2019 UTS winners
The judges had very long and difficult discussion in choosing the winners for 2019, but they finally made it and the People's Choice. So the 2019 prizes were awarded to:
- Katelyn Bywaters (Institute for Sustainable Futures)
First prize: $3000 and represented UTS at 2019 Asia-Pacific 3MT competition
- Elena Meshcheriakova (Faculty of Business)
- Samara Garrett (Faculty of Science)
People's Choice: $1000
Katelyn won with her summary of her thesis: New Application, New Technology, New Theory: Towards the Design and Implementation of Responsive Nudges. Watch her at the 2019 Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition. (14 minutes in).
Katelyn Bywaters, Institute for Sustainable Futures
Take a moment to think about the word congestion. Most of us associate it with cars, roads and the journey to work. But what we should think about is passenger congestion because each day 66% of daily trips made on Sydney Trains occur during peak times resulting in heavily congested stations and delays to rail services.
To you passenger congestion might seem like an inconvenience, but in reality it dictates how many trains we fit on our network. You see, when passengers take too long to board and alight, the safe distance required between trains increases. This causes delays that extend through the network until there is no more space for additional trains. And that doesn’t just affect your journey home. It has implications for the sustainable and economic viability of an entire city.
So why are people taking too long?
Well on top of the 1.3 million passengers using Sydney trains, people are glued to their phones, cutting corners and causing collisions. Some people stop in no waiting zones, while others use the opposite side of the stairs. And let’s not forget the passenger who barges their way onto the train before everyone else gets off. These behaviours impact how we move through stations and ultimately contribute to chronic passenger congestion.
In answer, I propose Responsive Nudges as a new technique to improve passenger flows in train stations. Imagine, a light-up tile changing from green to red if you stop in an exit zone, or hand rails that indicate the best side to avoid oncoming passengers? These are responses … These are nudges using intuitive signs, symbols and colours to guide you through the station in response to passenger congestion.
To function, these Nudges require 3 robotic components. Sensors allow us to see what’s going on and actuation widgets deliver the nudge. But there is one part missing, the cognition system. This system needs sense making capabilities to evaluate behaviours and determine what nudge will improve the flow.
My research investigates 3D infrared data that detects walking characteristics in congestion hotspots and through online questionnaires I gauge passenger perceptions of walking behaviour. Together these world-first findings identify new and known passenger behaviours that could be nudged to improve flow. Ultimately, my research will guide widget design helping ease congestion, saving you time and adding millions to Sydney’s economy. So in future if you receive a nudge, just remember less congestion equals more trains and a smooth journey home.
Elena Meshcheriakova, Faculty of Business
Elena Meshcheriakova – UTS Business School
Investigating the influence of brand premiums on consumers’ choice for prescription medicines in Australia.
Two pills to treat the same illness.
Both contain the same active ingredient, with the same advocacy and safety. Produced by different companies. One is cheaper. Which one would you choose?
Now imagine this scenario - you need to see a doctor to get a prescription.Your doctor writes a script for the blue pill. Does this mean you are more likely to choose the blue pill? What if the pharmacist tells you that the red pill is cheaper and for the blue pill you will have to come back and pick it up later in the day? Your doctor does not mind if you buy the red pill. Which pill would you choose now? What if you knew that the blue pill is the original branded medicine, and the red pill is a generic copy? Would you reconsider your choice?
Just like Neo from the film the Matrix, Australians are faced with this choice. With more than half a million prescriptions filled every day. Australian Pharmaceutical policy is designed to provide affordable and subsidised access to medicines. With the costs to you for prescription medicine capped at a set price and is only a fraction of the total cost. The rest is paid by the Government. When an original drug move off-patent, and generic drugs come to market; we expect people to buy the cheaper product. However, that is not the case for prescription drugs: we know people often choose more expensive branded medicines with brand premium prices.
But do consumers know the difference between the blue and the red pill? Unlike the decision made by Neo, this choice does not change the treatment outcome. The difference is only in the price, and ultimately the cost to Government. Using a choice survey, coded in a matrix, I asked one thousand consumers to consider scenarios, just like the ones I presented to you. My data shows that people are: sensitive to price, they listen to the pharmacist's recommendation, and value their own time a lot. Importantly, what was written on the doctor's script did not influence their choice.
So consumers have a choice no matter what the doctor recommends. And it shows consumers can gain if given clear information about medicines. The Grattan Institute recommends, that if people choose a cheaper generic drug the Government would save half a billion dollars per year. This money could be used to bring newer effective drugs to the Australian market. My work will help ensure Australians continue enjoying access to cheaper medicines.
An informed choice is easy to make.
Samara Garrett, Faculty of Science
Samara Garrett-Rickman — Faculty of Science
Exploring the AFTERlife
I’m going to start by disappointing those of you in the room who are hoping for scientific proof of life after death.
And instead, I’m going to highlight the fact that right now in Australia we have around 2,500 long term missing persons and 500 unidentified remains. Investigators, courts and families are missing crucial information that is needed to identify these people.
Addressing this is one element that has led to the creation of AFTER, which, aside from being a convenient acronym, stands for the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research. This facility provides forensic taphonomists like myself, a location for studying the changes that occur to the human body after death. These changes have a number of different influencing factors including: environment, temperature, scavenger and insect activity, and also personal attributes like body mass, illness, and medications.
Previous taphonomic research looked at how to identify remains, and also looking at estimating time since death, or post-mortem interval, which contrary to what you have seen on shows like CSI, can actually be quite difficult. Previous logistical and ethical constraints surrounding the study of whole human decomposition has left no reliable foundation for the assessment of time since death in Australian cases. This lack of relevant research, and the largely subjective nature of current methods mean we that need something better. And that ‘something better’ needs to be reliable, reproducible and relevant to Australian environment.
So … Can we reliably assess the time since death based on degradation of DNA. To answer this I’m looking at two types of DNA—nuclear, which has one copy per cell, and mitochondrial, which can have thousands of copies per cell. I am retrieving this DNA from muscle tissue, which is continuously collected over 100 time points from human donors placed out at AFTER during different seasons. As these bodies begin to decompose, their cells begin to die and the DNA is then exposed to the environment. Starting off as long chains, this then breaks down into smaller chains. By measuring the number of long and small chains, I can generate a value which can be looked at in relation to those influencing factors I previously mentioned.
So far, I have been able to see a clear trend in the rate of DNA degradation over time. After analysing my remaining 700 samples, I will be able to determine which of those influencing factors has the greatest effect on that degradation of DNA. Ultimately my research will help in establishing a reliable technique for estimation of postmortem interval—which, in turn, will help investigations that have reached dead ends and return loved ones to their families.
I would like to take a second to thank all donors and families that make my research possible, and hopefully I’ve been able to show that there can be a life after death—just maybe not in the way you had expected.
Anastasia Hronis, Graduate School of Health
Anastasia Hronis - Graduate School of Health
Let me tell you about a client of mine. We'll call her Jessica.
She's a 10 year old girl with such crippling anxiety that she's often unable to leave the house or go to school. Anxiety, it's one of the most common mental health problems that people experience.
Take a look around you. There's about 300 people in this hall tonight. Almost 50% will at some point deal with, or have dealt with an anxiety disorder.
Let me bring you back to my ten year old patient Jessica. She has anxiety and an intellectual disability. An intellectual disability means that a person has significant difficulties with learning and processing information. Now countless times during my practice as a clinical psychologist, I had children coming and seeking therapy often with an intellectual disability. But, I didn't have evidence-based effective treatments tailored to help them.
You see, people with intellectual disabilities have often been excluded from therapy simply because they have learning difficulties. Now, children with intellectual disabilities, we know cognitive behaviour therapy works for other people, but it hasn't been trialled amongst children with intellectual disabilities.
And that's where I come in. I developed Fearless Me! A 12-week CBT cognitive based therapy for children with intellectual disabilities, specifically tailored to their needs. In developing the Fearless Me program I reviewed the existing literature and I gathered feedback from parents and clinicians to answer one key question. How can we effectively transform CBT so that it's accessible for these children?
Now one thing that really stood out to me was that being able to engage these kids in a fun and interactive way was going to be key. See, when you consider CBT, it's a very talking intensive approach to therapy, with concepts that can be quite challenging for a child with a disability. Fearless Me! takes these same concepts but lifts treatment to a whole new level. It's not just your traditional face-to-face therapy, but there's an online website that teaches children the skills that they need.
In the instance of Jessica, she’d come with her parents to my clinic for the Fearless Me! Program. We'd start off with the Keep Calm module that uses videos to teach her relaxation strategies. We then move on to the Stop and Think module, which has interactive activities to help her challenge her thoughts. And then finally, the Facing Fears module, where we work step by step to help Jessica overcome the things that she's afraid of.
Now, we've been running the Fearless Me! program over the past year at the university clinic. And I am so pleased to say that every child that has completed the program has had significant reductions in anxiety.
It's my hope that the Fearless Me! program can continue to be evaluated and help more children reach their full potential. Because after all, everyone deserves the right to good mental health.
Anne Nguyen, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Anne Nguyen – FASS
To Catch the Sun with Electrical Contractors: Worknet Learning
What is a good job for you or your family? Perhaps full-time, with security and adequate support?
Do you know in Australia, almost 40% of workers do not have full-time jobs, workers such as contractors, who are self-employed and work on contracts.
I myself worked for many years as a contractor and I saw a lot of problems. So I decided I have to research this topic! The key problem is that current work practices are designed to support permanent employees, neglecting a significant contractor workforce.
Only 5 months ago, the OECD reported that contractors face severe barriers to training. And we need a major overhaul of adult learning programs. My research directly targets this urgent need. I ask: how do contractors learn? I took my question to the solar industry, a new industry emerging with new technology, evolving policies, and growing needs for clean energy. I travelled for 8 months across New South Wales. I took actor network theory to study 12 solar installation sites, using observation, interview and document reviews.
Let me tell you, I was so impressed by what I saw. To catch the sun, electrical contractors must learn, almost all the time! Learning in contract work occurs much more than what policies tell us. Much more than just knowledge in individuals’ heads. Much more in groups of people working together.
This form of learning is alive. I call it Worknet Learning. And, it connects human and non-human actors. As visualised by the spheres here. Imagine they are moving. Worknet learning opens up the actors, revealing the moving working nodes, making them visible. Making connections between the blue and red stabilising, actors and the green new emerging actors, enabling them to work together to achieve goals. With our labour market changing, with automation affecting 50% of future jobs, we must not neglect contractors.
My research shows how we can support contractors, to learn and to thrive, today and in the future, promoting equality for all workers.
Beth Gibbings, Faculty of Law
Beth Gibbings – Law
What does justice look like for First Nation people when it comes to policing?
Nearly 30 years ago, just 40 minutes’ drive from where I live, three Aboriginal children - Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux were murdered in the town of Bowraville. Their families are still campaigning for justice.
No one has been convicted of those murders. And that's partly because of initial policing that was seen as inept and racist. When the families first reported their children missing, the police told them that they'd just gone walkabout. Crime scenes weren't secured and evidence wasn't protected.
But what if police had sat down with the communities, learned about their culture and asked how they could work in partnership. What impact might that have made on the police investigation, the trial and the acquittal of the person of interest? Might the families have left with justice when they left for the court, rather than leaving their handprints on the walls. My thesis, focusing on Bowraville, asks indigenous participants what their perspective of justice could be.
As a non-indigenous person, I adopt a critical indigenous lens, and ask how do police establish culturally sensitive relationships with Aboriginal people. I look at the impact of colonisation, where police were enforcing policies of the state like The Stolen Generation. And I look at regional factors, like Bowraville being late to desegregate.
But underneath this is another question. How could this injustice have occurred just over the mountain from where I live, without widespread community outrage?
Indigenous scholars tell us that what we see in cases like Bowraville is a reflection of our society of the law in governance. In the 1990s Australia cared little about the lives of Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody was finding policing was racist and violent. When these biases mean that someone can stand above justice processes, we all suffer. Now in 2019 there's an opportunity for change and justice.
My thesis will provide evidence to support the systemic and cultural change that police forces are seeking, and the Justice that First Nations people need.
Bupe Mwamba, Faculty of Health
Bupe Mwamba – Faculty of Health
3 Minutes to Save a Life
I stand here as a midwife with a vision. A vision to reduce the number of people affected by anaemia.
My PhD research is driving global awareness of how an extra 3 minutes of a baby attached to the placenta can reduce anaemia by 60%, potentially saving a life. 2019, marks 6 years since the World Health Organisation recommended a shift in umbilical cord clamping practice.
Umbilical cord clamping is a procedure performed at every birth to separate the baby from the placenta. It can either be immediate, that is within 60 seconds, or delayed, that is between 60 to 180 seconds. Usual practice has been immediate clamping but recent evidence recommends a delay in clamping for reduction in anaemia. Anaemia is a major public health concern globally. It is a disease of the blood, affecting approximately 2 billion people.
In more than half of these global cases are found in low and middle income countries - Zambia inclusive. The most affected are children and women of child caring age. Consequences of anaemia are life threatening and costly. In children it is associated with prolonged hospital stays and poor performance in school. In pregnant women, it is exaggerated in pregnancy and is associated with premature birth and even death, because anaemia increases the chances of bleeding after birth. Therefore, it is very important for midwives and obstetricians to embrace cost effective preventive measures and one of these is delayed cord clamping at birth (DCC).
Just imagine, a delay of 3 minutes, the total time of this 3 Minute Thesis, can save a life.
Sadly, DCC is not common practice because only 9 out of 195 countries have built evidence towards this practice. Surprisingly only 2 of them are from low and middle income countries, none from Africa. Herein lies the importance of my study, seeking to determine DCC practice rates by midwives and obstetricians in Zambia. A country where DCC was placed on the Ministry of Health priority list in 2014 but to date, has there is no evidence towards this practice.
So, my role is to build this evidence case for Zambia. I have sent out an online survey to approximately 5000 midwives and obstetricians. The results of this survey will have both policy and practical implications, which will depend on whether the practice rates will be above 50% or below 50%.
As someone who is passionate about mothers and babies, my PhD research and clinical purpose is to ensure that midwife and obstetrician embrace DCC for reduction of anaemia.
Thank you very much.
Maleen Jayasuriya, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
Maleen Jayasuriya – Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
One small step for a PhD student, one giant leap for mobility scooters
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to tell you the story of my thesis in 4 pictures. Picture number 1. It all begins a few years ago when the wife of a NSW senator was hit by a speeding mobility scooter and had to get a hip replacement. Now this sparked a heated political debate about severely regulating the use of mobility scooters. But the thing is, these scooters, which are part of a billion dollar market worldwide, help a lot of people feel independent and empowered in a way that most of us who kind of take our freedom of movement for granted, can never really understand. So the question is, how do we preserve these benefits of mobility scooters but also make them safe enough so they don't go hitting any more politicians’ wives. Well, my thesis hopes the answer to this is in picture number 2.
Ladies and gentlemen meet Betsy the self-driving mobility scooter. Who unlike those nasty politicians, doesn't want to take away your independence, or your freedom. Instead we envision Betsy to be more like a co-pilot that will step in only when she is needed to prevent horrible accidents from happening.
Now, everyone here this evening has a pretty sense of where they are right now, right? Or at least I hope we do. But the thing is, an inanimate object like a scooter doesn't have this sense. So solving this problem of "robot localisation" was the first step in getting Betsy to work. Because if a robot doesn't know where it is accurately, it can't make safe and intelligent navigation decisions.
So how do big companies like Google and Tesla who have fleets of self driving cars do this? They don't rely on GPS, because GPS sucks in big cities with tall buildings blocking out the sky. Instead they use these highly detailed 3D maps that take a tonne of resources to build and maintain. Plus these very, very expensive sensors called LIDARs. The cheapest you can get is about $8,000. In comparison a typical mobility scooter is about $2,000.
So picture number 3: We came up with our own affordable localisation system, that doesn't use heavy 3D maps, expensive LIDARs or unreliable GPS. All good old Betsy needs is a bunch of cameras and very low computing power. At almost one fourth of the cost of a typical LIDAR.
And we did this by using taking artificial neural networks, and we got Betsy to recognise and see things like trees, and lampposts, and the pavement. Then we fed that information to a modified version of a tried and tested algorithm that was used in to take people to the moon in the Apollo missions.
So whenever this whole PhD thing gets a little tough, I remind myself that if we got to the moon, I should be able to get Betsy to drive along a pavement. And perhaps, make these scooters a little bit more safer, functional and empowering.
And as cheesy as it sounds, that's kind of why we get into engineering, right? Because we believe in the potential of technology to make a real difference. And I don't know about you guys, when I get old, I want to live in a world where picture number 4 is a reality. Thank you.
Shiyu Wan, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building
Shiyu Wan - Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building
From “Green” to “Gold”
When I first came here, my colleagues would ask me: “How did you breathe in the polluted air in China?”
Take a look at the left picture. This is what myself and millions of others had to breathe during 2012. I always had to wear a mask as I walked around the city. We have suffered, it has been tough.
This situation led to an environmental awakening for all of us in China, and our government has started to fix our built environment. Over 30% of total national energy consumption in China is driven by buildings. With urbanisation, the number is growing all over the world.
Today, I am doing a PhD on retrofits to reduce building energy consumption. But retrofits are expensive. For example, UTS has invested over 10 million dollars on building retrofits because they are committed to improving sustainability. But normally, who would pay for this? Money remains a big issue. Therefore, my research focuses on a market strategy called Energy Performance Contract - EPC to inspire people to conduct a retrofit.
Let’s look at how EPC works. Just imagine, you are the building owner. I am the Energy Service Company. I will be undertaking the retrofit work for you. I start by checking all your utility bills and the conditions of your building. Then I will send you a report demonstrating the improvements I can make and how much energy can be saved. If you agree, we make a deal. Next, I will use the estimated energy savings to ask banks for a loan. After bank approval, the “going green” project starts. With this retrofit and several years of maintenance, you will save 20-60% of your energy cost, and this is enough to repay the bank, and share any left overs between us.
It sounds like a win-win cooperation, where a touch of green sprouts into a money tree! But guess what? This is not the case. This theoretically successful strategy is not widely used in practice. So I am distributing 400 questionnaires and running 20 interviews across 4 major Chinese cities to identify legal, economic and technical barriers to EPCs. This information will be tested in an economic model to translate EPCs into wider and more useful practice.
I really hope my research can add a little green to the world, helping us breathe freely under the blue sky.