In summary

  • Swinburne researcher Nirmal Madhavanpillai Sajeevkumar’s pitch to make steelmaking more sustainable has won the People’s Choice Award at Universities Australia’s annual research awards
  • The pitch it clever competition asks early career researchers to tell the story of their research work and its impact on the broader Australian community 
  • Nirmal Madhavan’s pitch attracted more than 2,000 votes 

Swinburne University of Technology researcher Nirmal Madhavanpillai Sajeevkumar’s pitch to make steelmaking more sustainable has won the People’s Choice Award overnight at Universities Australia’s annual research awards.

The pitch it clever competition asks early career researchers to tell the story of their research work and its impact on the broader Australian community. 

Nirmal Madhavan’s pitch — which asks, “Should we take a leap of faith to hydrogen steelmaking or optimise oxygen steelmaking?” — attracted more than 2,000 votes from across the Universities Australia community.

A member of Swinburne’s Fluid and Process Dynamics Research Group, Nirmal’s research focuses on a multi-zone heat transfer model of oxygen steelmaking. 

As he is currently in the Netherlands, conducting industrial trials for the final phase of his PhD, Swinburne Vice-Chancellor Professor Pascale Quester accepted his award from Minister for Education the Hon. Jason Clare MP.

Swinburne Vice-Chancellor Professor Pascale Quester accepting the award on Nirmal’s behalf, pictured with Minister for Education Jason Clare and Professor John Dewar.


“Undertaking this PhD has been a truly life-changing experience for me,” Nirmal said. “The effect of global warming is hitting us, and as a researcher, ways to decarburize the steel industry is the need of the hour. My research sought to understand the energy aspects of the oxygen steelmaking process which helped us to tackle most of the pressing problems that the industry faces at the moment.”

Swinburne’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Karen Hapgood said Nirmal’s win was a credit to the hard work and initiative he and his colleagues have demonstrated.  

“In this month when Swinburne celebrates turning ’30 years young’, it’s fitting that one of our early career researchers should receive the pitch it clever People’s Choice Award from Universities Australia. Nirmal’s winning work is further evidence of how Swinburne is continuing to build itself to be the prototype of a new and different university, with people and technology working together to build a better world.”

VIDEO HERE: Sustainable oxygen steelmaking by increased scrap steel utilisation | Pitch it clever 2022 - YouTube

In congratulating Nirmal and the other winners of the awards, Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said, “Competitions like pitch it clever showcase the bright ideas, knowledge and initiative that often starts on our university campuses. We’re extremely pleased to help share this important work with everyday Australians and highlight the value of university research in solving the nation’s biggest challenges and changing lives.”

Reflecting on his win, Nirmal said, “In the last 10 to15 years, Swinburne has become a leading contributor to the research community for understanding the steel-making process via mathematical modelling. Being the 2022 pitch it clever People’s Choice Award recipient gives me the confidence to effectively communicate research in two minutes to non-specialist audiences.” 

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