Aberdeen Curtin Alliance 2017 PhD Student Profiles

Aaron Wei Jie Tung

The title of my research is ‘Enhancing the Understanding of The Decommissioning Landscape: Development of Stakeholder Oriented Critical Paths for United Kingdom and Australia’. Decommissioning is a rapidly developing market sector in the oil and gas industry with both major potential and huge risks. If not managed properly, decommissioning can become a huge source of liability from operators, countries, and even the public. The wide array of different decommissioning methods and alternatives that are available makes it a complex multidisciplinary operation that involves variety of stakeholders. Managing all stakeholders interactions is a massive undertaking and some form of prioritization is necessary.

My research methodology involves initially designing the critical paths and confirming the validity of each with decommissioning project managers. It then goes on to identify where stakeholder engagement activities may be appropriate and to assess the impact with a view to suggesting best practices in the context of a framework for stakeholder management in decommissioning projects.

I graduated from Bachelor of Engineering (Petroleum Engineering) with First Class Honours from Curtin University, which equipped me with very strong knowledge of the oil and gas industry.  This project brings together expertise from a variety of disciplines. My supervisors are Professor Fran Ackermann, the Dean of Research and Development from Curtin Business School and Professor Claus Otto, the Director of Curtin Oil and Gas Innovation Centre, along with Professor John Paterson, Vice-Principal Internationalisation from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Law, and Professor David Lusseau, Reader from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences.

Spending time in both the University of Aberdeen and Curtin University will provide me with the opportunity to compare between the more mature oil fields of the United Kingdom North Sea with the younger profile of Australia, providing valuable insights to guide future research in decommissioning.

Adam Kealley

My PhD research project at Curtin University and the University of Aberdeen arose from a creative project I had originally conceived for my MA, exploring the aesthetic and ideological potential of employing the Australian Gothic genre to represent queer adolescence in young adult fiction. That project was deemed too large for an MA and was filed away. Somewhat serendipitously, the ‘Haunted by Use’ project offered by the Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance proved an ideal fit and under the guidance of my supervisors the project has expanded to incorporate cultural studies, literary studies and creative writing.

My project is based in the history of the Parkhurst Boys, a group of teenaged convicts who were transported to Perth from as far away as Aberdeen between 1842-1852. As this was prior to the Swan River Colony’s designation as a penal colony, their presence in Western Australian history has been largely elided. At the same time, homosexuality in the colonies was being decried as, perhaps somewhat sensationally, it was considered to be rife among the convict population. Thus began a cultural attitude towards homosexuality – particularly in regards to adolescents – that continues to haunt contemporary Australian society. Despite recent advances in the rights for queer people, research shows that homophobia and heteronormativity significantly informs contemporary queer experience, particularly for rural youth who may experience greater degrees of isolation and discrimination than their urban counterparts.

My methodology involves examining this phenomenon through the lenses of queer theory and spectral studies, investigating how contemporary queer youth subjectivity is haunted by its convict-era forebears. Additionally, it examines how the uncanny nature of the Australian Gothic genre can be employed as a discursive strategy to represent such a spectral subjectivity through the production of a young adult novel demonstrating the research. My supervisors are Dr Christina Lee, Senior Lecturer in Communication and Cultural Studies at School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University and Dr Wayne Price, Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at the School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen.

Spending a year in Aberdeen under the guidance of Dr Price affords an exciting opportunity to be mentored throughout the creative process. In addition, Aberdeen, in the north-east of Scotland, shares many gothic qualities with South Western Australia, particularly in its remoteness, coastal location and rugged landscapes. As the homeplace of a number of the Parkhurst boys, Aberdeen too will be haunted by its role in their transportation and thus provide rich creative fodder.

Ahmed-Tijani Afolabi

My research topic is Efficient biomass upgrading technologies via the steam reforming of bio-oils and tar. I have always been interested in renewable and sustainable sources of energy, and this PhD is a great opportunity for me pursue my interest in biomass upgrading technologies, which formed the topic of my MSc dissertation. This is research that can make a difference to future generations and I am very enthusiastic about the project. This project involves the microkinetic modelling of the steam reforming process for major model compounds of biomass pyrolysis oil (bio-oil). Microkinetics is a rigorous tool in the optimisation of refinery processes as it guides catalyst selection and intrinsically provides detail of catalytic process pathways. This project will therefore help in my pursuit of understanding biomass upgrading technologies.

My passion is to improve my knowledge, communication and analytical skills and my first year of PhD studies in Aberdeen has provided me with a strong foundation to progress with my studies at Curtin University. I look forward to utilising further the models we are developing, improving my skills, including computational tools, and refining my technical abilities.  My supervisor in the School of Engineering of the University Of Aberdeen is Dr Panagiotis Kechagiopoulos and my Curtin supervisor is Professor Chun-Zhu Li, Director of the Fuels and Energy Technology Institute.  We have been working on the initial objective of the microkinetic analysis of the steam reforming of a bio-oil model compound (Ethanol), and now have a running and functioning model that has been validated over experimental data collected within the Chemical Engineering laboratory of the University Of Aberdeen. In parallel, we have also been working on a developing a microkinetic modelling framework able to describe the behaviour of bifunctional catalysts. In Curtin I hope to obtain experimental results using char supported catalysts to validate this bifunctional model and provide guidelines for the design of more active and selective catalytic materials.

Alison Metoudi

My PhD research project at the University of Aberdeen University and Curtin University on Experimental Screenwriting Practice at the Unspoken Borders between Nature, Animal and Human arose from a competition call to interpret the theme of ‘Wild Places’ primarily in the context of the North East of Scotland. This research will be based on a consideration of how natural and synthetic systems such as the Scottish North East offshore oil industry, technology, nature, the oceans, humans and nonhumans interconnect in the language of the screenplay.

My methodology has evolved over a long period based on a cross-disciplinary understanding of expressive modes and work in creative arts practice including visual art, painting, writing and the performance-based industries.  My main supervisors are Professor Alison Lumsden, Chair in English (School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen), and Dr Susan Bradley Smith, Senior Lecturer in English (School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University) with Professor Alan Marcus Personal Chair in Film and Visual Culture in Aberdeen as a secondary supervisor. Digital technology and filmmaking materials are used to inform the developing screenplay in an experimental approach during the process of writing, thereby giving priority to perceptual systems at the conceptual stage.

Spending a year at Curtin in Western Australia will offer a new perspective on the concept of the wild place.  The region faces similar circumstances to Aberdeen in its relationship to post fossil-fuel environments and it will be interesting to see how it is managing these issues and engaging them creatively.

Ashleigh Angus

Orkney’s court records contain numerous witch trials within which women describe encounters with fairy folk, who were believed to abide inside Orkney’s hills and burial mounds. The fairies described offer gifts like protection, money, knowledge, and freedom. My research explores how Orcadian women accused of witchcraft may have constructed fairy legends to articulate their fears and desires. I am utilising a creative practice as research methodology by producing a historiographic metafiction novel alongside an exegesis.

My research involves analysing witch trial documents, folktale anthologies, early modern travel texts, and demonological essays, to inform my understanding of what life was like in seventeenth century Orkney. My historiographic metafiction novel will fictionalise eight Orcadian witch trials, exploring their individual fairy stories in detail, and speculating on what role fairy belief may have played in their lives.

Despite the increasing number of investigations into Scotland’s fairy and witch beliefs, scholars have continued to overlook the Northern Isles of Orkney. Currently, this location’s history is dominated by Picts, Vikings, and Norsemen. I hope to give voice to Orkney’s early modern women, who have been marginalised by history, much as they were through life.

Spending one year abroad at Aberdeen University through this program will allow me access to texts unavailable to me in Australia. I will have the opportunity to travel to the archives in Edinburgh and Orkney to study witch trial records, as well as access rare books in Aberdeen’s own University library. Furthermore, I will be able to travel regularly to Orkney to take note of its landscape, which is essential to the completion of my creative work.

Bugra Bayik

My research topic is Vibration based structural health monitoring and damage detection in subsea risers.  I see this PhD opportunity with the Aberdeen Curtin Alliance as a great way to further my research interests and contribute to a project with important outcomes for industry and academia.

I undertook my BSc in Mechanical Engineering at the Middle East Technical University, where I took specialised courses and gained strong academic background in structural dynamics and mechanical vibrations. The Vibration and Acoustics Laboratory at Koç University, where I studied for my MSc, provided good experience for my research and experimental work in Aberdeen.

My supervisors are Dr Piotr Omenzetter, Professor Ekaterina Pavlovskaia and Dr Dominic Van der A at the School of Engineering, University of Aberdeen, along with Professor Hong Hao from School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Curtin university of Technology. Dr Omenzetter specialises in damage detection, Professor Pavlovskaia is an expert in nonlinear dynamics and marine risers and Dr Van der A has strong expertise in hydrodynamic experimentation. Professor Hao has several decades’ worth of experience in structural and hydrodynamics and condition monitoring of offshore installations.

I am looking forward to spending a year in Curtin University, working more closely with Professor Hong Hao on development and application of novel damage detection algorithms based on the experiments conducted in the Aberdeen University Random Wave Flume.

Esti Tri Widyastuti

I completed my master’s in Petroleum, Energy Economics, and Finance at the University of Aberdeen. I was intrigued to explore further about the field of energy economics. My interest in the quantitative and empirical areas encouraged me to apply for the Aberdeen Curtin Alliance programme in 2017. Under the supervision of Dr Marc Gronwald Senior Lecturer in Economics (Business School, University of Aberdeen), my current research area is about modelling of oil discovery and production in an economics perspective and relates to oil exploration efforts and expenses incurred.

In 2018, I have plans to present at the International Association for Energy Economics Conference and publish my findings and analyses carried during the first year of research at Aberdeen. In Curtin, I would like to expand the content with some additional highlights and concerns based on further discussion with my co-supervisor Dr Hiroaki Suenaga, Lecturer in Energy Economics at the Curtin Business School.

By joining the Aberdeen Curtin Alliance Programme I will be getting precious insights from both UK and Australian perspective so that I will get to know what works well and the most significant issues and concerns in two different continents.

Johanna Heeb

The title of my research is ‘Listening through rock salt: Quantifying petrofabrics and seismic anisotropy of evaporites to improve seismic imaging’. The aim of my research is to improve seismic reflection data and velocity models that are used to interpret salt structures. The focus is on the microstructural, mineralogical and geophysical characteristics and interplay of evaporitic minerals. Natural rock salt structures are part of many sedimentary basins worldwide and often serve as traps for oil and gas reservoirs. The research project has direct application and potential benefit in a broad range of fields, including the oil and gas industry and nuclear waste storage.

The methodology includes usage of rock salt samples with different mineral content and deformation history from sites in Canada, Australia, Germany and Spain, measurement of seismic velocity and the quantification of the mineral content, microstructures, grain characteristics, cracks and fractures. Therefore, optical microscopy, micro-CT, Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) and Energy Dispersive x-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) will be used. Seismic velocity will be measured at room temperature and pressure, temperatures up to 200°C, confining pressure up to 250 MPa and axial stress up to 100%, generated by a triaxial deformation apparatus. The results will be combined to understand the relation between petrofabrics and mineral content to seismic velocity anisotropy.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Geosciences from the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany and a Master of Science with specialization in Geology and Paleontology, from the same University. I specialized in Structural Geology with focus on microstructures and rock salt deformation, which is also the focus of my Masters thesis. Rock salt and its, compared to other rocks, unique characteristics and corresponding behaviour fascinates me. I was extremely fortunate to find a PhD project that gives me the chance to apply and extend my knowledge on this field. That it is part of the great Curtin-Aberdeen Alliance program is an extraordinary chance for me.

The Curtin-Aberdeen program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to gain unique research experience at two great universities. It will give me the chance to adapt to new environments as well as new staff, facilities and equipment, and to work with different researchers and working groups. The input of diverse opinions and ideas will be a great benefit to my PhD and my future career as a researcher.

Ni Gao

My PhD title is “Thriving not surviving following a breast cancer diagnosis: what can time allocation tell us?” After completing primary breast cancer treatment, cancer patients begin the journey of recovery. Patients’ investment on health (monetary and non-monetary) after a cancer shock determines how they rebalance their health, work and social life after treatment. The aim of my PhD is to understand the recovery progress of cancer patients from perspective of economics, based on both primary data and secondary data. Advanced econometrics will be applied to answer my research questions.

I have a multidisciplinary background in both medicine and economics. Studying in both areas lays a solid foundation for my PhD research. What is more, the excellent supervision team under Professor Mandy Ryan, Director of Health Economic Research Unit (HERU) and Dr Nicolas Krucien, Research Fellow, HERU at the University of Aberdeen and Associate Professor Richard Norman, Professor Dr Suzanne Robinson (School of Public Health, Curtin University) provides me an unique chance to work with two academic teams in two countries.

Paulina Dzianach

My research topic is ‘Modelling the composition and structure of Campylobacter jejuni biofilms’. The project is jointly supervised by Professor Gary Dykes, Dr Francisco Perez-Reche, Professor Norval Strachan and Professor Ken Forbes.

A mathematical model of Campylobacter jejuni biofilm formation has been developed using Fortran 95 language in the first year of research, conducted at the University of Aberdeen. It has been created based on existing theoretical models and specific Campylobacter jejuni biofilm properties. The model shall be evaluated against laboratory experiments conducted at Curtin University, where the next stage of the research takes place. It is hoped that combining mathematical modelling with experimental observation can bring interesting and novel outcomes regarding Campylobacter jejuni biofilms. Understanding more about how this pathogen survives can aid prevention of human infections and disease.

I hold a degree of Master of Arts in Mathematics and Physics, awarded by the University of Aberdeen in 2016. I believe this project is an amazing opportunity to expand horizons while receiving an incredible amount of support.

Ruturaj Sawant

The aim of my Ph.D research project is to develop a ‘Multiscale data-driven model for biomass pyrolysis’. I am working on developing a model for determining optimum operating conditions for pyrolysis process by linking feedstock composition to the expected product profile using Artificial Neural Networks. Rigorous data-driven modeling will ensure formulation of a reliable methodology for estimation of pyrolysis kinetics and product profile for any biomass using relatively easy to perform TGA experiments. This work will also present a framework to use the kinetics for reactor design and simulation of industrial-scale pyrolysis systems.

My supervisors are Professor Vishnu Pareek (Head, WASM: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering), Professor Andrew Rohl (Director, Curtin Institute for Computation) and Professor Julian Gale (John Curtin Distinguished Professor, School of Molecular and Life Sciences) at Curtin University; and Dr. Marcus Campbell Bannerman and Dr. Panagiotis Kechagiopoulos from School of Engineering, University of Aberdeen.

I completed my Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from VIT- Pune (India). Later, I worked as a researcher at Praj Industries Ltd. Pune for one year on Mechanical Tray Vibrations. I also worked as a research assistant at Manipal University on Waste Pyrolysis.

I am glad to be part of the Curtin-Aberdeen Alliance for my Ph.D and eagerly look forward to working with my supervisors with such a rich plethora of experience and expertise from diverse fields.

Vijay Phaninda Srikanth Kompella

I am undertaking research on The Physics of Translation in the Cell.  One of the major reasons to choose this project is prior experience in the field, which helped me realize the potential in this area. Since translation is a fundamental process, repercussions of the study impact various fields including but not limited to cancer research, viral and bacterial diseases, synthetic biology, industrial bio-technology. I always wanted to contribute to science at the most fundamental level and I see this as a wonderful opportunity to tread in that direction. I believe pursuing theoretical projects requires not only strong deduction skills but also the creative ability to hypothesize, which I understood during my MPhil.

I studied for my MPhil at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, where the topic of my dissertation was ‘A Comprehensive model for G1-phase of Cell Cycle explaining restriction point behaviour in Mammalian cells.’  Prior to that I studied a five year Integrated MSc in Chemical Sciences at the University of Hyderabad. During the course of my studies I have gained a good knowledge of programming languages, such as Python, FORTRAN and MATLAB, which I believe will be very helpful in my PhD. Integrated Masters’ program at University of Hyderabad offered me strong fundamental knowledge of all basic sciences which stimulated my interest in interdisciplinary research.

My supervisors are Dr M Carmen Romano, Reader in Physics at the School of Natural and Computing Sciences and Professor Ian Stansfield, Personal Chair and Deputy Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, along with Professor Ricardo Mancera from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at Curtin University.  The project brings together expertise from the Institute for Complex Systems and Mathematical Biology at Aberdeen with expertise in Curtin University in the use of molecular dynamics simulations to characterise biomolecular structure, function and dynamics. I am looking forward to working with Professor Ricardo Mancera, head of Biomolecular Modelling Group at the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, Curtin University who is seeking to develop further an interest in the understanding of the effects of macromolecular crowding on molecular diffusion in living cells. The broad nature of the project will provide me excellent with excellent research training.  Taking advantage of expertise in mathematical modelling and experimental studies at Univ. of Aberdeen and molecular modelling at Curtin University the project aims to answer some of the fundamental questions of the behaviour of living systems.

When at Curtin I will be able to access high performance computing through the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and at Aberdeen I have access to institute level cluster and Maxwell supercomputer.

I am looking forward to spending time in Curtin University working more closely with Professor Ricardo Mancera to address the molecular modelling aspects of the research study.