ARC funding success for Faculty of Science

26 October 2010

Scoring over $16.38 million worth of Australian Research Council funding for Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects, researchers in the Faculty of Science have been successful in obtaining funding for 45 Discovery Projects and one Linkage Project to begin in 2011.

The announcement was made on 25 October 2010 by Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, as part of the $376 million awarded by the federal government through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects, Linkage Projects and Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development schemes.

The $15.9 million in Discovery Projects for the Faculty of Science is a significant proportion of the $33 million worth of Discovery Project funding for the University of Sydney, and the $100 million for NSW researchers.

"The Faculty of Science has achieved a great level of funding in this round of ARC Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects for 2011," said Professor Trevor Hambley, Dean of the Faculty of Science.

"We were particularly successful in gaining funding for numerous projects in mathematics, chemistry and physics areas, which indicate how strong our fundamental sciences are at the University of Sydney.

"It's also very pleasing to see that the ARC has rewarded many early career researchers and achieved equal success rates for male and female applicants," said Professor Hambley.

The ARC Discovery Project and Linkage Project funding are part of the Australian Research Council's National Competitive Grants Program, which funds research across disciplines as diverse as science, engineering, arts, medicine, education, law and culture.

"Research drives our economic productivity, delivers new solutions to environmental challenges, attracts global investment and improves our social wellbeing," said Senator Kim Carr at the grant announcement.

"This is why the Government is investing $376 million for high-quality research projects across areas such as climate change, health, national security and education.

"I congratulate the successful institutions and researchers whose projects have been selected for funding and applaud them for their research efforts," said Senator Carr.

Of the twelve organisations in New South Wales that applied for ARC Discovery Project funding, the University of Sydney as a whole received the highest amount of Discovery Project funding - $33 million - with the University of New South Wales receiving the second most funding in NSW - $25.6 million.

Some Discovery Project successes:

Dr Deanna D'Alessandro, from the School of Chemistry, received the single largest Discovery Project grant within the Faculty of Science in this round of funding for her project titled 'Conducting nanoporous materials: toward molecular devices'. The $788 000 over five years will fund research addressing one of the foremost challenges in the field of advanced functional materials, namely the design and synthesis of nanoporous materials that conduct electrons. The outcomes on both a fundamental and applied level will pave the way toward molecular electronics devices for solid-state sensing to solar energy harvesting.

Dr Simon Ho, from the School of Biological Sciences, will receive $622 336 over five years for research titled 'Estimating evolutionary time-scales using genomic sequence data: exploiting opportunities and meeting challenges'. Genomic data are being produced at a phenomenal rate, enabling detailed investigations of various biological questions. This project will exploit the new opportunities for improving the estimation of evolutionary time-scales, and develop methods and software to address the new challenges that have surfaced.

Associate Professor Kevin Downard, from the School of Molecular Bioscience, will receive $500 000 over three years for 'Proteotyping for the rapid identification of pandemic influenza'. Future influenza pandemics will develop more rapidly providing a relatively short window with which to survey and assess the nature of the virus and administer effective treatments. Application of a new proteotyping approach will allow strains of pandemic potential to be characterised more directly and rapidly than current surveillance methods.

Dr Brendan Kennedy and Dr Chris Ling, both from the School of Chemistry, with Professor Ray Withers, from the Australian National University, and Dr Vladislav Kharton, from the University of Aveiro, Portugal, will receive $480 000 for their project 'Crystal-chemical tuning of order and disorder: a strategy for the discovery of novel solid state ionic conductors'. The ultimate aim of this project is to discover novel ionic conductors suitable for use in energy technologies. By identifying, comprehensively characterising and optimising a number of such materials, this project will provide industry with the opportunity to implement them in new and improved devices.

Professor Marcela Bilek, from the School of Physics, with Professor Dougal McCulloch, from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Dr Martina Lattemann, from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, and Professor Ulf Helmersson, from Linköping University, Sweden, have secured $480 000 over three years for research on 'New generation pulsed magnetron sputtering for the synthesis of advanced materials'. Magnetron sputtering underpins the manufacture of many products ranging from semiconductor microelectronics to energy efficient windows. This project will create a new generation sputtering process fully compatible with current technology but capable of synthesising new phases and new film microstructures with greatly enhanced performance.

Associate Professor Andrew Mathas, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, with Professor Jonathan Brundan, from the University of Oregon, USA, will receive $409 000 over three years for 'Graded representations of Hecke algebras'. This project makes fundamental contributions to the representation theory of Hecke algebras with applications to quantum groups, knot theory, Lie groups and topological quantum field theory. Building on exciting developments, they will produce new gradings and then use them to tackle difficult questions in the representation theory of these algebras.

Professor Robert Boakes, from the School of Psychology, has secured $385 000 over three years for research on 'The missing calories effect in rats and humans'. Increased understanding of how we learn to prefer some foods and avoid others will improve measures to limit or reduce body weight gain. In the context of the present obesity epidemic this project will demonstrate that even small improvements can produce major health and economic benefits.

Professor Philip Hirsch, from the School of Geosciences, with colleagues in the Sydney Law School: Dr Fleur Johns, Dr Ben Saul and Emeritus Professor Ben Boer, will receive $300 000 over three years for 'Mekong laws: scales, sites and impacts of 'hard' and 'soft' law in Mekong River Basin'. This project will make clearer how law - operating nationally, regionally and internationally - is affecting decision-making surrounding scarce resources of the Mekong River Basin. It will provide a more informed basis for directing Australian aid to the Mekong River Basin, while helping improve prospects for long-term regional peace and security.

Dr Catherine Mills, from the Unit for the History and Philosophy of Science, with Dr Niamh Stephenson, from UNSW, will receive $193 000 over three years for 'An analysis of foetal imaging and the ethics of the selective termination of pregnancy'. This project examines the impacts of routine obstetric ultrasound on the experience of pregnancy, focusing on the ethics of selective termination following diagnosis of abnormalities. The project contributes to the national research priority goal of a healthy start to life, by examining the ethical aspects of ensuring foetal health in Australia.

Linkage Project success:

Associate Professor Brian Hawkett and Dr Chiara Neto, from the School of Chemistry, with Chris Such, from DuluxGroup Australia, will receive $480 000 over three years for 'Janus particles and nanorattles: new materials for paint technology'. This project will pave the way for self cleaning paints that achieve opacity with greatly reduced titanium dioxide levels. Painted surfaces will maintain their clean and new look for longer and a clean town look will be much more readily maintained. More efficient use of titanium dioxide will reduce the need for sand mining and reduce the cost of quality paint.

See every ARC Discovery Project funded at:

See every ARC Linkage Project funded at:

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 2830041f3a29031e1e1d5b262f25340945111b6c201e017c5136