Jing Fung Tan discusses his award winning research

My thesis presents methodologies for the production of star-shaped polymers and their variants (such as star-like and multi-star polymers) with reference to improving their versatility and commercial viability for use in a variety of products.

An aspect of my research focused on delaying macrogelation in star-like polymer paint formulation, to reduce the impact of volatile organic compound emission on the environment and is particularly applicable to the automotive industry. The work developed organic polymer coatings for more robust paints containing reduced volatile organic compound content. This star-like polymer technology is presently being developed for other commercial applications including engine oils, anti-corrosion and self-healing coatings and synthetic blood.

Another aspect of my research focused on using multi-star polymers as targeted drug delivery modules. The work paves the way for the development of multifunctional drug delivery modules capable of releasing different payloads in response to different stimuli, which may provide a means for treating multiple diseases with a single therapeutic dose.

I am honoured to win MERIT’s Best PhD thesis in Engineering award, especially amongst a field of brilliant PhD students. Research, in my view, is an individual’s contribution to the collective knowledge of mankind. Regardless of whether an experiment results in success or failure, the outcome contributes to the knowledge pool and advances our society, be it increasing life expectancy or developing technologies that make living more comfortable (I certainly cannot imagine having to type this article on a typewriter by candlelight). Having experienced the thrill of discovery and the anguish of failure (more anguish than thrills, as most PhD students would agree), I appreciate and relate to the effort of researchers in developing their ideas into useful technologies. As such, being presently in the patent attorney profession, I am committed to ensure that inventions receive their deserved protection. This prize further cements my determination to safeguard the interests of researchers, as I would of my own research.

Finally, despite this prize being an individual award, I dedicate it to my supervisors, Professor Greg Qiao and Dr Anton Blencowe from the Polymer Science Group. Their work ethic and dedication to research inspired and helped me develop as a scientist. And to all PhD students, my humble advice is to never give up. Self-belief is the key to success – if you believe your research can save (or improve) the world, someday, it will.


New Linkage Project successes

Dr Sally Gras, Chief Investigator of a successful Linkage Grant application to develop improved nutrition in infant formula.

Academics from The Melbourne School of Engineering have been awarded nearly $1.6M in funding for six new major Linkage Projects, in the latest round of Australian Research Council funding.

The six successful projects range from the latest in flood forecasting using observations from space, to reducing the environmental impact of the dairy industry through optimised dairy membrane processing.

A seventh project based at The University of Newcastle will involve Prof. Peter Stuckey from The Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, and will develop computational and mathematical tools to manage stockyards in the mining industry.

Dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering, Professor Iven Mareels congratulated the research teams on an excellent outcome in the funding round.

“This constitutes nearly $1.6M in new grant income for the School,” He said.

“It is an outstanding result and a reflection of the hard work of MSE researchers in developing leading research proposals and forging solid relationships with key partner organisations.”

“Well done to all the teams.”

New Linkage Projects

A fundamental study of milk ultrafiltration

Research team: Prof David E Dunstan, Dr Gregory J Martin, Prof Vicki Chen, Dr Dalton J Harvie, A/Prof Malcolm R Davidson, Dr Elankovan Ponnampalam

Partner Organisation: Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd.

The Dairy Industry is one of Australia’s largest domestic and export industries. The fundamental knowledge and models developed in this project will be used to optimise dairy membrane processing. This will reduce water and energy use to improve the global competitiveness and reduce the environmental impact of the Australian Dairy Industry.

Development of efficient, robust and architecturally-flexible structural systems using innovative blind-bolted connections

Research team: Dr Helen M Goldsworthy, Prof Emad Gad, Prof Brian Uy, Dr Saman Fernando

Partner Organisations: AJAX Engineered Fasteners, OneSteel Limited

The aim of the proposed project is to develop structural systems that have sufficient stiffness, strength, and ductility to withstand code-specified loads and that will be competitive in the marketplace. The development of demonstrable cost-effective structural systems is essential if these types of systems are to be widely adopted in practice, thus allowing Australian manufacturers of blind bolts and steel tubes to achieve a greater market share.

The development of novel oligosaccharides from dairy lactose for improved infant nutrition

Research team: Dr Sally L Gras, A/Prof Sandra E Kentish, Prof Geoff W Stevens, Dr Ross Crittenden

Partner organisation: Murray Goulburn Co-operative Pty Ltd

This project will develop new milk sugars to enhance nutrition for the 46 per cent of infants who receive formula. It will support rural and regional dairy communities and manufacturers, increasing innovation, potentially generating six million dollars in new sales per annum, increasing returns to farmers and promoting regional employment and spending.

Optimal design of controlled aerodynamic bodies: from concept to prototype

Research Team: A/Prof Chris Manzie, Prof Andrew Ooi, Dr Nicholas Hutchins

Partner organisation: BAE Systems Australia

This interdisciplinary project will deliver technological advances in the areas of fluid dynamics, control systems and optimisation. It utilises advanced knowledge in these areas to design manoeuvrable aerodynamic bodies and will have a direct effect on Australian defence capability.

Land and property information in 3D

Research Team: A/Prof Abbas Rajabifard, Prof Ian P Williamson, Dr Tuan D Ngo

Partner Organisations: VEKTA PTY LTD, Alexander & Symonds, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria., Fender Katsalidis Architects, Intergovernmental Committee On Surveying & Mapping, Land and Property Management Authority NSW, Owners Corporation Victoria, PSMA Australia Ltd

Australia’s population growth results in multiple uses and stacked villages in 3-dimensional (3D) arrays of buildings and facilities in cities. This project will facilitate use of 3D technologies to support the land market, streamline legal requirements, decrease delays and reduce costs for designing, planning, building and managing modern cities.

A new-generation flood forecasting system using observations from space

Research Team: A/Prof Andrew W Western, Dr Dongryeol Ryu, Prof Jeffrey P Walker, Mr James F Elliott, Mr Chris Leahy, Dr Wade T Crow, Dr Quan J Wang, Dr Thomas C Pagano, Dr Luigi J Renzullo

Partner Organisations: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory

Floods are dangerous and expensive, costing Australia more than any other cause of natural disaster. This project will use satellite measurements of soil moisture and rainfall along with computer models to improve the Bureau of Meteorology’s predictions of floods in rivers. Better flood forecasts will reduce costs and save lives.

Mathematics and computing for integrated stockyard-centric management of mining supply chains

Research Team: Prof Natashia L Boland, Prof Peter J Stuckey, Dr Alexandre d Mendes, Dr Faramroze Engineer, Prof Mathieu (Martin) W Savelsbergh, Dr Andreas T Ernst

Partner Organisations: Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator Limited, QMASTOR Limited

Blended mineral products, such as coal and iron ore, make a strong contribution to Australia’s economy. Blending occurs in stockpiles, so to realise product value, stockyard and supply chain operational plans must align with blend targets. This project will provide new mathematical and computational planning tools to maximise this value.


Land buy backs in flood-prone areas in the media

Associate Professor Andrew Western from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering has discussed the buy back of land in flood zones for The Conversation.

Assoc. Prof. Western comments on the Victorian Government’s proposal to buy back flood-prone land, saying it provides an opportunity to fix some past mistakes, provided it is targeted well.

Assoc. Prof. Western recently wrote another piece for The Conversation, which argued against building on flood plains. His previous article is also available from The Conversation site.


Amazing Spaghetti Machine Task Revealed

The task for the Melbourne School of Engineering’s inaugural Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest has been revealed today. The contest launched in 2011 as part of the School’s 150th anniversary celebrations will see teams of year-10 high school students from 40 schools around the state competing to design and build a complicated Spaghetti Machine to undertake a simple task.

The contest will be an annual competition for schools in which knowledge and skills in maths, science, engineering, and project management are put to the test in the creation of a ‘Spaghetti Machine’ – the Italian term for an overly complex machine or device that is used to perform a relatively simple task.

Competition will be fierce as schools from Swan Hill to Sale, and Horsham to Mansfield, have just over four months to design and build a Spaghetti Machine that will dispense instant coffee, sugar, and powdered milk into a cup, ready to make a cup of instant coffee. Please note, that the proportion of ingredients in the cup should make a drinkable cup of coffee, once hot water has been added. Hot water will not be used in the contest, however.

Judging of the Spaghetti Machines will take place in Wilson Hall on July 26 and 27, with teams competing for some great prizes.



Department of Infrastructure Engineering is on the map

Mahsa Ghasemi, student in the Master of Spatial Information Science, has put the “Department of Infrastructure Engineering” on the map using Openstreetmap, a global spatial data infrastructure system based on user-generated content. Openstreetmap is the ‘spatial equivalent’ to Wikipedia.

You can view the updated map online.  Other maps, authoritative as well as commercial, have updating cycles of at least 6 months and lack this level of detail. A number of the Department’s current research projects use Openstreetmap as a demonstrator platform and have user-generated content.


2011 Graeme Clark Oration: “The Computational Brain” by Professor Terrence J. Sejnowski

The ICT for Life Sciences Forum is pleased to announce the details of the Graeme Clark Oration for 2011:

Renowned brain scientist, Professor Terrence J. Sejnowski, will deliver the Oration, The Computational Brain, on Wednesday, 9 March, 2011.

Professor Sejnowski is a pioneer in the field of computational neuroscience and his goal is to understand the principles that link brain mechanisms to behaviour.

His Oration will explore the workings of the brain, whether we are any closer to building artificial brains, how our understanding of the brain is transforming ideas about learning and education and the role of social robots and brain behaviour in disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Professor Sejnowski holds the Francis Crick Chair at the Salk institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, and is also a Professor of Biology at the University of California San Diego, where he is co-director of the Institute for Neural Computation.  Professor Sejnowski is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.  He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.

Further details about the 2011 Graeme Clark Oration can be found by visiting the new Graeme Clark Oration website http://www.graemeclarkoration.org.au/ Continue reading “2011 Graeme Clark Oration: “The Computational Brain” by Professor Terrence J. Sejnowski”


Fast Tracking Prosthetic Feet

(Photograph by Jian Ming Chan)

Associate Professor Peter Lee, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and a team of final year biomedical engineering students have been developing prosthetic feet that are more durable and less susceptible to breaking.

A combination of land mines in recent war-afflicted regions, industrial and environmental accidents, terrorist attacks and poor quality public health, in developing nations has resulted in a growing need for low-cost artificial limbs. Associate Professor Lee and his students have been researching different kinds of low-cost artificial limbs, culminating in an annual field trip to areas of need such as Cambodia and Vietnam.

One of the great benefits of working in the field is the way the findings inform future research. For example, in 2009, students who had designed a low-cost prosthetic knee reported that a larger problem in Cambodia were structural faults in prosthetic foot design. As a result, in 2010, students focused on designing a more durable prosthetic foot. In the field, these students found the prosthetic foot design issues were related to the weight and the ability of the polypropylene keel to adhere to the surrounding rubber. This issue can now be studied in the mechanical engineering lab, and improvements to the design can then be taken out on the next field trip in 2011.

For more details read “Fast Tracking Prosthetic Feet”, by Gabrielle Murphy, the Voice, Vol 7, No 2, 2011 and read the transcript, “Low Cost Prosthetic Feet for Cambodia”, Innovations, ABC Radio Australia, 2 April 2011.


Cosmonaut to talk at School of Engineering

cosmonautFamous Russian Cosmonaut, Alexander Ivanchenkov will visit the University of Melbourne on Wednesday March 2 to discuss his life and career in space exploration.

Mr Ivanchenkov is visiting Melbourne as part of the Russian delegation to the Avalon 2011 Air Show.

Mr Ivanchenkov is a cosmonaut of the first class, twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1978, 1982) and has received a long list of honours including a Tsiolkovskiy Gold Medal by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

In 1978, Mr Ivanchenkov went into orbit on board Soyuz-29 spacecraft, and made a record 140-day flight on board Salut-6 orbital station.  During that flight, he went into outer space for 2 hours and 5 minutes.

He will be speaking to students and staff at 3.00pm on Wednesday March 2 at the Brown Lecture Theatre, Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building (building 193).

RSVP to Natasha Baxter is essential.


150 years of Engineering at Melbourne

By Jennifer Thomas

The University of Melbourne’s Chancellor and Victoria’s Governor-elect the Hon. Alex Chernov, AO, QC launched the anniversary of 150 years of engineering education at the Melbourne School of Engineering last night.

At the launch Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis talked about how much the School had grown from 15 part-time students and one academic in 1861, to a community drawn from over 100 countries, with a network of nearly 25,000 alumni. Today the School is acknowledged nationally and internationally for excellence in engineering and technology research and education.

Continue reading “150 years of Engineering at Melbourne”


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