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Cyber security, education and water are focus for three endeavouring researchers

by Katrina Phelps

Clare Sullivan.Three UniSA researchers will travel to Finland and the United States later this year in a quest to find solutions to help Australia’s cyber security, education system and water filtration technology.

Thanks to Australia’s Endeavour Awards program, Law Lecturer Clare Sullivan (pictured above) will travel to Washington to focus on cyber security; Senior Lecturer Tom Stehlik will spend time in Finland learning about their inclusive education system; while Research Associate Wei Zhang will work with the UNESCO Co-Chair Professor of Water Access and Sustainability in the United States to develop an alternative water purification method for Australia.

Dr Sullivan from the School of Law is preparing to spend seven months in the United States where she will work on the law relating to cyber security and cyber warfare at Georgetown University, following on from ideas and connections made when she was in Washington a few years ago as a Fulbright Scholar.

“As an Endeavour Scholar, I will work with researchers and policy-makers I met when I was in Washington to examine digital identity in the context of national and international cyber security and cyber war defence, particularly under a security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States (ANZUS treaty),” Dr Sullivan says.

“This research is a natural expansion of my work on digital identity and privacy and is a natural progression from my recent work on the Super Identity project in the UK, which is jointly funded by the UK government and the US Department of Homeland Security.

“The research I will do in the US in 2014 will focus on the reciprocal obligations of Australia and the United States under the ANZUS treaty.

“The expansion of the treaty to include cyber raises significant new questions about the reciprocal legal rights and obligations of Australia and the US in the event of imminent cyber-attack. I want to examine what legally constitutes an act of war in this context, what distinguishes an act of cyber warfare from criminal activity such as hacking and fraud, and the scope of the right of self-defence, especially in the event of imminent cyber-attack.

“The timing is right for this research, especially considering the recent concerns about cyber security and cyber-attack expressed by both Australia and the US. It is an area in immediate need of development.”

Thanks to an Endeavour Executive Fellowship, UniSA Senior Lecturer in the School of Education Dr Tom Stehlik will be travelling to the University of Eastern Finland in July to undertake research into school governance and teacher education in Finland.

“Finland has been identified through international educational benchmarks as a country in which the education system serves all school students well, regardless of background, socio-economic status and ability,” Dr Stehlik said.

“I have the opportunity through connections in Finland to spend some time there to observe the way in which schools are structured, governed and led, and to determine what lessons can be learnt from the way in which schools operate at the local level within the community.

“I believe I will gain valuable professional development in observing and understanding not only the curriculum and pedagogical approaches in Finnish schools, but also in experiencing the practicalities of school leadership and governance through involvement in a number of educational institutions in Eastern Finland.”

Dr Stehlik will be based in the town of Imatra and will be working with support from the University of Eastern Finland.

Hands in running water.Meanwhile Wen Zhang from the SA Water Centre for Water Management and Reuse will spend time in the US under an Endeavour Research Fellowship.

Dr Zhang will collaborate with a researcher from the University of Cincinnati to focus on developing a novel filtration system that could replace Australia’s current polymer-based membrane water purification method.

“At the moment, the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines only has guideline values for a very limited number of emerging micropollutants,” Dr Zhang says.

“Traditional water treatment such as activated sludge, sedimentation, slow/fast sand filtration and flocculation/coagulation, has been proved to be largely ineffective against emerging micropollutants.

“My project focuses on developing novel TiO2 ultra- or nano-filtration composite membranes as an alternative water purification method to traditional polymer-based membranes.

“The newly developed membranes could replace ones used in the current ultra-/nano-filtration unit within drinking water treatment and desalination plants or it could be scaled down to be mounted as household unit under the sink.”

Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships are internationally competitive, merit-based scholarships provided by the Australian Government to support citizens of the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas to undertake study, research and professional development programs in Australia and for Australians to undertake these programs overseas.