Asian Correspondent » Melbourne University Asian Correspondent Wed, 20 May 2015 11:20:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Melbourne unveils new Master of IT course Thu, 20 Sep 2012 23:44:34 +0000 The University of Melbourne has recently redesigned its Master of Information Technology course, offering creative students the lifelong adaptable technical knowledge that leading IT employers are looking for.

The program teaches the fundamental technical skills that are applicable across a range of IT platforms; skills that will not date, such as applied algorithmics, data mining, distributed computing and programming language design, allowing graduates to evolve with and adapt to the swift pace of technology.

The program is also closely aligned with industry, offering students the opportunity to enrol in a competitive industry placement program that will provide valuable experience with a leading employer.

The new MIT is available in four specialisations, focused on areas of growing importance in technology, business and government:

  • Computing – For students interested in working across disciplines to design, analyse, implement and evaluate IT projects and future needs in the changing context of the ICT industry.
  • Distributed Computing – Designed for graduates who will play a leading role in providing service-oriented large-scale computing systems and applications that will operate over wired and wireless networks.
  • Health – For students who want to use their technical expertise to create IT solutions in the healthcare and medical sphere.
  • Spatial – Prepare students for a career in the spatial information industry, one of the fastest-growing IT sectors in the world.

Associate Professor Tim Baldwin is the Academic Program Coordinator for the Master of Information Technology. Associate Professor Baldwin’s research interests cover topics including deep linguistic processing, multiword expressions, deep lexical acquisition, computer-assisted language learning, information extraction and web mining. Prior to his current role, he was a Senior Research Engineer at Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Language and Information.

“The Master of Information Technology is a flexible, practical course offering graduates the deep, technical tools to solve problems across domains.

“The course has strong industry links, and you will have the opportunity to take part in our placement program, giving you a foot in the door with leading employers in the IT sector.

“You’ll be in the midst of an exciting technology precinct working with world-class innovators in areas such as eHealth, cloud computing, spatial information and application programming.”

For further information about the Master of Information Technology, or to make an inquiry, please visit the Melbourne School of Information website.


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Genetic test predicts risk for Autism Wed, 19 Sep 2012 03:06:04 +0000 Professor Stan Skafidas, Director, Centre for Neural Engineering

Professor Stan Skafidas, Director, Centre for Neural Engineering, University of Melbourne

A team of Australian researchers, led by The University of Melbourne has developed a genetic test that is able to predict the risk of developing Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD.

Lead researcher Stan Skafidas, Director of the Centre for Neural Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne, said the test could be used to assess the risk for developing the disorder.

“This test could assist in the early detection of the condition in babies and children and help in the early management of those who become diagnosed,” he said.

“It would be particularly relevant for families who have a history of Autism or related conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome,” he said.

Autism affects around one in 150 births and is characterised by abnormal social interaction, impaired communication and repetitive behaviours.

The test correctly predicted ASD with more than 70 per cent accuracy in people of central European descent. Ongoing validation tests are continuing including the development of accurate testing for other ethnic groups.

Clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Renee Testa from the University of Melbourne and Monash University, said the test would allow clinicians to provide early interventions that may reduce behavioural and cognitive difficulties that children and adults with ASD experience.

“Early identification of risk means we can provide interventions to improve overall functioning for those affected, including families,” she said.

A genetic cause has been long sought with many genes implicated in the condition, but no single gene has been adequate for determining risk.

Using US data from 3,346 individuals with ASD and 4,165 of their relatives from Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) and Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), the researchers identified 237 genetic markers (SNPs) in 146 genes and related cellular pathways that either contribute to or protect an individual from developing ASD.

Senior author Professor Christos Pantelis of the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Health said the discovery of the combination of contributing and protective gene markers and their interaction had helped to develop a very promising predictive ASD test.

The test is based on measuring both genetic markers of risk and protection for ASD. The risk markers increase the score on the genetic test, while the protective markers decrease the score. The higher the overall score, the higher the individual risk.

“This has been a multidisciplinary team effort with expertise across fields providing new ways of investigating this complex condition,” Professor Pantelis said.

The study was undertaken in collaboration with Professor Ian Everall, Cato Chair in Psychiatry and Dr Gursharan Chana from the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Health, and Dr Daniela Zantomio from Austin Health.

The next step is to further assess the accuracy of the test by monitoring children who are not yet diagnosed over an extended study.

The study “Predicting the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder using gene pathway analysis” is available online from Nature’s Molecular Psychiatry journal, 11 September 2012.

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Internships kickstart student careers in IT Thu, 13 Sep 2012 00:49:49 +0000 MIS students (L-R) Thong Trung Huynh, MengMeng Zhao and Nicole Dial

MIS students (L-R) Thong Trung Huynh, MengMeng Zhao and Nicole Dial

Students undertaking the Master of Information Systems (MIS) at Melbourne University are taking up valuable internship opportunities, many of which are leading them to graduate roles in top firms.

The MIS is a program that was developed in close collaboration with IT decision-makers across private enterprise and government in order to address the skills needs of the ICT industry.

Senior Lecturer in the MIS, Dr Shanton Chang said that MIS academics were working with the program’s industry partners to provide students access to the internship programs at major companies as well as small independent firms.

“They are highly competitive positions and they will also potentially lead to graduate roles within these organisations,” Dr Chang said.

Dr Chang said the internships were great opportunities for local and international students to apply their learning from the course in a business environment.

“We aim to work with a variety of companies that recruit both domestic and international students.”

“In order to succeed, students need to be very proactive about their applications and make use of the resources that we provide them.”

Nicole Dial, originally from Atlanta in the USA, is just one of the students who has taken up an internship, with great success. Nicole has been interning at Melbourne management consulting firm, DB Results. As a result, she has now been offered an ongoing role with the firm and hopes that it will become a permanent position when she graduates.

“Taking up the internship was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I really enjoy the company I’m working for,” she said.

“I think internships and other student opportunities allow you to align what you’re learning in academia with the practical side of things. There is something about being in a real world environment that allows you to take those scenarios and experiences that you see happening in real time and apply it to your theory.”

MengMeng Zhao of China took on an internship with Deloitte in her final year of the MIS. She has been working in process modeling with Telstra as her client. She said the internship has been very useful to her career.

“Through the Deloitte internship I was able to implement things I had learnt at university into my work. Previously I thought it was just theory but now I can see how it is used in the workplace.”

Thong Trung Huynh, originally from Vietnam, saw his internship at social enterprise Our Community advertised in April 2011. He applied and got the position.

“The job is awesome. It’s not only programming but I got to design the organisation’s admin system as well. Now it’s being used by the staff and I’ve had some very good feedback.”

“The knowledge from the course is really helpful, especially when you’re thinking about managing user expectations.”

Vibushan Lakshminarayanan, originally from India, recently graduated from the MIS. During his studies he also interned at Deloitte Melbourne, and was subsequently offered an ongoing role there.

Vibushan also won the Deloitte Student Leader Award for outstanding academic achievement, as well as a $10,000 scholarship to University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business.

“The University has connections with a lot of the industry giants who offer the opportunity of vacation programs, internships and graduate recruitments for students to work in the industry,” he said.

“Melbourne has provided me with precisely what the industry requires.”

To learn more about the Master of Information Systems, visit the Melbourne School of Information website:

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Thai students win Melbourne trip with their amazing spaghetti machine Mon, 10 Sep 2012 23:54:53 +0000 The winning team from Traill International School in Melbourne

The winning team from Traill International School in Melbourne

Students from schools in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam can use their ingenuity to win a trip to the University of Melbourne, as part of this year’s Amazing Spaghetti Machine International Contest.

The contest challenges teams of four students, along with a supervising teacher, to devise a Spaghetti Machine and submit a video of their machine in operation.

Also known as Rube Goldberg Machines, Spaghetti Machines are complex and entertaining devices used to perform simple tasks using a multitude of steps.

Earlier this year, students from Traill International School in Thailand visited Melbourne as part of their prize for winning the 2011 Amazing Spaghetti Machine International Contest. Last year, students were asked to design a machine that played a song on a music player using a minimum of 10 steps.

The Amazing Spaghetti Machine site shows the Traill students’ winning machine, which used everything from a toy train to marbles, water and a toy boat.

Students James Landolt, Taisei Tasumi, Shane Leong, Dhruv Hoskote took part in a two week residential University of Melbourne Young Leaders Program including lectures and activities at Trinity College. Their experiences over the visit ranged from a psychology lecture looking into lie detection, a murder mystery contest and a magic workshop.

The Traill team overcame dramatic obstacles to win last year’s contest, building their winning machine in the midst of Thailand’s devastating floods.

“First we were making it at Shane’s house then the flooding came and we had to move it to my house, then the flooding came to my house,” said James.

“When it was at his house it was already quite big – already at full scale, and it was on acrylic board so you couldn’t fold it so we had to get a delivery truck to move it,” he said.

The students said that while all of their houses survived the floods, the situation made competing in the contest quite a challenge.

“We moved the machine just in case, because the water came so fast. One day it could be dry and the next day it was 20cm deep,” James said.

The students said they were very excited on learning they had won the contest. James said the team was half an hour late to class because of their celebrations.

“When we found out, we ran around our school three times, shouting that we won,” James said.

Shane said he would recommend the Amazing Spaghetti Machine experience to students thinking of taking part, but he had some friendly advice to future participants.

“They should give it a go but I don’t think they will be able to beat us. We were the best, we are the best and we always will be the best!”

This year’s Amazing Spaghetti Machine International task will be announced on 24 September. Registration is open from 5 September to 21 September.

Schools from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are invited to take part in the competition and the winners will be announced in December.

For further information, and to register your school, please visit

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Structural engineering course leads to work on megastructures Fri, 07 Sep 2012 00:10:49 +0000 Hayden Jackson

Hayden Jackson

In 2011, Hayden Jackson graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Master of Engineering Structures degree. Today, he is designing megastructures and project managing iconic international engineering initiatives as a structural engineer with international advisory and design consultants Hyder Consulting.

“My job involves the engineering design of a wide range of building and civil structures, and the project management and advisory services for major engineering projects,” Hayden said.

“I have been fortunate, in the course of my career, to be involved in some big projects including the Victorian Desalination Project, Dubai Fountain, Nakheel Tall Tower, M1 Upgrade (West Gate Freeway Alliance) and a major Coal Seam Gas facility.”

Hayden counts the significant contribution he made to the design and coordination of the Dubai Fountain as one of his greatest career highlights to date.

Sitting at 275 m in length and spurting water at a height equivalent to a 50-storey building, this is the world’s largest performing water fountain.

During his studies, Hayden developed technical expertise in structural dynamics, earthquake engineering, concrete technology, and particularly enjoyed the insights into engineering contracts and procurement:

“I worked on complex and technically demanding international engineering projects especially in the area of structural analysis of building and bridge structures.

“A highlight of my experience was the outstanding quality of teaching, particularly in the areas of structural dynamics and earthquake engineering, taught by Associate Professor Nelson Lam. I was also most impressed by the interactive teaching in the Engineering Contracts and Procurement unit taught and coordinated by Associate Professor Colin Duffield, who is an international expert in public private partnerships.

“I have gained valuable skills in preparing bid documents and reviewing construction contracts, which will be exceptionally important in my work in the near future.”

Prior to joining Hyder Consulting, Hayden worked part-time with land survey and civil engineering firm, Land Management Surveys, an experience he says that equipped him well for his current role.

“Outside of the office, I’m actively involved with Engineers Australia and the Steel Concrete Institutes, as well as being an avid Victorian Premier level cricket player,” he said.

The University of Melbourne’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering teaches a range of courses in structural and civil engineering. Engineering graduates wishing to change their area of specialisation to structural engineering may be interested in the Master of Engineering Structures. Students wishing to graduate as a qualified engineer may be interested in the Master of Engineering (Structural) or the Master of Engineering (Civil).

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Electrical Engineering Alumnus creates Alternative Energy solutions in Singapore Wed, 05 Sep 2012 01:33:15 +0000 Bay Yew Chuan

Bay Yew Chuan

The depletion of the world’s fossil fuels and the need for new forms of energy are what first inspired Electrical Engineering graduate Bay Yew Chuan to pursue his current career in the alternative energy industry.

Mr Bay has had an extensive career in the oil and energy industry, including his background in management at Mobil in Australia, Singapore, New York and Malaysia. He is currently Non-Executive Director of Singaporean company Alternative Energy Limited, which is developing green energy solutions for distributors around the world.

Alternative Energy has been in operation since 2007 and is currently working on technology that can offer revolutionary solutions in the clean energy industry. The company has developed the eRoof, a domestic energy generation system featuring solar cells built as part of the roof, so that solar panels do not stand out.

“The sun is always there for us, and the industry is progressing with more efficient cells,” Mr Bay said.

“In less developed areas, there is always a need to have energy quickly. This can be provided without the need for the grid.”

Alternative Energy’s pioneering roofing technology is designed to replace a conventional roof and be aesthetically pleasing. Unlike traditional solar cells, it will offer weather protection for the building, combined with photovoltaic slates to generate electrical energy from solar power.  Meanwhile, the company is also developing a rainwater recycling system for the eRoof, which could also generate energy through water-based fuel cells.

The company has also developed energy efficient eLumen LED light bulbs that consume up to 90% less energy than traditional light bulbs. Standard energy-saving bulbs save 30% of the energy of traditional bulbs.

“The most important future challenges of the energy industry are to be able to provide the world with clean energy and preserve the environment, and reduce pollution,” Mr Bay said.

Mr Bay graduated with a Bachelor or Engineering (Electrical) in 1964, before attaining his Master of Business Administration in 1969.

He worked around the world with Mobil Oil from 1971 to 1982 before serving as a Director of Amcol Holdings from 1982 to 1996.

Mr Bay said he enjoyed his time at Melbourne, getting to know Australia and Australians. He said he benefitted from the technical knowledge he gained from his course.

Mr Bay said that students considering a career in the energy industry should familiarise themselves with the various types of renewable and non-renewable energy systems.

“Get to know as much as possible about the energy industry and the various alternatives such as solar, wind, water, oil gas, coal. It’s important to understand what competition you are facing and what the costs are.”

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Australia’s first bionic eye implant Thu, 30 Aug 2012 23:53:39 +0000 Ms Dianne Ashworth and Dr Penny Allen

Ms Dianne Ashworth and Dr Penny Allen

In a major development, Bionic Vision Australia researchers have successfully performed the first implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes.

Ms Dianne Ashworth has profound vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition. She has now received what she calls a ‘pre-bionic eye’ implant that enables her to experience some vision. A passionate technology fan, Ms Ashworth was motivated to make a contribution to the bionic eye research program.

After years of hard work and planning, Ms Ashworth’s implant was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute, while researchers held their breaths in the next room, observing via video link.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash…it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,” Ms Ashworth said.

Professor Emeritus David Penington AC, Chairman of Bionic Vision Australia said: “These results have fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision. Much still needs to be done in using the current implant to ‘build’ images for Ms Ashworth. The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices.”

Anthony Burkitt, Director of Bionic Vision Australia and Professor at the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering said: “This outcome is a strong example of what a multi-disciplinary research team can achieve. Funding from the Australian Government was critical in reaching this important milestone. The Bionics Institute and the surgeons at the Centre for Eye Research Australia played a critical role in reaching this point.”

Professor Rob Shepherd, Director of the Bionics Institute, led the team in designing, building and testing this early prototype to ensure its safety and efficacy for human implantation. Cochlear technology supported aspects of the project.

Dr Penny Allen, a specialist surgeon at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, led a surgical team to implant the prototype at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

“This is a world first – we implanted a device in this position behind the retina, demonstrating the viability of our approach. Every stage of the procedure was planned and tested, so I felt very confident going into theatre,” Dr Allen said.

The implant is only switched on and stimulated after the eye has recovered fully from the effects of surgery. The next phase of this work involves testing various levels of electrical  stimulation with Ms Ashworth.

“We are working with Ms Ashworth to to determine exactly what she sees each time the retina is stimulated using a purpose built laboratory at the Bionics Institute. The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information.

“Having this unique information will allow us to maximise our technology as it evolves through 2013 and 2014,” Professor Shepherd said.

How it works

This early prototype consists of a retinal implant with 24 electrodes. A small lead wire extends from the back of the eye to a connector behind the ear. An external system is connected to this unit in the laboratory, allowing researchers to stimulate the implant in a controlled manner in order to study the flashes of light. Feedback from Ms Ashworth will allow researchers to develop a vision processor so that images can be built using flashes of light.

This early prototype does not incorporate an external camera, yet. This is planned for the next stage of development and testing.

Researchers will continue development and testing of the wide-view implant with 98 electrodes and the high-acuity implant with 1024 electrodes. Patient tests are planned for these devices in due course.

About Bionic Vision Australia

Bionic Vision Australia is a national consortium of researchers from the Bionics Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia, NICTA, the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales.

The National Vision Research Institute, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the University of Western Sydney are project partners.

The project brings together a cross-disciplinary group of world-leading experts in the fields of ophthalmology, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering and materials science, neuroscience, vision science, psychophysics, wireless integrated-circuit design, and surgical, preclinical and clinical practice.

This research is funded by a $42 million grant over four years from the Australian Research Council (ARC) through its Special Research Initiative (SRI) in Bionic Vision Science and Technology.

For further information please contact:

Veronika Gouskova

Marketing and Communications Manager, Bionic Vision Australia

In the media:

Australian researchers closer to true bionic eye, Charis Palmer, The Conversation, 30 August 2012

Bionic eye goes live in world first by Australian researchers, Kate Hagan, The Age, 30 August 2012

Bionic eye implanted in Victorian woman, Ninemsn, 30 August 2012

Australian team hails bionic eye success, Sophie Scott, ABC News, 30 August 2012
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Training the future leaders in energy Wed, 29 Aug 2012 00:00:38 +0000 Master of Energy Systems student, Marcelle Gannon

Master of Energy Systems student, Marcelle Gannon

A unique course at the University of Melbourne is preparing students for exciting careers in sustainable energy and the global low-carbon economy.

The Master of Energy Systems commenced this year with its first intake of students. The course brings together engineers, scientists and specialists in economics, finance and energy policy in delivering a tailored program on energy systems that will train the future leaders in energy business and technology.

Today’s energy sector is undergoing rapid change, which is being driven by factors such as climate change, carbon emissions pricing and regulation and increasing global demand for all energy types. The change is also seeing the rise of new energy technologies such as renewables, smart grids and carbon capture and storage. In order to keep up with these changes, business and government must respond quickly.

Graduates with new skills are urgently required to work in the new careers that are being created by these changes. The Master of Energy Systems offers graduates the skills to make informed decisions about energy issues that incorporate technical, economic, environmental and social considerations.

After Graduating from the University of Melbourne in 2000 with a combined Bachelor of Engineering/Bachelor of Commerce, Marcelle Gannon moved to Sydney where she forged a career working as a Systems Engineer and Software Engineer for various start-up companies. With two small children and a budding interest in sustainable energy, Ms Gannon decided to return to graduate study part-time in 2012 as part of the first cohort of students into the Master of Energy Systems.

“I thought that sustainable energy was becoming a very big issue and I wanted to find out what I could do about it,” Ms Gannon said.

“I wanted to get into a field where I could use my talents, education and experience for something really useful, like addressing the massive challenge posed by climate change.”

Ms Gannon said she had enjoyed her previous studies in economics and commerce, but hadn’t made much use of them professionally. She was attracted by the Master of Energy Systems’ focus on the combination of business and technical skills.

“There are a lot of jobs opening up in the energy field for people who can understand how engineering, economics and finance interact.”

Ms Gannon said she has found the course very interesting, with a great collection of guest lecturers and enthusiastic and passionate academics.

“Everyone is genuinely interested in being there and my fellow students bring a wide range of professional experience with them.”

When I tell people what I’m studying I find most want to talk about it, and I’m very pleased to be able to have an informed discussion.”

For further information about the Master of Energy Systems, visit our graduate study website.

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IT researchers preserving remote PNG languages Mon, 27 Aug 2012 00:27:33 +0000

Professor Steven Bird

Researchers from the Melbourne School of Engineering are travelling to remote Papua New Guinea to trial a mobile app that will document and preserve the region’s unique dialects; languages that are at critical risk of being lost forever.

The project is being led by Associate Professor Steven Bird from the Department of Computing and Information Systems.

Papua New Guinea has over 800 distinct languages, around one third of the world’s indigenous tongues. This linguistic and cultural treasure is at risk of being lost as the languages fall out of use.

“Now is the time to record and translate the stories and songs, so they can be heard and understood by future generations.” Associate Professor Bird said.

“The best way to do this on a large scale is to use mobile phones. They are already in widespread use, even in villages without electricity, where they are recharged using car batteries.”

Doctoral student, Florian Hanke, developed the software for Android phones, which is capable of recording audio and sharing it over a local network. Others can then listen to recordings, rate them and give a spoken commentary or translation into English. The software is designed for use by people without formal education or even literacy.

“These people have extensive knowledge of their environment and a rich oral literature, none of which is recorded,” said Associate Professor Bird.

“We are introducing Web-2.0-style social networking in a place with no previous contact with the Web.”

“However, we are not trying to deliver the Internet to the village. Instead, we are creating digital content in small languages, some with only a few hundred speakers.

Associate Professor Bird said the data would eventually end up in the Internet Archive, based in San Francisco.

The project taps into the traditional knowledge of the elders, combining it with the skills of a younger generation who have western-style education and carry mobile phones. An elder will record a story on one phone. Someone else will then rate it, or supply another version of the story. Those listening to stories add their vote of approval and in some cases offer additional details.

A bilingual person will then listen to a highly-rated story on another phone and provide a translation into English. Another person will listen to the English and transcribe it. Over time, researchers will build up a large database of translated texts in many of the local languages. This will not just be useful for people wanting to learn the language of their ancestors, but will also be used for the development of automatic translation software.

The team has chosen the Android platform because it is free, open source, and available on inexpensive phones in Papua New Guinea.

Associate Professor Bird described the technology as a modern-day spoken Rosetta Stone, drawing on the wisdom of the community.

The latest research builds on an earlier project, where Associate Professor Bird trained 100 students in three PNG universities to record their ancestral languages, using 100 voice recorders.

The project has an impressive list of sponsors, including the Australian Research Council, the US National Science Foundation, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research.

“The sponsors saw that we had a viable plan for using inexpensive technology and voluntary labour to secure a vast amount of linguistic heritage in digital form.” Associate Professor Bird said.

Within PNG, the project is receiving logistical support from the University of Goroka and the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Dr Avei-Hosea, Dean of Humanities at the University of Goroka, said that PNG was one of the few countries in the world that still practices its oral cultures and speaks its languages, and is richly blessed with untapped traditional knowledge.

“More than 80% of PNG’s knowledge systems have not been researched, recorded and archived.

“Most of the Papua New Guineans who hold such knowledge are old people and if we do not act fast in preserving such knowledge, it is certain that we will lose what is truly ours forever,” Dr Avei-Hosea said.

“Our languages are the key to all these indigenous systems. Such a project, for recording, archiving, and research using the latest in technology is important and timely.”

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Collaborative drug delivery research for better health outcomes Fri, 24 Aug 2012 00:40:21 +0000

Illustration of the mechanism of bypassing Pgp-mediated multidrug resistance in cancer cells through cell ingestion of microcapsules.*

Professor Frank Caruso’s Nanostructured Interfaces and Materials (NIMs) research group has long recognised the benefits of interdisciplinary research. Professor Caruso’s team which is based in the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, brings together experts from engineering, chemistry, biology, physics and materials science.

The NIMs group exemplifies best practice in interdisciplinary research by the number and diversity of its collaborations., which include institutions such as the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, the Bionics Institute, CSIRO, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and research organisations and universities across Asia, North America and Europe.

The breadth of expertise and facilities available underpins the variety of projects undertaken by the group. In these collaborative research projects, the NIMs group has designed and generated a series of nanoengineered capsules and particles, whose properties are customised to meet the needs of a particular application. The capsules and particles range in size from hundreds of nanometres to micrometres and are used for therapeutic delivery, diagnostics and imaging.

For example, a project with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, designs capsules to target and deliver a drug load to colorectal cancer cells. This delivery system may present many benefits over the current treatment methods. They include the selective targeting of cancerous cells and the controlled release of the drug at doses that can be tailored to optimise the treatment.

A project with the Bionics Institute provides another example of therapeutic delivery using nanocapsules. Capsules loaded with a protein promoting repair have proven effective in treating damaged nerve cells in the ear, the cause of 80 per cent of adult hearing problems and the most common cause of permanent hearing loss in children. The protein-loaded capsules may be potentially used in the future to treat neurodegenerative disorders, offering a simpler and safer alternative to existing treatments.

Other projects using nanoengineered carriers as drug delivery vehicles include the development of nanoparticle HIV vaccines by Professor Kent’s group from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and of nanoparticle mucosal vaccines under the leadership of associate Professor Neil O’Brien Simpson from Bio21 and the Melbourne Dental School.

NIMs researchers are now also attempting to use capsules as a diagnostics tool, in a joint endeavour with a team from the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute. The principle consists in loading capsules with an MRI contrast agent and designing them to target blood clots. The aim is to allow surgeons to detect the clots and make diagnosis more easily.

Whether for therapeutic delivery or diagnostics, the design of capsules requires a good understanding of the interaction between nanomaterials and living cells. One of the principal challenges is to determine how the materials enter cells and where they are located inside the cells. Capsules loaded with fluorophores or molecular sensors provide insight into this process, making an excellent platform for cellular imaging.

Recently, the outstanding leadership of Professor Caruso has been rewarded with an ARC Laureate Professor Fellowship. The prestigious Fellowships are awarded to world-class researchers to further their leadership and mentoring role in building Australia’s internationally competitive research capacity.

* Diagram courtesy of : Yan Yan, Christopher J. Ochs, Georgina K. Such, Joan K. Heath, Edouard C. Nice and Frank Caruso.

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Studies in Spatial Information at Melbourne Wed, 22 Aug 2012 02:39:19 +0000 Spatial information is an essential and indispensable part of any economy’s infrastructure. It is needed in all walks of life and on many scales, with applications in land tenure systems, environmental modelling, food production, disaster management, climate change modelling, engineering, architecture and urban planning.

Current industry shortfalls in spatial information practitioners combined with a growing demand in Australia and internationally, ensure graduates a range of well-paid job opportunities.

The Master of Spatial Information Science has provisional accreditation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It is also among our suite of Australia’s first ever engineering courses to be granted European accreditation by EUR-ACE®, meaning graduates can work as accredited spatial experts in Europe.

The course allows students to study spatial information with a wide range of specialisations, such as in economics (market and value of spatial information), in psychology (spatial cognition, human-computer interaction on spatial information), in computer science (mobile spatial computing, spatiotemporal databases, spatial data mining), in planning (spatiotemporal analysis and visualization), in civil engineering (management of infrastructure), or in Geomatics (spatial data capture, tracking, mining).

Graduates of the program may choose from a wide range of occupations and fields, ranging from mapping the movement of bushfires with aerial and satellite technology, using global positioning systems to manage transport and delivery flows for a multi-national logistics company, designing mobile, location-based games, to advising politicians and NGOs on environment, planning and infrastructure issues.

Associate Professor Stephan Winter coordinates the Master of Spatial Information Science and also designed its curriculum. He is an expert in spatial information and his key areas of research are geosensor networks, human orientation, wayfinding and navigation, intelligent transportation systems, and spatial cognitive engineering.

“Spatial information helps us to make smarter decisions, build on a more sustainable future, facilitate transparent and open participation in public debates, or simply meet our friends. It has become an indispensable part of a global information infrastructure, and we are building this infrastructure.” Associate Professor Winter says.

“Spatial information does earn people big money; think of the inventors of Google Maps or Bing Maps, for example. Or Nokia buying Navteq for US$8bn in 2007,” he says.

“Australia has a vibrant spatial information sector, with jobs in government, consulting, infrastructure, environments, transportation, and many more. “

Joanne Bull started studying for her Master of Spatial Information Science shortly after completing a Bachelor of Environments at The University of Melbourne, majoring in Geomatics.

Joanne has a passion for Geomatics and Spatial Information Science and loves the fact that there are a wide range of industries her skills can be applied to.

Joanne is enjoying the ability to specialise. She is excited about her future career and doubts she will ever feel boxed in.

“Spatial experts can end up in all sorts of places; from working in the middle of a forest doing management resources, to working in a mine, or surveying.”

“I don’t think I could do one thing forever. This is why I like geomatics, because I know there are so many different ways I can apply my skills.”

Find out more about the Master of Spatial Information Science, as well as our scholarship opportunities.

Other programs available in spatial information at Melbourne include the Master of Engineering (Geomatics) and new in 2013, The Master of Information Technology (Spatial).

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Research into how we describe location could save lives Mon, 20 Aug 2012 02:19:19 +0000 Imagine you witnessed an accident and needed to call an ambulance, but you did not know where you were. How would you describe your location to the operator? You might mention a nearby landmark, how many minutes drive you are from a main street or, if you are in an unfamiliar city, you may only be able to describe the colours of the buildings around you.

Associate Professor Stephan Winter, from the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering, is leading a research team of experts in linguistics, computer science and spatial information science to try and bridge the gap in the way we explain locations to our friends and how we type descriptions into mapping services such as Google Maps or in-car navigation services.

While engineering researchers are providing expertise in mapping, spatial information, information technology and programming, Associate Professor Lesley Stirling from the School of School of Languages and Linguistics, at the University of Melbourne, is providing her expertise in analysing language structures, and searching for similarities and differences in the way people describe places to help the team extract as much data as possible from even the vaguest place description.

“Every day we need to explain where people or objects are in the world, but we do not have any applications that can understand the varying, complicated and sometimes strange ways we do this. This project aims to develop new methods for capturing the way we describe locations and create automated systems for understanding place descriptions,” Associate Professor Stirling says.

The dilemma arises because while we often provide vague descriptions involving landmarks and our proximity to things when describing place, when we are asked to type a location into Google Maps or a car navigation system, we are required to provide exact addresses and very specific information. Computers struggle to translate the simple and natural language we use to describe locations, and we need to overcome this obstacle in order to enable smarter navigation and mapping services. Improving computer recognition of natural language will not only lead to more convenient and effective communication, but will also assist in emergency situations and could potentially save lives.

The research team was recently awarded over half a million dollars by the Australian Research Council and project partners the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), Land and Property Management Authority NSW, PSMA Australia and the Surveyor-General of Victoria. To assist with the research, the team has devised a mobile phone game; users simply log in and confirm on a map, where their phone has located them, and type in a description of where they are. These descriptions are used by researchers to gather the words we use to describe a place.

Rod Tucker, Laureate Professor from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Director of the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society, which funded the development of the mobile game says crowd sourcing said that getting large amounts of data from the public is one of the exciting new ways to participate, engage and contribute to a larger good; and one reason to assume that broadband will change our current economy fundamentally.


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MUtopia, a platform for sustainable cities Thu, 16 Aug 2012 23:25:24 +0000 MUtopia is a project initiated and conducted by the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering and supported by the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI). The project is being developed under the strategic guidance of a world class team comprised of leading researchers, engineers, economists and urban planners from the University of Melbourne, government agencies and the private sector including developers, architects and engineering companies. Infrastructure Engineering participants include Professor Priyan Mendis (overall coordinator), Professor Hector Malano (water resources), Professor Abbas Rajabifard (spatial information), Associate Professor Lu Aye (energy), Dr Tuan Ngo (multi-scale urban systems modeling and MUtopia platform development), Dr Chris Hale (transport), Dr Meenakshi Arora (urban water and wastewater) and Dr Lihai Zhang and Associate Professor Colin Duffield (economics).

MUtopia is a design tool for sustainable cities made up of an integrated visualisation and simulation platform, which displays in 3-D the appearance of an urban development and quantifies the performance of key sustainability metrics at different scales. Urban designers can assess the viability of introducing sustainability measures, as well as ascertaining best practice in areas such as water-efficiency, energy-efficiency, dwelling and transportation design, construction and maintenance and waste management. MUtopia is also a knowledge platform to evaluate aspects of architectural and urban planning, sociological and community issues, economic modelling of capital and operating costs and benefits, for proposed urban developments.

MUtopia enables the integrated assessment of environmental, economic and social indicators within a single platform. It enables urban planners, engineers and developers from different disciplines to collaboratively test innovations in sustainable concepts, tools and processes in a single virtual environment. It uses the latest technologies and contemporary engineering theory to enable the sustainability of future constructions to be tested, as well as having the capacity to monitor the sustainability of a site once built.

In the next one hundred years, cities will rapidly grow in size and complexity. Now, more than ever, there is a need to assess the sustainability of engineering constructs before they are built. Ensuring a building is structurally sound, or that a water pipeline system will carry a certain load is not enough; new infrastructure and urban developments must be assessed for the sustainability of their design in terms of environmental, social and economic impact. Until recently, integrated assessment of these impacts within a single system has occurred on an ad-hoc basis. New technological capacity enables multiple indicators to be computed and actual physical details to be visualised and analysed over multiple scales.

MUtopia operates in a virtual environment based on 3D Geospatial technologies. It is capable of visualising inputs, such as infrastructure, energy, water and transport, and outputs, such as bio-waste and carbon both spatially (3D) and temporally to analyse sustainability outcomes in a variety of simulations. The tool will benefit government, urban planners, developers and consultants in a variety of ways such as:

  • assisting in the development and implementation of appropriate legislation and regulation associated with sustainability
  • providing practical and well researched information to the wider community on best practice in sustainability for city development
  • understanding the systemic costs and benefits of the introduction of various sustainability initiatives both in isolation and combination, with the ability to advocate authoritatively for the introduction of interventions that will actually make a difference
  • providing a means for ongoing monitoring to demonstrate sustainable practice
  • enabling leadership in public policy debate on sustainability, as well as in the practice of sustainable approaches to living in cities.

MUtopia can be used to assess a whole city approach, a large precinct or an individual suburban development in terms of economic, social and environmental factors. Where the model is used to include wider whole-of-city and external factors, the platform can support a range of important contemporary engineering questions such as, “what would a zero CO2 emission city look like?”

To find out more about MUtopia please contact Professor Priyan Mendis or Dr Tuan Ngo.

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Chemical and biomolecular engineering at Melbourne Tue, 14 Aug 2012 23:49:03 +0000 Xiaotian Li

Chemical engineering student Xiaotian Li

Chemical and biomolecular engineering is an exciting field to be in, as it is the key to creating solutions to some of the world’s critical problems in energy, food and water supply, for an ever-increasing population.

Recent advances in nanotechnology have opened opportunities for developing new materials, biological products and medical therapeutics. The structure of such materials is central to a range of technological developments in the health, water, energy and communication fields associated with surfaces and particulates.

Researchers at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Melbourne are working on projects that will benefit society, such as carbon capture and storage, alternative energy from biofuels, bioremediation of waste, tissue engineering to understand disease processes like Alzheimer’s Disease and targeted drug delivery to improve cancer and other disease treatments.

Xiaotian Li is an international student from Shanghai China, who is in the first year of the Master of Engineering (Chemical). Xiaotian chose to study chemical engineering because he felt it was a good field to be in, with a promising future.

“Chemical engineering is an interesting and challenging course and it gives you a solid and broad background in chemical and biomolecular science,” he said.

Xiaotian is finding that in addition to learning valuable skills in chemical engineering, he is learning a lot about team work and gaining skills in self-directed learning.

After completion of his Masters course, Xiaotian plans to either continue his studies by pursuing a research higher degree or look for a job in industry.

He is enjoying understanding chemical engineering processes, how to apply them and improve the technology.

“I have had a lot of fun playing with the rigs in different experiments. You have a lot of freedom to experiment in some of the labs.

“I also really enjoy the guest lectures from visitors outside of the campus. They add an exciting and fun dimension to our studies, with examples of engineering in the real world.”

Xiaotian has made some good friends since beginning his course and is enjoying life in Melbourne.

“It is a very relaxing and friendly environment here. I love the weather and the beach. The pace of life is not as fast as in Shanghai.”

He is also very pleased with the course he has chosen, which has allowed him to get involved with both the academic and industrial field of chemical engineering.

“My advice to students who are thinking about taking this course is be aggressive with your study and be easy going with your friends. Open your heart to your friends and you will have all the support you need to enjoy life and succeed in your studies.”

Information about the Master of Engineering (Biomolecular) and the Master of Engineering (Chemical) is available online.

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Australia: Geothermal pilot aims to reduce carbon footprint Mon, 13 Aug 2012 00:40:19 +0000 Checking geothermal ground loops as they are installed

Checking geothermal ground loops as they are installed

Earlier in the year, the Honourable Michael O’Brien, Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, announced a 1.6 million dollar Department of Primary Industries grant to fund researchers from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, headed by Golder Associates Chair of Geotechnical Engineering Professor Ian Johnston, to work on a series of geothermal energy projects around Victoria with partners Geotech Pty Ltd and Direct Energy Pty Ltd.

Mr O’Brien said that geothermal energy has the potential to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“As a clean, renewable source of energy, direct geothermal has the potential to play an important role in the energy mix of Victoria’s future”‘ he said.

Although still a small industry in Australia, geothermal technology is used extensively overseas, with an estimated 3 million installations worldwide.

This project is designed to collect important data about the use of direct geothermal energy systems in Victorian conditions, in order to help develop greater efficiency in installation practices and design. In-ground data will be collected from instruments placed in direct geothermal systems that will be installed in many new and retrofit buildings constructed around the state. The project will also engage and educate the general community about direct geothermal energy, as well as provide specific training to the trades and professions so that the technology can be rolled out in Victoria.

Geothermal energy has the potential to reduce greenhouse emissions and cost of heating and cooling by up to 75%. Direct geothermal energy uses the ground, down to several tens of metres below the surface, to extract heat in winter for heating and to sink heat in summer for cooling. Geothermal energy systems work by circulating fluid, water or refrigerant, down pipes that are installed within building foundations or into purpose-drilled boreholes and back to the surface again. In winter, heat contained in the circulating fluid is extracted by a ground source heat pump, and used to heat the building. In summer, the system is reversed, with heat extracted out of the building by the heat pump, transferred to the circulating fluid, and then deposited underground.

While geothermal energy does not generate or replace the need for electricity, it is an electricity-saving technology, with the potential to greatly reduce our carbon footprint.

“For each kilowatt of electrical energy put into a direct geothermal system, about 4 kilowatts of energy is developed for the purposes of heating and cooling, reducing the energy cost by 75%,” Professor Johnston says.

Therefore, outside the capital costs of installation, 75% of the power generated is free. In addition, as much of the electrical energy in Victoria is generated by brown coal, replacing 75% of energy with a clean renewable source, reduces the greenhouse gas emissions by 75%.

Globally, installation of direct geothermal systems has largely been driven by the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry. There has been little input from geotechnical engineers or measurement to optimise system design and performance. This has led to many ‘approximate’ sets of guidelines, resulting in systems that are not as efficient, or cost-effective and competitive as they could be.

The capital costs of installing a direct geothermal system are still a little high. But with industry becoming better geared to needs, and with better systems of design and installation, prices should fall significantly over the next year or two. This, combined with the likely major increase in the cost of conventionally derived energy, will mean that capital costs can be recovered in a few short years.

“With better technical information, the systems developed will be more cost-effective and competitive,” says Professor Johnston.

“We will show that direct geothermal energy is a reliable, cost-effective and renewable form of energy for a wide range of domestic, commercial and industrial applications where heating and cooling is required”, Professor Johnston says.

Last month, Professor Johnston received the John Jaeger Memorial Award, the most prestigious award given by the Australian Geomechanics Society. The award recognises that Professor Johnston’s contributions to the geotechnical profession are of the highest order, celebrating his lifetime commitment and career achievements as a teacher, researcher, consultant and technical administrator.

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Wastewater and conservation key to quenching global thirst Thu, 09 Aug 2012 23:51:23 +0000 A review prepared by the University of Melbourne looks at new methods of water conservation and the need to transform policies and attitudes. The paper describes three emerging methods of addressing shortages: substituting high-quality water with lower-quality water where appropriate, creating drinking water from wastewater and reducing leaks and the volume needed for basic services.

“Taking the ‘waste’ out of wastewater for human water security and ecosystem sustainability”, published in a special issue of the Journal Science, looks at ways of addressing water shortages around the world through substitution, regeneration and reduction.

The “Australia’s big dry” in the first decade of the 21st century was a wake up call to everyone where water was concerned. Parched cities and regions across the globe are using sewage effluent and other wastewater in creative ways to augment drinking water, but four billion people still do not have adequate supplies. Wildlife, rivers and ecosystems are also being decimated by the ceaseless quest for new water and disposal of waste. Changing human behavior and redoubling use of alternatives are critical to breaking that cycle.

“This is the only path forward to provide water for humans as well as for ecosystems,” said lead author Stanley Grant.  Professor Grant is a water quality specialist, who holds a joint appointment with The University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering and the University of California (Irvine).

“We need to focus on improving the productivity and value of existing supplies, which basically means getting more out of a glass of water.” Co-author, Dr Michael Stewardson, Discipline Leader in Hydrology and Water Resources at The University of Melbourne’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering says Australia is leading the world in tackling the challenge of water scarcity. “We understand the need to grow the value we get from scarce water for food security, energy generation, ecosystem health, industrial use and cities.”

From Fountain Valley, Calif. and Melbourne, Australia, to Israel and Brazil, the researchers found that homeowners and major utilities are capturing liquid sewage, highway runoff, household laundry water and rainfall. In some cases, alternative sources are a major contributor to replenishing pristine water. Elsewhere they are a drop in the bucket.

Altering individual habits could be tougher. Turfgrass still consumes nearly three-quarters of residential drinking water in arid areas of the U.S. Homeowners may eventually have no choice but to replace lawns with drought-friendly landscapes. Engineered wetlands and other “biofilters” that capture storm water runoff are also part of the solution.

“These complementary options make the most of scarce freshwater resources, serve the varying water needs of both developed and developing countries, and confer a variety of environmental benefits,” the researchers conclude. “Their widespread adoption will require changing how freshwater is sourced, used, managed and priced.”

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Engineering researchers receive Laureate Fellowships Mon, 06 Aug 2012 00:31:08 +0000 Two University of Melbourne researchers have been named Australian Laureate Fellowship Recipients for 2012 by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The funding is part of almost $47M allocated by the Australian Federal Government in grants to boost the nation’s research capabilities.

Professor Frank Caruso is an ARC Federation Fellow in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He is also Leader of the Melbourne Materials Institute’s Materials for Medicine program and the Leader of the Melbourne Engineering Research Institute’s Structured Matter program. Professor Ivan Marusic is an ARC Federation Fellow and Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Professor Caruso’s Fellowship will help him establish a leading multidisciplinary research team, which will develop next-generation particle systems with engineered properties that are expected to underpin advances in the delivery of therapeutics in the areas of cancer, vaccines, cardiovascular disease and neural health.

“I applied for an Australian Laureate Fellowship because it provides an opportunity to build a world-class research team with critical mass to undertake research at the frontiers of multidisciplinary science,” Professor Caruso said.

Professor Marusic’s Fellowship will help him quantify the effects of fluid motions in aquatic systems in an unprecedented way by addressing the long-standing problem of turbulence. Turbulent fluid motions in aquatic systems are critical for many aspects of water health. The outcomes of this work will help strengthen Australia’s water security.

“The Fellowship will assist my career tremendously. It secures the funds and time that I need to fully concentrate on tackling the key challenges in my field,” Professor Marusic said.

“The funding will allow me to hire and support the right number of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students that are required for a critical mass. The prestige of the award is important as it provides exposure to the field of fluid mechanics, which although is central to many problems of great societal importance is not as well known to the broader community.”

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor James McCluskey said the awards recognised the depth and quality of research at the University of Melbourne.

“The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme supports excellence in research by attracting world-class researchers and research leaders to key positions, and creating new opportunities for the application of their talents in Australia,” Professor McCluskey said. “By supporting innovation, we can nurture new and emerging research leaders and continue to produce internationally competitive research.”

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Biomedical engineers research to control epilepsy Fri, 03 Aug 2012 01:29:50 +0000 Associate Professor David Grayden

Associate Professor David Grayden

Epilepsy is a common neurological condition in which the normal electrochemical activity of the brain is disrupted resulting in seizures. The disease affects 1-2% of the worldwide population. According to Epilepsy Australia, it is estimated that over 180,000 Australians are living with epilepsy, approximately 2% of Australians will experience the condition at some point in their lives and up to 5% may experience a one-off epileptic seizure. Epilepsy is controlled, but not cured, by medication, and around 30% of sufferers do not respond well to medication.

Associate Professor David Grayden, Deputy Head (Academic) of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the Discipline of Biomedical Engineering at the Melbourne School of Engineering, is leading a research project in conjunction with the Bionics Institute and St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, that is investigating how electrical stimulation of the brain can be used to stop epileptic seizures.

Associate Professor Grayden and his team are using mathematical models to predict the patterns of electrical stimulations that may best control epilepsy.

“It may be possible to predict when a seizure is likely to occur, by analyzing mathematically what happens in the brain just before a seizure. We’re developing a mathematical model of particular regions of the brain to describe how epilepsy begins and ends,” Associate Professor Grayden said.

These mathematical algorithms will be used to design a medical bionics device, similar to a bionic ear, that can predict and control seizures. Associate Professor Grayden acknowledges that creating a seizure-prevention device that can be inserted into the brain presents many challenges.

“The device needs to be small, durable and safe within the body. The electrical stimulation must not cause damage to the brain, so there are many safety aspects that need to be considered before a final product comes out,” he said.

“We hope that we’ll have something ready for clinical trials in about three years from now.”

Associate Professor Grayden believes that there is no doubt that if the research is a success, it will be life changing for people with epilepsy.

“The need for new treatments for epilepsy is what motivates this research. Sometime the side-effects of drugs  are very bad or the drugs are ineffective, so people struggle to have normal lives,” he said.

“In addition, there are stigmas attached to having epilepsy, and we would really like to make a difference in removing these,” he said.

A better understanding of how electrical stimulation interacts with neural tissue may not only provide relief for epilepsy sufferers, but could have therapeutic benefits across a range of neurological disorders.

A range of projects focusing on epilepsy are currently being undertaken in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Melbourne School of Engineering.

Listen to Associate Professor Grayden and Professor Mark Cook discuss “Predicting and preventing epileptic seizures with neural implants” in episode 197 of the University of  Melbourne’s podcast UpClose.

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Biomedical Engineering at Melbourne Tue, 31 Jul 2012 23:43:47 +0000 Rapid advances in the understanding of the building blocks of life, basic cellular processes, new biomaterials and the widespread availability of high-speed computers has led to the current revolution in the biomedical sciences and medicine.

Biomedical engineers apply engineering techniques and analyses to problem-solving in medicine and the biomedical sciences, bridging the gap between technology, medicine and biology. They use chemistry, physics, mathematical models and computer simulation to develop new drug therapies, or to study many of the signals generated by organs such as the brain, heart and skeletal muscle.

They also build artificial organs , limbs, knees, hips, heart valves and dental implants to replace lost function, or grow living tissues to replace failing organs. Graduates can expect to work in the biotechnology, biomedical, pharmaceutical, medical device and equipment industries, in research and innovation, in the health services, hospitals, or in government and consulting.

The Master of Engineering (Biomedical) is designed to provide students with a formal qualification in engineering at the masters level. In this program, students may choose to focus on areas including biomechanical engineering, bioengineering, bioinformatics, biocellular engineering, biosignals, neuroengineering or clinical engineering. Our reputation for biomedical innovation in areas such as developing the bionic ear and eye, and targeted drug delivery systems, ensures students are learning from leaders in the field.

The Melbourne School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne is located in the heart of the Parkville biomedical science and clinical research precinct, the foremost of its kind in Australia. Our biomedical engineering researchers work with many of the key centres, such as Bionic Vision Australia, the Centre for Neural Engineering, the Bionics Institute of Australia, Bio21 and the Howard Florey Institute on research and development projects where engineering expertise is essential to address medical problems.

Associate Professor David Grayden is the Academic Program Coordinator of the Master of Engineering (Biomedical). He is interested in understanding how the brain processes information and how to best present information to the brain using medical bionics, such as the bionic ear and eye. Associate Professor Grayden also conducts research into epileptic seizure prediction and electrical stimulation to stop or prevent epileptic seizures. Like many of the School of Engineering’s academics, he discusses his fascinating research as part of his teaching.

“Biomedical Engineering is an exciting field because it offers huge opportunities for multidisciplinary research, development and industry applications, as well as having enormous potential to make a positive impact on human health,” Associate Professor Grayden says.

Rowan Habel

Biomedical Engineering student Rowan Habel

Rowan Habel is a current student, who has just completed the first year of the Master of Engineering (Biomedical). In his undergraduate degree, Rowan developed a keen interest in electrical engineering subjects where he designed small devices like pacemakers and worked on medical imaging.

“These subjects got me interested in a career as a clinical engineer in a hospital,” Rowan said.

On commencement of his graduate study, Rowan received a Master of Engineering scholarship for academic merit, consisting of $10,000, paid over the 2 years of his course. He chose biomedical engineering because he wanted to combine his love of maths and physics into working in a health science discipline.

“Biomedical Engineering is the perfect composite, promising an integrated career of design, research, travel, working at the cutting-edge of modern science and technology, and making a rewarding contribution to humanity,” he said.

“Studying at Melbourne, means I belong in a group of students passionate about their study, with excellent lecturers, resources, and international recognition.”

Find out more about the Master of Engineering program, which is offered in 11 disciplines including Biomedical Engineering, as well as our scholarship opportunities.

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Chips and diamonds for a bionic eye to restore sight Mon, 30 Jul 2012 02:07:58 +0000 Professor Stan Skafidas

Professor Stan Skafidas, leader of the design electronics group

Researchers are making leaps and bounds in the development of a high-acuity retinal implant­­­— a bionic eye with up to 1024 stimulating electrodes made of diamond. As part of the Bionic Vision Australia consortium, the team at the Melbourne Materials Institute, at the University of Melbourne, has developed a technique to fabricate a diamond electrode array for the high-acuity bionic eye.

This is the first application of diamond material for stimulation of neural tissue. Professor Steven Prawer, Director of the Melbourne Materials Institute is leading the team of physicists and electrochemists in this development.

“Diamond doesn’t break down over time and can therefore survive in the body for long periods, making it an ideal material for medical implants,” Professor Prawer said.

This diamond material is grown synthetically in the laboratory by combining methane and hydrogen in a large microwave-like reactor.

“We have doped our diamond material with nitrogen, making it highly conductive and a suitable material to stimulate the retina, using a high-density electrode array with potentially thousands of electrodes in the eye,” Professor Prawer said.

Meanwhile, researchers at NICTA’s Victorian Research Laboratory are finalising the design and testing of the second-generation microchip that will drive the diamond electrode array. Professor Stan Skafidas, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, leads the electronics design group; he explains: “We have outstanding results from the tests of our first generation microchip. We have tested features of the stimulation circuitry as well as the data and power transfer system.”

With the final version of the microchip in development, researchers will soon commence bonding the microchip to the diamond electrode array and encapsulation box. This will complete the high-acuity implant prototype and prepare it for the next phase of preclinical testing.

The aim of this technology is to restore a sense of vision to people with profound blindness so they can recognise faces and read large print.

The high-acuity bionic eye will consist of a camera, attached to a pair of glasses, which captures images and sends them directly to a retinal implant, containing a microchip. This microchip decodes the information and triggers electrical stimulation of the retina. These signals are then passed along the optic nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as vision.

This technology aims to restore some sense of vision to people experiencing blindness due to degenerative conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration

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Out of this world: Exchange student’s Swedish rocket project Fri, 27 Jul 2012 01:00:53 +0000 Will Reid with his rocket

Will Reid with his rocket

“The experience of a lifetime” is how Will Reid from the Melbourne School of Engineering described his time managing a rocket experiment in Sweden for the past 18 months. The Mechatronics and Computer Science student’s handiwork will be launched 85km into the Earth’s atmosphere later this year.

Will has recently returned to Melbourne from Stockholm, where he was based at the Royal Institute of Technology. During that time he worked as project manager on the RAIN experiment (which stands for Rocket Deployed Atmospheric probes conducting Independent measurements in Northern Sweden) which aims to collect aerosol dust particles from the Earth’s middle atmosphere in order to create a detailed profile of aerosols in this region.

The experiment, to take place in October, will involve the launch of two atmospheric probes that will be ejected from the sides of a REXUS sounding rocket (Rocket Experiment for Upcoming Students).

The probes will then collect aerosol particles as they fall back to Earth over a height range from 80 to 17 km.

Will said that each probe was equipped with a rotating plate in its base.

“On this plate is a variety of different collection samples that will be exposed to the passing atmosphere via an exposure window.

“As the probe falls, particles will collide with the exposed collection sample. At 17 km the plate will stop rotating and the samples will be sealed.”

He said the team would then recover each probe and analyse the collected particles at a lab at Stockholm University.

The rocket was originally scheduled to launch in March, but this was postponed so that further investigations into the rocket’s recovery system could be conducted.

As project manager for RAIN, Will managed a team of 18 engineering students.

“All of us were dealing with complicated engineering tasks, and planning and managing these tasks for such a large team was the most challenging aspect,” he says.

“As with anything difficult though, it was very rewarding and I learned a great deal about conducting an engineering team project; the practical sort of exercise not always experienced.”

Back in 2010 Will was three and a half years into his studies at Melbourne and keen to experience something a little different, so he looked into exchange opportunities.

“I had never been to Sweden and had heard really positive reports about the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, so I decided to give it a shot.”

He says the exchange experience was marvellous and he would recommend it to other students.

“It was hard work but it was a life-changing experience worth working for.

“I gained invaluable experience by taking part in a space engineering project. I met some great friends from all over the world, and I had a lot of fun.”

After graduation Will hopes to pursue a postgraduate degree in space engineering.

He says it has always been his dream to work in the space industry, and he intends to return to Sweden to witness the launch of his project in October.

“I’m sure it will feel ‘out of this world’ and deeply rewarding after a year and a half of work to see my experiment propelled into space.”

Further information about the RAIN experiment is available via the project team’s website.

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Environmental Engineering Programs at Melbourne Tue, 24 Jul 2012 23:45:19 +0000 Environmental Engineering graduate Penny Rogers

Environmental Engineering graduate Penny Rogers

Environmental Engineers make a difference to the world by using their expertise to create sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

They work in areas such as land management, water resources management, salinity, water quality and soil rehabilitation. As environmental challenges continue to mount, environmental engineers are in increasing demand worldwide, to manage the interactions between the natural environment and the built environment.

The University of Melbourne offers two leading graduate programs in the high-demand field of environmental engineering:

The Master of Engineering (Environmental) is an internationally-recognised program designed to give students a formal qualification in engineering at the masters level.

The Master of Engineering is the first engineering course in Australia to be accredited by EUR-ACE ®, meaning graduates can work as professional environmental engineers in Europe. The course is also provisionally accredited by Engineers Australia, with full accreditation to be granted when the first students graduate from the program. This means graduates can work in Washington Accord countries including the USA, UK, Canada and Singapore.

If you are already a practicing engineer, The Master of Environmental Engineering is a one-year full time course aimed at engineers seeking a career change to environmental engineering. The course will give you an advanced understanding of the practice of environmental management and sustainable development, particularly in the fields of water resources management, energy studies and development technologies.

Environmental engineering is a rapidly growing field and qualified environmental engineers are in high demand. Our graduates typically have several employment offers to choose from, after completion of their course. Career opportunities exist in consulting firms, conservation and natural resource management agencies, environmental protection agencies, catchment management authorities, mining companies, in government, research and academic organisations. Environmental engineering graduates may find work with companies, such as GHD, Golder Associates, Alluvium, Worley Parsons, Hays Engineering, Arup, and many more.

Recent graduate Penny Rogers is an environmental engineer specialising in river health. She spends her time in the field collecting samples, assessing river conditions and understanding the ecology of environments. Penny works for GHD, one of the world’s leading engineering, architecture and environmental consulting companies.

Penny recently completed some exciting field work in the outback around Alice Springs, an experience she counts in her career highlights:

“It was a great trip and I am lucky to be able to work in such amazing and diverse environments.”

Before commencing at GHD, Penny completed vacation work for both consultancies and government agencies within the field of Natural Resources Management and River Health, experiences that yielded great insights into the river health industry. She also worked for the University of Melbourne as a research assistant.
Recalling her time as a student, Penny said she enjoyed the field trip opportunities and peer networking:

“The field trips where we experienced the natural environment for ourselves enabled us to put into practice what we had learned in the lecture theatre.”

“Graduating from Melbourne gave me an excellent peer group for when I started working full time.”

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CAT projects shine light in rural India Sun, 22 Jul 2012 23:55:39 +0000 Lyndon Frearson

Lyndon Frearson

Electrical Engineering graduate Lyndon Frearson concedes that he was not exactly a star pupil during his years at the Melbourne School of Engineering. However, Mr Frearson has gone on to play a leading role in Australian humanitarian engineering. In 2007 he helped establish a company, CAT Projects, a Northern Territory based engineering consultancy specialising in project management and energy and power systems engineering that is wholly owned by the indigenous NGO, the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT Inc).

CAT Projects has recently expanded its reach to provide much-needed electricity to isolated townships in rural India. This all culminated last year, when Mr Frearson and his team received one of the most prestigious honours in Australian engineering, the Sir William Hudson Award from Engineers Australia, presented at Parliament House in November.

Mr Frearson said he enjoyed his time immensely at The Melbourne School of Engineering.

“Possibly more than I should have at times!”

However Mr Frearson said he struggled with the idea of what he was going to do post-graduation. As such, his studies suffered.

“There were several times where, arguably, if it weren’t for people sticking their necks out for me, I should have been asked to leave.”

In spite of this, he graduated successfully and managed to secure one of just a few graduate roles at Ford.

After progressing in his career at Ford, his wife was offered an opportunity in Alice Springs working with remote aboriginal communities. Mr Frearson took leave of absence from Ford and took on a new job as an electrical engineer CAT Inc working on the fledgling Bushlight Project, which was deploying renewable energy systems for Aboriginal communities.

“I didn’t know much about Aboriginal people or about renewable energy – but I learnt a lot about that very quickly.”

“We came up for a year and ended up staying nearly two.”

He said that after the initial contract finished, he returned to Ford and continued on his career path.

“But I guess that it sparked something inside me, and I wondered whether this was actually what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

He was eventually offered a senior production management role at Ford in 2007. But at the same time, with his wife pregnant with their first child, Mr Frearson received a call from Alice Springs, saying the opportunity had come up to set up a new company and with a view to applying the knowledge and capability developed on the Bushlight Project beyond aboriginal communities. CAT Projects was founded.

“We took a pay cut to go back up there, but had the opportunity to start something from scratch.”

A family makes use of electricity, thanks to Bushlight India

He said the work he has done since has been hugely rewarding, and has seen him camping on secluded beaches, building some of the largest solar power plants in Australia, travelling to islands in the Bengal Delta to meet with villagers and speaking at major conferences.

“It’s beyond my expectations of what I’d get out of my career thus far.”

In 2008, CAT Projects commenced development of the Bushlight India Model, which builds on the Northern Territory framework, aiming to supply energy services to remote Indian villages.

Mr Frearson said the project was already having a noticeable impact on the local economies in the Indian villages.

He said villagers had already made use of the arrival of electricity to the town, starting new businesses. A group of women had purchased a sewing machine to make disposable banana leaf plates, which they sold in the marketplace.

Another local man had bought a second-hand photocopier and was now operating his own print shop from out of his home. The shop also provided much-needed learning materials for the school.

“You can actually build livelihoods for people, and the provision of energy is a key enabler of that.”

As a result, CAT Projects and the Bushlight India Model was awarded Engineers Australia’s top award, the Sir William Hudson Award. They were up against 50 excellent projects from around Australia.

“That night, standing there with my team to receive that award is without doubt the career highlight for me,” Mr Frearson said.

“For a little engineering firm based in the centre of Australia, owned by an Aboriginal organisation, to end up with this acknowledgement was just truly and profoundly humbling.”

For further information about CAT Projects and Bushlight, visit

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Technology to protect our infrastructure Fri, 20 Jul 2012 00:45:33 +0000

Using the HPVAT Platform for Evacuation Planning in case of a Chemical Spill in Sydney CBD.

Professor Priyan Mendis and Dr Tuan Ngo, of the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, are world-leaders in infrastructure protection research. They lead a team of researchers working on a program that will provide decision-makers in crisis situations with accurate predictions of which buildings, bridges, tunnels, pipelines, power or telecommunication towers could fall following a bomb blast or a fire. The technology will also provide information about the vulnerability of critical underground infrastructures such as water, gas pipelines and urban utility networks.

Predicting the impact of a bomb blast, a fire or a chemical spill and knowing the most effective evacuation route from any CBD location in Australia could save thousands of lives during a disaster. Using 3D GIS mapping systems of Australian cities which include precise details of all natural and man-made features, the technology can predict the impact of a disaster and provide real-time information about safe evacuation routes.

The accuracy of this technology is based on analysing variables such as the type of explosive, the fragmentation effects caused by the device and varying effects of the urban environment. This kind of information can be used to help save lives in the event of a bomb blast.

The tool is also capable of predicting the size of charge that caused by a blast, which can prove vital during police investigations.

It is the first system in the world to combine evacuation information, building and infrastructure vulnerability as well as post blast analysis. The data collected will be made available to the Australian police and emergency management services.

The software platform, HPVAT, has already been successfully used by state police authorities during various counter-terrorism exercises, and the team is developing an online program which will provide vital information to all emergency and police services across the nation in real time.

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Courses in Engineering Management at Melbourne Wed, 18 Jul 2012 06:42:02 +0000 Engineering management studies are designed to bridge the gap in business knowledge between engineering, technology and management. The field of engineering management concerns the application of engineering principles to the planning and management of industrial and manufacturing operations.

Engineering Management is an in-demand field, offering graduates a range of lucrative career outcomes. The University of Melbourne offers two exciting courses in this area, offering students the high-level management skills that industry is looking for:

Both courses are designed to help you develop the skills to succeed as a leader in industry.

The Master of Engineering Management

Engineering managers lead engineering projects and personnel in a range of technical fields such as product development, manufacturing, construction, design engineering, industrial engineering, software engineering and telecommunications.

The Master of Engineering Management is a flexible program that takes the best of both Commerce and Engineering to create a well-balanced and pertinent management qualification.

Students graduate from the program with the skills required for leadership roles and the ability to provide solutions to organisations involved in technology, manufacturing, construction, engineering and production. Careers for graduates of this program are varied and the skills obtained are in high demand. Past graduates work in management or consultancy roles in areas such as general management, human resources, finance, marketing, quality assurance, education, contract arbitration and policy development within technically-focused organisations.

The Master of Engineering Project Management

The Master of Engineering Project Management is designed to meet the needs of engineers in disciplines requiring an advanced understanding of the theoretical and practical principles of the project management function.

The Master of Engineering Project Management course features guest speakers from industry and academic staff with extensive international experience in both Government and the private sector.

Students are also able to choose electives from other disciplines, such as Human Resources and Management, corporate financing and sustainability and carbon trading.

The Master of Engineering Project Management offers a unique opportunity to learn from people with vast experience in the field, as part of a strong industry-relevant program that is not offered in many other institutions. Graduates of the program take on leadership roles in project delivery and are equipped with professional skills across the full scope of project management, from conception to completion.

Lintang Wallandouw, Master of Engineering Management graduate

Lintang Wallandouw – Master of Engineering Management

Lintang Wallandouw completed a Master of Engineering Management at the University of Melbourne and now works in the climate change sector, for PT. AES AgriVerde, Indonesia, a company that works with industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“Being the Clean Development Mechanism Services Manager means that I am responsible for assessing a project’s feasibility, driving a feasible project to be registered, monitoring it and getting it certified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Lintang enrolled in the Master of Engineering Management after completing an undergraduate mechanical engineering degree at Queensland University of Technology.

“I had heard about the University of Melbourne’s education standards and rating, and visited Melbourne for a quick trip during my final year of undergraduate study. Studying at the University of Melbourne gave me the confidence, skills, knowledge and capability to achieve things both within and outside of work.”

For further information about the Master of Engineering Management and the Master of Engineering Project Management courses, please visit the Melbourne School of Engineering’s graduate study website.


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