Research into driver training, Indigenous access to justice, the Internet of Things and the origins of Australia’s modern fauna are among 83 UNSW projects awarded more than $32.7 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding.

UNSW secured the largest share of the total $333.5 million in federal research funding announced today by Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

That result echoes last year’s success when UNSW topped the total amount of funding among Australian universities announced by the ARC.

For the second year running, UNSW has received more Discovery Project grants than any other institution in the country, receiving 64 in this year’s announcement worth $24.1 million.

In addition, UNSW won 12 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs) worth $4.3 million and seven Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LEIF) grants worth $4.3 million.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW, congratulated the University’s researchers on securing the most grants in this round.

He was particularly pleased with the University’s success in the Discovery Project grants.

“It is highly unusual to lead the Discovery Project grants nationally for two years running,” Professor Fisk said.

“These results are a testament to the strength of our researchers, the depth of our talent pool, the societal relevance of their subject areas, and the bubbling research culture and environment here at UNSW.”


An artist's impression of Mars 4 billion years ago: Image: European Southern Observatory

Under the Discovery Projects (DP) scheme, the Government awarded a total of $225.6 million for 594 new research grants for 2018.

They included a grant of $591,274 to UNSW Science’s Professor Martin Van Kranendonk, Associate Professor Marco Fiorentini, Professor Kathleen Campbell and Professor David Deamer to test the proposal that a terrestrial hot spring field could have been the setting for the origin of life, with results used to help in the search for life on Mars.

Another large DP grant ($568,796) went to Associate Professor Daniel Robinson (UNSW Arts & Social Sciences) and Dr Margaret Raven to identify ways to protect biodiversity-related Indigenous knowledge. Using innovative fieldwork and community-based methods, the project also aims to examine customary laws regulating to Indigenous knowledge and bio-cultural diversity.

Other UNSW researchers awarded DP grants include:

  • Professor Michael Archer, Professor Suzanne Hand and Dr Robin Beck: $347,126 to fill gaps in knowledge about the origins of the modern fauna of Australia.
  • Professor Jie Bao and Assistant Professor Jinfeng Liu: $382,834 to investigate the process control methodologies crucial to smart manufacturing.
  • Dr Melissa Crouch: $293,877 to understand how and why constitutions change in authoritarian regimes, investigating why Myanmar's Constitution is both a constraint and an enabler of democratic reform.
  • Professor Christopher Cunneen, Ms Melanie Schwartz and Professor Larissa Behrendt: $368,728 to research enhanced Indigenous access to justice in civil and family law.
  • Professor Miles Davenport, Dr Deborah Cromer, Dr Ashraful Haque, Dr David Khoury and Dr Oliver Billker: $462,710 to understand the molecular and cellular interactions between host and parasite, which could provide new avenues for vaccination and immune intervention.
  • Professor Zhao Yang Dong, Dr Guo Chen and Professor David Hill: $402,934 to develop new models and analysis methods to investigate the impact of massive intermittent energy sources (IESs) on the performance and security of power grids.
  • Dr Bronwyn Graham: $328,442 to identify how motherhood, a time of significant hormonal flux, alters the mechanisms underlying fear regulation in female rats. The project should provide unique insights into fear reduction and protection against anxiety.
  • Dr Sarah Martell, Associate Professor Daniel Zucker and Professor Kim Venn: $380,844 to investigate how important the capture of satellite galaxies is for the growth of large galaxies like the Milky Way.
  • Professor Angela Moles: $217,096 to quantify the degree to which Australian plant species have responded to changes in climate over the last few decades, and to build understanding of the mechanisms that underpin responses to climate change.
  • Dr Brett Molesworth, Professor Ann Williamson and Associate Professor Teresa Senserrick: $392,913 to develop a new approach to driver training.
  • Professor Sridevan Parameswaran and Associate Professor Aleksandar Ignjatovic: $382,816 to design, implement and verify the first fully comprehensive countermeasure against simultaneous attacks on devices such as smart cards or mobile phones used for electronic payment.
  • Associate Professor Andrew Neely, UNSW Canberra, and team: $352,752 to perform experiments to measure fluid-structure interaction in hypersonic flows, which will aid industry in the design of high-speed vehicles.

Professor Angela Moles.

The DECRA winners included:

  • Dr Christopher Medcraft: $353,700 to construct a microwave spectrometer with a unique molecular source to study atmospheric chemistry.
  • Dr Sophie Primig: $368,446 to develop a new steel processing technology and identify potential new manufacturing routes for future high-strength, low-alloy steels that are stronger, more ductile and safer.
  • Dr Xianzhi Wang: $368,446 to develop techniques and tools to recommend trustworthy and cost-effective Internet of Things applications.
  • Dr Susan Wardle: $393,996 to understand image segmentation in the human brain, which has the potential to inform the development of artificial vision systems.
  • Dr Christina Spittel, UNSW Canberra: $332,202 to generate new knowledge to understand relationships between national literatures and global reading patterns.

LIEF grant recipients included:

  • Professor Christopher Tinney and team: $792,859 to better understand humanity’s place in the Universe, including questions such as whether we are alone or if our home in the Solar System is unique or common.
  • Associate Professor Clemens Ulrich and team: $832,648 to establish a comprehensive photomagnetic materials characterisation facility, enabling measurements of the smallest magnetisation signals possible.
  • Associate Professor Philip Chung and team: $499,899 to build a comprehensive, historical, legal resource for the whole common law world, 1215-1914.

For the full list of recipients go to the ARC website.