Research projects gain $1.7m in Federal funds

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Research projects gain $1.7m in Federal funds

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USC Lecturer Dr Christofer Clemente

13 November 2017

Five research projects led by the University of the Sunshine Coast have received a total of $1.7million in competitive grants from the Federal Government.

Four of the projects, which range from finding new ways to prevent accidents in high-risk industries to better understanding genetic diseases among Aborigines, received Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project funding.

The fifth project, which is investigating the safety of advanced automated vehicles, received an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award grant.

The funding was announced last Friday by Federal Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham.

The USC chief investigators of projects that won grants (all to be paid over three years) are: 

  • Professor of Human Factors Paul Salmon, who gained $387,756 for his project “NextGen Accident Prevention: a new theory and toolkit for safer systems”, which aims to enhance accident analysis and prevention activities in high-risk industries. This research is being conducted in conjunction with academics from the University of Southampton, Heriot-Watt University and Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.
  • Associate Professor of Molecular Biology Scott Cummins, who received $270,012 for his research “Decoding the molecular components of aquatic parasite-host interactions”, which is being conducted in conjunction with Carleton University in Canada and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. It will enable new understanding of parasite-host interactions that will assist in the prevention of human intestinal/liver disease.
  • Lecturer in Animal Ecophysiology Dr Christofer Clemente, who gained $306,832 for his work “Understanding evolution in natural systems using robotic models”, which will involve building and modifying biologically-inspired robotic systems to gain a better understanding of evolutionary processes and aid the manufacturing of autonomous robots. This project is being conducted in conjunction with the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Cambridge and the University of Idaho
  • Research Fellow Dr Subashchandran Sankarasubramanian, who received $401,573 for his work “Trails of migration out of Africa in harmful mutations of the First Peoples”, which is being conducted in conjunction with researchers from Griffith University and Novogene Bioinformatics Technology. This project aims to gain a better understanding of genetic diseases that affect Aboriginal Australians to assist future Aboriginal health research.
  • Research Fellow Dr Gemma Read, who received $361,996 for her project “Human factors approaches for the safe introduction of autonomous vehicles”, which aims to address potential safety risks arising from the introduction of advanced autonomous vehicles. The project will consider how risks might emerge through interactions between human road users (like pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers) and autonomous vehicles.

Recent USC recruits Dr Bindi Bennett and Professor Lorelle Frazer were also successful on ARC Discovery Indigenous grants valued at $373,754 and $320,249 through the Australian Catholic University and Griffith University respectively.

Dr Bennett’s research will measure and evaluate Indigenous social work practice, while Professor Frazer will assess the empowerment of Indigenous businesses through improved financial literacy. Their research programs will be transferred in total or part to USC in 2018.

USC researchers Dr Christofer Clemente and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco were also named as co-investigators on ARC Discovery Projects with the University of Queensland (UQ) and Curtin University respectively.

The UQ-led project, valued at $344,192, will seek to predict the survival of threatened animals, while the Curtin project, valued at $564,124, will aim to develop new single-atom catalysts for the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide into syngas and hydrocarbons.

USC – through Professor De Marco, Associate Professor Joanne Macdonald and Dr Sankarasubramanian – is also a partner on two ARC Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment Fund (LIEF) grants to establish cutting-edge electron microscopy instrumentation at UQ (valued at $3.2million) and a genomic library infrastructure for ancient environmental samples at Griffith University (valued at $384,671).

Professor De Marco congratulated all USC researchers involved in winning these prestigious and highly competitive Australian Research Council grants.

“These outcomes represent a watershed moment for research at USC, with USC achieving a success rate of 44.4% on ARC Discovery Project grants (compared to a 18.9% national average) and a comparable performance to a range of older universities of a similar research intensity to USC,” he said.

— Terry Walsh

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