Monash science researchers awarded just over $2 million in funding as part of ARC DECRA scheme

Monash science researchers have received just over $2 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for five projects under the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

The successful projects range from research investigating ecological resilience to climate change, to developing new electronic devices to store and process and information.

On Friday the Minister for Education Dan Tehan today announced $81.8 million would be provided for 200 research projects as part of the DECRA program.

Monash University was awarded $8.9 million for 22 projects, with almost a quarter of the projects to be led by Science researchers.

The ARC DECRA scheme provides focused research support for early career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.

“On behalf of the Faculty, I congratulate all of our talented and hard-working early-career researchers whose excellence and innovation are evident in these awards,” said Monash Science Dean, Professor Jordan Nash.

“This is an outstanding result for the Faculty which recognises the calibre of our researchers’ work and the contributions they make to global challenges,” he said.

The Faculty of Science DECRA awardees are:

Dr Gregory Walter, School of Biological Sciences

Awarded: $414,331.00

Project: Mechanisms determining ecological resilience to climate change. This project aims to improve our understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms by which organisms adapt to climate change, and how this may lead to ecological resilience. It will test how rapid adaptation can occur in response to stressful environments predicted under climate change scenarios. By understanding the genetic mechanisms by which organisms adapt to environmental stresses, we can better forecast the effects of climate change on natural systems. Expected outcomes include an improved ability to make informed conservation and management decisions, with resulting benefits including the protection of human health, agricultural industries, and our iconic flora and fauna.

Dr Cameron Bentley, School of Chemistry

Awarded: $426,985.00

Project: Resolving nanoscale structure-activity for rational electrocatalyst design. This project aims to investigate the structural and functional properties of electrocatalysts at the nanoscale. The project expects to develop state-of-the-art electrochemical imaging technology that can examine the active sites of electrodes during operation. Understanding electrode performance on this scale is expected to enhance our capability to rationally design cheaper and more-efficient electrocatalysts, notably for electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction. This should provide significant socio-economic and environmental benefits, through the development of next-generation energy storage and conversion materials that can be utilized by households and businesses to store renewable energy in the form of carbon-neutral fuels.

Dr Fengwang Li, School of Chemistry

Awarded: $420,770.00

Project: Developing sustainable liquid fuels from carbon dioxide conversion. This project aims to develop new electrochemical materials and systems capable of converting carbon dioxide to liquid fuels. It expects to generate new knowledge in the area of advanced materials and systems for sustainable fuel production by interdisciplinary integration of catalyst design, real-time characterisation and system engineering. Expected outcomes include electrochemical carbon dioxide-to-alcohol systems with commercially relevant performances and in-depth understanding of reaction mechanisms at nano and molecular levels. Significant economic, energy and environmental benefits are expected from the concerted greenhouse gas emissions reduction and the development of sustainable, clean, non-fossil fuels, enabled by this project.

Dr Mikhail Isaev, School of Mathematics

Awarded: $330,756.00

Project: Enhanced methods for approximating the structure of large networks. This project aims to explain fundamental structural features of real-world networks such as the internet and online social networks, by advancing complex-analytical techniques. Current knowledge of properties such as reliability, robustness and optimal allocation of resources rely on assumptions that are invalid in real applications. The project expects to improve understanding of inhomogeneous network models by introducing an innovative idea of high-order approximations to complex random settings. Expected outcomes include new tools for approximate counting of discrete objects satisfying given constraints. Applications of these tools could have far-reaching benefits to researchers who study quantitative characteristics of discrete systems.

Dr Wenjing Yan, School of Physics and Astronomy

Awarded: $419,615.00

Project: Ferroelectricity in two-dimensions. This project aims to develop a new kind of electronic devices to store and process information. It will demonstrate a new category of ferroelectric material. By combining it with other materials like graphene, it will realise fully two-dimensional and completely new conceptual devices that are capable of preserving information in a non-volatile manner and performing non-destructive information readout. The outcomes will significantly enhance the information density, stability and readout protocols. Successful demonstration of non-destructive readout provides a key conceptual step forward for the ferroelectric random-access memory to be widely used as a universal computing memory and provides fundamental support for the electronic industry.

For more information contact:
Silvia Dropulich
Marketing, Media & Communications Manager, Monash Science
T: +61 3 9902 4513 M: +61 (0) 0435138743