Congratulations to our three amazing DECRA 2021 winners!

In the latest round of the Australian Research Council’s DECRA grants, the federal government awarded $84 million to 200 projects around the country, to support the next generation of researchers working in key priority areas to grow Australia’s research and innovation capacity.

UNSW secured more than $9 million for 22 projects, (including 11 for UNSW Engineering) the highest number of grants awarded to UNSW in the DECRA scheme since 2015.

Professor Nasser Khalili, Deputy Head of School -Research, was delighted to announce that the  School had done exceptionally well by winning three ARC DECRAs, to the monetary value of over $1.3M.  He congratulated Mehri, Souradeep and Kefeng for their outstanding achievements.

Mehri’s project aims to develop a low-cost and robust bridge monitoring framework by advanced data analytics,  while Souradeep’s research project is to develop durable biochar-foam concrete technology that enhances uptake of carbon dioxide and sulfur oxide. Kefeng’s project aims to quantify, control and monitor water quality in stormwater harvesting using Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) systems i.e., natural-based solutions.

UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Ana Deletic congratulated all the successful UNSW applicants on securing grants in this round.

“This success underscores the University’s commitment to delivering future-thinking research to help produce positive outcomes for all Australians,” she said.

Details of CVEN DECRA Projects:

Dr Mehri Makki AlamdariDr Mehri Makki Alamdari

Project Summary: 72% of bridges in Australia were constructed before 1976. Currently bridges are inspected by biennial visual inspection which is expensive, time consuming and subjective. Considering the large number of defective bridges in Australia and around the world and the limited budget of road authorities, this project aims to develop a low-cost and robust bridge monitoring framework by advanced data analytics, solely based on the response of a moving vehicle passing over the bridge, with no equipment to be installed on the bridge. The project is significant because it opens a new direction for sustainable monitoring of such ageing infrastructure, consequently resulting in the lower costs of maintenance, enhanced safety and extended asset life.

Award: $430,075.00

About Mehri:

Dr. Makki Alamdari is a Lecturer in the UNSW Civil and Environmental Engineering and a researcher in the Centre for Infrastructure, Engineering and Safety (CIES) . She is an expert in structural health monitoring, vibration analysis and testing, inverse dynamic problems and signal processing.  She is the winner of the prestigious JSPS Award (Japan Society for Promotion of Science). An award-winning scholar, Mehri is on the Executive of the Australian Network of Structural Health Monitoring (ANSHM), and a member of The International Society for Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure (ISHMII).  Prior to joining UNSW, she was a research fellow in Data61|CSIRO working on structural health monitoring of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Dr Souradeep GuptaDr Souradeep Gupta

Project Summary: This project aims to address the pressing need to curb carbon dioxide and sulfur oxide level in the air through direct air capture technology using foamed concrete with engineered biochar, prepared by pyrolysis of food waste. The expected outcome of the project would be a durable biochar-foam concrete technology that enhances uptake of the mentioned pollutants, thus reducing their concentration in the ambient environment. It links to Australian Government’s Science and Research priority areas of Resources and Environmental Change through utilization of waste-stream and offering an adaptive measure to impacts of climate change. Deploying this technology would offer durable lightweight construction and healthy environment for urban residents.

Award: $450,000.00

About Souradeep:

Dr Souradeep Gupta is a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Infrastructure, Safety & Engineering (CIES) at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW, Sydney. He was previously appointed as Research Fellow at Centre for Integrated Building Energy and Sustainability in the Tropics at National University of Singapore (NUS).  Dr Gupta holds a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) with Honours in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology, India, and Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from NUS. In 2019, he earned his doctorate degree from NUS for his research on biochar enhanced high performance concrete and self-healing materials.

Dr Gupta has extensive experience in bio-based materials, lightweight concrete and self-healing cementitious composites. He was awarded the prestigious Ssangyong Cement Gold medal for being the best graduate in concrete technology among the graduating cohort of Master’s program at NUS. Dr. Gupta is also the co-founder of a technology company Biochar Innovations Pte. Ltd based in Singapore. His venture has successfully raised grants from NUS research and innovation program and government agencies.

Dr Kefeng ZhangDr Kefeng Zhang

 Project Summary The project aims to develop a framework that contains viable procedures to quantify, control and monitor the health risks associated with stormwater harvesting using Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) systems (i.e., natural-based solutions). It expects to address the concerns about the safety of stormwater harvesting via WSUD for all end-uses. It will generate new knowledge regarding the real time control and monitoring of WSUD, thus truly advancing the WUSD technology as emerging urban green infrastructure for reliable stormwater harvesting. Expected outcomes include next generation of WSUDs implemented with real time control techniques, as well as a suite of easy-to-measure surrogate parameters for real time water quality monitoring

Award: 425,952.00

About Kefeng:

Dr Kefeng Zhang is a Senior Research Associate in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering's Water Research Centre (WRC). Kefeng is working on the development, monitoring and validation of green technologies for stormwater management, e.g. bioretention systems and green walls. Through his PhD, Kefeng developed the first validation framework for passive stormwater treatment systems for micropollutant removal, which earned him the Postgraduate Publication Award by Monash University and the Eric Laurenson Medal by Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities. Since his post-doctoral research at Monash he has been involved in the development of planning and decision support modelling tools i.e. Water Sensitive Cities Toolkit that incorporates large multidisciplinary collaborations. Kefeng is also involved in stormwater quality monitoring and modelling.

For more information on ARC DECRA 2021 outcomes

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