$10 million ARC funding for Faculty of Science research

The Faculty of Science’s commitment to do world-changing research that furthers scientific inquiry has been rewarded with more than $10 million in new Australian Research Council (ARC) funding.

The Faculty was awarded 14 Discovery Projects (DP) grants worth $5.6 million (plus at least an additional five submitted through other institutions), 10 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) worth $3.5 million and three Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grants worth $1.2 million.

The diversity of the research projects that received funding highlights the unique talents and interests of academics across the Faculty. Whether it’s hunting for dark matter and matter-antimatter asymmetry, the project headed by Associate Professors Martin Sevoir and Takanori Hara, or identifying the evolutionary responses to climate change in Australia’s fossil record, led by Dr Christy Hipsley, or Professor Lloyd Hollenberg’s plan to establish a cryogenic, quantum microscope facility in Australia, these projects will continue the Faculty’s ongoing contribution to global knowledge.

Here are a few examples of the exciting research funded in this Discovery Projects round:

Professor David Phillips (Earth Sciences): High resolution timeframe for hominin evolution in the Turkana Basin, Kenya

This project aims to establish a high-resolution timeframe for hominin evolution in the famed Omo-Turkana Basin, Kenya. The Basin hosts a vast array of hominin fossils that cover more than four million years of human evolution, and interbedded volcanic deposits within the Basin sediments has provided much of our current constraints on the timing of hominin evolution. However, critical knowledge gaps remain. Using new instrumentation and dating methods, this project will provide an ultra-precise chronological framework for the basin. This is critical for transforming our understanding of hominin evolution and migration, under changing climatic and environmental conditions.

Professor Paul Norbury (Maths & Stats): Frobenius manifolds from a geometrical and categorical viewpoint

This project aims to provide connections between Frobenius manifolds obtained from algebraic curves in diverse ways. The different constructions, using complex geometry on the one hand and category theory on the other, provide, respectively, a quantitative and qualitative view on the same Frobenius manifold. Together, these distinct points of view allow for the calculation of previously inaccessible physical quantities, and point to deep new relations between algebraic, complex and differential geometry. These relations are expected to guide new fundamental research on the border of mathematics and physics.

Associate Professor Jane Elith (BioSciences): Practical utility of new classes of species distribution models

This project aims to improve species distribution modelling practice by developing new tools and determining the net value of competing approaches under realistic data-availability scenarios and for real applications. Expected outcomes are clear protocols for using process-based distribution models in biodiversity management. This will have significant benefits, such as equipping researchers, governments and land managers with tools and guidance necessary for better prediction of distributions, enabling them to efficiently allocate public resources while also protecting biodiversity and natural assets.

Professor Kenneth Crozier (Physics): Harnessing optical metasurfaces for reconfigurable optoelectronic devices

This project aims to demonstrate ultra-thin optical components known as metasurfaces, to demonstrate a new class of reconfigurable optoelectronic devices. This project expects to generate new knowledge in optics and photonics, a field whose impact upon modern society ranges from telecommunications to computing, green energy technologies, the arts, healthcare, and basic science. Expected outcomes of this project will be elucidation of the fundamentals underpinning optical metasurfaces. Such devices will permit optical systems with drastically smaller footprints, contributing to continued progress of the field of optics and photonics, and its ensuing benefits to society.