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Past lectures

Trust and Cybersecurity: In search of a multi-disciplinary theory and practice

Cybersecurity has become a global priority, but it encompasses a set of problems that are difficult to resolve. This is due, in part, to its multi-disciplinary nature. The broad definition of cybersecurity encompasses a range of subfields, from computer and network security to cryptography, psychology, human behavior, economics, policy, and international collaboration. The interplay of the subjects is important for the theory and practice in cybersecurity, but the underlying relationships between the components of the big picture remain elusive. Presented by Claire Vishik, Global Cybersecurity Director, SPE, Intel Corporation.

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Chemical separations: a critical area in the world’s energy budget

Processes used to separate chemicals into pure forms account for an astonishing 10–15% of all energy used by our global society. The products of these processes underpin all aspects of modern life. This lecture will explain where all this energy goes and describe approaches that are being developed that can radically reduce the energy associated with chemical separations. Presented by Professor David Sholl, School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Hidden hazards: common consumer products and indoor environments

Contrary to popular belief, most of our exposure to hazardous pollutants occurs in places we consider safe—indoor environments, such as homes, schools, and workplaces. Primary sources of these pollutants are also considered safe—everyday consumer products, such as cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and personal care products. However, indoor air environments are generally unregulated, and consumer products are not required to disclose all ingredients. Even so-called ‘green’ products can emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular products. In this Dean’s Lecture, Professor Anne Steinemann will discuss the hidden hazards in our consumer products and indoor environments, and offer practical solutions.

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Simulation-guided engineering of fluids in the complex subsurface

Already a world leader in mineral exploration and mining, Australia is increasingly extracting unconventional hydrocarbon resources including coal seam gas. To offset greenhouse gas emissions, Australia simultaneously fosters research and field demonstration projects on carbon geo-sequestration. These combined developments imply future subsurface engineering activities on an unprecedented scale. Yet their environmental impact and sustainability already are focal point of public debate. In this lecture, Professor Stephan Matthäi, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, will examine how computer-simulation based analysis and insights from complex systems science can help to assess the performance and environmental impact of subsurface engineering projects so that potential side effects can be eliminated prior to project implementation. More physical realism and a different approach to simulation are prerequisites for achieving this objective, as will be illustrated with hydrocarbon recovery from structurally challenging reservoirs and carbon dioxide injection management.

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Brain in a dish: advancing our understanding of neurological disorders

Neural engineering is a new transdisciplinary research area bringing together neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, physics, computer science and engineering, with the aim of better understanding complex neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders such as epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. In this lecture, Professor Stan Skafidas, Director of the Centre for Neural Engineering at the University of Melbourne will discuss the recent advances in brain in a dish technology and intracellular sensors. He will highlight how neuropathology, stem cells, genetics, pharmacology and engineering are working together to build new sensors and disease models that will provide greater insights into the underlying causes of these complex disorders, and enable new platforms for drug discovery and treatments.

Presented by Professor Stan Skafidas Centre for Neural Engineering, University of Melbourne

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Engineering limbs: Helping amputees walk in Vietnam

Over 25 million people in the world need prosthetic orthotic devices, many of whom come from developing countries where access to specialised personnel and services is a major challenge. Demand for artificial limbs is even more urgent in countries where land mines from wars are still prevalent. Professor Peter Lee from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, will discuss his biomechanical engineering research in developing low-cost artificial limbs, using the Pressure Cast (PCAST) technique, a portable and easy to use prosthetic socket fitting system that requires less technical skill and labour to administer. He will also discuss his experience working with patients and clinics in Vietnam to implement PCAST.

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The social lives of algorithms

Arguments around the rise of automation and associated digital technology advances have traditionally focused on deskilling and the transformation of work. Lately, a new focus has emerged around the role of algorithms as things that shape our lives. Algorithms dispatch us taxis, evaluate our credit-worthiness, assess the security risks of online transactions, and choose which ads we see. They drive online dating sites, and gather the search results that help us decide on what to eat for dinner and where.

Algorithms aren’t just technical objects; they’re also social objects that play a role in the organisation of everyday sociality, and are the outcome of the social actions of organisations, professions, regulators, and lawmakers. Together, algorithms and data come to constitute a new way of understanding and talking about society and ourselves.

Presented by Professor Paul Dourish, this lecture will address the social life of algorithms — both how we come to understand algorithms as objects, and the consequences of enabling them to act in and upon our world.

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The truth about mobile phone and wireless radiation: what we know, what we need to find out, and what you can do now

What are the health effects of mobile phones and wireless radiation? While Australia has led the world in safety standards, including compulsory seat-belt legislation, plain packaging on cigarettes, and product and food disclosure legislation, it falls behind in addressing the significant issues associated with mobile phone use. In this Dean’s Lecture, epidemiologist and electromagnetic radiation expert, Dr Devra Davis, will outline the evolution of the mobile phone and smartphone, and provide a background to the current 19 year old radiation safety standards (SAR), policy developments and international legislation. New global studies on the health consequences of mobile/wireless radiation will be presented, including children’s exposure and risks.

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Decarbonising Australian Electricity: Policy and Technology Options

The debate on how we might decarbonise Australian electricity continues to be charged and confusing. On policy, whilst we currently have Direct Action and a Renewable Energy Target (RET), others advocate a carbon price or other approaches. On technology, some support only renewables, whilst others think that we must embrace nuclear or carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Professor Michael Brear, a specialist in transport and power generation, will present recent University of Melbourne analysis that examines different decarbonisation options for the electricity system connecting Victoria to New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania — Australia’s so-called ‘National Energy Market’. This analysis is intended to be technology and policy neutral. Renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels are compared in a system level study that considers how we might meet different 2050 decarbonisation targets at the lowest total cost to consumers.

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Bringing Australia’s Broadband Network into the 21st Century

High-speed broadband Internet access enhances GDP growth in communities and entire nations. But Australia’s broadband speed lags well behind other advanced and even emerging economies. In April 2009, at the time the National Broadband Network (NBN) was announced, Australia’s average broadband download speed was ranked 39th in the world. And while the rollout of the NBN is now being ramped up, Australia recently slipped to 59th place. In this talk, Melbourne Laureate Emeritus Professor Rod Tucker will provide an overview of competing broadband technologies, and address the question of what Australia needs to do to become a world leader in broadband connectivity.

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