Research Edge

August 2014 - Issue 8

A passion for research

All of our research degree students are delving into subjects that have captured their interest and enthusiasm.

This month, find out about Jennifer Wagner's research into comic book depictions of Easter Island and the Rapanui; read about Corinna Di Niro's project to apply a centuries-old art form to 21st century Adelaide; and see how Rajkamal Balu’s research may enhance fuel cell technology and help deliver clean energy.

Make sure you reserve your seat at the upcoming Three Minute Thesis® UniSA Grand Final, and take a look at the left-hand menu for the usual listings of workshops, opportunities, and more.

University of South Australia PhD candidate Jennifer Wagner

Pop culture portrayals of Easter Island and the Rapanui

Famed for its ancient statues and located in one of the most remote stretches of the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island has captured the imagination of a host of writers, archaeologists and historians.

The island has inspired numerous creative works, both fictitious and historical. Sometimes, however, portrayals of the island as a far-flung place of mystery forget to acknowledge that the original inhabitants, the Rapanui, continue to live there to this very day.

Research by Jennifer Wagner, PhD candidate in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, has revealed evidence that the Rapanui and the island are regarded a little differently in the Anglophone and Francophone worlds.

Presenting at the New Zealand Studies Association’s Across the Pacific conference in Oslo in June, Jennifer explored the depiction of the Rapanui in both English-language and French-language comic books.

Excerpt from comic book with Easter Island setting


English-language comics, Jennifer explains, tend not to mention the Rapanui, and instead portray Easter Island as a mysterious and abandoned Pacific outpost. French comics, meanwhile, are more likely to acknowledge and explore the lives of actual inhabitants of the island.

“French comics acknowledge the Rapanui exist – they haven’t obliterated them from history,” Jennifer says.

“It’s obvious that the authors actually did their research on Easter Island,” she says.

“English-language comics tend not to mention the Rapanui, and instead introduce aliens, superheroes and so on. They often treat the island as abandoned.”

These trends in comic books shed light on the place Easter Island occupies in the popular consciousness of the Anglophone world.

“People talk of the ‘mysteries’ and ‘enigmas’ of the island,” Jennifer says, “but quite a lot of research has been done. For example, we know how the moai statues were carved and even how much they weigh, but there is still debate on how they were moved.

"Crucially though, in the last few decades there have been more and more answers to the important questions.

“There are lots of popular theories of what happened on the island and why the civilisation declined. But ultimately, it was a combination of deforestation, diseases brought by Europeans and the Peruvian slave raids that nearly decimated the population,” Jennifer says.

Excerpt from comic book with Easter Island setting


Jennifer’s interest in depictions of the Rapanui has emerged as a somewhat separate strand to her PhD research, which has focused on an analysis of lexical variation in university-level French language textbooks.

While French varies geographically and incorporates words from places such as Quebec and Senegal, Jennifer has found that most textbooks are standardised to educated Parisian French, potentially limiting students to a subset of the real spoken lexicon.

“Textbooks don’t actually teach what they say they will, so my research will help me make recommendations that will help teachers teach better, and students learn better,” Jennifer says.

Asked about her interest in comic books, Jennifer explains they are in fact a useful language acquisition tool.

“I’ve always liked comic books for teaching language – they actually show spoken language,” she says.

Jennifer’s presentation on comic book depictions of the Rapanui will become a chapter in the first edited academic book on Easter Island, which will be edited by the University of South Australia’s Associate Professor Ian Conrich.

Jennifer has already published two books – the tourist phrasebook Say it in French and the translated work Great French Short Stories of the Twentieth Century – and runs the language-learning website ielanguages.com.

She is assistant editor of the Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies, which is housed at the University of South Australia, and is co-curator of the Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture exhibition, which will next be staged in October at Sydney’s Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.


University of South Australia PhD candidate Corinna Di Niro

Localising the world's earliest form of professional theatre

With origins tracing back to Renaissance Italy, Commedia dell’Arte emerged as the earliest form of professional theatre.

Distinctive for its use of leather masks, improvisation, multiple languages and archetypal characters – including the servants, the Capitano, the old men and the lovers – Commedia grew in popularity and soon spread to France and beyond.

But how do you take a centuries-old art form and apply it to 21st century Adelaide?

This question is central to School of Communication, International Studies and Languages PhD candidate Corinna Di Niro’s research into Commedia dell’Arte.

“Commedia was the very first form of professional theatre, and the first to allow women to perform on the stage,” Corinna says.

“Because of Commedia we now have opera, ballet, slapstick comedy and so many other genres of theatre. It really is the basis of theatre.”

University of South Australia PhD candidate Corinna Di Niro wearing Commedia dell'Arte mask


To attract audiences, all forms of theatre have always had to respond to changing demands and tastes. The question of how to perform authentic Commedia in an Australian context, where the art form is not part of day-to-day culture, has underpinned Corinna’s research.

“It’s not about taking some of the genre characteristics and blending them with others from different theatre forms to create contemporary theatre, but rather it’s about understanding how to take the genre as a whole and make it fit a local context so that it is meaningful to a contemporary audience,” Corinna says.

Corinna found that improvisation was key, and used it as a method to discover ways to portray recognisable characters within each universal archetype. Through improvisation, she worked with the cast to add familiar modern-day activities, such as the lovers Skyping and texting each other, which further helped localise the art form.

Another contemporary idea introduced included developing a less patriarchal plot in the performance, where the return of an ex-girlfriend triggers all the hilarious complications in the story – something that would not normally enter a classic Commedia performance.

As Corinna’s PhD is in a creative discipline, her research output has comprised the combination of an exegesis plus a creative artefact.

“My exegesis traces the historical trajectory of Commedia, tracking how it moved over time and place, and how the genre changed to suit various socio-cultural contexts.” Corinna says.

Her artefact, meanwhile, was a full-scale production of a Commedia show titled The Marriage of Flavio and Isabella, that she devised, developed and performed with a cast to public audiences as part of the 2011 Adelaide Fringe Festival, the 2011 Commedia Showcase, and the 2012 Adelaide Fringe Festival.

During development of the show, Corinna received funding which helped bring her Italian Commedia teacher to Adelaide for a week. This added invaluable expertise to the creation of the work.

Now in the final stages of her PhD and due to submit in September, Corinna describes her research experience as a bit of a rollercoaster.

“As a performer you build up and up, a super-immunity seems to kick in and you’re able to hold yourself together no matter the pressure or what incidental sickness comes your way, then you perform, then you crash,” she says.

“I went on that rollercoaster for three seasons of performances. Then I had to pick myself up again and start writing my exegesis.”

Corinna has found that her research, combined with a particular interest in arts education in schools, has led to a range of professional opportunities.

“I was thrilled to be a presenter at the 8th IDEA World Congress in Paris last year. I not only presented my research but was also invited to run a Commedia workshop for teachers there,” Corinna says.

“The response was amazing! Knowing that my research appealed and was beneficial to a number of teachers from around the world was really encouraging.

“Teachers reach out to me all the time now, because even though Commedia is one of the most common forms of non-scripted theatre taught in high schools, you don’t need to study it if you want to be a drama teacher. As such, my theatre company now has a strong focus on serving teachers,” she says.

As a fundamental theatrical form, Corinna says she would love to see Commedia taught in drama departments at the university level in Australia in a manner that offers robust practical and theoretical knowledge of the original genre characteristics.

“Solid training in Commedia provides a wealth of skills in an array of theatre styles,” Corinna says. “It’s an incredibly powerful genre of theatre that exposes the frailties of humanity. There really is no better character training than Commedia.”

In January she will be teaching Commedia to a select group of actors in the UK. Beyond this, Corinna aims to build an academic career and has been approached to turn her PhD into a resource that will cater for both theatre practitioners and drama teachers.

“As long as there are people there will always be Commedia,” Corinna says. “That’s why it will always be relevant.”


Lab images from Rajkamal Balu's PhD research

From fruit fly to fuel cell catalyst

Fuel cells convert chemical energy to electrical energy with high efficiency, and the only by-product is pure, drinkable water. As such, fuel cell technology has been recognised as a highly promising and sustainable option to meet pollution-free energy demands in the future.

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) offer potential for the development of non-polluting vehicles, promising better efficiency and a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

One current limitation to PEMFC commercialisation, however, is the need for highly expensive catalysts to speed up chemical reactions in the fuel cells in order to make them viable energy sources.

Ian Wark Research Institute PhD candidate Rajkamal Balu’s research on native resilin – a remarkable elastic extracellular matrix protein that is central to the jumping of fruit flies and other insects – may offer the opportunity to develop a new generation of cost-effective catalysts.

We asked him a little more about his research.


So, what is native resilin?

Native resilin is one of the most energy-efficient elastomeric protein biomaterials known, and purported to play a major role in the movement, jumping, flying, and sound production mechanisms in most of the insects, including fruit flies.


How might it be useful in the development of cost-effective fuel cells?

Our research has demonstrated that the resilin-mimetic polymers synthesised using a biomimetic process exhibit unusual multi-responsiveness; and directed self-assembling of the polymer can be used as a soft-template to synthesise nano-objects, including highly efficient fuel cell catalyst nanoparticles.

These nanoparticles, synthesised with controlled size, geometry and functionality – employing an eco-friendly method using resilin-mimetic polymer as a reactive-container – are a promising electrode material for low-cost, zero-emission vehicles in the near future.


Have you identified any other potential applications?

Our synthesised, water-soluble, non-toxic fluorophores, which re-emit light upon excitation, have the potential to be used in (but not limited to) efficient cellular imaging and diagnostics for diseases such as cancer.


You’ve been working in a multidisciplinary research environment. Can you tell us more about this?

The project I am working on is a truly multidisciplinary research program that needs expertise in molecular biology, materials science, chemical engineering and manufacturing.

My supervisors are collaborating with two divisions of the CSIRO (CSIRO Manufacturing and CSIRO Agriculture) and secured funding from the Australian Research Council through ARC Discovery project.

As a PhD student, I had the opportunity to learn multidisciplinary aspects of the project, and take an active role in the formulation of new ideas and in driving innovation.


University of South Australia PhD candidate and Three Minute Thesis winner Demi Gao

Reserve your seat for the Three Minute Thesis UniSA Grand Final!

See our top PhD students present their research in everyday language in just three minutes.


You are invited to attend the Three Minute Thesis® UniSA Grand Final. 

Hosted by Channel 10's Rebecca Morse, this event is a great opportunity to find out about the real-world research that students are currently undertaking at the University of South Australia. 

Date: Wednesday 10 September 2014
Time: 10:30am - 12pm
Location: SAHMRI Building auditorium, North Terrace, Adelaide
Registrations: Reserve your seat now!


The finalists from each division are:

Business School
Malik Muhammad Sheheryar (Sherry) Khan
Mohsen Varsei

Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment
Yinyue Qiu
Alex Cavallaro

Education, Arts and Social Sciences
Cassie Hilditch
Luisa Matacin

Health Sciences
Natalie Stevens
Emily Johnston

Great prizes and a spot at the trans-Tasman final are up for grabs.

The event is free and everybody is welcome.

Find out more... | Reserve your seat...


Publishing your research, what editors want + more...

Gain the edge in publishing your research, understand what journal editors want, protect your rights and handle copyright permissions.

Register now for Publishing your research and what editors want, which will be held on Tuesday 11 November from 10am to 3pm at City East campus.

The workshop features a keynote address from Springer Publishing. Early career researchers will speak in the context of their personal PhD experience and the strategies they used to publish during candidature and after the submission of their dissertation. You will hear from the University Copyright Co-ordinator and Library repository staff. Two journal editors will discuss what they look for when reviewing and accepting manuscripts.

At the end of the workshop there will be opportunities to contribute your questions to a panel discussion.

Sign up for these too...

  • Research Proposals and Theses runs 1-3pm on Thursday 28 August , at City West
    Register: Students | Staff
  • The Social philosophy of research series begins Tuesday 2 September at City East campus
    More info | Register (make sure you register for all workshops in the series)

  • The September research degree orientation will take place across Monday 22 September and Friday 26 September at City West campus.
    More info | Register (make sure you register for all sessions)

  • The September commencing series for research degree students in the social sciences, humanities and business begins Friday 26 September at City West campus
    More info | Register (make sure you register for all workshops in the series)

  • The Thesis writing and publishing series will begin Wednesday 15 October, with workshops at both City West and City East campuses
    More info | Register (make sure you register for all workshops in the series)

Even more workshops...

I am:

Just beginning my research degree
(a commencing student)...

Interested in social sciences, humanities and business workshops...

Workshop registrations
Workshop info

Interested in sciences, health sciences, IT, engineering and technology workshops...

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Interested in English and research writing workshops...

Workshop registrations
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Interested in University-wide workshop opportunities...

Workshop registrations
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Library workshops

Interested in online workshops...

e-Grad School

Partway through or finishing off my research degree
(a continuing or completing student)...

Interested in social sciences, humanities and business workshops...

Workshop registrations
Workshop info

Interested in sciences, health sciences, IT, engineering and technology workshops...

Workshop registrations
Workshop info

Interested in English and research writing workshops...

Workshop registrations
Workshop info

Interested in University-wide workshop opportunities...

Workshop registrations
Workshop info
Library workshops

Interested in online workshops...

e-Grad School

 


Spend six months in Japan with the Mawson Lakes Fellowship Program

Doing your research in the areas of urban development, planning, urban design or environmental management?

Interested in spending up to 6 months in Japan?

If so, check out the Mawson Lakes Fellowship Program:

  • The program provides South Australian recipients with a grant of A$18,600
  • Scholarship funds are to assist in covering costs including travel, accommodation, food, student visa, health and travel insurance, and other charges incurred based on a stay of six months.
  • For visits shorter than 6 months the amount will be reduced pro rata.
  • Exchange candidates will normally pay all required fees to their home institution and will be exempt from tuition fees at the host institution.

Find out more on the Mawson Lakes Fellowship Program website...


2014 Australian School of Information Theory

The Institute for Telecommunications Research will host Australia's first School of Information Theory.

Sponsored by the IEEE Information Theory Society, the School will be held from November 10 to 13 at City West campus.

The event brings together postgraduate students, researchers and distinguished professors in information theory for three and a half days of technical presentations, tutorials, poster presentations, group activities and networking. Students are invited to submit their research posters for display during the School.

Although the focus is on information theory, interdisciplinary topics will be welcome, for example, topics related to mathematics, physics, biology, control, and networking.

Guest speakers include:

  • Professor Frank Kschischang, University of Toronto - (An Algebraic Approach to Physical-layer Network Coding)
  • Professor Raymond Yeung, Chinese University of Hong Kong - (Shannon's Information Measures and Markov Structures)
  • Professor Muriel Médard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - (The Source, the Channel and the Network - Separation May Hold More Than You Think)
  • Professor Girish Nair, University of Melbourne - (A Nonstochastic Theory of Information)

Find out more on the School of Information Theory website.

For general enquiries, contact Dr Siu-Wai Ho, Institute for Telecommunications Research, UniSA siuwai.ho@unisa.edu.au


Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

The Swiss government, through the Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS), awards various postgraduate scholarships to foreign scholars and researchers:

  • University scholarships (Swiss universities, Federal Institutes of Technology, as well as Universities of Applied Sciences)
  • Arts scholarships (schools of music and fine arts, only for a limited number of countries).

These scholarships provide graduates from all fields with the opportunity to pursue doctoral or postdoctoral research in Switzerland at one of the public funded university or recognised institution.

PhD scholarships close 16 November.

Find out more...


ITEE Research Day

The annual ITEE Research Day was held on 24 July at Mawson Lakes campus, with 270 staff, students and VIPs attending across the morning. 

Professor John Argue, Adjunct Professor for the SA Water Centre for Water Management and Reuse and world-renowned expert in storm water management, delivered the keynote speech.  

A number of research degree students were recognised during the day.

The award for best poster was given to:

  • 1st year candidature - Bastian Stoehr
    Poster title:Easy-to-clean surfaces via nanocomposites and nanopatterning’
  • 2nd year candidature - Md Nuruzzaman
    Poster title:Nano-encapsulation: nano-guard for pesticides’
  • 3rd year candidature - Nazmul Islam
    Poster title:The onset of recirculative flow in periodic capillaries’

The Division Recognition and Achievement Award was given to:

  • 1st year candidature (Provisional enrolment) – Tahnee Dening
    Talk title:
    Taking your psych meds – no worries’

The Division's Three Minute Thesis winners were also selected, and will go on to represent the Division at the UniSA Grand Final in September.

Congratulations to the Division finalists, all student presenters and poster display entrants.


Image of space featuring the Earth, satellites and a space craft

Beyond Earth: the Warren Centre Innovation Lecture

Hosted by the University of South Australia, the annual Warren Centre Innovation Lecture will highlight the significant role Australia and Australians play in global space industries.

Presented by Enrico Palermo, Vice President, Operations for Virgin Galactic’s The Spaceship Company, the lecture will focus on the role of innovation in business success and the evolving area of space tourism and the opportunities it can provide for new science and exploration.

This is a free event, and registrations are essential.

Date: Tuesday 9 September 2014
Time: 4pm - 5:30pm
Location: SAHMRI Building auditorium, North Terrace, Adelaide

Register and find out more...


Library update: Open Access and the URA

Need help submitting your publications for Open Access?

The Library has just created a research quick guide on submitting publications for Open Access. This includes information on which version of the paper should be submitted, how to submit your papers to the University Research Archive (URA) (UniSA’s institutional repository), how your papers are displayed in the URA and the assistance that the Library can provide.

This Quick Guide supports the University’s Open Access policy which came into effect on the 1st of January this year and is an important addition to the already existing Open Access guide.

The Open Access guide is available from Library homepage > Research > Open Access > Research Quick Guide Submitting your publications for Open Access

Confirmation of submissions to URA

To further streamline the process, anyone sending submissions to the University Research Archive (URA) via either the Contribute link or the email link will also now receive confirmation that their outputs have been loaded to the URA, or that additional action is required.


Update for supervisors

Supervisor content on AskResearch

There are useful FAQs and links to resources on the Research Degrees Supervisors section of AskResearch.

This is a handy supplement to content on the Research degree supervisors web pages.

Vacation Research Scholarships

Our Vacation Research Scholarships are now open for applications, and are a key opportunity to get undergraduate students thinking about research.

Students can apply to work on a range of projects in many different disciplines, and there is also scope for them to propose their own research project.

The scholarships pay $300 a week for up to 8 weeks.

So, if you know any high-achieving students in second, third or honours year, make sure you encourage them to apply.

Let your colleagues know too!

Finding research degree data

We're running a workshop on finding research degree data, and registrations are open now.

  • Mawson Lakes
    Friday 5 September
    J1-01
    REGISTER

  • City West
    Friday 12 September
    BH4-30
    REGISTER

  • Magill
    Tuesday 30 September
    H1-07
    REGISTER

Hope to see you there!

Research degree orientation

The next research degree orientation session will be held across the following two days:

  • Monday 22 September
    Allan Scott Auditorium
    City West campus

  • Friday 26 September
    Bradley Forum
    City West campus

Please encourage all new research degree students to attend, as this is a key opportunity to find out about available services and opportunities, and to meet and network with other students.

Students are able to register via the Research degree orientation webpage.


Update for administrators

Finding research degree data

We're running a workshop on finding research degree data, and registrations are open now.

  • Mawson Lakes
    Friday 5 September
    J1-01
    REGISTER

  • City West
    Friday 12 September
    BH4-30
    REGISTER

  • Magill
    Tuesday 30 September
    H1-07
    REGISTER

Hope to see you there!

Research degree orientation

The next research degree orientation session will be held across the following two days:

  • Monday 22 September
    Allan Scott Auditorium
    City West campus

  • Friday 26 September
    Bradley Forum
    City West campus

Please encourage all new research degree students to attend, as this is a key opportunity to find out about available services and opportunities, and to meet and network with other students.

Students are able to register via the Research degree orientation webpage.

Census date

The census date is coming up and any paperwork affecting enrolments must be submitted to division offices by 22 August, in lieu of the census date which falls on a Sunday this year.

Examination process

Just a reminder around examinations:

Keep in mind that abstracts need to be supplied separately, and must be submitted to research.examinations@unisa.edu.au before the paperwork and thesis are submitted to the division office.


City West campus image

Got a story for us?

Are you a research student with some interesting progress or achievements to talk about? Or perhaps a supervisor with some great tips and insights to help students?

We'd love to hear from anybody who has useful insights or updates to share with the University of South Australia's research higher degree community. Get in touch – send any submissions or story ideas to HDRnews@unisa.edu.au.


Send feedback

Send feedback

We're always interested in ways to improve The Research Edge to make it a more useful resource for you and your research.

If you've got any ideas, comments or other feedback, we want to hear them! Get in touch via HDRnews@unisa.edu.au.


Research degree student support

Research degree student support

The University of South Australia provides service and support throughout your time as a doctoral or masters by research student.

Sometimes it's hard to know where to start in seeking help and advice. So, you may want to contact us with questions about:

  • Application and admission requirements and processes
  • Scholarships
  • Workshops and resources available to students
  • How to get the most out of a research degree
  • The research degree life cycle
  • Thesis examination
  • Completion and graduation

Get in touch: email research.students@unisa.edu.au (current students) or research.degrees@unisa.edu.au (prospective students), phone +(618) 8302 5880, or drop into the office at 29 North Terrace – we're open 9am-5pm weekdays.

You can also find out more about our services on our website.


GRC quick facts

Quick facts

> Over the next few months we'll be welcoming Prof Pat Buckley as the new Dean of Graduate Studies (more info), and Prof Tanya Monro as the new Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation (more info)

> Save the date for the Three Minute Thesis UniSA Grand Final on Wednesday 10 September – reserve your seat now!

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