03 November 2023

Artificial Intelligence AI.jpgSix University of South Australia research teams received Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grants to a total value of $3.4 million, and two received ARC Linkage grants for a further $863,000, for projects commencing in 2024.

Set to support innovation and new knowledge across diverse fields, the successful Discovery projects are:

Professor Haolan Xu, UniSA Future Industries Institute, ($537,717): Multi-energy driven photothermal evaporators for all-weather desalination

This project aims to develop advanced technology to stably deliver clean water. Desalination practices will be enhanced by generating new interfacial solar evaporation systems that use multiple energy sources from the environment and are able to operate under variable weather conditions.

 “We expect the project will deliver new knowledge in renewable energy, and improved capacity for desalination and industrial wastewater treatment.

“This could significantly benefit remote communities in particular, which suffer from severe freshwater shortages. It will also enhance Australia’s research capabilities as a global leader in developing affordable, green desalination technologies.”

Professor Maarten De Laat, UniSA Education Futures, ($467,827): Equipping Australian teachers today to face AI tomorrow

Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform how people work and learn, yet there is very little research on what teachers need to know in order to prepare students to thrive in this AI-rich society.

This study aims to construct a foundational understanding for teaching with, and about, AI. It will also show how to develop effective networks to empower teachers as active change agents.

Project outcomes will equip teachers with the knowledge and resources to lead the development of Australia’s future AI capability, including through enhanced classroom practices and more creative teacher networks.

Dr Jessica White, UniSA Creative, ($212,611): Finding Australia’s Disabled Authors: Connection, Creativity, Community

This project will explore writers living with disability, and disability more generally in Australian literature.

There is little awareness of the contributions that Australian authors living with disability have made to literary culture. This project will generate new knowledge about how these writers have forged their careers, and how their disability shapes their creative practice.

“We expect our investigation will foster a greater understanding of the diversity of Australian writers and literature, and greater support for emerging writers living with disability.

“The project will build a greater awareness of disability in the community, and greater capacity to combat ableism and discrimination.”

Professor Natasha Harvey, UniSA’s Centre for Cancer Biology, ($947,849): Defining how cells relay mechanical signals to changes in cell architecture

Mechanical signals play crucial roles in shaping organs and entire organisms during development, though how these signals are relayed to changes in cell architecture is not known.

Within vascular networks, mechanical signals play key roles in vessel patterning, identity, and maturation.

“Our project will employ cutting-edge technologies to determine how the atypical cadherin FAT4 relays mechanical signals, including flow and tension, to the lymphatic endothelial cell skeleton, thereby enabling changes in cell shape that are important for building lymphatic vessels.

“This research will increase our understanding of how cells sense touch and may be applied for tissue engineering purposes.”

Bradley Distinguished Professor Sharad Kumar, UniSA’s Centre for Cancer Biology, ($658,402): New mechanisms regulating the biogenesis of extracellular vesicles

Extracellular vesicles are small packages that contain active components derived from the cell of origin.

These vesicles, released by most cell types, are critical for communication between cells. However, the processes of their formation and release are poorly understood.

“Our project aims to explore how ubiquitination, a type of protein modification system, controls the production of extracellular vesicles. Using a strong collaborative team and highly innovative approaches, the project will generate new knowledge to inform how cells communicate.

“This will contribute new knowledge of broad significance to cell biology, which can be leveraged to develop extracellular vesicles as tools for various biotechnology applications in the future.”

Professor Janna Morrison, UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences, ($575,713): Size matters, but at what cost? Role of male sex hormones in the placenta

This project aims to understand molecular pathways regulated by male sex hormones in the placenta that may contribute to fetal growth and survival outcomes in response to reduced oxygen and glucose.

“Through this project, we expect to generate new knowledge of the mechanisms that drive sex-specific placental molecular function.

“An advanced understanding of the sex-specific regulation of placental molecular function and foetal growth could be targeted in future studies to improve outcomes in placental mammals such as livestock, domestic pets, and humans.”

The successful Linkage projects are:

Professor Jun Ma, UniSA STEM, ($395,773): Flame-retarding and mechanically resilient elastomer composites

This project will develop a new generation of flame-retarding and mechanically resilient elastomer composites by taking advantage of nanoscale effect and synergy.

"The outcomes will be two types of flame-retarding additive pellets and their elastomer composites; these pellets also suit other polymers such as thermoplastics. The elastomer composites are expected to have excellent flame retardancy, mechanical properties, and fatigue performance.

"The project will provide a platform for the elastomer manufacturing industry to develop high-performance products for domestic applications and export."

Professor Clive Prestidge, UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences, ($467,108): Engineering hybrid materials with functional bioactivity in the GI tract

This project aims to use an advanced particle engineering approach to develop novel biomaterials with multifunctional activities in the gastrointestinal tract.

"We expect to generate new knowledge of the key interfacial processes that control digestion, and identify new pathways for modulating gut microbiome composition.

"By establishing structure-activity relationships through in vitro and in vivo models, the knowledge gained will help guide material design for optimised bioactivity. The transfer of technology through quality by design manufacturing practice, is anticipated to position the industry partner for future commercial opportunities within the nutraceutical sector."

Media contact for interviews: Megan Andrews mobile: +61 434 819 275  emailmegan.andrews@unisa.edu.au


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