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Early career researchers awarded $5.1m funding

28 August 2023
12 Sydney academics receive DECRAs
The University of Sydney has received funding for 12 research projects through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Chief Executive Officer, Ms Judi Zielke PSM, announced $86 million for 200 projects to support early career researchers. The University was awarded $5.1m to fund 12 up-and-coming researchers.

"It's incredibly inspiring to see the breadth of disciplines and areas represented among the early career researchers who have been awarded funding through the 2023 DECRA scheme. From business and law to science, engineering, and social sciences, these researchers are demonstrating the diverse and dynamic nature of our academic community,” Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston said.

“We continue to support and celebrate the achievements of these future research leaders, as their work holds the key to driving progress, innovation, and positive change across a wide spectrum of challenges.”

Research projects awarded (by researcher):

Associate Professor Krithika Randhawa from The University of Sydney Business School aims to investigate how governance mechanisms incentivise multilateral data-sharing to enable open innovation in industrial data ecosystems. Based on a multi-method study at ecosystem, firm and managerial levels, a framework of data governance will be developed. By addressing data-sharing barriers at all levels, the framework helps create collective value at the ecosystem level and capture a portion of that value at the firm and managerial levels. This should enable participants in industrial data ecosystems to share data confidently and unlock the full potential of open innovation for Australia’s digital economy, with estimated benefits of $315bn over the next decade. $445,591

Associate Professor Penelope Crossley from the The University of Sydney Law School aims to design a new analytical framework, circular clean energy regulation, to fundamentally re-orient renewable energy law from the accelerated uptake of new technologies to a lifecycle approach. This re-orientation is urgently needed because while Australia is world leading in its uptake of rooftop solar, 90% of used panels go to landfill as hazardous waste. This project will explore how circular clean energy regulation can improve the management of solar waste to reap the significant environmental, security and health benefits associated with solar recycling and critical mineral recovery. Expected outcomes include a new circular model of regulating renewable technologies, and better regulation and recovery of solar waste. $427,000

Dr Lindon Roberts from the Faculty of Science aims to develop new mathematical tools for complex optimisation problems where limited information is available. It will generate new foundational theories for alternative optimisation tools, introducing substantial new capability and rigour to the discipline. The project will create significant new mathematical optimisation techniques and create world-leading and publicly available software. These new techniques and software may ultimately be able to solve some of the most complex optimisation problems in research and industry, such as improving long-term climate predictions and designing 3D-printed medical implants. $444,847

Dr Nobuaki Mizumoto from the Faculty of Science aims to ask and answer fundamental questions about how complex animal collective behaviour has evolved in the history of life. It combines the quantification of termite building behaviour and nest structures using a state-of-the-art video tracking technique with the latest molecular phylogenetics. This project expects to provide the first comprehensive information on termite collective building and provide new knowledge of Australian native termite fauna as economically destructive pest insects. $388,487

Dr Xanthe Croot from Faculty of Science aims to build a new class of intrinsically error-resilient quantum bits, harnessing the power of superconducting and hybrid superconducting circuits. The core goal of this research is to improve the performance of modern quantum processors, to reap the benefits of their vast computational power in real world applications like cryptography, chemistry, machine learning and finance. The outcomes of this project are expected to accelerate quantum computing efforts globally and generate critical insights into quantum circuit technology, thus expanding Australia’s capabilities in nanotechnology, superconducting quantum systems and quantum processing. $449,744

Dr Nichola Calvani from the Faculty of Science aims to revolutionise the study of critical early host-parasite interactions using innovative 3D cell culture models, reducing our dependence on animal infections. Liver fluke is the most economically important zoonotic parasite of Australian livestock and is a significant contributor to global food insecurity. Due to the reliance of parasites on mammalian hosts to survive, very little is known about the early infection process. Expected outcomes include new knowledge on key migratory stimuli and liver fluke biology. Benefits include the identification of drug targets and vaccine candidates for use in livestock via the development of animal-free in vitro screening platforms that will serve as a prototype for other parasites. $455,563

Dr Lei Bi from the Faculty of Medicine and Health aims to develop a self-supervised sequential biomedical image-omics model to uncover the underlying biological processes. Sequential biomedical images are state-of-the-art imaging modalities which allow the depiction changes in progression to the human body. New self-supervised machine learning algorithms are proposed to derive features from heterogenous and unlabelled sequential images. These derived features will then be used to characterise the morphological and functional changes, which provide opportunities to increase understanding of progression of diseases. This project will provide new insights into system biology with potential future benefits in healthcare. $413,847


Dr Olga Boichak from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will investigate how weaponisation of information and communication technologies affects territorial integrity of sovereign democratic states. Documenting and analysing the architectures, practices and discourses surrounding digital sovereignty in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied territories, it contributes a unique regional case to understanding how digital communication infrastructures can be used as tools of colonial expansion. Expected outcomes include a theoretical model of colonial techno-geopolitics and a suite of critical visual approaches to mapping the topographies of digital sovereignty. Benefits include a set of policy recommendations on building and preserving resilient information and communication ecosystems. $382,267

Dr Leah Williams Veazey from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and member of Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies will investigate the experiences of Australia’s migrant and mobile health workforce in the context of severe worker shortages worldwide. It will explore how healthcare workers’ family relationships and informal care responsibilities shape their migration decisions, experiences in the workplace and plans for the future. Expected outcomes include a comprehensive evidence-base about healthcare workers' experiences of mobility, care, knowledge and skills to inform sustainable and person-centred policy solutions. The project should yield significant benefit by maximising Australia’s capacity to attract and retain a highly mobile workforce and their transnational knowledge and expertise to meet Australia’s growing care needs. $469,114

Dr Andrew Latham from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will develop the first account of psychological impossibility by combining philosophical theorising with results from the cognitive and brain sciences, and experimental philosophy. Something is psychologically impossible when it is not available in our psychology as an option to choose. Through developing an account of psychological impossibility this project will advance our understanding of the nature of autonomy, free will and moral responsibility. It will also provide major benefits to policy makers and legal and health professionals, by giving them the theoretical resources required for ethical decision making when dealing with people that have different affordances for choice and action. $416,237

Dr Cuo Zhang from the Faculty of Engineering aims to devise novel robust renewables and hosting capacity enhancement methods for active distribution networks. High renewables penetration has impaired power quality and network operational reliability, thus reducing renewables utilisation rate and impeding further installation. The intended outcomes are innovative data-driven robustness design methods against complex and uncertain operating conditions, which are able to secure increasing renewables penetration and installation. With an emerging community battery and hydrogen electrolyser, a suite of operation and planning methods will be developed, allowing utility operators and government agencies to expedite zero-emission energy transition. $445,007

Dr Deheng Wei from the Faculty of Engineering aims to improve our understanding of the mechanisms involved in internal erosion in soil that can trigger instabilities and damage in large scale infrastructures. Specifically, influences of morphology features, at both grain and structure scales, and applied stress on the initiation and evolution of internal erosion will be clarified, to predict where and when the catastrophic failure happens. The proposal will benefit a broad range of science and engineering communities, but also directly address 'soil and water' in Australia, by rephrasing the Australian standards or guidelines for construction, surveillance, and decommissioning of civil engineering structures. $413,847

The full list of 2023 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award recipients and their project summaries are available on the ARC website.

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