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Ms Jayne O'Shea

Research Associate

School of Engineering

Tightropes and thermodynamics

Gracious and tenacious in equal measure, NIER postgraduate mechanical engineering student Jayne O'Shea is seamlessly striking the elusive balance between work, motherhood and play.

Jayne O'SheaJayne O'Shea knows how to juggle responsibilities – and juggle them well. A living, breathing embodiment of the term 'multitask,' the Mudgee native is a new parent, home renovator, business partner, industry consultant, and part-time research assistant with the Centre for Bulk Solids and Particulate Technologies. In a few short months, she'll be able to add 'Doctor' to this laundry list of titles and duties too.

"It's been a huge couple of years," the impressive all-rounder acknowledges.

"My husband and I ripped down half of our house and set up a carpentry company while I was pregnant."

"I've been studying throughout as well."

Though comically admitting the lengthy period has been "a little torturous," Jayne avows it's also been one of the most memorable. She singles out the completion of a PhD as perhaps her "biggest academic accomplishment," wrapping up five "challenging but rewarding" years of work alongside some of NIER's boldest and brightest translational researchers in August 2015.

"I chose to team up with the Institute for a number of reasons," the keen learner comments.

"For one thing, its multidisciplinary, 'two heads are better than one' approach allows collaborators to focus holistically on the issues at hand."

"Together, we're able to produce and deliver innovative solutions in line with the energy reform agendas of the government and Hunter community."

"This cross-fertilisation of ideas similarly enabled me to advance my own research, with many in-house, senior field experts more than willing to share their knowledge and experience when needed."

Switching gears

Jayne began her PhD in 2010 at the University of Newcastle.  Examining rubber compounds used in overland conveyor systems, the ambitious academic sought to find new ways to reduce power consumption and belt tension, and produce sizeable capital and operation cost savings.

"I wanted to develop a numerical model that calculates indentation rolling resistance based on dielectric relaxation properties instead of the commonly-used mechanical relaxation properties," she explains.

"The former are more accurate, have faster testing times and are able to be repeated easily."

Funded by a linkage grant with the Australian Research Council, Laing O'Rourke, Conveyor Dynamics Inc. and Veyance Technologies, Jayne conducted comparative studies both here and overseas.

"At the beginning of my candidature, I spent a couple of weeks in the United States observing different belt manufacturing plants," she recalls.

"I also spent a lot of time at NIER, taking full advantage of its technical laboratories, industrial-scale pilot plant workshops and large-scale test beds."

"Essentially, I modelled the relaxation properties of rubber to predict energy use levels."

"I then determined the accuracy of my calculations by comparing them to experimental data from test work performed on equipment at the Institute."

Acutely aware of the widespread impact and myriad implications of this research, Jayne is aspiring to have her thesis, once the degree is conferred, published and disseminated.

"My numerical model is able to rank rubber compounds in the correct order of their rolling resistance performance and calculate a reasonable prediction of power consumption for overland conveyors," she reveals.

"The indentation of the bottom cover of a belt as it moves over the idler is responsible for up to 60% of total energy use."

"It's really quite remarkable."

Inform and transform

When asked where she sees her professional self in the not-so-distant future, Jayne is quick to answer.

"I would like to be a part of making things more economic and efficient," she shares.

"There's a lot of room for improvement in materials handling."

"The more accurate analytical predictions are, for example, the more cost-effective the subsequent designs and design implementations."

Tightropes and thermodynamics

Gracious and tenacious in equal measure, NIER postgraduate mechanical engineering student Jayne O'Shea is seamlessly striking the elusive balance between work

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Ms Jayne O'Shea


Research Associate
School of Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment

Contact Details

Phone (02) 40339127


Room A436
Building NIER A Block
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308