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UWA team blitzes education

MARK Bush and his staff at the University of Western Australia can feel pleased with the results of the Engineering Elite survey.

Professor Bush, who was appointed dean of the faculty of engineering, computing and mathematics in June, was one of five UWA engineers to receive nominations in the engineering educator category.

This group includes several engineers who have received awards for the quality of their teaching.

Also notable is the commercial focus of their academic work.

They have engaged with local and international industry to ensure the relevance of their work and, no doubt, to bolster their funding.

Professor Bush said the faculty has always had a strong link to industry.

He believes a healthy faculty needs a mix of both government and industry backing.

“Funding for pure research is usually provided by the government, but this is very limited,” Professor Bush said.

“Industry funding is more extensive, allowing increased activities, but is often necessarily more focused.”

Professor Bush has been teaching at UWA since 1985 and has been head of the department of mechanical and materials engineering since 1998.

His research interests are very broad, ranging from thermodynamics and fluid mechanics to materials science and biomechanics.

Current research projects include collabo-ration with a gynaeco-logist and urethral surgeon to develop techniques for measuring the properties of human tissue in situ.

Professor Bush is also researching damage in dental crowns to provide the basis for developing new damage tolerant systems.

Among the mechanical engineering department staff are Brian Stone, whose web site gets straight to the point.

It opens with the statement that: “Professor Stone is regarded as the best engineering lecturer in Australia, having won numerous teaching awards”.

This included the inaugural Australian national teaching award for engineering in 1997.

His long-standing research area, for which he has an international reputation, is in the area of stopping vibration in production processes.

Professor Stone also has two patents on his inventions, one held by Rolls Royce and the other by DeBeers Diamonds.

The department of civil engineering produced two nominees – Mark Randolph and Ken Kavanagh.

Professor Randolph is professor of civil engineering and director of the special research centre for offshore foundations.

He has 20 years of teaching and research experience concentrating on offshore foundation systems and piled foundations.

His work as leader of a research group in geomechanics culminated in an Australian Research Council grant in 1996 of approximately $1 million per annum for nine years.

Professor Randolph has been chief investigator for a range of industry projects, including several offshore projects developed by Woodside.

“The first stage of proper design is to sample the seabed and see what you have out there,” Professor Randolph said.

His research has evolved as offshore oil and gas developments have moved from relatively shallow water, where sea jackets were pinned to the seabed, to today’s floating facilities, which are anchored in deeper water.

Professor Randolph said Australia’s expertise in this field was now being employed in places such as the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

His team at UWA is one of three global research groups participating in Deepstar, an industry based research consortium (including BHP Billiton) that is investigating techniques to anchor oil and gas facilities in very deep water.

The geomechanics unit at UWA has a broader focus, having done testing work for the QV1 building in central Perth and the Narrows Bridge duplication project.

Dr Kavanagh is a senior lecturer in structural engineering and a past head of the department of civil and resource engineering.

His research interests include the stability of steel structures, wind and earthquake engineering and dynamics and fatigue.

As director of the boundary layer wind tunnel, built at UWA in 1984, he has been involved with the wind tunnel testing of a majority of Perth’s recent high-rise developments, including BankWest Tower, QV1, Central Park and Exchange Plaza.

He has also been involved in wind tunnel research to simulate the flow over subsea pipelines.

Dr Kavanagh’s research on earthquake engineering led to him being involved in the earthquake redesign of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in the United States.

The fifth nominee from UWA was Jorg Imberger, professor of environmental engineering and chair of the centre for water research.

His specific research interests include the study of the motion and mixing of water in estuaries, reservoirs and lakes and coastal seas.

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