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power to the people

investigating consciousness inspiring young scientists neuroscience of body image mapping the universe succession planning

Changing the way energy is supplied and used


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professor david liley

dr nives zubcevic-basic


Issue One, 2013 The magazine of Swinburne University of Technology, John St (PO Box 218), Hawthorn Victoria 3122 Australia


Editorial ENQUIRIES Peter A Brown Senior Manager, Marketing Swinburne University of Technology email: esubscribe for free access to current and past issues online:


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Venture is published for Swinburne University of Technology by Hardie Grant Media Ground Level, Building 1 658 Church Street, Richmond Victoria 3121 Australia Publisher Keri Freeman Editor Sarah Notton Art Director Glenn Moffatt Print Offset Alpine portrait photography Eamon Gallagher Cover plainpicture

Printed on PEFC Certified paper from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources. ISSN 2200-6338 (Print) ISSN 2200-7628 (Online) Copyright © Swinburne University of Technology All rights reserved. The information in this publication was correct at the time of going to press, May 2013. The views expressed by contributors in this publication are not necessarily those of Swinburne University of Technology.


Associate Professor sarah maddison


professor feng wang



power to the people How we use and share energy could be revolutionised by smart technology being developed at Swinburne. by KRISTEN ALFORD

4 Upfront The latest innovations and events. 6 Child’s Play What are the effects of using touchscreen devices on our young children? 8 conscious decisions A pioneering project is investigating how our brain activity is transformed when under anaesthesia. 12 facing up to body image Looking at the neuroscience behind how people’s views about themselves are influenced by the media. 14 thought leaders A Swinburne team is working to open up access to grey literature, a rich source of information for researchers. 15 shooting stars The hidden secrets of the universe are being revealed for the first time thanks to a new IMAX film.

16 INSPIRING KNOWLEDGE A Swinburne astrophysicist is working with primary schools to encourage the next generation of scientists. 18 keeping it in the family Handing over the reins of a business to the younger generation can be a difficult transition. 20 model discovery Identifying the molecular structure of one of chemistry’s most important compounds. 22 sport for all Should Australian children’s sport be driven by talent or participation? 23 Game changers A Swinburne duo have designed an award-winning video game.

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Casting light on the darkest zones of space

A enabling high-impact education, research and innovation


s we approach the end of the first semester, it’s inspiring to see our campuses buzzing with students and progress being steadily made on the Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre at Hawthorn. By bringing together design with our other areas of strength, this will create many new opportunities for Swinburne students when it opens in 2014. We also recently opened KIOSC, our new $10.3 million trade training centre in Wantirna. With a focus on the application of new technologies to solve real-world problems, this multi-purpose facility is the product of a unique partnership between Swinburne and schools in the region.

This issue of Venture highlights the scope of the research and the calibre of the researchers that help us to understand our world and improve people’s lives – underlining the value of innovation to the Australian economy. Our leadership in science, technology and innovation comes through strongly in a story about smart energy systems being developed through an international collaboration. Cutting-edge technologies and software solutions will enable future households to monitor and reduce their energy consumption, which is great news both for our environment and our economy. Swinburne’s investment in the facilities and resources needed to undertake world-leading research can be seen in the achievements of Professor David Liley and his team. Working on one of only two magnetoencephalography (MEG) machines in Australia, they are using electromagnetic signals to explore the effects of anaesthesia on the brain. Our community outreach is exemplified by Associate Professor Sarah Maddison. While making her own research discoveries as an astrophysicist, she still finds time to encourage the next generation of scientists through her involvement with primary school children. Also meet Dr Jordy Kaufman, who is working with preschool children in his research into the effects of tablet devices on infant development. I hope you enjoy this issue of our magazine.

Professor Linda Kristjanson Vice-Chancellor Swinburne University of Technology

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decade-long assumption about the masses of black holes at the centres of galaxies has been dramatically overturned by Swinburne astronomers. Professor Alister Graham and Dr Nicholas Scott from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing have found that the traditional approach to calculating the mass of black holes underestimated their mass in larger galaxies while overestimating it in smaller ones. “For the past 15 years it was assumed that 0.2 per cent of every elliptical galaxy and the central bulge of every spiral galaxy was tied up in its central black hole,” says Professor Graham. Galaxies and their central black holes grow by accreting gas, some of which may be turned into new stars or devoured by the black hole. Astronomers had thought that galaxies and their black holes grew equally over time, preserving the 0.2 per cent mass ratio. From an analysis of data from the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Hubble Space Telescope, the researchers examined the characteristics of 72 galaxies with supermassive black holes. The new research reveals that the black holes have been growing much faster, relative to their host galaxy, than previously thought, with mass ratios lower than 0.01 per cent in small galaxies and around 0.5 per cent in large galaxies. “Interestingly, the black holes appear to have also grown at the expense of the compact, millionstrong star clusters observed only in the smaller galaxies and bulges,” Professor Graham says. inside structure of the 8.2-meter-diameter Very Large Telescope, Paranal Observatory, northern Chile.

Satisfy your inner Spielberg Smartphone novices will be able to capture everyday moments with a touch of Spielberg when a new video app is launched by Swinburne postgraduate student Alexandra Kinloch. The Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation student won the $20,000 first prize in Swinburne’s Venture Cup for establishing Capture.Us, an app designed to empower users to develop high-quality video clips on their smartphone. “The idea for Capture.Us came to me when I was on holidays,” Kinloch says. “I was surrounded by all the technology I needed to capture the holiday, but had no idea how to capture a great video and stitch it together into a clip that my friends and family could watch.” She recruited a business partner, Ben Rashleigh, who she met at a technologists’ co-working space in Melbourne’s CBD, and within months they found themselves receiving their winner’s cheque. The app will be launched in mid 2013 – visit www.capture. us. Details on the Venture Cup can be found at www. knowledge/venturecup


Swinburne film stars drawn to Hollywood’s red carpet

Award for Ajay Kapoor quest for a genuine win–win scenario

When large multinational companies set up new manufacturing or service facilities in a developing country, governments often worry whether positive long-term outcomes will ever emerge. Swinburne international business researcher Dr Jerome Donovan and his team (including Professor Chris Selvarajah, Dr Eryadi Masli, Dr Gregoria Manzin and Dr Chris Mason) are researching ways that developing economies can get the best possible outcomes from foreign investment – considering not just the impact on economic development, but also social and environmental outcomes. The project was inspired by a UN conference, where Dr Donovan met a range of senior government officials from tiger economies in South-East Asia, who were being inundated with foreign investment proposals but were unsure how to get the most out of this investment. The Australian Government’s AusAID program has provided a $1.1 million grant for the project, which will examine how the governments of Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia and Laos can manage foreign investment to maximise the development value for local communities. Dr Donovan has had enthusiastic cooperation from governments across the region. “This is very targeted research with strong, practical outcomes. We want the governments we are working with to take this research and use it to make a significant difference for communities in these developing countries. There are a lot of complex challenges in getting the right local people with the right skill set into roles with foreign companies, and building longterm, sustainable benefits for local economies.”

A famed prize known as the Jewel of India has been awarded to Swinburne Pro Vice-Chancellor (International Research Engagement) Ajay Kapoor for his contribution to research and education. Professor Kapoor was awarded the Hind Rattan Award by the Non-Resident Indian Welfare Society of India for his outstanding achievements as part of the Indian diaspora. Professor Kapoor studied at the Indian Institute of Technology in Varanasi, India, and Cambridge University, in the UK. In 2007 he moved to Australia and has delivered outstanding research in areas such as electric vehicles, design for the ageing population, and clinical engineering.

New honour for Hai Vu As traffic congestion issues spread around the world, there is likely to be increased demand for the work of Associate Professor Hai Vu (above), who has received a prestigious Victoria Fellowship from the state government. Associate Professor Vu’s work is examining ways that sophisticated computer systems can reduce traffic congestion, developing new solutions by analysing vast quantities of traffic data. Dr Vu will use the fellowship to travel to the Netherlands to visit leading traffic management and planning groups at Delft University of Technology. Dr Vu is also a recipient of a Future Fellowship award from the Australian Research Council.

insights from a galaxy far, far away

The painstaking process of effectively making a movie twice has paid off for Swinburne students, who were awarded a Gold Award in the Animated Film category at the 2012 California Film Awards. ATOM, directed by Klayton Stainer, was created by the tortuous process of rotoscoping – filming the movie in real life, then drawing over each of the 8737 frames by hand. The movie, developed by first- and second-year Bachelor of Film and Television students, portrays the experiences of two characters, Tom and Alexis, who fight the forces of evil, attempting to prevent the activation of a great atom. “We are thrilled that ATOM has made it this far,” Stainer says. “During post-production we faced the challenge of teaching others how to rotoscope and it was quite tricky trying to make everyone have a similar drawing technique and style,” Stainer says. “It truly is an honour to receive a Gold Award from the California Film Awards, it has been an inspiring journey for all of us,” he says. Two other Swinburne films also took out honours at the prestigious awards. Sonburn, directed by Ella Carey, won the Gold Award in the Student Film category, while Hath No Man, directed by Linus Koh, received the Diamond Award in the short film category.


ome people spend their working day thinking about atoms, or maybe just about lunch, but Swinburne Associate Professor Chris Blake has a mental canvas bigger than most. He has been commissioned by the Australian Research Council to spend the next three years surveying galaxies across the universe. Far from spending nights peering up at the heavens, this mammoth task involves aggregating data from an array of telescopes around the world and analysing it with the help of Swinburne’s supercomputers. Dr Blake hopes to find insights into dark energy, a mysterious anti-gravity force that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate. In 2011, a group of researchers led by Dr Blake published findings that confirmed the existence of dark energy after mapping more than 200,000 galaxies, looking the equivalent of seven billion years back in time – more than halfway back to the Big Bang. He hopes for new insights into the nature of dark energy from his latest survey project. Dr Blake’s achievements in galaxy cartography were acknowledged earlier this year when he was awarded the prestigious Pawsey Medal by the Australian Academy of Science, recognising outstanding research in physics by scientists under 40. “Galaxies are the building blocks of the universe and I specialise in mapping how they are scattered through space. By studying their distribution, we can learn a lot about the physics of the universe. Luckily in Australia we have some of the best telescopes in the world for investigating these sorts of questions.”

Movie trailers ATOM / Sonburn / Hath No Man /

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child development


randparents rarely try them, parents are getting the hang of them, teens are glued to them and young children are fascinated by them. If you put an iPad or other tablet computer in front of most toddlers, they seem immediately comfortable manipulating its touch-screen controls. However, many parents worry that tablets add to the negative effects on their child’s development of too much screen time. Dr Jordy Kaufman, senior research fellow at Swinburne, watched his son use a tablet computer and decided to explore the concerns in greater detail. He started by noting an important distinction between the effect of television viewing and the use of tablets. “Research into the negative effects of television has been lumped onto tablets,” he says. “Being on a touch-screen device is more interactive. It’s not right to assume that sitting in front of the TV has the same effects on children as using tablets.” Dr Kaufman is founder and director of the BabyLab at Swinburne, which is one of Australia’s first research facilities to specialise in child cognitive brain research and social development from birth. He moved from the UK to Australia after completing his PhD in developmental psychology at Duke University in the US and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of London in developmental cognitive neuroscience.

Google comes on board Dr Kaufman’s research has attracted attention around the world, and last year he received a Google Faculty Research Award to advance the work in collaboration with fellow Swinburne academics Dr Mark Finn, Dr Anthony Bartel and Peter Ciszewski. “It was a great boost, we were one of two Australian teams to receive a grant,” Dr Kaufman says. Dr Kaufman’s research team includes two PhD students, honour students and undergraduate volunteers, working with volunteer parents and children from across Melbourne. “We usually get around 15 children in a week from about four months to over six years of age. We’ve had 40 to 50 children take part in the touch-screen research,” Dr Kaufman says. This research looks at attentiveness, impulsivity, learning and emotional effects of a touch-screen environment with children aged four to seven. Experiments contrast the attention spans and problem-solving capabilities of children using traditional toys with their experiences using a tablet. “We give them creative activities such as drawing and block building,” Dr Kaufman says.

“So far, there has been no difference between touch-screen and real-world activities when it comes to slow-paced creative activities. We are not finding any difference in their skills whether they are using a tablet or a toy. If you are careful with the applications you choose, we haven’t found any negative effects on attention span.” Parents have voiced concern that the virtual screen environment might take away from the physical world. To test this, Dr Kaufman’s team give children a difficult problem-solving task. “First we use real objects, and then we get the children to practise the same task using an application on an iPad. Both groups of kids improve dramatically on both the iPad and using the real object.”

Love at first byte Dr Kaufman said many parents found asking their child to stop playing a touch screen caused tantrums and tears. “We are just beginning to look at emotional findings,” he says. “We want to determine if these responses are related to it being a touch screen or if they are about stopping them from doing something they are enjoying.” Another area of research includes video communication, through programs such as Skype. Postgraduate student Joanne Tarasuik, who is a part-time researcher on the touch-screen work, is undertaking her PhD on the video research. Testing methods include separating children from their parents and providing the child with a video link to the parent. “When there is a video link, the children don’t act like they are alone and are happy to explore,” Dr Kaufman says. “We will also look at video versus audio and parents versus strangers over video.”

Baby brain development Brain activity in babies has been a developing area of research for Dr Kaufman since 2009. “The babies listen to sounds and see pictures, and we look at what the brain does when you show them something different,” he says. “Other work with young infants is about understanding how babies’ brains help keep objects in mind. It’s not always necessarily out of sight, out of mind. Babies remember what was hidden and where it was hidden.” This research has led to working with infants with a high hereditary risk of autism. The team received $85,000 from the Bennelong Foundation towards this research, which studies babies who have an older sibling with autism. “We measure brain activity and social gaze behaviours to determine if these measures predict a later outcome of autism,” Dr Kaufman says. “Studies have found that it can be more effective if autism is detected early and can be very helpful with babies.” l

CHILD’s PLAY The explosion of tablet technology has created yet another parenting dilemma: what are the effects on our children of using these devices? A Swinburne team is hoping to resolve this question in its study of infant cognitive development. by fiona kiLlman

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child development

case study


Laura Matthews, aged seven, and her sister Claire, aged four, are two enthusiastic volunteers at Dr Kaufman’s BabyLab. Their mother Leanne Matthews explains how they got involved. “I saw an ad on Facebook about helping people with their PhD work,” she says. “Claire did three separate tests in the baby brainwave work.” Laura has participated in the touch-screen and video communication research.

It’s not right to assume that sitting in front of the TV has the same effects on children as using tablets. dr jordy kaufman and PhD student Joanne Tarasuik In Swinburne’s babylab.

“The touch-screen research was interesting – this was the first time she had one in front of her. I have generally tried to steer them away from those devices,” Mrs Matthews says. “She did well, and ended up showing me what to do. The only thing I noticed was that she occasionally paused when using the iPads because the colours weren’t as vivid.” During the video research, Mrs Matthews and Laura were in separate rooms communicating over a webcam. “She was waving at the Parents camera and showing wanting more me what she information or who are was doing,” Mrs interested in being part Matthews says. of the BabyLab research “It was the same can visit as if I was in the or room.” l

the.swinburne. babylab

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ince modern anaesthesia was first employed 171 years ago to lessen the pain of surgery, the true nature of human consciousness and unconsciousness has remained a scientific mystery. Now, armed with one of the world’s most advanced diagnostic instruments and the rarest naturally occurring gas, a team of Australian scientists are proposing to reveal the way our brain activity is transformed when we descend into unconsciousness. Impelled by media horror stories of patients ‘awake under the knife’ and by resulting insurance claims and psychological trauma, a 30-year global research effort has so far failed to disclose exactly how anaesthetic drugs act upon the brain, the mind and the state of consciousness – despite the millions of operations performed with them around the world every day.

Defining the nature of consciousness For Swinburne’s Professor David Liley, the nature of consciousness has been a lifetime fascination, marked by an important milestone in 2012 when his Brain Anaesthesia Response (BAR) device entered clinical trials as a potential replacement for existing electroencephalogram techniques used the world over to monitor patients under anaesthetic. Now, in a world-first experiment in partnership with Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital, Professor Liley and a talented team of intrepid ‘brain geographers’ are combining the power of magnetoencephalography (MEG) – reading minute electromagnetic signals within the brain – with the use of a rare and costly anaesthetic, the noble gas xenon, to try to define the process that takes place when a person passes from one state of consciousness to another. “Despite all the monitoring of brain function that

has gone on over the years, consciousness remains a black box,” he explains. “We have huge amounts of data about brain states, but little or no insight into the thing we are really trying to monitor: whether a person is conscious or unconscious. Whether they are aware of what is happening around them, or can feel pain.”

New technology and the volunteer study Equipped with one of only two MEG machines in Australia, Professor Liley and his colleagues at Swinburne’s Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre are studying electromagnetic signals many millions of times weaker than the earth’s magnetic field. This is a task of such exquisite delicacy it must be carried out in a specially shielded chamber that excludes all

New research is using cutting-edge technology and the rare gas xenon to explore the effects of anaesthesia.

CONSCIOUS decisions by julian cribb

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extraneous magnetic signals. A special gantry holds a helmet with 306 sensors over the patient’s head, monitoring the tiny electromagnetic fluctuations produced by populations of neurons while they communicate with one another, to sensitively assay brain activity as the patient passes under the influence of the anaesthetic. Twenty volunteers will take part in the study, equipped with a mask for administering the gas mixture and provided with a simple low-attention task – pushing a button in response to a tone – to compare their reactions with those revealed by the MEG machine as it monitors the changing signals in their brain. “We are using xenon and nitrous oxide gases as our chosen anaesthetics as they are both widely believed to work by the same essential mechanism, reducing brain excitation, but so far have been reported to

produce quite different effects on brain activity. However, we have good reasons to hypothesise they both impact a particular part of the brain – the parietal lobe – and that this represents the common pathway into unconsciousness. If this turns out not to be the case it might mean that there is no single route to unconsciousness,” Professor Liley explains. “Thus our experiment will provide important insights into the process by which consciousness is maintained or lost, and where in the brain this occurs. We will start with the patient fully awake and record the changes in brain electromagnetic activity as they become sedated and lose and regain consciousness.”

Multiple applications and lower risks While Professor Liley’s research will not attempt to cast light on the nature of consciousness, it has every chance of revealing the actual physical steps

and changes involved. The research outcomes could contribute to the development of new ways to monitor the brain state of anaesthetised surgical patients, people in comas and people suspected of early-onset mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. The research will also provide insights that could assist in the design of new and better anaesthetics, avoiding the risk of ‘awakening’ or other side effects. “In this research our ideal aim is to define the processes or steps which invariably occur, under all forms of anaesthesia, as the state of consciousness changes,” Professor Liley says. “If we can better understand the mechanisms of consciousness, we can make sure patients are genuinely 100 per cent unconscious when they are supposed to be. We will also have a valuable new diagnostic tool for exploring other central nervous system conditions.” l

Our experiment will provide important insights into the process by which consciousness is maintained or lost...

Professor DAVID Liley with a volunteer at Swinburne’s Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre.


in its element

Xenon is a colourless, odourless noble gas, meaning it is so inert, it does not react with other chemicals to form compounds. It occurs in the earth’s atmosphere at a ratio of about one part in 11,500,000. Its main uses are in arc lamps, lasers and, since the 1950s, as a surgical anaesthetic.

Produced by filtering air, xenon is expensive – more than three times the price of standard chemical anaesthetics. Its high cost has limited its use in medicine but recent advances in recovery methods have increased its affordability. Currently it is only approved for routine anaesthetic use in Europe.

“Xenon is a remarkable element,” says Professor Liley. “It is completely unreactive with other chemicals in its surrounding environment, and yet it produces a profound anaesthesia. This makes it ideal for modelling the process of loss of consciousness.”

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Smart energy systems being developed at Swinburne are changing the way householders can monitor and reduce energy use, as well as the way energy is supplied and used across neighbourhoods.

power to the people by kristen alford

left to right: Associate Professor Lachlan Andrew, Professor Ryszard Kowalczyk and Dr Bao Vo at swinburne’s energy management Research centre.


he option to switch on a light and turn on the television is a ritual taken for granted in most households. But as energy prices and fossil fuel emissions continue to rise, our dependence on electricity and our capacity to control our household power consumption is becoming an important economic and environmental issue. Creating opportunities to control the energy use, not just of households, but also of neighbourhoods and nations, is an area of expertise for Professor Ryszard Kowalczyk, of Swinburne’s Energy Management Research Centre.

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“We develop cutting-edge technologies and software solutions to allocate resources so that people may be satisfied individually, and the system and its operations optimised overall,” Professor Kowalczyk says.

Beating the upwards trend Australia’s retail electricity prices rose by 72 per cent between June 2007 and June 2012, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. With no end in sight for power price hikes, consumers and companies have an increasingly powerful motivation to moderate their usage – especially if they can reduce bills by shifting some of their power usage to lower-priced, off-peak periods.


Designing smart energy systems that monitor and control household appliances allows for greater efficiencies and also offers opportunities to change the way we share, use and generate energy within neighbourhoods – better balancing supply and demand. For power companies, this information could bring huge efficiency savings. “The current infrastructure is designed for the peak demands, which typically occur only one per cent of the time, during high summer,” explains Professor Kowalczyk. “By shifting usage from the peak demand periods, the infrastructure can be better used and also the expensive spot prices for supply can be significantly reduced.”

International partnership Professor Kowalczyk came to smart energy solutions through his background in artificial intelligence and agent-based systems, working to automate negotiation and support decision-making processes. He founded Swinburne’s Energy Management Research Centre (EMRC) in 2011 in partnership with US-based technology company GreenWave Reality, which needed intelligent energy management software in order to deliver on the potential of smart sensors they had developed. The EMRC’s work has attracted the interest of energy sector companies such as GE Energy, Siemens Energy and Enel, and communications companies including Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks. Its research team is generating new insights into consumer behaviour and energy use patterns, by analysing data from smart meters attached to appliances in specially monitored households. The team is also developing new ways to support and automate decisions about appliance usage, based on patterns of consumer behaviour and need combined with patterns of grid-wide energy usage, to examine ways to reduce peak load.

We are coming to a point where we can ... help consumers save money and at the same time help utility companies save money… Professor Ryszard Kowalczyk

“These intelligent systems provide functionality so that we can optimise the usage of energy and how it is allocated to different households, so we can find ways of minimising the cost,” Professor Kowalczyk says.

Smarter technology EMRC staff, Associate Professor Lachlan Andrew and Dr Bao Vo, are analysing patterns of energy usage of appliances in a bid to develop a system of power signatures – which would enable houses of the future to identify fridges, ovens or other powerconsuming appliances. “We are trying to detect which appliance is plugged in – for example, is it a toaster or an air-conditioner?” Dr Vo says. “Once we can do this, the next challenge is to monitor consumption within the house and work out which devices you can switch on and off to optimise energy usage and reduce costs.” Coupled with an energy management system on a local computer drive, this system could enable future homes to automatically manage appliances regardless of where they are located in the home.

Local solutions Similar logic can be applied to regulating neighbourhood power demand. “The grid would not cope if a lot of consumers wanted to charge an electrical vehicle at the same time, so we need to develop a system of coordination between households. It can’t be a solution that is centralised – where someone else decides for you when the car can be charged. It has to be a process of mutual benefit, where you have options, but some popular choices cost more.” Using Professor Kowalczyk’s system, users would be able to select some parameters – such as what time their electric car is required for use – and the system could balance those needs by identifying a charging time that optimises the combination of neighbourhood demand, low-cost power and high supply times. This means both the user and the distribution network realise benefits. “We are coming to a point where we can provide software to help consumers save money and at the same time help utility companies save money by balancing the load,” says Professor Kowalczyk.

Sharing the load Optimisation means energy is not wasted through transmission when it’s not needed. If a household has a solar panel that is generating energy, they can share that energy with their neighbour. Additionally, households can use back-up sources of energy, such as a charged electric car, to supplement energy supply, bringing added energy security to the household and neighbourhood. Smarter systems are moving energy management from the supply side to a more sophisticated consideration of both supply and demand factors, balancing a system where households, neighbours and distribution networks have a role to play in the optimisation of energy, reducing costs and enabling a more robust network. l

The new home of design & innovation Swinburne is proud to announce the construction of our new $100 million Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre, opening in 2014 at the Hawthorn campus.




Facing up to Bombarded by thousands of unrealistic advertising images, young Australian women are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their bodies. Findings from cutting-edge research are prompting calls for greater regulation in this contentious field.


by fiona marsden

uring the 1970s, consumers saw 500 advertisements per day. In today’s multimedia landscape, that figure has ballooned to 5000. At the same time, there’s a growing gap between idealised images in the media and the way people look in real life. Advertising predominantly features super-thin models, even though the average clothing size is getting bigger. And although Australia is becoming more ethnically diverse, the media remains saturated with Caucasian images.

Unrealistic expectations “Less than five per cent of women can achieve this media-driven ideal,” says Dr Nives Zubcevic-Basic, lecturer and director of Swinburne’s Master of Marketing program. “When young women don’t see themselves reflected in external images, they start believing those images are the cultural norm and the only acceptable form of beauty.” Additionally, the rise of instant fame via reality television and YouTube, along with social media such as Facebook and Twitter, means young women are more influenced by images of attractive celebrities – and more likely to judge themselves and their peers accordingly. “In this environment,” says Dr Zubcevic-Basic, “it can be difficult for young

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women to maintain a positive self-image.” It could be argued that many people are dissatisfied with their appearance in some way; most of us can see flaws that we’d rather not have. But what does this mean for young women in particular? At what point do faint or fleeting feelings of dissatisfaction become a major problem? “Young women can develop issues when, instead of looking at their body as a functional entity, they examine individual body parts and pick them apart as flaws,” says Dr ZubcevicBasic. “They genuinely believe they would be happier if those flaws didn’t exist.” These negative thoughts can extend into debilitating behaviours such as avoiding social events, altering nutritional habits or, in extreme cases, developing eating disorders.

Less than five per cent of women can achieve this media-driven ideal. Dr Nives Zubcevic-Basic

Judging the book by its cover In a study of body image Dr Zubcevic-Basic recruited 1111 male and female participants aged 18 to 55 from across Australia. Participants looked at images of models and rated their attractiveness. They were also asked how they felt about themselves before and afterwards. “Across the board, there was a significant decrease in participants’ own body image after looking at the models,” says Dr Zubcevic-Basic. It wasn’t just women who responded to the images in this way. While women felt worse about their own bodies after seeing super-thin female models, men felt worse about their bodies after seeing muscular male models. “It’s clear that men – just like women – are increasingly feeling the pressure to conform to an unrealistic ideal,” says Dr Zubcevic-Basic. Perhaps more disturbingly, participants in a subsequent study by Dr ZubcevicBasic overwhelmingly equated physical attractiveness with success at university and in subsequent careers. The study recruited 242 university students aged 18 to 40. “Regardless of age or life experience, participants attributed more importance to looks than personality, character or intelligence as a predictor of achievement,” says Dr Zubcevic-Basic. On the plus-side, Dr Zubcevic-Basic sees two hedges against the factors predisposing


body image young women towards a poor body image. The first comes from women themselves. “Research I did in 2010 found that women who maintained close ties with their traditional cultural and ethnic background were less affected by idealised media images, even if their family had been in Australia for several generations,” she says.

The case for regulation Dr Zubcevic-Basic believes the second hedge must come externally, through government regulation. In 2010 the federal government established a voluntary code of conduct for the media, advertising and fashion industries. Just two teen magazines took the initiative – discussing body image issues with readers and using photographs of models that weren’t digitally altered. She acknowledges that advertisers continue using stylised images because intense competition makes them risk-adverse. However, she believes the industry’s lukewarm response towards the voluntary code puts more onus on government. “UK regulators have begun banning advertisements that look overly airbrushed,” she says. “Australian regulators could restrict how images can be altered, alert consumers to retouched images and encourage more use of physically and ethnically diverse models in the media.” l

Detecting our true feelings about body image Research for the real world Drawing on a background spanning psychology, brand management and advertising, Dr Nives Zubcevic-Basic has specialised in researching body image since 2006. In 2011 she joined Professor Heath McDonald, Dr Julian Vieceli, Professor Richard Silberstein and Dr Joseph Ciorciari to form Swinburne’s Consumer Neuroscience Centre. The centre’s current projects include studying fanaticism in sport and the effects of individual personality differences on marketing. The centre will also deliver a two-day consumer neuroscience course for managers and executives on 15–16 July. For details, visit consumerneuroscience

“Every research methodology has limitations,” says Dr Nives ZubcevicBasic. “If a participant is asked, ‘How do you feel when you look at this image?’, and they’re uncomfortable with the topic or unsure of how they feel, they may not reveal exactly what’s on their mind.” She and her Swinburne colleagues use neuroscience technologies that bypass these roadblocks by picking up responses in milliseconds. They include: • Magnetoencephalography (MEG): provides direct information about evoked and spontaneous brain activity in specific locations. • Steady State Topography (SST): developed at Swinburne by Professor Richard Silberstein and colleagues, SST records electrical brain activity while participants watch audiovisual material and/or perform a psychological task. • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): produces activation maps showing which parts of the brain are involved in a particular mental process.

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huge wealth of information is produced by academics, government agencies, NGOs, think tanks and other similar bodies, but these reports and papers are often difficult to trace because they are not published commercially. Based at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Australian Policy Online (APO) is a research database that provides free access to this material, known as grey literature, which can be an important source of information for researchers. “The key aim is to bring together high-quality research, which is otherwise uncollected, and make it widely available to people to help make public policy a more informed place,” says Amanda Lawrence, who until late last year was the site’s managing editor and is now APO’s research manager.

Informing the debate Lawrence and her small team actively monitor more than 500 organisations, and source from about 1500 in total. Research is published based on its relevance to the Australian public policy landscape, and made available to the public online. Although much of what APO collects is available on the web, it is often very difficult to find, making the database a valuable resource. “We’re told all the time by people in government, NGOs, academia and the media that Policy Online is an absolutely essential service, which alerts them to what sort of research is going on, and allows them to access it. It really is one of the key bridges between policy and research,” says Lawrence. Now Lawrence is looking at how she can take the information published and catalogued on

Thought leaders A Swinburne team is undertaking a project to change the way research is accessed online in Australia. by virginia millen

APO in another direction to make it more accessible to the public. In November last year a team from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research led by Professor Julian Thomas, Professor Sandy Gifford and Amanda Lawrence were awarded a grant from the Australian Research Council to develop APO’s capacity as a linked database that can connect with other systems. The project is titled Linked Data Policy Hub: Connected Resources for Social Research. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, has pioneered linked data. The idea behind it is to create a richer network of information by linking raw open data with other digital resources including reports, articles and data. “The project will connect APO’s collection of grey literature resources with other major research databases, including RMIT Publishing’s Informit database of journal articles and the National Library of Australia’s Trove catalogue,” says Lawrence. “I’m really interested in looking at what we can do with our database of publications and what can we do with the technology to bring related content together in more useful ways.” The linked data project will see Policy Online enter a new frontier of online research. “It’s an exciting time,” says Lawrence. “We’ve had a long period where we can get a flow of catalogue information and centralise that, but the new area of linked data offers a lot of potential for being able to pull together related resources from a lot of different places on different topics. We’re looking to be part of that new world.” l

The key aim is to bring together high-quality research ... and make it widely available to people to help make public policy a more informed place. Amanda Lawrence, Australian Policy Online research manager

Bridging the gap

The Swinburne team is undertaking a project on linked data, a concept pioneered by Tim berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web.

Also based at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Inside Story is dedicated to publishing longform, high-quality analysis and reportage by university researchers and journalists. Peter Browne, one of the founders of Australian Policy Online, launched Inside Story four years ago and has been editing the site ever since. “The concept was to run longer pieces than the newspapers, while trying to bridge the gap between academia and journalism,” he says. The site publishes pieces on Australian politics, society and culture as well as world news, drawing on articles filed by correspondents from around the world and averages around 65,000 page views per month.

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Shooting stars The world’s largest screens will give moviegoers a deeper view into space than ever before, with the help of Swinburne astronomers.

by jessica gadd


he final frontier of human exploration is being breached by cinema audiences across the world as they witness a taste of Swinburne’s astronomical expertise on display in the IMAX film, Hidden Universe. The movie provides a rare opportunity for viewers to see high-resolution real footage of the universe, paired with highly accurate models of deep space developed by staff from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. “It’s a case of the truth is stranger than fiction,” says Hidden Universe producer, December Media’s Stephen Amezdroz. “Space is the new frontier and it’s exciting to see real images of it displayed on an eight-storey-high IMAX screen.” The team filmed at Kakadu in the Northern Territory, and the world’s highest and driest desert, the Atacama Desert in Chile where they had access to the Very Large Telescope, as well as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). ALMA is the largest astronomical partnership in existence and is tipped to revolutionise what is known about space.

A unique insight The film uses images gathered from a number of telescopes around the world and reconstructs the 2D observations into 3D structure. The film also includes footage from probes, such as the Mars Reconnaissance

Orbiter (MRO). “This never-before-seen footage of Mars is accurate to within 30 centimetres,” says Hidden Universe director Russell Scott, from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. “This means you can look at the footage of a rock on Mars and know that it’s a real rock on Mars: that rock really exists,” Scott says. “Not only that, it’s a colour you’ve never seen before. As for the footage of the sun – the detail, the colour – it’s incredible. That’s the real sun, not computer-generated imagery. It’s jaw-dropping to see this on screen. There is no make-believe in this film. This is really special footage.”

“This could only have been done at Swinburne,” Scott says. “It’s one thing to have a supercomputer; it’s another thing to have expertise in astronomy, simulations, supercomputing and 10 years’ experience in making 3D content. Only Swinburne could provide the broad range of skills we needed for this project.” One of the simulations reproduced in the film is thought to be the largest single astronomy simulation ever created in Australia. GiggleZ is a large simulation suite assembled by Swinburne postdoctoral lecturer Dr Greg Poole to measure the universe (among other things).

Swinburne’s G-Star supercomputer

A new lens on the cosmos

The accuracy of the footage is one of the film’s hallmarks: every image, every graphic, is taken from real data sourced by Swinburne’s team of researchers and astrophysicists. The film uses a number of the latest astrophysics simulations, with the 2D to 3D conversions of the space images based on research provided by Swinburne astronomers. Creating these images for the massive IMAX screen and the fact that the film is in 3D, meant that Hidden Universe needed a huge amount of computing power. By the time the film was complete the team had churned through millions of computing hours and used over 100 terabytes of data. This is where Swinburne’s ‘Green Machine’ and G-Star supercomputer stepped in.

Amezdroz agrees that the information supplied by the Swinburne researchers is a key driver of the film. A huge amount of work has been invested in ensuring the film’s accuracy, so that family audiences will be inspired by a new – and highly accurate – perspective of the universe. “Hopefully viewers will leave the film with a different and clearer understanding of the universe,” he says. “One of the key points of the film is understanding that the earth is a part of this great cosmos, and we are connected to all of it.” The film, which has backing from Film Victoria, will be shown at IMAX cinemas worldwide. l

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inspiring knowledge

A Swinburne astrophysicist is working with primary schools to encourage the next generation of scientists.


espite a hectic research, training and supervision schedule, often involving international travel, astrophysicist Sarah Maddison still finds time to inspire a new generation of scientists at primary schools across Melbourne. Associate Professor Maddison is a long-time participant in the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program run by the CSIRO since 2007. Her journey to school engagement began earlier than this, however, having visited Victorian primary schools on her own initiative for many years, with the broad aim of getting kids to embrace science. She is now working with her fifth school. “Sarah has such an engaging personality and is a very interesting presenter, so the students love to interact with her,” says Alexandra Parrington, teacher and science coordinator at Cornish College, who has worked with Associate Professor Maddison for many years, initially at Hartwell Primary School. “The students are always really excited to work with a real scientist.”

by lisa starkey

New views of the world Sharon Kenyon-Smith, a teacher at St Joseph’s primary school in Hawthorn, says the message is getting across, sparking an interest in the wider world. “The children see science now as part of their everyday life.” A moon project conducted by Associate Professor Maddison at Hartwell, St Joseph’s and Footscray primary schools involved using scientific methods to analyse and learn about the phases of the moon. “It was about getting the kids to actually go outside and look up,” Associate Professor Maddison says. “We did it over two lunar phases. I would go to school each week and take them through the scientific process. We would discuss what they observed, what records they took and have debates over the shape of the moon. We would also discuss how to improve their observations.” According to Kenyon-Smith, “The students know that they can be scientists by observing, collating information, wondering, posing questions and problems, and finding solutions. They can do this now, today, and make a positive difference to their world.”

Teaching the scientific process Associate Professor Maddison attributes her own inspiration to becoming a scientist from her time at primary school doing hands-on experiments. Her memory of those experiences encouraged her to try to get more primary school-age children interested in science. Of course, inspiring kids, and particularly girls, to consider a career in science is part of the goal, but it’s also much more than that. “Science involves vital life skills that everyone should be trained in, no matter what their career goals,” Associate Professor Maddison says. “Science is not just about memorising facts – the order of the planets, elements in the periodic table … It’s about teaching the scientific process: how to be critical, how to gather evidence, how to test a hypothesis or an assumption.”

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It’s about teaching the scientific process: how to be critical, how to gather evidence, how to test a hypothesis or an assumption. Associate Professor Sarah Maddison

When not in schools, Associate Professor Maddison is working on improving our understanding of how the planets form. She has made a number of impressive astronomical discoveries and regularly travels overseas to conduct further research. Her research looks at how tiny dust grains grow to become something as big as planets – objects more than a trillion times the size of these tiny objects. By analysing the chemistry of these dust grains, their interaction with each other and their evolution into planets, Associate Professor Maddison hopes to better understand some of the mechanisms that shaped our universe. Using the Australia Telescope Compact Array – six 22-metre radio telescopes near the remote town of Narrabri in central New South Wales – her work has demonstrated that these dust grains grow extremely fast. The results have been combined with results from the new giant Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile – a vast field of 66 telescopes located more than 5000 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert – and have confirmed her model predictions.

The next generation of scientists Finding the time to stay engaged in the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program is not always easy. “Some days I have to really juggle tasks,” Associate Professor Maddison explains. “However, some of the teachers I work with are really into their science and I find their energy and enthusiasm contagious.” Of course, there is also the instant feedback of the students to spur her on. “I try to get them to answer … their own questions. When they work their way to an answer themselves, their faces light up with excitement and pride in their own ability. That is a priceless moment. “I think outreach is extremely important and this feeling is supported by Swinburne. While such outreach activities might seem to cut into research time, I think it’s extremely important to share our science knowledge with the public and to help engage the next generation of scientists.” l


the science of now The brainchild of former Australian chief scientist, Dr Jim Peacock, the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program (SMiS) began in 2007. It has been so successful that it now reaches more than one-tenth of Australia’s schools. Dr Peacock, who remains the program’s patron, says that it “promotes science education in primary and secondary schools, helps to engage and motivate students in their learning of science, and broadens awareness of the types and variety of exciting careers available in the sciences.” The program involves scientists and mathematicians partnering with individual teachers in ongoing, professional partnerships. According to Marian Heard, director of the CSIRO-

managed program, there have been a total of 3088 partnerships established in 1373 Australian schools to date. The list of participating scientists includes 2011 Nobel prize-winner for physics, Professor Brian Schmidt. In Victoria there are almost 300 active partnerships, with more than 100 schools on the waiting list for a scientist. Each partnership is unique, with the teacher and scientist together able to decide how it will work. There are no fixed hours. Scientists may visit the school once or twice a year, a couple of times a term, or once a week or month. Other partnerships use email and video conferencing almost exclusively. Proving that distance is no barrier,

Interested teachers, scientists or mathematicians can register online at either www.scientists or www.mathematicians a group of students in the Northern Territory partnered with a Queensland scientist and discovered a unique tarantula species. An Antarctic scientist in Hobart has formed a long-distance partnership with a primary school in Townsville, and a Hobart-based ice-core analyst has partnered with a school in Darwin. In Victoria, a Swinburne-based mathematician, Professor Geoffrey Brooks, has inspired students through regular brainteasers, tutorials and lectures using applied mathematics and a tub of very cold water. His teaching even includes the all-important ‘maths of football’. “We’re not trying to turn every child

associate professor sarah maddison and some of her primary school students.

into a scientist, that is not the goal,” says Dr Louise Emmerson, a Tasmanian-based scientist. “What we want to do is make them find science palatable, make them understand they can be a scientist if they want to, just continue to keep them engaged in science.” It’s not just the students that get inspired either, according to Marian Heard. “It inspires and motivates the teachers and scientists.” Of course, with access to working scientists it can also give what Dr Jim Peacock describes as, “The science of now, not ... the last couple of centuries.” The program has Australian Government funding through to June 2016.

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Keeping it in the family Succession planning in family businesses can be fraught with difficulty but a new study could make the process easier. By carolyn boyd

The influence of wives “Wives of family business CEOs are often deeply overlooked and we think that they are very underestimated,” says Gilding. “Wives have a unique outlook on the whole succession planning process and they often have a huge influence on whether the planning process works or it doesn’t work. Unless you have an understanding of all the different players in the process, you haven’t got a very good model.”

PhD candidate Barbara Cosson conducted the spouse interviews and says the hardest part was hearing the stories of families who were “completely riven by trying to sort their relationships out”. “I have spoken to numerous families where they don’t speak to different arms of the family, and actually haven’t for many years,” she says. Despite the difficulties involved in handing family businesses to the next generation, postdoctoral research fellow Dr Sheree Gregory says continuity is vital to many families. “Having a family continue on in the business is quite important, so is keeping the bloodline going and keeping a legacy,” she says.

Often there is a fair degree of secrecy and non-transparency around succession planning. It is something that family businesses consistently struggle to deal with. The more they put it off, the more difficult it becomes. Michael Gilding, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne

The research goes global The researchers are now conducting a global survey, in conjunction with Pitcher Partners, to compare the way families approach succession planning in 40 countries. The Family Business Succession Survey is being run in several languages, including Spanish, Korean and Mandarin. In Australia, the team is hoping to garner at least 1000 responses. “When you do a survey in Australia it is interesting but it is not as deeply insightful as comparisons with survey data from other countries. Once you have that data, you can then say what’s unique about us,” says Gilding. The research team recently had a paper based on their research accepted by one of the world’s top entrepreneurship journals, Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice. l

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illustration: gregory baldwin


amily businesses form the backbone of the Australian economy – around 70 per cent of the nation’s companies are family owned and operated. However, when the time comes to hand over the reins to the next generation, things do not always go smoothly. “Often there is a fair degree of secrecy and nontransparency around succession planning,” says Michael Gilding, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne. “It is something that family businesses consistently struggle to deal with. The more they put it off, the more difficult it becomes.” Gilding is one of five researchers conducting a two-year study into how families decide who to pass their businesses to and when to make the transition. Working with national accounting firm Pitcher Partners, the team has interviewed 43 Australian family businesses, ranging in age from less than two decades to more than 160 years of family operation. The researchers haven’t just spoken with CEOs, who are typically male, but have also interviewed their spouses and other family members to get a more in-depth understanding of succession planning.


case study


With Angela Ciliberto turning 60 at the end of this year, she is keen to hand management of the business she launched in 1978 to her two children. Even though she has insider information on best practice as the state chair for Family Business Australia, Ciliberto knows it will be tough.




Create transparent rules for joining the business.


Create structures that facilitate communication and consultation.



Get help if in doubt. Outsiders are able to ask the ‘naïve’ questions that families need to answer.


Procrastinate – it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. Be secretive – it creates mistrust. Play favourites – it creates resentment.


Source: Michael Gilding, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne University of Technology.

Executive Education Series June – July 2013

“I define myself as this business,” she says. “So, if I am not this business, who am I? There is that journey for the incumbents to take. That’s a really difficult one and I think if you don’t get an answer to that, you never want to leave.”

A series of two-day intensive specialist programs designed for senior managers that will equip them with practical knowledge that can take their organisation forward.

Ciliberto began a photographic shop in 1978 to create a job for herself after quitting the public service. Soon one store became six and her husband Peter joined the business.


In the 1980s, the couple spotted a niche for wholesale distribution and launched C-Direct, which now provides sales, marketing and warehousing of products ranging from pre-paid mobile to movie tickets. The Melbourne business services 4000 clients, turns over about $30 million a year and employs 30 people.

handing over to the next generation

Intensive programs for senior managers

Angela says she and Peter always had a code of behaviour for when they were at work, so when their daughter and son, now in their 30s, wanted to join the business there was a framework in place. As she nears retirement, Angela has been gradually stepping out of the business, and the Cilibertos have engaged a business psychologist to guide them through succession planning for management of the company. “My belief is you need to see it as a journey – a process rather than an event,” says Angela. “You can’t just suddenly say, ‘I will be 60 this year, see you later, I am going’. The reality is that the successors have to feel comfortable that they’ve got all their ducks in a row.”

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molecular modelling


hen Swinburne’s Professor Feng Wang was a young girl growing up in China in the 1970s, her hero was the Nobel prize-winning physicist and chemist Marie Curie. Now a resident of Melbourne, Professor Wang finds herself following in Curie’s footsteps, bridging the worlds of physics and chemistry through molecular modelling, making contributions on projects ranging from drug discovery to solar panel production. Professor Wang’s research team recently attracted international recognition for its work with ferrocene – a compound that has long been known about, but never fully understood. The team has identified the structure of ferrocene conformers – specific parts of the molecular formation – for the first time.

Discovery opens many doors It’s an important discovery because ferrocene has increasing application in petrochemistry, medicine, nanotechnology and, most recently, the development of solar cells for the efficient production of clean energy. “Ferrocene is one of the most important compounds in chemistry, so we are very excited to be playing a small part in unravelling its secrets,” Professor Wang says. Ferrocene is an orange-brown powder and was first synthesised by accident at a university in the US in 1951. It is described as a ‘sandwich’ compound because it has a central iron atom, with two pentagonal rings on either side consisting of five carbon and five hydrogen atoms. “The discovery of ferrocene in the 1950s prompted the evolution of a whole new branch of chemistry – but until now, nobody has been able to conclusively prove its molecular structure,” Professor Wang says. After the discovery was published in the Journal of Organometallic Chemistry, Professor Wang’s team, which includes researchers from the University of Melbourne, has conducted experiments at two synchrotrons – in Australia and Japan – to confirm the structure and learn more about the compound.

The power of modelling “My work is in molecular modelling, using quantum mechanics and supercomputers. It’s a real strength here at Swinburne because of our research expertise and GPU supercomputer and I don’t need to have any of the actual compounds on hand,” says Professor Wang. “In scientific discovery, it is often the experimental measurement that comes first, and then the theory to interpret it. But the fact that we have done it the other way around is in itself significant to research practice.” Her ultimate aim is to understand ferrocene’s two most important conformers – eclipsed and staggered isomers (molecules of the same chemical formula but which are arranged differently) – and how they interchange under defined conditions. “For the past 60 years there has been no way to conclusively identify which conformer is the most stable and why both conformers are ‘observed’ under different experimental conditions, and that’s a headache for chemists trying to design the synthesised pathways for ferrocene’s many applications,” she says. One such application is solar energy. Here, ferrocene seems destined to play an important role as the electrolyte in organic dyesensitised solar cells, which are much cheaper to produce than silicon-based solar cells.

Science in the family Professor Wang first came to Australia in 1989 as a visiting researcher at the University of Newcastle, where she won scholarships to undertake her PhD in theoretical chemistry. She has been at Swinburne since 2003, when she became a senior lecturer in computational science. She is now Professor of Chemistry in the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences. “My father was a chemistry professor, my mother was a high school chemistry teacher and one of my two brothers is a chemist,” she says. “Our parents always pushed us towards science and I could recite the entire periodic table of the elements at the age of seven. “In China we used to read a lot of stories about Marie Curie, who became a role model for many girls of my age.” Professor Wang has three daughters who are at secondary schools, where they all are “pretty good” at science. They are also well versed in the story of Marie Curie – even though they need look no further than their own mother for an inspirational role model. l

model discovery Working on the previously mysterious compound ferrocene, Professor Feng Wang has made the kind of scientific breakthrough she has dreamed of since she was a young girl. by Steve Packer

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Ferrocene is one of the most important compounds in chemistry, so we are very excited to be playing a small part in unravelling its secrets. Professor feng wanG and dr dom appadoo at the australian synchrotron.

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Swinburne sociologist Associate Professor Karen Farquharson talks about her research on diversity and participation in Australian children’s sport.

Sport for all Q: Sport is a big part of the Australian way of life. What benefits does it bring for society? A: Recreational sport is increasingly being seen as a solution for serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, associated with a sedentary lifestyle. It is also a potential source of social connection – a way for new migrants to become part of Australian society. Recreational sport participation is seen as good for individuals and for broader society, but most of us stop participating when we are still children. Q: What brought you to sport as an area of research? A: I’m a sociologist who has a strong interest in sport. I’m also a migrant and a woman who is not very good at sport and stopped participating as soon as I could. While I’m fairly fit, it is not via organised sport. So I’m interested in how sport can be made more attractive to a broader constituency: how can people such as me, who like sport but who are not very talented, be better engaged in sport over their life span? How can migrants be attracted to sport? For sport to be a solution to health issues and contribute to social inclusion, people need to want to participate. Sport needs to attract kids and keep them involved. Q: Tell us about your research A: I’m part of a team made up of researchers from a number of universities, investigating diversity in junior sport in Australia. Our research is interested in how junior sports clubs manage diversity of all sorts, including ability, culture and gender. Led by Ramón Spaaij (La Trobe University), and including Ruth Jeanes (Monash University), Dean Lusher (Swinburne University of Technology) and Sean Gorman (Curtin University), we recently conducted a pilot study in the greater Melbourne area. We were interested in finding out whether clubs incorporated people of diverse backgrounds and, if so, how they achieved this.

Q: What about diversity in terms of gender and disability? A: There was little discussion of gender diversity. Junior sport, and sport in general, is very much gender-segregated, and the need to improve female participation rates is tied up in ideas we have about girls (and women) playing sport that makes girls’ sports less important than boys’ sports. Indeed, much research has shown that girls tend to stop playing sport at puberty. Girls from diverse backgrounds are particularly likely to drop out. A number of clubs had dedicated programs for people with a disability and strategies to reach out to this constituency, but many clubs also did not. Access and appropriate programs are key barriers for people with a disability in terms of sport participation, and for many clubs the infrastructural access issues seemed too great to overcome.

For sport to be a solution to health issues and contribute to social inclusion, people need to want to participate.

Q: What were your findings? A: The results were mixed. Some clubs were interested in attracting participants from migrant backgrounds and developed strategies to do so, but others were not. ‘They know where we are’ was one response from the latter type of club. And often the clubs that had strategies did so because one leader had a keen interest in attracting people from diverse backgrounds, not because the club had a particular policy around the issue. Clubs that courted culturally diverse players often did so in search of talent, believing that attracting people of different backgrounds would increase their talent pool. Research into diversity management suggests this way of thinking is

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right: if you broaden your scope, you will find a larger number of talented people.

Q: What about kids who have varying levels of ability? A: One type of diversity that was not actively viewed as a concern by sporting clubs was diversity of ability among the able-bodied. It was not really seen as desirable. Having less than talented players means your teams are less likely to win. Clubs want to field winning teams.

Q: What impact does this attitude have on sport as a positive social force? A: This is a key conundrum in using sport as a solution to health problems and lack of social connectedness. If sport is to be optimally beneficial to society, then junior sports clubs need to engage all kids. However, sporting clubs are caught in a difficult place between the desire to perform well and the desire to encourage participation. Q: What steps should sports clubs be taking? A: Solutions that provide spaces for the less talented to enjoy and excel in sport are needed. Clubs also need advice on diversity management: why it is desirable to have diverse members and how to achieve that. Our research is exploring this issue from the ground up, with an eye to understanding the clubs’ perspectives, but also with an eye to developing strategies to improve junior sport participation. l


Game changers An Ancient Greek myth has inspired an award-winning video game. by virginia millen

We wanted to do something with the game that we hadn’t seen before. Mitchell Brien


wo honours students from Swinburne’s Faculty of Design have won the Game Design and Development Award at the latest Global Adobe Design Achievement Awards in Toronto, Canada. Mitchell Brien and Finnian Millour’s winning creation is Orpheus, a video game based on the Ancient Greek myth about the musician Orpheus who travelled to the underworld to retrieve his deceased wife Eurydice. Brien entered the competition on a whim, after seeing a link to it on Swinburne’s Facebook page. “It took about five minutes to enter it. But we had the expectation that not much would come from it,” he says. The two 24-year-olds met while working on a group project as part of their Bachelor of Design degree at Swinburne. “There came a point on that project when we realised that Mitch was doing a large chunk of the coding work and I was doing a large part of the design work,” says Millour. “We saw then that we worked really well as a pair.” They found themselves sharing a class the next semester, and when they were assigned an individual research project, they saw an opportunity to build a game and asked if they could undertake it as a team. The pair quickly devised a concept and in eight weeks had built the game Orpheus. “We wanted to do something with the game that we hadn’t seen before,” says Brien. “We decided to have a music-playing theme, which lent itself to the story of Orpheus.” Visually, the five-level game has a handcrafted, tactile feel, a quality rarely seen in traditional video games. Players use a sequence of musical notes to crack each level.

Clear communication was key. “I think the project ran pretty smoothly because we’d worked together before so we understood how we each worked,” says Brien. “We kept communication flowing the whole time by telling each other where we were up to and showing each other stuff.” By the time they found out their game had been shortlisted, the pair had almost forgotten they’d entered the competition. Soon after, they were flown to Toronto as grand finalists. Millour was convinced that Orpheus wouldn’t win. “The other game was brilliant,” he says. “It was very polished, very well presented, whereas ours was rougher. But I guess the judges decided that ours was more original.” According to Adobe, winning entries were chosen based on originality, effectiveness in meeting the communication objective and in applying Adobe products. “When they called out our names at the awards ceremony Finn just sat there in shock,” says Brien, who adds that they were also very excited about the $3000 prize.

Future plans The pair also attended the DesignThinkers conference in Toronto, which Brien says has made them think more seriously about further developing Orpheus and eventually taking it to market. Brien hopes that commercial success of the game will help him in a career in the games design industry, while Millour is applying his design nous to postgraduate studies in architecture. l

Ideas-driven design Brien and Millour had a strong vision from the beginning and credit this, in part, to the success of the game overall. “A huge component of design is the idea itself,” says Millour. “A fantastic idea hopefully drives the whole thing.” The two students laid down strict rules to work within – for everything from the division of work to the colour palette, to how each level would be designed. Orpheus can be found at

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| venture | swinburne | 23


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VENTURE I 2013  

VENTURE magazine, Issue 2013 I february SCIENCE-TECH-INNOVATION by Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia