Skip to main content

Curtin research boosted by $4.5 million in ARC funding

Media release

Curtin University has been awarded almost $4.5 million by the Federal Government for 12 research projects, ranging from supercontinent cycles and the Earth’s origins, to the evolution of the solar system and fast radio bursts.

Solar system

The Curtin-led projects, funded under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project scheme, were announced by Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan.

A research project led by John Curtin Distinguished Professor Zheng-Xiang Li, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was awarded $525,000 in funding to further investigate how the Earth System evolved as a whole and how this evolution has led to life on Earth and the environment as we know it.

Professor Gretchen Benedix, also from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and her team were awarded $455,000 for their research which aims to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of the solar system, specifically looking at Mars.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Moran congratulated the Curtin researchers on being awarded ARC Discovery Projects grants.

“Curtin has been successful in this round of ARC Discovery Projects grants, which is testament to the high-quality and quantity of important research projects being undertaken at the University,” Professor Moran said.

“Some of the Curtin-led research projects will focus on how the Earth, planets and solar systems evolved, while others will investigate the critical role of ocean deserts, emerging transport technologies and artificial intelligence,” Professor Moran said.

“I would like to congratulate all the Curtin researchers who were awarded these highly-competitive grants in recognition of their commitment to addressing real-world challenges and seeking answers to some of the world’s biggest mysteries.”

The ARC Discovery Projects scheme aims to expand the knowledge base and research capacity in Australia as well as the country’s economic, commercial, environmental, social and cultural benefits.

Further information can be found online here.

A full list of successful Curtin-led research projects can be found below:

Research Project: Uncovering the Chronology of Mars, led by Professor Gretchen Benedix, Dr Anthony Lagain, Professor Andrew Rohl, Professor Fred Jourdan, Dr Denis Fougerouse, Professor Dr Christopher Herd, Mr Gregory Schmidt, and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland.

This project aims to answer fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the solar system by utilising innovative machine learning techniques developed by our group. Starting with Mars, the team will interrogate the highest resolution image data to automatically generate the ultimate resolution global age map. The expected outcomes of this project include determining the absolute ages of geologic processes on Mars to deliver a groundbreaking look at the geology of another planet at the centimeter scale. A major benefit of this project will be enhancing Australia’s role as a leader in space and planetary science through this interdisciplinary, international collaboration across engineering, geology, computing, and chronology.

Research Project: Fluid-Structure Interactions in Flows through Flexible-Walled Channels, led by Professor Anthony Lucey, Associate Professor Ramesh Narayanaswamy, Dr Nima Nadim, Dr Julien Cisonni, Dr Christopher Davies, and Professor Viswanathan Shankar.

This project seeks to deliver a definitive understanding of the behaviour of steady and pulsating fluid flow through compliant-walled channels and pipes. Novel theoretical stability-analyses and experimental investigations, complemented by targeted numerical simulations, will be developed and used to identify and categorise fluid- and wall-based wave-disturbances and their interactions. This can underpin the development of technologies that control these flows to advantage in both engineered fluid-flow and biologically occurring systems.

Research Project: The structure and geochemistry of mineral interfaces in Earth’s mantle, led by Professor Steven Reddy, Associate Professor Katy Evans, Dr David Saxey, Professor Julie Cairney, and Dr Katharina Marquardt.

The interfaces between mineral grains are critical in determining rock properties and behaviour, yet we know little about them. This project uses emerging nano-technologies to establish the structure, chemistry and energy characteristics of interfaces in rocks from Earth’s mantle that control fundamental Earth processes such as plate tectonics and melting. The expected outcomes include a new understanding on one of the fundamental controls on rock properties and an enhanced ability to predict and model rock behaviour.

Research Project: Unlocking Earth’s inner secrets in deep time using palaeointensities, led by John Curtin Distinguished Professor Zheng-Xiang Li and Professor Andrew Biggin.

The geomagnetic field, generated in Earth’s liquid outer core, provides Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere with a critical protective shield from the bombardment of the solar wind. This project aims to study the varying intensity of the geomagnetic field during Earth’s middle life. The results will help decipher how the Earth’s core responded to evolving tectonic and dynamic systems, including the supercontinent cycles, and when Earth’s solid inner core initiated. This will help us to better understand how the Earth System evolved as a whole, and how such an evolution has led to the present day life and environment on Earth.

Research Project: Solving the mystery of ultra luminous fast radio burst emission, led by the late Associate Professor Jean-Pierre Macquart, Dr Clancy James, and Dr Keith Bannister.

Fast Radio Bursts are a recently discovered inexplicable astronomical phenomenon whose millisecond-timescale emission is generated by regions less than 300 kilometres across yet so luminous it is visible at cosmological distances. This research will scrutinise these bursts at three nanosecond time resolution, reaching the timescale necessary to probe the mechanism by which their ultra-luminous radiation is generated. This project will reveal previously inaccessible properties of the radiation to unlock the secrets of how they are produced.

Research Project: Why ocean deserts matter: Phytoplankton productivity in oligotrophic waters, led by Professor David Antoine, Professor Michael Behrenfeld, and Dr Mark Baird.

This project aims to revisit the role of ocean deserts in the global ocean primary production. Because of their extent, these areas are paradoxically responsible for about half the global ocean carbon fixation. The project will use a unique combination of optical and biogeochemical data from a research voyage in the Indian Ocean, biogeochemical models and satellite observations, expecting to generate new knowledge on the link between biogeochemical and optical quantities accessible to satellite remote sensing. Expected outcomes are improved estimates of phytoplankton carbon biomass and productivity, in particular in the Indian Ocean. A key benefit will be an improved end-user relevance of satellite monitoring of Australia’s oceans.

Research Project: Nanoscale repositories of the geological record of Earth and other planets, led by Associate Professor Katy Evans, Professor Steven Reddy, and Dr Benjamin Tutolo.

Rhenium-Osmium (Re-Os) dating is used widely to infer Earth’s evolution, but most samples are hydrated, with consequent mobility of Re, which is problematic for interpretation of isotope results. This project will solve this problem by determining the effects of hydration on Re and Os. Further, this knowledge of the mobility of Re and related elements will allow the team to recognise rocks that once interacted with water, even after that water has gone, providing a tool to read the record of Earth’s earliest oceans. Our new methods will enable Re-Os dating with clarity and confidence, with profound implications for understanding of Earth and extra-terrestrial planetary evolution.

Research Project: Emerging transport technologies: finding new practices in urban governance, led by Professor Carey Curtis, Dr Crystal Legacy, Dr John Stone, and Dr Louise Reardon.

This project will explore the rapidly changing political economy of Australia’s urban transport systems as private companies deploy new technologies. This work will deliver new insights into the design and use of better instruments for policy, planning and governance to meet the needs of businesses and the public and to ensure that the potential benefits of the new technologies are fully realised in Australian cities.

Research Project: Containment and Reduction of Rework in Transport Mega Projects, led by Professor Peter Love, Professor Jane Matthews, and Dr ChunPong Sing.

Mega transport projects (>$1 billion) are poorly managed during their construction with significant cost and schedule overruns and benefit shortfalls regularly being experienced. This research aims to develop a theoretical model that can be used to develop robust containment and reduction strategies to mitigate the adverse economic, productivity and safety consequences that materialize from performing rework during the construction of mega transport projects.

Research Project: Motivating work teams: An emergence-based process model, led by Professor Marylene Gagne, Associate Professor Ramon Rico, Associate Professor Thomas O’Neill, and Professor Mark Griffin.

This project aims to develop and evaluate a new process model of team motivation emergence through field studies using varied samples of workers, simulation studies, and computational modelling. The project expects to generate solutions to Australia’s declining work engagement by answering calls for research on how to develop team motivation. Expected outcomes include new knowledge of team motivation disseminated through scholarly and practitioner-oriented publications and presentations, as well as practical team assessment and training tools made available to organisations so they can improve team performance.

Research Project: Building insights of our largest terrestrial carbon sink: rangelands soils, led by Professor Raphael Viscarra Rossel, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kingsley Dixon, Professor Dr Ingrid Koegel-Knabner, and Dr Yingping Wang.

This project leverages investments in national terrestrial observation platforms and integrates previous research outputs to develop new methods to measure and build understanding of soil carbon composition and dynamics in rangeland ecosystems. Under a framework that connects detailed measurements and small-scale processes, with machine-learning, data-model assimilation and large-scale next-generation biogeochemical modelling, it will allow more accurate predictions of soil carbon change and better decision-making to guide sustainable rangelands management.

Research Project: AI Assisted Probabilistic Structural Health Monitoring with Uncertain Data, led by Associate Professor Jun Li, Professor Ling Li, and Dr Senjian An.

This project aims to develop an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) assisted probabilistic structural health monitoring approach for civil engineering structures. The developed approach applies novel deep learning techniques with a large amount of data measured from uncertain and complex environment, for reliable structural condition monitoring and performance prediction. This project expects to make a step change in data mining and interpretation. Expected outcomes of the project include novel AI assisted approaches to conduct probabilistic structural condition monitoring with sensitive features and future structural performance prediction. This will provide significant benefits to infrastructure asset owners to reduce maintenance costs.