New funding to help five engineers and computer scientists soar

10 October 2018
Faculty researchers awarded 2019 SOAR Fellowships
Next generation machine learning for surgery, computational neuroscience, and predicting epileptic seizures are just some of the innovative research areas to benefit from new university-wide funding.
Rocket and shuttle soaring in cloudy sky

Five academics from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies have been awarded 2019 Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) Fellowships, worth up to $500,000 in total collective funding.

A key research scheme within the University of Sydney’s overarching 2016–20 Strategic Plan, the SOAR Fellowships support outstanding early- and mid-career researchers to take the next step in their careers.

A total of ten early-career researchers and ten mid-career researchers from across the University have been named 2019 SOAR Fellows. They will each receive $50,000 per annum to support their research, innovation and personal development as part of the two-year program.

Early-career researchers Dr Omid Kavehei from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering and Dr Joseph Lizier from the School of Civil Engineering have been named SOAR fellows for 2019.

In the mid-career researcher category, the new SOAR fellow recipients were Associate Professor Joachim Gudmundsson from the School of Information Technologies, and Associate Professor Ian Manchester and Dr Oscar Pizarro, both from the School of Aeronautical, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering.

“The Faculty had five academics named across the two funding categories which represents a quarter of all successful recipients this year,” says Professor Kim Rasmussen, Associate Dean Research.

"It is testament to the quality of research being undertaken here and we look forward to seeing the exciting outcomes."

Early-career researchers

Dr Omid Kavehei has established multidisciplinary research into chronic monitoring of seizure activity and drug effectiveness in patients living with epilepsy. This research lies at the cross-section of electronics, biomedical, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology.

With the SOAR fellowship funding, Dr Kavehei plans to further develop a smart wearable neural-interface for long-term ambulatory detection and prediction of epileptic seizures. This fellowship will help to address the question of how to make a reliable and chronic brain-signal monitoring system which could be used long-term and is non-invasive.

Dr Joseph Lizier is researching complex systems: the interdisciplinary study of collective behaviour, self-organisation and emergence. He’s currently focused on providing new theory and software tools to enable measuring information processing in biological and bio-inspired systems.

He plans to use the SOAR fellowship to deepen his expertise and impact of his work in computational neuroscience, and to lead projects with international collaborators by consolidating ties with the Max Planck Institute, for instance.

Mid-career researchers

Associate Professor Joachim Gudmundsson’s research focuses on developing effective algorithms and data structures for geometric data, particularly to support movement analysis in the fields of ecology, animal-behaviour research, sports, defence, GIS and transport.

He leads the newly-established Sydney Algorithms and Computation Theory (SACT) group – a talented and innovative team possessing real potential to become a world-leading research group. He will be looking to further strengthen SACT by establishing strong industry collaboration and securing ongoing diverse funding.

Associate Professor Ian Manchester is the Associate Director (Research) at the Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, working on machine learning and robot control systems.

During his SOAR fellowship, he will develop new models and algorithms that make machine learning of complex dynamical systems more robust, accurate, and secure.

This will enable the next generation of robot control systems that can learn from experience while guaranteeing safety, a critical element in many applications such as surgical robots that can learn from human surgeons. His research will also contribute to cybersecurity by helping protect automated systems against deliberate “false data” attacks designed to cause damage.

Dr Oscar Pizarro’s research has focused on improving our capabilities for environmental monitoring using robotics and related disciplines such as computer vision and machine learning.

Through the SOAR fellowship, Dr Pizarro will establish and cultivate collaborative relationships with the University of Porto and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, among others, focused on using low-cost, scalable autonomous systems for seafloor characterisation and monitoring.


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