Engineering and IT PhD research on show for 3 Minute Thesis

PhD student Sarah Webber
PhD student Sarah Webber

Two Melbourne School of Engineering PhD students took to the stage and pitched their research projects for the University of Melbourne 3 Minute Thesis Grand Final on Thursday 8 September.

The grand finalists included Sarah Webber from the Department of Computing and Information Systems and the Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces, and Mitchell Nothling from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Sarah Webber is part of a research team working with Zoos Victoria on a unique project to enrich the lives of the zoo’s orangutans through the use of video games. The team is using Kinect technology to provide the orangutans with vital stimulus. Sarah said that they had also found that the interactive games had another positive effect on human visitors to the zoo, allowing them to see the orangutans in a new light, and inspiring visitors to help preserve these creatures.
More about this project on Pursuit.

Mitchell Nothling is working in the field of biomimicry, devising detergents that are inspired by biology. He said that his initial inspiration for the work was imagining if the process of human digestion could be replicated on an industrial scale – for instance in relation to washing machines. Mitchell said that enzymes in stomachs are natures catalysts, but they have the limitation of being very delicate. He said he has developed a series of enzyme mimicking materials that are not as fragile as enzymes, which can be used in detergents.

The contest was judged by comedian and TV presenter, Shaun Micallef, Author and Honorary Fellow, Maxine McKew and former Opinion Editor of The Age, Sushi Das.

Participants were judged on the content of their presentation and how they communicated their projects within a strict three minute time limit.

The overall winner was Nathaniel Swain from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, with runner up Anne Aulsebrook from the Faculty of Science and People’s Choice winner Ting Ting Lee from the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

Featured image: Mitchell Nothling.