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Research Capabilities

The 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) placed the University of Newcastle equal 7th for research and found 90% of our research to be world standard or above. We achieved ERA ratings of 5 (denoting 'well above world class') for the following research areas relating to Defence and Security:

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry
  • Psychology and Cognitive Science
  • Neurosciences
  • Human Movement and Sports Science
  • Cardiovascular Medicine and Haematology

UoN was the only University in Australia to receive an ERA rating of 5 for Applied Mathematics.

Key Capabilities

Centre for Complex Dynamic Systems and Control (CDSC)

The Centre for Complex Dynamic Systems and Control (CDSC) specialises in design, control and analysis and performance optimisation for complex dynamic systems.

Complex systems involve heterogeneous networks of interacting elements, complex dynamics, hard constraints and high uncertainty. Such systems present many challenges. However, they are central to modern society and include energy generation and distribution, ecosystems, health delivery, safety and security systems, telecommunications, transportation networks, manufacturing processes, the economy, minerals exploration and minerals exploitation.

Research in complex systems underpins the modelling, control and management of such systems.

Visit the Centre for Complex Dynamic and Systems Control web page for further information on the work of this centre and its members.

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Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Organic Electronics

Professor Paul DastoorThe Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Organic Electronics is the first of its kind in Australia focusing on the development of new electronic devices at the intersection between semiconductors and plastics. The Centre is currently working towards the development of organic photovoltaics, with potential for the next generation of energy sources, photonics and biosensors. OPV research at the University is focussed on the development of 'Solar Paint' that may be printed onto plastics, integrated into tinted windows and other materials making the whole structure itself a source of power.

Director of the PRC for Organic Electronics is Professor Paul Dastoor. Professor Dastoor is also a participant in the Cooperative Research Centre for Polymers.

Professor Dastoor has over 8 years' experience using soft X-ray synchrotron facilities including the Photon Factory at Tsukuba, Japan, the Pohang Accelerator Laboratory at Pohang, South Korea, the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center, at Hsinchu, Taiwan and the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley, USA. His synchrotron work is aimed at understanding the structure and morphology of solar cells made from semi-conducting polymers.

In 2012, Professor Dastoor took part in a delegation of Australian nanotechnology experts to Washington where he presented to the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). The aim of the delegation was to explore research collaborations in advanced manufacturing technology. Professor Dastoor presented his research based on the application of solar paint to the winged area of unmanned aircraft. This has the potential to extend the airborne time of the aircraft.

Professor Dastoor has also previously developed the MobiDRIP, a mobile antibiotic device that does not require a power source.

For further information regarding the Centre's work, please visit the PRC for Organic Electronics web page.

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Priority Research Centre for Energy

The Priority Research Centre for Energy brings together UoN researchers who have research interests in clean and sustainable energy production. Program leader for the PRC, Professor Scott Donne has extensive experience in fundamental materials development for energy storage systems such as batteries.

For further information on this centre, please visit the PRC for Energy web page.

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Centre for Optimal Planning and Operations (C-OPT)

Professor Natashia Boland and Professor Martin SavelsberghThe Centre for Optimal Planning and Operations (C-OPT) brings together researchers with expertise and experience in using advanced analytical methods to improve decision-making.

C-OPT co-director Professor Natashia Boland has led research initiatives to develop integrated airline planning systems, has worked with the US Army's Concepts Analysis Agency to optimise base realignment, has collaborated with DSTO to investigate path planning for vessels through minefields, optimisation of deployment logistics, and models to support the land force design process and asset capability management.

Professor Martin Savelsbergh, also co-director C-OPT is a logistics and optimisation specialist with over 20 years' experience in mathematical modelling, optimisation methods, performance analysis, supply chain management, production planning and transportation.

For further information on the research capabilities of this centre, please visit the C-OPT web page.

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Centre for Infrastructure Performance and Reliability (CIPAR)

The Centre for Infrastructure Performance and Reliability (CIPAR) comprises the following areas of international research strength:

  • Structural reliability and risk assessment of complex systems,
  • Modelling of deterioration of steel, reinforced concrete and glass fibre reinforced structures,
  • Performance, durability and reliability of structural masonry,
  • Investigations of retrofitting for deteriorated structures,
  • Influence of natural and man-made hazards on infrastructure risk and safety,
  • Energy performance of buildings and building materials,
  • Security risk assessment,
  • Risk-based decision-making, and
  • Life-cycle and sustainability issues for new materials, buildings and infrastructure.

Professor Mark Stewart

Director of CIPAR, Professor Mark Stewart holds an ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship (2011-2015) based on probabilistic terrorism risk assessment and modelling blast damage to infrastructure (civilian and military applications) and is a participant in the Cooperative Research Centre for Integrated Engineering Asset Management.

Professor Stewart supervises research students who are serving officers in the RAAF, and is guest lecturer at the National Security College at Australian National University. He holds a SECRET security clearance for his work on collateral damage estimation for the RAAF.

Professor Stewart is also engaged in systems and reliability modelling of IEDs, protective measures for critical infrastructure and assessing counter-terrorism measures for aviation.

For further information on the work on this centre related to Defence, please visit the CIPAR web page.

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Centre for Space Physics

The Centre for Space Physics at the University of Newcastle conducts research into space weather processes that disturb the upper atmosphere, in particular the propagation of radio waves. Part of this research is in partnership with LaTrobe University, operating over the horizon radars in Tasmania and New Zealand, and magnetometers at various locations in Australia and Antarctica.

This work is of particular interest to the Defence community, since the backbone of Australia's surveillance capability is the JORN over the horizon radar network operated by Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

As leader of the Space Physics Group, Emeritus Professor Brian Fraser has maintained research leader ship in the areas of spacecraft studies of ion cyclotron and hydromagnetic waves, theoretical studies of ion cyclotron waves and international cooperative studies in wave in the region of the high latitude cusp and polar cap. He also leads the Space Science Program in the Cooperative Research Centre for Satellite Systems and PI on the FedSat microsatellite magnetometer experiment.

Visit the Centre for Space Physics web page for further information.

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Applied Informatics Research Group (AIR)

The Applied Informatics Research Group (AIR) is based in the School of Design, Communication & Information Technology at the University of Newcastle and conducts research in the areas of health informatics, data cleaning and integration, Identification of unusual persons, items or events, decision support, information visualisation, serious computer games, user interface design and modelling and simulation.

For more information on the work of AIR and its implications for the Defence sector, please visit the AIR Group web page

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Research area: Virtual Reality and Human-Computer Interaction

Virtual Fire EvacuationAIR Group Member Dr Shamus Smith is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His research interests include the fields of virtual reality and human-computer interaction. He is specifically interested in advanced software interfaces and the complex interaction opportunities such systems enable.

His recent research has explored technology enhanced learning (multi-touch surfaces and collaborative tasks), haptic interaction (perception thresholds and multisensory interfaces) and the reuse of gaming technology (hostile virtual environments, cognitive training and mental health diagnosis). He is a software engineer and applies his research through interdisciplinary research collaborations.

Image: An example of a hostile virtual environment -  Virtual Fire Evacuation

For further information on Dr Smith's work, please visit his researcher profile.

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Newcastle Cognition Laboratory

Professor Andrew HeathcoteThe Newcastle Cognition Laboratory carries out quantitative modelling of human behaviour, particularly in relation to acquiring skills and choices that have to quickly resolve conflicting information. 

Newcastle Cognition Laboratory member Professor Andrew Heathcote is an ARC Professorial Fellow with research interests that span a number of fields in experimental psychology and cognitive science, including attention, skill, memory and choice. Professor Heathcote has made major contributions in the area of human recognition memory and with Associate Professor Scott Brown, an ARC Future Fellow, to the area of choice response time with a particular focus on what the distribution of response time can tell us about cognitive processes. Together they have developed innovative and widely adopted response time computational models and statistical and measurement techniques that are at the forefront of international research on rapid choice. These developments allow us to understand how choices change with bias and time pressure and to identify the underlying psychological and neurological causes that determine which choices people make and how quickly they make them.

For more information on the work of the Newcastle Cognition Laboratory, please visit their website.

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At its most general level the Human Experimental and Applied Dynamics (HEAD) Research Group studies the dynamics of complex human behaviour.  Issues addressed range from basic to applied research and span a number of fields in experimental psychology and cognitive science, including attention, skill, memory and choice.

Head of the School of Psychology and HEAD Research Group member Professor Simon Dennis holds qualifications in computer science, mathematics and psychology. His research expertise is in human memory and language processing with a focus on episodic recognition and serial recall.

For more information, visit the HEAD research group web page.

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Metabolic Research Group

The Metabolic Research Group comprises academics within the School of Environmental and Life Sciences who have interests in studying metabolism at the cellular, tissue and body levels. Research focuses on measuring alterations to homeostasis at the cellular level in the case of bacteria and the whole body in relation to responding to external stimuli.

The Head of the School of Environmental and Life Sciences and member of the Metabolic Research Group, Professor Hugh Dunstan has extensive expertise in the area of stress and fatigue research and has collaborated with numerous clinicians to investigate potential anomalies in biochemical homeostasis associated with persistent fatigue.

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Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC)

Clinical Nutrition Research CentreThe Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) has immediate relevance and potential impact for Defence in the area of performance optimisation and well-being. The CNRC provides expertise in human intervention trials, including the design and conduct of multi-centre clinical trials to ICH-GCP standards, for evaluating cardiovascular, metabolic, anti-inflammatory and mental health benefits of functional nutrients, foods and nutraceuticals.

A key research program is the development and evaluation of new approaches to optimise physical and mental fitness, particularly under conditions of stress, duress, fatigue and trauma (PTSD) and expedite recovery. CNRC researchers are experienced in developing diet and exercise strategies to attain peak performance in elite athletes and other specialised populations.

The CNRC has world-class research facilities and expertise in:

  • Evaluation of cardiometabolic, cognitive and mood effects of bioactive nutrients.
  • Optimising diet and exercise to improve physical and mental fitness,
  • Improving performance and recovery in athletes and other specialised populations,
  • Investigating effects of foods on satiety and appetite regulation,
  •  Investigating effects of sleep on appetite and metabolism,
  • Evaluating nutritional strategies to counteract inflammatory conditions and
  • Evaluating nutrition and exercise strategies to promote rehabilitation from injury.

The CNRC is interested in exploring the potential for research collaboration with Defence in the area of nutrient supplementation strategies to achieve peak physical and cognitive performance. Collaborative research in this area could have major impact on human performance in fields of combat by delivering cost effective solutions to counteract deleterious effects of combat stress, fatigue and trauma and maximise physical and cognitive capabilities.

Visit the CRNC web page for more information on this Centre's capabilities.

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Faculty of Health and Medicine

The University of Newcastle is a leader in medical and health science research. Defence related research capability is present in the key research centres within the Faculty of Health and Medicine including:

Defence research programs previously conducted in health include the study of health outcomes in aircraft maintenance personnel, mental/neuropsychological health in F-111 maintenance workers and the investigation of occupational high G stress by jet-fighter pilots (cardiovascular functions).

Professor Catherine D'Este is Chair in Biostatistics and an Honorary Research Consultant at the Centre for Military and Veterans Health at the University of Queensland. As a biostatistician and methodologist, she was involved in studies with a wide variety of different content areas, designs and settings with common themes including cardiovascular disease, randomised controlled trials and challenging methodological areas such as longitudinal studies and meta-analysis.

For further information on the research capabilities within the Faculty of Health and Medicine at the University of Newcastle, please visit the Faculty page or visit the individuals pages of the Priority Research Centres listed above. 

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Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI)

The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) is a pioneering partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) and the community that delivers key translational health and medical research and technology closely aligned to community health needs.

Through its seven translational research programs, HMRI is delivering translational research excellence in asthma and airway diseases, cancer, diabetes, mental health, nutrition, pregnancy and reproduction, stroke and more.

For further information, please visit the HMRI website.

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School of Humanities and Social Science

One of the largest Schools in the University, the academic staff in the School of Humanities and Social Science actively research and teach in a wide variety of disciplines, including Community Welfare, English, History, Linguistics, Media and Cultural Studies, Philosophy & Religious Studies, Politics, Sociology & Anthropology, in addition to the professional areas of Social Work, Speech Pathology and Theology. Research areas relating to Defence include

  • History of Australian foreign and Defence policy
  • History of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT)
  • History of women in war.

For more information, visit the School of Humanities and Social Science webpage.

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For further information on collaborating with the researchers at the University of Newcastle on your next Defence project, please contact the Research Development Team.

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