Explainer: What is Net Neutrality?

Dr Aaron Harwood from the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering has written for The Conversation about Net Neutrality – the belief that internet service providers must treat all internet content equally.

Dr Harwood provides an overview of the concept and discusses how Australia is not Net Neutral, a fact that may be a surprise to many.

Read Dr Harwood’s article at The Conversation.


Carbon trading needs carbon training

It seems that everyone is talking about the Gillard Government’s carbon plan. Some are yelling. Meanwhile, an essential legislative precursor – the ‘National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act’ – was enacted in 2007 without a peep. This act requires all organisations with emissions and energy consumption above certain thresholds to report this data to the Federal Government. We have to know ‘who produces what’ regardless of whether we are to tax them, have them trade permits or undertake Tony Abbot’s ‘direct action’.

An interesting question arises:  How does an organisation know if they are above the mandatory reporting thresholds? Answer: They only know after they have determined their data to the NGER requirements.

In other words, just being a ‘smaller polluter’ doesn’t mean that the effort of complying with the NGER Act can be avoided. The work still needs to be done in-house, or consultants brought in, even if it is just to determine that nothing needs to be reported!

NGER compliance can pose particular challenges for such organisations. Our biggest organisations can usually afford in-house specialists in energy and emissions. However, many organisations cannot, leaving some scrambling in achieving reporting compliance, let alone having enough time to think about how best to improve their energy and greenhouse performance.

The Australian Industry Group is on the record as saying that many such organisations see both these compliance and strategic tasks as areas of significant skills shortage. This is backed up by the NGER data itself – the Federal Government has to date received significantly fewer NGER reports than anticipated. This could be in part conspiracy rather than cock-up, but given that most organisations were already flat out prior to passage of the NGER Act, the latter seems much more likely. Once carbon is priced, all of this starts to directly affect the bottom line, so the workload should increase.

(As an aside, the University of Melbourne sees this as an opportunity and has established a degree aimed at addressing this need – the Master of Energy Systems.)

It will take us a while to get the hang of such a major change to business. It is therefore good policy to fix the price on carbon whilst we are in ‘carbon training’ – trading can wait until we really know what we are doing. Let’s wait and see when the Government of the day decides that our training is complete and allows trading to commence.

Which brings us to important questions: How accurately can I determine my organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions and how does the government know if I am telling the truth? This is particularly an issue for methane emissions from both coal and natural gas. Given methane’s high global warming potential, relatively small errors in its emissions can lead to significant changes in CO2 equivalent emissions. This, in turn, poses many other important operational questions: Are my gas meters accurate and regularly calibrated? How do I know if I have significant gas leaks? The list goes on.

Our carbon training is therefore very much a work in progress. As this new world unfolds, we will work out how to do all of this much better – more accurately, quicker and cheaper. Auditors, technical and business consultants will be an important part of our developing national capability.

Indeed, might this government-mandated training result in export opportunities for consulting firms, as other countries work out their own greenhouse plans?

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the Winter 2011 edition of National Outlook Magazine. Michael Brear is an Associate Professor of the Melbourne School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne.




SIAM award for Dr Michael Rotkowitz

Congratulations to Future Generation and Senior Research Fellow Dr Michael Rotkowitz, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who has been awarded the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Control and Systems Theory Prize for 2011.

Dr Rotkowitz has been recognised for his significant contributions to the theory of optimal controller synthesis for decentralized systems subject to information and control constraints.

The international prize is awarded every two years to a young researcher for outstanding research contributions to mathematical control or systems theory.

Meet the Founder: Robert Klupacs

Robert Klupacs

Date: Thursday 28 July, 2011
Time: 5.00pm (canapés) 6.00pm start
Venue: The Brown Theatre, NICTA Victoria Research Laboratory, Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville. MAP.

The next session in NICTA and The Melbourne School of Engineering’s Meet the Founder seminar series will feature CEO and Managing Director of Circadian Technologies, Robert Klupacs.

Robert Klupacs joined Circadian Technologies Limited in August 2005 and was appointed Managing Director in March 2008. Robert was the driving force behind the founding of Vegenics Limited, Circadian’s major subsidiary, which has become the major business of Circadian and has led the transformation of Circadian from biotechnology investment fund to focused developer of new antibody-based drugs for cancer.

He is an intellectual property expert and entrepreneur with an extensive history of launching and managing successful ventures in the biotechnology industry.

For further information, see the event flyer. (PDF)

Please RSVP to Katya Baxter at NICTA by Tuesday 26 July 2011.

Call for nominations: Kernot Memorial Medal

The Kernot Memorial Medal is one of the most prestigious awards at the Melbourne School of Engineering.  It is awarded for distinguished engineering achievement in Australia, and in 2011, will be presented at the Gala Dinner as part of the School’s 150th Celebrations.

The Kernot Memorial Medal
The Kernot Memorial Medal

Established in memory of Professor William Charles Kernot, the first professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, the medal has been awarded to many prominent engineers since its establishment in 1925.  Previous recipients include Sir John Monash, Mr A. G. M.  Michell and Sir John Holland.

Nomination for the 2011 Kernot Memorial Medal are due by Friday, 19 August 2011.

The award is open to any persons resident in Australia for at least five of the past seven years before the award. The full University Trust Record governing the award can be found at http://www.unimelb.edu.au/unisec/utr/utr6072.html#15.

Nominations should be accompanied by a short curriculum vitae and extended citation (or rationale for nomination) to assist the selection committee in making their decision and should be sent to:

Ms Elise Everest
Alumni Relations Manager
Melbourne School of Engineering
Old Engineering Building
Wilson Avenue
University of Melbourne VIC 3010

T: +61 3 9035 3460

E: everest@unimelb.edu.au

We look forward to congratulating the 2011 Kernot Medallist at the 150th Gala Dinner and offer our thanks in advance for all nominations received.

New grant aids water treatment research link with Victoria University

Researchers from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will work with Victoria University academics on the latest water treatment research, as part of a new $6.1m Federal Government Collaborative Research Network grant.

The Collaborative Research Networks program promotes collaboration in areas of common interest between research institutions and less research‐intensive, smaller or regional institutions.

Assoc. Prof. Sandra Kentish and Prof. Peter Scales from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will work on the project, which aims to improve research in the field of water treatment and materials processing for water treatment. The funding will allow the project team to employ a PhD student and a Postdoctoral researcher, working towards a Linkage Project proposal.

Further information on the funding program is available from the website of Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Meet the Founder: David Merson, Mincom

David Merson

Date: Thursday 9 June
Time: 5.00pm Canapes, 6.00pm start
Location: The Brown Lecture Theatre, NICTA, Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville, MAP


This Thursday, NICTA and The Melbourne School of Engineering present the next session in the Meet The Founder free lecture series with Mincom founder, David Merson.

During the 1970s much of the Australian mining industry’s computing was provided by US-based mainframe computer utilities, with limited mining applications software.

In 1979, combining new hardware technology, a new business model for computing service delivery, superior software applications, and just $50,000 of capital, Brisbane-based David Merson founded Mincom (a contraction of the term “mining computing”). He was to remain its CEO until 2000.

During his tenure, Mincom grew to be Australia’s largest software developer and exporter, with revenue of $200 million, 1300 staff, 20 offices around the world, and global leadership in a number of software categories.

Since retiring from Mincom, David has become a director of a number of Australian software companies, research institutes and charitable institutions. His achievements have been recognised with an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering from the University of Queensland, a Centenary Medal from the Australian Government, the Export Hero award from the Australian Institute of Export, the inaugural Australian Information Technology Association’s Gold award, and the inaugural CSIRO award for individual achievement in the IT industry (2005).

Come and  listen to David discuss his entrepreneurial journey.

Please RSVP to Katya Baxter at NICTA by Tuesday 7 June.

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.

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