2017 Research Awards recipients


Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence

Distinguished Professor Cuie Wen

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Distinguished Professor Cuie Wen is an internationally recognised research leader in the discipline of materials science and engineering. Her research has made significant contributions to new knowledge and innovations in developing new metallic biomaterials, surface modification and tissue-implant interaction, leading to new classes of novel biocompatible titanium alloys, magnesium alloys, metallic scaffolds and their surface modification techniques for orthopaedic and dental applications; and, new knowledge in the fundamental understanding of the evolution of nanostructures, their characterisation and evaluation, and the microstructure–mechanical property relationships. Cuie’s outstanding research track record shows sustained and excellent research performance and she has also been appointed to the ARC College of Experts 2016 and NHMRC Grant Review Panels 2017. She is an editorial board member for the journals of Acta Biomaterialia and Bioactive Materials and also a regular reviewer for over 60 international journals.


Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence – Early Career Researcher

Dr Rajesh Ramanathan

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Science

Dr Rajesh Ramanathan is a Vice Chancellor Fellow in the School of Science. His cross-disciplinary research spans from physical sciences to biological sciences and engineering, and focuses on development of new nanomaterials for biosensor technologies with commercial potential. As an Early Career Researcher his excellent track record in attracting research funding, research supervision and delivering high-quality research outputs includes highlights on 13 journal covers; regular presence in mainstream media; and editorial engagement with reputed journals. The impact of his research is evident from the Hitachi Social Impact Prize for Connected Health for his work on norovirus biosensor technology, and selection as a finalist (among 1400 nominations across 85 countries) for the 2017 INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award.


Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for Research Excellence – Higher Degree by Research

Dr Jessica Pandohee

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Science

Dr Jessica Pandohee completed a PhD in Applied Chemistry studying multidimensional chromatography and investigating novel approaches in extracting chemical information comprehensively from complex samples in food, agriculture, metabolomics and forensic systems. Jessica fostered collaboration between RMIT, Deakin University and industry partners such as Victoria Police and CSIRO. Her work has resulted in five articles in internationally peer-reviewed journals.

In 2016 Jessica was the recipient of the Victorian International Education Awards – International Student of the Year (Research) and the Premier’s Award for outstanding academic achievement, contribution and connection to the Victorian community and capacity to be an inspiring role model.


Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Supervision Excellence

Associate Professor Craig Batty

College of Design and Social Context, School of Media and Communication

Adopting a passionate and reflexive approach to creative practice research education, Craig has generated high levels of candidate and supervisor satisfaction at RMIT and externally. He has made significant contributions to university-wide research training; has won internal and external awards for supervision; has received invitations to present and facilitate workshops nationally and internationally; has published widely on creative practice research pedagogies; and has received visiting and adjunct appointments focussed on developing supervision practices in creative disciplines. Craig has earned a reputation for excellence in doctoral supervision that has not only generated excellent outcomes for his own candidates, but has also influenced others across Australia and overseas.


Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Impact

Distinguished Professor Mike Xie

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Distinguished Professor Mike Xie has made outstanding contributions to the original development and subsequent world-wide adoption of a technology known as Evolutionary Structural Optimisation (ESO) and Bi-directional ESO (BESO). This technology has been used to design many iconic buildings and other novel products internationally. In Australia, he has collaborated with major companies such as Arup, Boeing and Thales on designing light-weight and high-performance structures and materials. Professor Xie won the 2017 Clunies Ross Innovation Award from the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the 2017 AGM Michell Medal from Engineers Australia.


Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Impact – Early Career Researcher

Dr Fiona Macdonald

College of Business, School of Management

Dr Macdonald’s research programme addresses questions that are critical to social and economic outcomes arising from Australia’s new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), including improving health and wellbeing, improving social welfare and social cohesion, enhancing the effectiveness of organisations, ensuring evidence-based policy-making and influencing public policy. Her research is investigating the workforce challenges of NDIS examining how the Scheme is impacting on the nature of jobs and conditions of work of the low-paid disability support workforce; exploring new business models for disability services and potential for innovation that combine good quality support and good quality support work; and identifying ways in which regulation and social policy can shape the services market to ensure good outcomes and sustainable jobs in social care systems.


Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for Research Impact – Higher Degree by Research

Mr Robert Chapman

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Robert Chapman is a PhD candidate in the School of Engineering in the Quantum Photonics Laboratory and Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T). His thesis focuses on the development and implementation of crucial protocols and algorithms for quantum information science and technology. His research interests extend to the development of novel quantum photonic technologies that will open pathways for future quantum information applications. Robert was awarded the RMIT Prize for Research Impact - HDR (Technology) in 2016. He has presented at multiple conferences in both the US and Europe and has published several high-impact peer-reviewed articles, in prestigious research journals.


RMIT Award for Innovative Research Supervision

Associate Professor Lijing Wang

College of Design and Social Context, School of Fashion and Textiles

Associate Professor Lijing Wang has 30 years of work experience in fibre material research with more than 200 publications. He has been a chief investigator for eight Australian Research Council grants, and 20 more other funded research projects. He leads the Smart Textiles research cluster for the Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion and the School’s Saving Lives research stream. His areas of research interest are protective clothing and comfort, smart textiles, flexible sensors and wearable technology, and fibres and polymers material science, engineering, sustainability, and modelling.


RMIT Research Excellence – Team Award

Civil Infrastructure Management Research Unit: Professor Sujeeva Setunge, Professor Chun Qing Li, Associate Professor Kevin Zhang, Associate Professor Rebecca Gravina, Dr David Law, Dr Dilan Robert

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

The Civil Infrastructure Management Research Unit brings complementary expertise in contributing to new knowledge and creating impact in enhancing resilience and sustainability of Civil infrastructure.

The team has developed a niche expertise and focus at RMIT University for predicting degradation of Civil infrastructure including buildings, bridges, seaports, drainage, water mains, buried pipes, tunnels and roads and also developing sustainable infrastructure solutions including low embodied energy materials and reducing emissions and energy consumption. The work of the team has established the position of RMIT Civil Engineering as the established research unit for Civil Infrastructure management.


RMIT Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Team (RUASRT): Dr Matthew Marino, Professor Simon Watkins, Dr Alex Fisher, Dr Abdulghani Mohamed, Mr Samuel Prudden, Ms Nicola Kloet, Mr Ashim Panta, Dr Sridhar Ravi, Dr Graham Wild, Mr David Tennent

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Team conducts world-leading research into the technical, operational, social and safety challenges of UAS technologies. With a record for delivering real world outcomes for research and industrial partners, the team includes senior academics, research fellows, doctoral and undergraduate students across many disciplines. They recently competed in France at the 2017 International Micro Air Vehicle Competition winning the “Record Breaking Micro Heavy Lift Event” and will be hosting the prestigious conference and competition in November 2018 at RMIT University. This is the first time this high tech competition and conference will be held in the Southern Hemisphere.


RMIT Award for Excellence – Graduate Research Leadership

Associate Professor Pia Ednie-Brown

College of Design and Social Context, School of Architecture and Urban Design

Adjacent to a series of formal university leadership positions related to Graduate Research, Associate Professor Pia Ednie-Brown has been an investigator on three externally funded research projects concerned with various aspects of Creative Practice Research and HDR candidate experience. Through these leadership and research activities she has instigated a range of initiatives providing intellectual and community support for candidates, supervisors and associated research cultures.


RMIT Award for Excellence – Industry Engagement in Graduate Research

Professor Olga Troynikov

College of Design and Social Context, School of Fashion and Textiles

Professor Olga Troynikov’s industry-based research centres on the physical, physiological and psychological interfaces between humans, materials, apparel systems, and external environments. She has made significant contributions to new knowledge and innovation while developing new apparel and materials that support and protect the human body when worn under strenuous, dangerous and dynamic conditions. Her discoveries have had impact in important fields such as firefighting, mining and other heavy industry, medical garments and sport. Her commitment to the development of HDR candidates has generated excellent outcomes for them; she sees them as research collaborators and builds their engagement with industry throughout their candidature.


RMIT Award for Research Excellence (Design)

Professor Tania Lewis

College of Design and Social Context, School of Media and Communication

From ethical consumption and Indian reality TV to new digital work-life practices, Tania Lewis’s research puts a critical spotlight on global and local lifestyle and consumer trends. Tania has published over 50 journal articles and chapters on this broad topic and is the author of numerous books and edited collections including Smart Living (2008), Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction (2011) and most recently Telemodernities: Television and Transforming Lives in Asia (2016). An ex-medical practitioner and a member of RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre, Tania has conducted a wide range of empirical research from groundbreaking research on young people’s internet use for health information to video ethnographic studies of household recycling, backyard permaculture and everyday digital household media use. Tania is currently writing a book for Bloomsbury Press entitled Digital Food: From Paddock to Platform.


RMIT Award for Research Excellence (Enterprise)

Professor Milan Brandt

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Professor Brandt is the leading Australian researcher in the area of macro machining with lasers and has conducted work over the last 30 years in laser cladding, cutting, drilling, welding and more recently additive manufacturing. This has resulted in technological achievements, patents, research papers and commercial products, which have been recognised internationally and nationally in both scientific and industrial circles.

He also led the team that designed and manufactured the first additively manufactured titanium spinal disc implanted into an Australian patient in 2015. His book published in 2016 by Elsevier titled Laser Additive Manufacturing: Materials, Design, Technologies and Applications has now sold over 700 copies globally. In 2018 he takes on the presidency of the Laser Institute of America for a 12 month term.


RMIT Award for Research Excellence (Technology)

Professor Vipul Bansal

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Science

Professor Vipul Bansal is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Founding Director of the Sir Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility. He leads a highly cross-disciplinary research team that works across the boundaries of chemistry, biology, physics and engineering.

His research focuses on the development of nanotechnologies for societal, biomedical and industrial impact, examples include i) self-cleaning textile nanotechnology facilitating chronic wound healing and cleaning clothes using sunlight; ii) a variety of biosensor and diagnostic technologies to detect different diseases, food and environmental contaminants; and iii) a cancer imaging nanotechnology that has been licensed to a biomedical company and is currently under human clinical trials.

Professor Bansal’s research strategy has a strong emphasis on converting fundamental knowledge into products and services with an underlying end-user focus.


RMIT Award for Research Excellence – ECR (Design)

Dr Jordan Lacey

College of Design and Social Context, School of Architecture and Urban Design

Dr Jordan Lacey was awarded one of the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowships (2015-18) for his multisensory design research. In this position, he has generated substantial research funding and was project leader and creative director on three interdisciplinary research projects. His creative research practice operates at the interface of urban design, user experience and publicly situated multisensory installations. He has a particular passion for investigating innovative ways that digital technologies can be embedded in urban environments to augment the atmospheric and materials conditions of everyday life.


RMIT Award for Research Excellence – ECR (Enterprise)

Dr Charles Hunt

College of Design and Social Context, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

Dr Hunt is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Global Research. His expertise is in evaluating the impacts of international conflict management and peacebuilding efforts. As an early career researcher, Dr Hunt has a growing reputation for research excellence. This is evidenced by the number of high-quality scholarly and policy-oriented publications as well as the support received as a chief investigator to advance his work on civilian protection in UN peace operations and security and justice sector reform in the aftermath of violent conflict (over $1.5 million of Australian Competitive Grant funding in the past five years).


RMIT Award for Research Excellence – ECR (Technology)

Dr Torben Daeneke

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Dr Torben Daeneke’s multidisciplinary work is centred on solving engineering challenges through material design at the nano-scale. His work on utilising room temperature liquid metals as reaction media has resulted in new synthetic pathways that provide access to a new class of low dimensional materials with promising properties for their application in electronics, catalysis and sensing. His work also resulted in the development of novel catalytic systems that harvest solar energy, including the recently developed solar paint that converts moisture and solar light into hydrogen fuel.


RMIT Prize for Research Excellence – HDR (Design)

Dr Stayci Taylor

College of Design and Social Context, School of Media and Communication

Dr Taylor’s PhD explored female perspectives in mainstream, comedy screenplays. The research focused on screenwriting practice and script development. A feature film comedy screenplay was written as part of the creative practice approach to the research. A postmodern feminist theoretical position underpinned the project. The outcomes are new techniques for writing specific perspectives into comedy screenplays, especially gendered and marginalised perspectives, with a view to maintaining those perspectives through script development and production processes.


RMIT Prize for Research Excellence – HDR (Enterprise)

Dr Christopher Berg

College of Business, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing

Dr Berg’s thesis investigated the history of prudential regulation and regulatory change in Australian banking between 1893 and 2008. He found that regulatory change is driven by changes in subjective institutional costs. The findings help us understand the trajectories of economic reform and the growth of Australia’s regulatory state. While completing his PhD, he also published three books on political philosophy and political economy, wrote 200 newspaper columns and magazine articles, using findings from his ongoing research to directly participate in the public policy process.


RMIT Prize for Research Excellence – HDR (Technology)

Dr Rohit Ashok Khot

College of Design and Social Context, School of Media and Communication

Dr Khot’s PhD research contributes inventive strategies for turning physical activity data into delightful physical representations such as 3D printed plastic artifacts, sports drinks, and 3D printed chocolate treats – which are personalised based on an individual’s efforts. Through these systems, Dr Khot offers a fresh perspective on engaging with one’s physical activity data and contribute new interaction design knowledge towards making physical activity more pleasurable and fulfilling.


RMIT Award for Research Impact (Design)

Dr Jessica Wilkinson

College of Design and Social Context, School of Media and Communication

Dr Jessica Wilkinson is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of Media and Communication. She is a poet and scholar passionate about the potential for poetry to convey and explore historical subject matter in the genre she refers to as ‘nonfiction poetry.’ Her practice has explored this concept through numerous works of both high quality and deep impact, including books (poetic biographies), articles and chapters, a nonfiction poetry journal (for which she is Editor-in-Chief), and various interdisciplinary collaborations. Her work has also seen engagement activity both nationally and internationally, resulting in many benefits for literary communities and creative industries.


RMIT Award for Research Impact (Enterprise)

Associate Professor Helen Lingard

College of Design and Social Context, School of Property Construction and Project Management

Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard leads a team delivering applied research in construction work health and safety (WHS). Organisation culture evaluation tools developed by Helen’s team have been adopted by the Australian Constructors Association comprising the 19 largest construction companies operating in Australia, and are widely used by government agencies to evaluate WHS policy and benchmark performance. In 2017 Helen led a national review of the operation of the model Work Health and Safety Regulations in the construction industry. Helen is also an invited member of the newly formed NSW Government Centre for Work, Health and Safety Research Foundation.


RMIT Award for Research Impact (Technology)

Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran is transforming the way we imagine, use, and interact with electronic devices and sensors. Her breakthroughs on combining functional oxide materials processed at high temperatures with elastic and plastic materials has led to stretchable electronics and sensors. She has been recognised by international and national awards and fellowships including being listed on Innovative Engineers in Australia 2017 by Engineers Australia. She has also won the 2017 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher. Her work has appeared in leading journals, led to patents, and been communicated widely beyond traditional boundaries, raising the profile of engineering and its impact.


RMIT Award for Research Impact – Early Career Researcher (Design)

Associate Professor Suzie Attiwill

College of Design and Social Context, School of Architecture and Urban Design

Dr Attiwill’s research establishes an expansive idea of ‘interior’ and re-frames the discipline and practice of interior design as a critical contemporary practice in which questions of urban inhabitation and subjectivity are foregrounded. Her research has local and international impact evidenced through workshops, citations and speaking engagements; for example, ‘Urban + Interiority: Propositions toward a new collective urban inhabitation’, a workshop held in Nicosia, Cyprus addressing the potential future reunification of Cyprus; and executive editorship of a special issue of the IDEA Journal titled ‘urban + interior’.


RMIT Award for Research Impact – Early Career Researcher (Enterprise)

Dr Anne Kallies

College of Business, Graduate School of Business and Law

Dr Kallies’ research focus is on energy and environmental law, with a special emphasis on renewable energy and electricity market regulation. It sits at the intersection of law, markets and technology. Anne holds German and Australian law degrees. Her international background and the comparative focus of her research add to the global appeal of her work.


RMIT Award for Research Impact – Early Career Researcher (Technology)

Dr Adam Chrimes

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Dr Adam Chrimes has been involved with three projects with significant industry impact. These are i) detection and identification of submicronic contaminants on 'clean' and polished surfaces ii) human ingestible gas sensing capsule iii) biofuel production monitoring using microfluidic platforms. He was recently awarded the CSIRO Science Industry Endowment Fund STEM+ researcher in business fellowship so that he may continue his impacting research in collaboration with RMIT University and OptoTech Pty. Ltd. (Melbourne based SME).


RMIT Prize for Research Impact – Higher Degree by Research (Design)

Dr Xin Ren

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Dr Xin Ren studied three-dimensional metamaterials and structures with negative Poisson's ratio. The research developed a novel methodology for generating metallic auxetics with tunable mechanical properties. He also designed and tested the first auxetic nails in the world.

He has published several articles in prestigious journals during his PhD candidature, including two front cover papers published in Smart Materials and Structures, one of which was selected as one of the “Highlights of the year 2015” by this journal.


RMIT Prize for Research Impact – Higher Degree by Research (Enterprise)

Mr Quanda (Samuel) Zhang

College of Business, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing

Quanda (Samuel)’s research area is in development economics with a focus on poverty, inequality and financial inclusion. His research applies rigorous econometric techniques founded on sound economic theory in order to formulate evidence-based economic and social policy recommendations aimed at improving conditions in developing countries.

Samuel has presented at conferences in UK, Australia and China, and has published in many peer reviewed journal articles, including in Journal of Development Studies and The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics.

As an economist, Samuel actively promotes his work and takes part in policy debates in various arenas. So far, his work has been featured by media around the world such as World Economic Forum, Asia Times and The Conversation.


RMIT Prize for Research Impact – Higher Degree by Research (Technology)

Ms Litty Varghese Thekkekara

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Science

Litty Thekkekara is a PhD candidate who holds an RMIT International Research Scholarship in the School of Science. Her work on the development of graphene based energy storages has the potential to be developed as an improved technology for energy storage in the future. Graphene has been immensely popular for its potential applications, but many of these have been thwarted by fundamental material and structural limitations. Litty has overcome this using laser scribing techniques inspired by the patterns of a fern leaf, to create complex structures in graphene.

In 2017, Litty's research on bioinspired graphene solar energy storage was published in Scientific Reports (an online open access journal from the publishers of Nature) with the significance of this work recognised internationally with extensive media coverage and industry attention.

Litty was also awarded the 2017 ‘Warsash Science Communication Prize in Optics’ from the Australian Optical Society. This prize is awarded to an individual who has published the highest quality postgraduate research in optics or its application, in a refereed journal.


Malcolm Moore Industry Research Awards

Dr Megan Nethercote

College of Design and Social Context, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

Dr Megan Nethercote was awarded a Vice-Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017 and is based in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. Her research investigates the impacts of urban intensification, and of capitalist political economy in particular, on households and cities. Her current work focuses on high-rise apartment development, and also the functions of housing and households under neoliberal shifts.

Dr Nethercote is currently undertaking a pilot study with social enterprise Nightingale Housing, investigating alternative relationships between land and housing, including understandings of their progressive possibilities to reorientate us towards de-commodification, and its impacts on households and communities.


Dr Jianzhen Ou

College of Science, Engineering and Health, School of Engineering

Dr Jianzhen Ou is a Senior Research Fellow, an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow, and Victoria Fellow in the School of Engineering. His research interests mainly focus on the development of high-performance micro-/nano-technology enabled chemical sensors based on low-dimensional metal oxides and chalcogenides. These sensors particularly target the detection of toxic and pollutant gases and human metabolites for applications of environmental monitoring and remediation, public safety and security as well as human healthcare. Some of his research outcomes have been engaged with national and international industry partners for collaboration and commercialisation.