Ms Miran Kim
School of Nursing and Midwifery
A virtual view of construction planning
Kim Maund is the Head of Construction Management. She brings with her more than 15 years experience working within the development and construction industry.
As Head of Discipline and Lecturer in Construction Management, Kim brings a diverse background and passion for policy and planning to the role.
“I have always been interested in exploring the minute details of policy and the complex interactions associated with implementation,” Kim explains. “Policy was an integral part of my professions from strategic planning through to building certification. When working on my PhD, an opportunity arose at the university which has provided the mechanism for me to pursue my research within this area.”
Policy and planning
Evaluating the efficacy of policy introductions and amendments, Kim is seeking to effect real change and narrow the gap between what regulatory authorities propose and what eventuates to reduce fragmentation and ultimately affect positive change. In addition, she considers new and evolving policy directions as a way to solve many wicked problems facing society.
Kim believes policy extends “far beyond” the written word and therefore has no bounds as to the areas it impacts. The same could be said about her research on the subject.
“Regulatory policy is a mechanism employed by government authorities and we remain a policy-driven society, yet, even with the introduction of such controls there remains a disparity between policy intent and outcome,” the researcher explains. “My research aims to better understand such complexity.”
Afforded a myriad of opportunities to be involved with the “full spectrum” of policy areas throughout her professional career, Kim has since brought this expertise to academia to inform her research. From issue identification and formulation through to implementation and evaluation, the hard-working scholar is continuing to build upon a solid knowledge base.
Academically, her work has been published and presented at national and international forums with her winning multiple best paper awards. She supervises numerous PhD students on topics related to policy including flood mitigation and waste management. Kim has worked on multiple funded research projects including an Office of Teaching and Learning grant in collaboration with University of Queensland and University of South Australia involving 4-D learning environments to maximise student learning across multiple disciplines including the realm of building surveying.
Kim’s interest in policy has seen a recent shift towards its use within the domains of emergency management planning and protocols using virtual environments.
Proactive collaborations the key to success
Kim’s PhD research has informed her current work, which now has a more finely-honed focus that utilises her background in policy frameworks and building surveying: specifically fire safety. With a focus on resilience and emergency preparedness, Kim’s proactive approach to planning is the way of the future.
As a founding member of the Built Environment, Health and Aged-Care Group (BHA), Kim is currently collaborating with researchers in her Discipline and across UON from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Nursing and Midwifery to use virtual reality technology to inform emergency management policy and practice, particularly with regards to residential aged care facilities. The intent being to increase preparedness, improve response and resilience during disaster situations.
By 2020, it is estimated that the demand for residential aged care will increase by more than 50 per cent, and yet planning is still often based on outdated, standardised templates with minimal training. Furthermore, the nature of aged-care facility residents and disruption from an emergency evacuation means currently there is no way to practice facility-wide evacuations.
In addition, the unique challenges afforded by these environments are not addressed by aged care homes built to a standard template and then retrofitted as problems are raised. Aside from being a costly exercise, it can also prove a danger to residents, staff and firefighters.
Kim believes that optimal planning needs to explore how a building will be used, and also how it responds to emergency situations such as fire or other disasters.
“We can use virtual reality technology to explore and prepare staff for any type of emergency scenario and to develop and train policy and procedure. In addition, there is the opportunity to plan buildings for optimal functionality,” Kim says.
This work may also inform planning for hospitals and other health care facilities: anywhere that usual movement is hindered due to age or impairment. Taking the technology from gaming and using it in construction, planning and policy will be a key focus for Kim’s research moving forward.
It’s an exciting opportunity with international potential – and one to watch.
A surprise opportunity
When Dr Kim van Netten sat for an undergraduate industry scholarship interview at the start of her degree, she definitely didn’t expect the outcome to lead her to where she stands today.
“The interview went terribly, it was horrible.”
“But Professor Kevin Galvin was on the panel and he must have seen something in me because he offered me an ongoing research scholarship instead.”
Throughout her Bachelor’s degree at UON, Kim spent one day a week conducting research with Kevin’s chemical engineering team.
“Before that I had never even considered research.”
“I just thought combining study with work might be a good thing to do. But working in the lab really introduced me quite early on to what the research environment is like and I really enjoyed it.”
“So I stuck with it. I gave my first national conference presentation as a second year undergraduate.”
Research alongside industry
Once she had completed her Bachelor and Honours degrees, Kim was all set to start her PhD in the field of particle separation.
“My project was based on an idea Kevin had just before I started, so I was the first one to work on it.”
“We work closely with industry - that's one of Kevin's strengths, he makes sure that we're moving in the same direction that the industry needs.”
In the process of mining for minerals, the ore is first taken from the ground and crushed to liberate the minerals of interest. The mixture of minerals and low-value materials then needs to be separated.
Traditionally, froth flotation is used, which firstly requires the valuable mineral particles to be hydrophobic, to repel water, then air bubbles are added to extract the particles. The valuable particles float upwards, joined to the air bubbles, for easy removal.
However, due to the falling quality of mineral deposits and increased demand for metals, this highly effective technology is starting to reach its limit.
“In our research, we have replaced the air bubbles with a selective binder which has a hydrophobic surface. It’s actually more like a gel than a bubble, and is 95% water.”
“With intense mixing, we see large agglomerates of the hydrophobic particles form in seconds.”
Following each experimental separation, Kim runs her final product over a screen to recover the agglomerates for further analysis.
“It probably took me about six months to figure out what I was doing!”
“Since then I have been able to optimise the binder – I would try different things to see their effect on the final product until I found the combination of conditions that was the most successful.”
“It’s not a complex process at all – but it turns out the mechanisms behind it are very complicated. We can do it but we are only just learning now how it works.”
As she now has a doctorate student to help her with this fundamental study, Kim is focussing on streamlining the process so it can be used in industry.
“Everything I have done in the lab up until now has been on a batch scale, but if it’s going to be used in industry then it needs to be part of a continuous process.”
International collaboration and recognition
Kim started working on this part of the challenge just before she completed her thesis, when she was invited to a platinum mine in South Africa to test out her process on their real feeds.
“The work was really good and I really enjoyed it.”
“But one of the main things I took away from that experience was there was still a lot to be done!”
Kim’s work has also been recognised internationally – she won the first Australian Falling Walls Lab competition run by the Australian Academy of Science, with her three-minute presentation on her research. This took her to Berlin to compete with other finalists from all over the world.
“I nearly went insane trying to prepare my speech.”
“You have to appeal to a general audience, describe the problem, present the solution in terms of the science, and outline the way ahead, all in about 300 words.
“I think that's a valuable exercise for any researcher to do because it teaches you to communicate science to an audience.”