In summary

  • Three Swinburne researchers have received Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards from the Australian Research Council
  • The funded projects by will understand how galactic outflows shape galaxy formation and evolution, devise new models and search algorithms for big data, and discover the origins and implications of cosmic explosions
  • The DECRA scheme supports early-career researchers to focus on their area of expertise for three years

Swinburne University has been awarded over $1.26M of funding for three successful Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA).

Three talented Swinburne researchers, Dr Shivani Bhandari, Dr Lu Chen and Dr Rebecca Davies, have been awarded this year. The trio will commence their research fellowships in 2024.

Professor Karen Hapgood, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, congratulated the awardees.

“These three successful projects are a testament to Swinburne's outstanding capabilities in our flagship research areas of Space and Aerospace, and Digital Capability. Swinburne is delighted to see the ARC recognise and support our early career researchers in achieving high quality research that creates real-world impact,” she said.

The DECRA scheme supports early career researchers to focus on their area of expertise for three years. Swinburne’s success rate in this round was an impressive 21.4 per cent, compared to a 19.6 per cent success rate overall.

The Awards build on the university’s recent ARC success in securing a $5 million Swinburne-led ARC Research Hub For Future Digital Manufacturing and $1.75 million in ARC Future Fellowship grants, taking Swinburne’s recent ARC funding to over $8 million.

Origins and implications of cosmic explosions

Dr Shivani Bhandari aims to solve the origin of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), by studying a large sample of localised bursts detected with a new coherent FRB detection system called CRACO. CRACO has been deployed at the Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), a world-class radio telescope located in outback Western Australia.

Through her research, Dr Bhandari hopes to further contribute to Australia's ongoing leadership in the international FRB community.

“I'm excited to use the brand-new detection system being installed at ASKAP to observe Fast Radio Bursts and learn about their mysterious origins. I'm also looking forward to returning to my alma mater, Swinburne,” she said.

“Being a DECRA fellow will allow me to further grow as a researcher, steering me in the right direction for a successful career in astrophysics. It’s an honour to receive such a prestigious prize. I am overjoyed and driven!” Dr Bhandari said.

Dr Bhandari was awarded $390,627 for the project.

Devising new models and search algorithms for big data

Dr Lu Chen’s research focuses on data science and aims to drive significant advances in understanding big data. His project will devise novel, cohesive multipartite subgraph models and corresponding efficient search algorithms.

The novel theories and algorithms he uncovers will benefit organisations who deal with heterogeneous data, as found in e-commerce, cybersecurity, health and social networks.

Under the DECRA scheme, researchers are eligible to apply within five years of the conferral date of their PhD or equivalent research higher degree. The 2024 fellowships marked Dr Chen’s last chance at achieving DECRA funding.

“The relief of seeing ‘funded’ was tangible,” he said. “With DECRA's support, I can delve into pressing problems that demand focus and patience to solve. These might not yield numerous papers, but their results can be revolutionary."

“Beyond the scope of DECRA, I'm deeply intrigued by the P vs. NP conundrum in computer science, a noted Millennium Prize Problem. While most consider efficient solutions unlikely for NP-hard problems, I'm optimistic that they do exist.”

Dr Chen was awarded $428,847 for the project.

Galactic outflows: pushing the distance frontiers

Dr Rebecca Davies will conduct research to push the frontiers of our knowledge of galactic outflows: a key physical process shaping galaxy formation and evolution. Using cutting-edge facilities such as the new, high-profile James Webb Space Telescope, Dr Davies expects to build the first holistic picture of galactic outflows in the distant past, when present-day galaxies were still taking shape.

Among the innovations that may emerge from Dr Davies’ research are a novel framework for measuring outflow properties and a new understanding of the physics of distant outflows.

“I feel incredibly honoured to have been awarded a DECRA fellowship. This award will be transformational for me as an early career researcher, allowing me to undertake ambitious projects and build my own astrophysics research group at Swinburne,” Dr Davies said.

“I’m excited about using data from big telescopes like Keck and James Webb to uncover the mysteries of distant galaxies and discover how they spread gas and life-critical elements throughout the Universe.”

Dr Davies was awarded $441,700 for the project.

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