Pioneering Monash research gets ARC funding boost

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The latest Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships and Industrial Transformation Research Hubs awarded to Monash University will ensure the University remains at the forefront of pioneering research that will make a difference to the lives of Australians.

Monash University has come equal first in the list of 2017 ARC Future Fellows and has been awarded two of the three new Industrial Transformation Research Hubs, bringing the number of Future Fellowships awarded to Monash University since 2013 to 68, and Industrial Transformation Hubs to six.

AUD $18.2 million in funding from ARC will be invested at Monash University in world-leading research in critical areas ranging from manufacturing and public health to agriculture and education.

Monash Vice-Provost (Research), Professor Pauline Nestor said the funding announcements underline Monash’s high impact in addressing critical challenges for Australia and the world.

“As research is increasingly globalised and increasingly hyper-competitive, the ARC Future Fellowships provide researchers working in areas of critical national interest the incentives needed to conduct their research here in Australia. Monash University is very appreciative of the continued support of the ARC and I congratulate our 2017 Future Fellows,” said Professor Nestor.      

The Monash University 2017 Australian Future Fellows are:

  • Fabio Capitanio: investigating the dynamics of Earth’s tectonics and plate motions, with the aim of understanding the mechanisms that force single plates or whole-Earth changes. Outcomes of the project will provide an understanding of the recent supercontinent formation and its fragmentation into the present-day continents.
  • Timothy Connallon: provision of new theory and analysis methods for studying the genetic basis of female and male fitness. Outcomes of the project include new insights into the evolutionary, genetic and demographic mechanisms that influence evolutionary genetic diversity within populations.
  • Belinda Gabbe: modelling the long-term, population impact of non-fatal injury through cutting edge epidemiological modelling, sophisticated biostatistics, advanced econometrics, and geospatial analysis.  Outcomes may lead to future changes in public health and social policy, prioritisation of injury prevention efforts, and establish the capacity to evaluate injury interventions and policy shifts as they occur.
  • Rebecca Giblin: development of new empirical understandings of the cultural value lost through current approaches to copyright.  Outcomes of the project will provide exploration of fuller protection of authorship as a mechanism for securing a fairer go for creators, unlocking new opportunities for publishers, generating new sources of arts funding and improving access for the public.
  • Karen Gregory:  providing novel insights into neurotransmission regulation of higher order brain functions including learning and memory. Outcomes also include generation of new pharmacological tools through interdisciplinary collaborative research between multiple institutions. There is significant expected economic benefit through commercialisation of new tools and facilitation of novel drug discovery.
  • Anne Harris:  addressing the development of Australasian creativity education by advancing a unified intercultural approach to the enhancement of creative skills and capacities in compulsory schooling. Outcomes of this project include a consistent approach to develop creative skills and capacities to better prepare Australians as a high quality global workforce and help to ensure creative and cultural industrial advancement in our region with significant benefits across education, economic and transnational alliances.
  • Nicole La Gruta: investigating the mechanisms underpinning an effective immune response and deciphering the various determinants of T cell immunity while exploring how these determinants are integrated to generate effective immunity.  Outcomes are expected to significantly enhance our fundamental understanding of mechanisms underpinning functional T cell responses, build interdisciplinary collaborations, and significantly advance the field of T cell biology.
  • Jon McCormack:  opening the way for the next generation of manufacturing technologies by linking advanced computer science with the creative arts. The outcomes will help build the next generation of digital arts software systems that assist creative and industry professionals to excel, promoting higher productivity and greater creativity vital to Australia's future creative industries. Benefit flow includes the creation of breakthrough systems for the creative industries that elevate the role of computational generation and on-demand manufacturing in contemporary design, production and creative practice.
  • Michael McDonald:  tracking the dynamics of adaptation with gene exchange by building the first experimental evolution model for direct observation. The acquisition of genes from other strains and species frequently underlies bacterial adaptation, but it is unknown how this occurs. There are significant benefits to be gained from understanding how microbes adapt in response to climate change and the widespread application of antibiotics, given that microbial populations form intimate associations with humans and sustain all the world’s ecosystems.
  • Christen Mirth: addressing how animals adapt to environmental change and generate new knowledge in the genetics of adaptation using an innovative approach to determine how genetic variation, environmental conditions, and development interact to shape adaptation to changing environments. Outcomes will enhance predictions of how species respond to climate change.
  • Thomas Naderer: addressing how host cell death, as part of the immune defence system, controls invading microbes. By following host-microbe interactions at high resolution, the project will generate new knowledge of infection and immunity. Outcomes will enhance imaging capacity and develop new technologies in Australia providing significant benefits to public health with the potential to develop innovative applications in biomedical industries.
  • Christophe Pinte: developing computer simulation methods and mathematical modelling to help solve the mystery of how planets form. The project should also produce world-first algorithms for combining the effects of radiation and hydrodynamics with wide application in astronomy, atmospheric science and engineering and the constraints on the processes of planet formation. The outcome of the project is to pinpoint the regions where the dust grains grow to form the building blocks of planets.
  • John Quinn: identifying new techniques for incorporating cell-signalling triggers into macromolecules, therefore enabling the development of next-generation stimuli-responsive nanoparticles to emit signalling molecules on demand.  Harnessing nanomaterials to stimulate specific sub-cellular processes could potentially be used to deliver signalling molecules for agricultural, pharmaceutical and veterinary applications. The project is expected to develop a new suite of materials that could ultimately be used to improve the yield of important commercial crops, or revitalise the use of medicines limited by their poor side effect profile.
  • Helen Watt: identifying the reasons for the declining numbers of girls/women and boys/men studying sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects during secondary school and beyond. Expected outcomes of this project include the provision of comprehensive evidence-informed recommendations to Federal and State governments, industry and education stakeholders, to enable coordinated intervention programs to address these issues.

Professor Nestor also welcomed the ARC announcement of two new Industrial Transformation Research Hubs to Monash.

“The two new research hubs, led by outstanding researchers in our Engineering Faculty, will create tremendous opportunities for Australia across multiple sectors in our economy. These hubs focus world-leading researchers and research infrastructure at Monash to address significant challenges facing industrial economies today and into the future,” said Professor Nestor.

“Monash University is increasingly a magnet for industry and governments seeking competitive advantage through innovation. The two new research hubs add to our existing hubs for Transforming Australia’s Manufacturing Industry through High Value Additive Manufacturing, BioProcessing Advanced Manufacturing, Computational Particle Technology and Nanoscience-based Construction Material Manufacturing.”

The new Monash Industrial Transformation Research Hubs are:

High value processing of lignocellulosics – Monash Engineering, Gil Garnier: the hub will convert biomass waste streams from Australian Pulp, Paper and Forest industries into new globally high-value and high-demand products with benefit flow across Australian pharmaceutical, chemical, plastic and food packaging sectors.

Energy Efficient Separation – Monash Engineering, Xiwang Zhang: the hub will create an Australian multidisciplinary platform to develop advanced separation materials including membranes, absorbents, catalysts and storage media for advanced manufacturing which will enhance Australia’s capability as a world-leading technology provider.