Grants to 25 projects tackling issues from the auto industry’s future to infant motor development and cognition
The University of Wollongong (UOW) has been awarded $8.7 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for 25 projects spread across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, maths, the humanities and the social sciences.
The funding was announced today (10 November) by the Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham.
The successful grants include 13 Discovery Projects (DP), eight Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA), and four Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grants.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper welcomed the announcement, and said the range of projects to receive funding was indicative of the high quality research being undertaken across all faculties and disciplines.
“I congratulate our researchers on their well-deserved success in what is a very competitive process,” Professor Raper said.
“I’m particularly pleased to see that grants have been awarded to projects from across a broad range of academic fields, and which address serious global issues. I look forward to following the progress of these exceptional researchers as their projects come to fruition over the next few years.”
Professor Antoine van Oijen aims to improve our understanding of how a cell’s DNA replicates.
Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Antoine van Oijen and Distinguished Professor Nick Dixon were among the successful DP grant winners, awarded $524,298 for their project “A functional dissection of the bacterial replisome” which is designed to improve understanding of a fundamental biological process, and at the same time develop a new biophysical methodology.
“We will integrate novel single-molecule biophysical approaches with cutting-edge biochemical methods to better understand how a cell’s DNA replicates before cells divide,” Professor van Oijen said.
Professor Dixon had a second DP success with a research team he leads awarded $534,573 for its project “Molecular interactions with an antibiotic target in DNA replication”.
“Antibiotics have saved millions of lives and facilitated a dramatic increase in life expectancies across the world. Nevertheless, their widespread use (and misuse) has led to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria that pose a potentially catastrophic threat to public health,” Professor Dixon said.
“This study aims to improve understanding of bacterial DNA replication and mechanisms of antibiotic action and resistance to assist in combatting antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens.”
Developmental psychologist Associate Professor Jane Herbert was another DP grant recipient for her project, “Ready, steady, go: Infant motor development and cognition”, which aims to better our understanding of the complex relationship between action and perception in young children.
“Watching a baby begin to crawl or take their first steps are memorable events for a parent. These developments in motor skill are also transformative for the infant. With increasingly independent locomotion, infants can actively explore and make decisions, traverse greater distances, and control their proximity to objects and people,” Professor Herbert said.
“These experiences presumably encourage the infant to explore new aspects of their environment, to learn and retrieve information, perform more goal-directed activities, and to consider concepts like constancy and change. The increased experiences and learning opportunities that come with motor development may be critical for pushing forward the infant’s development across domains, including cognition.”
Professor Nick Dixon’s project aims to combat antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens.
DISCOVERY EARLY CAREER RESEARCHER AWARDS
The ARC’s DECRA scheme provides support and opportunities for early-career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.
Among the successful UOW DECRA applicants was Dr Weijie Li, a research fellow at the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) who was awarded $353,446 for her project “Long life sodium ion batteries by optimizing initial coulombic efficiency”.
“The success of this project will greatly accelerate the commercialisation of sodium ion batteries and support the utilisation of renewable energy in Australia,” Dr Li said.
Marine palaeoecologist Dr Tara Clark from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences was granted $404,950 for her project “A pictorial and geochemical history of Great Barrier Reef changes”, which aims to determine the causes behind dramatic changes in coral, communities on reef flat environments since European settlement.
Economic geographer Dr Andrew Warren was granted $373,996 for his study, “Geographies of transition in Australia’s auto repair and maintenance industry”.
“In 2017, new vehicle production ceased in Australia. Joining the geographical re-organisation of upstream vehicle production is downstream transformation of auto repair and maintenance,” Dr Warren said.
“This project will offer new insights on Australia’s auto industry amid transition. Such knowledge is crucial to protect jobs in repair and maintenance – the largest source of auto industry employment.”
Dr Andrew Warren has won funding to study the auto repair and maintenance industry as it undergoes transition.
LINKAGE INFRASTRUCTURE, EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES GRANTS
Four UOW projects with a total value of $1,680,138 were awarded funding under the LIEF scheme, which provides funding for research infrastructure, equipment and facilities, and which can be shared with other higher education organisations and with industry through collaborations.
A research team led by Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute executive director Professor David Adams was awarded $443,311 for an electrophysiology facility that will enable research at the forefront of cell analysis and drug discovery.
A team led by UOW’s NSW Scientist of the Year Professor Gordon Wallace was awarded a $347,070 LIEF grant for a 3D Additive Bio-Fabrication Facility to create the next generation of bioprinting methodologies and 3D fabrication tools and provide new insights into fundamental biological processes.
Another LIEF grant, for $326,367, was awarded to a team led by materials scientist Professor Zaiping Guo (pictured at the top of the page), a Future Fellow at UOW’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences and the Australian Institute of Innovative Materials.The grant will fund a Thermo-gravimetric infrared imaging system for functional materials study, which will be used to develop the next generation of alkaline-ion batteries.
Associate Professor Adam Trevitt from the School of Chemistry and Associate Professor Attila Mozer from the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute were granted $563,390 for a shared Picosecond-Laser Facility that will facilitate complex multi-laser experiments in a wide variety of projects including reaction dynamics, materials chemistry and photovoltaics.
All UOW grant recipients and projects can be found on the research grants outcomes page.