Scientists are delving further into artificial intelligence research, which enables computers to gather and react independently to information. Commenting in The Age last week, Professor Tim Baldwin, from the Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, said that even though there is a bit of hype surrounding artificial intelligence, researchers have come a long way.
As the focus of artificial intelligence shifts towards “deep learning”, a process which mimics digital neural networks in the human brain, major companies such as Google and Facebook are racing to use this technology to improve speech and emotion recognition systems.
In November 2013, Chemical Engineering PhD candidate Joseph Richardson went to East Timor, to teach breakdancing, digital music and documentation skills to young people, as part of his 2013 Vice-Chancellor’s Engagement Award.
Joseph is completing a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering focusing on the production of nano- and micro-scale drug delivery systems. Despite the demands of study, he has found time to apply for and receive two DreamLarge grants to make a difference to Timorese youth at risk.
“Both grants have focused on using Hip Hop to empower the youth of East Timor and to set up a sustainable art scene in the region. We had hoped to teach in the districts on this trip, but were advised to stay in Dili by our Timorese partner organisation,” Joseph said.
“Thankfully, I got to team up with a mentor and three exceptional students (Amanda Haskard, Bryan Phillips and Chris Parkinson) from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). This made writing the grant and planning the project significantly easier and more culturally relevant.”
Amanda assisted with the grant-writing process and worked with a group of United Nations members specifically focused on female engagement, as the project included a number of young women. As an aside, Amanda also runs SIGNAL, a youth arts space within the City of Melbourne.
Bryan taught music production of various styles on a donated portable ipad music studio. Chris taught the participants how to document their culture in an artistic way through photography, while Joseph focused on breakdancing.
Although everyone had a particular role, the project was about inter-disciplinary sharing, with an emphasis on empowering youth in culturally constructive ways.
Bryan worked with five or six local groups and helped them to produce songs from genres as diverse as punk, hip-hop, house, and culturally inspired music. He taught the principles of how to construct songs and demonstrated his extensive knowledge of software, while teaching the participants how to produce the songs.
Chris helped some of the youth learn how to film and document Timorese art, dance and music. While teaching, he also helped to organise an extensive art exhibition that later evolved into a kick-off for a photojournalism book on Timorese graffiti.
As dance coordinator, Joseph got to work with two promising groups; one was female dominated and the other male.
The two-week long project was documented by the young participants and culminated in a performance choreographed by those learning breakdancing and performed to the songs created in a mobile studio.
The group members have become local leaders and celebrities especially after the first trip. Choreography and advanced moves were finetuned, but time was dedicated to engaging with the community through impromptu performances and breakdance circles.
The trip culminated in a significant art exhibition at the partner organisation, Arte Moris, the cultural hub of the Timorese artistic community. Teaching took place at Arte Moris and they facilitated most of the youth engagement.
The art exhibition incorporated musical performances, dance performance, and a range of visual art. Hundreds of locals and internationals attended the exhibition, providing great publicity for the young performers and artists and for Arte Moris.
“This project has become truly sustainable for Dili and hopefully will move out into the districts soon,” said Joseph.
“One crew, Endure, has recently won a few national dance competitions and gained a great deal of notoriety. They want to spread their knowledge of dance to the districts and we hope to get the opportunity to facilitate this.”
“This would extend the sustainability of this project to the national level by allowing locals to teach locals,” he said.
The two DreamLarge grants have provided an exceptional opportunity for the University of Melbourne team members and for the youth of Timor. Joseph believes that the second project has solidified the concept to the young people that they can change the fate of their nation. They are actively seeking ways to do this and some are now teaching other young people in Dili, while others are taking an active role in neighborhood leadership.
Some people have received paid teaching jobs in Dili with the children of American expats. One of the more ‘troubled’ youths gave up smoking and became a youth activist. He has adapted the mentoring model and hosted a 30-strong team soccer tournament.
“It’s really more than we could have hoped for,” said Joseph.
The Melbourne School of Engineering has been involved with two successful bids for ARC Centres of Excellence, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology and the ARC Centre for Excellence for Integrative Brain Function; both will be administered by Monash University.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology
The Centre comprises a multi-disciplinary team focused on research aiming to understand and control the interface of materials with biological systems. The Centre will exploit knowledge of the bio-nano interface to design materials that transport and deliver vaccines, drugs and gene therapy agents, and to design new diagnostic agents and devices. Nanomedicines are on the cusp of revolutionizing diagnosis and therapy in many diseases. The Centre will be the focus of bio-nano research activity in Australia, uniting universities, research agencies, institutes and companies. The expected outcomes are better diagnostic and therapeutic tools designed via an enhanced understanding of the bionano-interface.
The University of Melbourne is involved right across the many research programs. Professor Frank Caruso’s group (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) will look at nanoscale materials engineering and biological interactions, Professor Edmund Crampin (Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering) will examine computational approaches to model materials-biological interactions, while Professor Stephen Kent in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology will study the immunological responses from the engineered materials.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function
The Centre will be the Australian focus of the international quest to understand how the activity of brain cells mediates the way we interact with the world. We will study how electrical and biochemical activity is coordinated across brain regions, and across time, to enable adaptive behaviour. It will study three key integrative functions: attention, prediction, and decision. These functions are familiar to everyone; for example when crossing a street, your attention may be drawn to an oncoming car, your brain works to predict the car’s path, and you decide whether to continue crossing or to retreat to the kerb. These integrative functions depend on collecting accurate sensory information, and weighing this up based on experience and memory. We will probe these functions non-invasively in humans and, in parallel, through experimental studies of other mammals.
Professor Stan Skafidas (Director of the Centre for Neural Engineering) and Dr Steven Petrou, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, will be involved in developing new nanoscale electrophysiological and biochemical sensors that will permit us to interface and measure the activity of complex neuronal networks from the cell scale up with the aim of understanding brain function.
Dr Anne Hellstedt, Melbourne School of Engineering alumna and member of the Mechanical Engineering Industry Advisory Group, has been named as Engineers Australia’s Victorian Professional Engineer of the Year for 2012.
Dr Hellstedt is currently Australian and New Zealand Practice Leader for Applied Research and Sustainability in AECOM’s Building Engineering business line. She completed her BE (Mech)(Hons) in 1992 and her PhD in 2003 at The Melbourne School of Engineering. Anne is a leading expert in sustainability, specialising in the built environment.
Prior to joining AECOM, Dr Hellstedt worked for Lend Lease providing sustainability leadership to the Victoria/South Australia/Tasmania regional property business. She worked on ANZ Centre and The Gauge, Lend Lease’s Melbourne headquarters — both award winning projects. In 2004, Anne established the Building Science Group at Meinhardt in Melbourne.
The Melbourne School of Engineering congratulates Dr Hellstedt on this significant award.
Congratulations also to Melbourne School of Engineering alumnus Richard Salter, who was named Engineers Australia’s Victorian Young Professional Engineer of the year.
The Federal Government has this week announced new changes to the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Professor Hector Malano from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering discussed the changes for Sky News.
Professor Stan Skafidas from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Professor Doreen Thomas, Head of Mechanical Engineering, have been elected as Fellows to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).
The latest prestigious round of ATSE Fellowships places Professor Skafidas and Professor Thomas among a range of prominent figures from industry and academia, including BHP Billiton CEO, Dr Marius Kloppers and IBM Director R&D and CTO, Glenn Wightwick.
Director of the Centre for Neural Engineering, Professor Skafidas was recognised for his vision, leadership and major technical accomplishments in industry, research institutions, academia and international standardisation committees. In announcing the fellowship, ATSE noted that the adaptive frequency-hopping technology that Professor developed now forms a critical part of the Bluetooth standard and has been incorporated in several billion devices. His research in nano-electronics has advanced the disciplines of wireless communications, single chip radars and medical diagnostic systems.
The Melbourne School of Engineering’s Associate Dean (Research & Research Training) Professor Doreen Thomas was elected as an ATSE Fellow for her “outstanding international reputation for fundamental mathematical research in network optimisation.” ATSE noted that the software encapsulating Professor Thomas’ work is now used by the largest mining companies in the word to reduce underground mine development and haulage costs. “Professor Thomas has a national teaching award for her contribution to engineering education and mentorship and is a passionate ambassador for women in science and engineering.”
The Melbourne School of Engineering congratulates Professor Skafidas and Professor Thomas on this recognition of their outstanding achievements.
Dr Christine Satchell from the Department of Computing and Information Systems was interviewed by The Age, discussing social news and networking site Reddit. Dr Satchell discussed how Reddit has managed to largely avoid becoming overrun with online trolls.
Dr Chris Hale from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering was featured on page 3 of The Age yesterday, calling for an overhaul of Melbourne’s rail stations, which he said are well behind world standards.
Dr Hale has recently received $156,000 in seed funding for his project examining the rejuvenation of rail stations.