well CRC

An investigation into the relationship between cyberbullying, coping and help seeking among young adolescents

Did you know that most young people don’t seek help for cyberbullying? That some may cope in self-destructive ways instead? We must understand how best to encourage young people to be aware of, and to seek help. I am tackling this issue by researching young people in South Australia around these issues. My research will identify where young people do go for help—and where the gaps are, in order to enhance support services.

Mr Ross Koufariotis

Dairy Futures CRC

Big data, better dairy

The use of big data in Australia’s dairy breeding industry is growing but we are facing computational limitations on how this data can be used. I am finding better ways to use this huge amount of data so that farmers can breed more profitable cows.

Mr Zibei Lin

Dairy Futures CRC

Better pastures, quicker

Improvements have been slow in perennial ryegrass, the most important dairy feed base in Australia. My work shows how plant breeders can increase gains up to 4-fold in ryegrass yield and persistence.

Dr Carrie Lovitt

CRC for Cancer Therapeutics

Advanced breast cancer models for drug discovery

Traditional in vitro cell culture models used in anti-cancer drug discovery applications consist of a monolayer of cells attached to a plastic substrate. Research developing advanced cell culture models that better represent human breast tumour for identification of novel compounds demonstrating activity against breast cancer cells was undertaken. Advanced breast tumour models suitable for drug discovery programs have the potential to contribute to the identification of new therapeutics.

Mr Madhavan Mani

Young and Well CRC

Bridging technology and wellbeing: Can a mobile app aid mindfulness among youth and improve their wellbeing?

It is scientifically proven that mindfulness improves wellbeing. It reduces stress, decreases the chance of relapse of depression and above all helps you live every moment of your life fully, rather than letting the days pass you by. How can the technology-savvy young reap its benefits? Can a mobile phone app do just that? This is what my research aims to find out.

Dr Sasikumar Muthusamy

CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Joint toxicity evaluation and risk assessment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals

Former gas plants are contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals known as PAHs. These are toxic and can cause cancer – and that’s only their individual risks to human health. I am investigating if heavy metals and PAHs interact with one another making them more toxic when present as co-contaminants and determine their joint risk to humans. This new knowledge will provide valuable information for risk assessment and site clean-up.

Ms Lye Ng

Young and Well CRC

How does The Labs differentiated spaces enable youths with HFA to socialise?

Most research in the autism field has focused on diagnosis, prevention and treatment. What if we focus on ability, rather than disability? My research works closely with The Lab, a technology club for young people with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s, to look at how spaces enable socialising. From physical environments to the online gaming world, my research aims to create safe and effective environments for researching these young people.

Dr Cameron Ollson

CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)

Influence of co-contaminants and amendment strategies on the bioaccessibility and bioavailability of As, Pb and Cd

Contaminated sites are an unfortunate part of our rural and urban environment. People and animals may be inadvertently exposed to contaminants that can harm their health, but quantifying this exposure is difficult. I am determining whether interactions among three major contaminants – arsenic, lead and cadmium – have an effect on exposure. Understanding this interaction will reduce uncertainty in exposure assessment and lead to greater protection of human, animal and ecological health.

Mr Chi Yan Ooi

CRC for Cancer Therapeutics

Understanding the biomolecular networks that cause neuroblastoma

The MYCN gene, known to cause cancer in mice, is associated with poor patient prognosis for neuroblastoma, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system that accounts for the majority of cancers in small children. My project looks into the factors contributing to this disease at the very beginning. I am focussing on biomolecular networks of microRNA and mRNA, that work like the knobs at the top of a guitar to fine-tune how the strings sound, and cause the cellular changes leading to neuroblastoma.

Ms Laura Opsina Pinillos

Young and Well CRC

Developing an online mental health system for young people in Colombia

In Colombia, we have a high prevalence of mental health disorders in young people—but few clinicians to help them. My PhD will take Australia’s leading knowledge in developing an online, or e-mental health clinic to Colombia. The process is: adapt; translate; test. With 96% of Colombia having access to the internet, there is great potential for this e-mental health service—to reduce the gap between the need and the professionals available, while allowing young people to easily access help.

Dr Anneline Padayachee

The University of Queensland

Why are wholefoods so good? Black carrots reveal polyphenols and dietary fibre working together for a health gut.

Fruits and veggies are the main sources of dietary fibre (DF) and polyphenols in the diet. DF is important in regulating bowel contents, while polyphenols are important in preventative health. Polyphenols must be released from the plant cell to be beneficial. I found that ~80% of polyphenols in black carrots bound to DF when pureed.

Mr Ebadat Parmehr

CRC for Spatial Information

Automated feature extraction

Satellite sensors provide information for many applications such as environmental monitoring and mapping. But converting these data sets into usable information for decision making takes significant time and effort. My research uses an automated procedure to create 3D models from multiple data sources through the seamless alignment of 2D imagery with 3D datasets. The use of information from different sensors gives access to a suite of new analysis techniques for more intelligent decision making.

Mr Luke Pembleton

Dairy Futures CRC

Unlocking hybrid vigour in perennial ryegrass

I am delivering ground-breaking yet practical plant breeding tools that could unlock up to 20% gains in pasture productivity, helping increase profitability on Australian dairy farms.

Ms Megan Price

Young and Well CRC

Bouncing back after the breakup: Helping adolescents adjust to romantic separation in a digital age

Breakups are among the hardest and most memorable events of our lives, especially during adolescence. Each year, thousands of young Australians contact helplines post breakup. Many express feeling depressed, lonely, guilty, ashamed and suicidal. Drawing on a national sample of over 600 adolescents, my research will identify the factors associated with adjustment post breakup and inform the development of a smartphone app to assist young people effectively adjust post-breakup.

Ms Rebecca Randall

Young and Well CRC

How and why young people are involved in the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre

Youth mental health is facing a critical challenge: young people aren’t accessing services. This is where youth involvement comes in. Youth involvement is a research method, where young people are part of the development and design of research and services. My research asks young people and professionals who have used it the what, when, why and how of their experiences, in order to try and improve it.

Ms Lavenia Ratnarajah

Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC

Understanding the role of whales in ocean nutrient cycling

Marine phytoplankton produces half the oxygen we breathe, sequesters carbon and feeds almost all marine life. But across large parts of the Southern Ocean phytoplankton growth is slow due to low available iron, a key nutrient for phytoplankton growth. I want to know how organisms up the food chain, in particular whales, stimulate phytoplankton growth by recycling iron through their diet. I am also interested in the effects of industrial whaling practices on this process.

Mr Joe Tighe

Young and Well CRC

The use of mobile phone application (app) technology to reduce suicidal ideation and psychological distress among at risk groups

The rates of suicide in some Aboriginal communities are among the highest in the world. Can technology help? My PhD tests an app called the ibobbly. It was created and developed in partnership with Aboriginal communities and is a world first in Aboriginal suicide prevention. I want to know does the app work in reducing suicidal thinking, depression, distress and impulsivity. The app delivers quality therapy on demand, 24/7, anywhere, anytime and without the need for mobile connectivity.

Dr Santosh Valvi

CRC for Cancer Therapeutics

Survival-A cure for DIPG

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a childhood brain cancer without cure. Children with this cancer die within a year of diagnosis. My research focuses on an innovative approach to find a cure for DIPG. This is currently the only research on DIPG in Australia where the tumor cells are collected from patients, grown and treated with drugs in search for an effective therapy. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. For some it is a hopeless end but for me it is an endless hope.

Dr Pier van der Merwe

Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC

Dissolution and dissociation of iron from particles in the marine environment: assessing the fertilization potential of an abundant yet overlooked source.

Phytoplankton, which plays a role in regulating the CO2 content of the atmosphere, is limited by the availability of iron. Previous research has overlooked Fe within particles due to a presumption of low accessibility to phytoplankton despite its abundance. My work will explore a new view – all iron in the system is potentially accessible, influenced by length of exposure and the biology itself. The results of my research will allow prediction of the Oceans ability to absorb waste CO2.

Mrs Roya Yadollahi

University of South Australia

Nanocomposites for optical applications

Novel properties of many materials do not prevail until the size of the particles has been reduced to the nanometer length. Nanocomposite (NC) films contain many nanoparticles and their properties (such as optical which is the focus of my research) depend on the size of the particles. Engineering the size and structure of the particles, which is an issue of practical importance, enables selective fabrication of the (optical) properties of resultant NC.

Mr Kamil Zuber


Structuring Siloxane Thin Film Coatings

My project is posed around development of new automotive coatings. Due to applied advanced manufacturing techniques it allows the use of current automotive parts and enhances their properties by applying thin functional coatings. This can lead to future applications such as windscreens repelling rain.