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Campus News : March 2012
University of Wollongong scientists are behind the establishment of a global consortium that will use sunlight to convert water into important chemical fuels such as hydrogen gas. The research promises a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by reducing CO2 from fossil fuel use. The process would also have huge commercial benefits as a renewable and low-cost fuel option. Leading research scientists from the US (Rutgers and Princeton Universities) and Germany (University of Stuttgart) visited Wollongong in late February in an important step towards establishing a global research consortium to develop effective strategies for water splitting. Scientists from India (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Indian Institute of Science) will also engage in the global project. The consortium, being driven by researchers from the University of Wollongong's ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), is bringing together the wide range of skills necessary -- including the design of molecular catalysts, fabrication of nanostructured electrodes, cell design and practical implementation. "Advances in our understanding of Nature's catalytic principles coupled with advances in nanofabrication bring us ever closer to a truly sustainable energy future, but the challenge in delivering practical systems that can be economically implemented remains formidable," ACES Executive Director Professor Gordon Wallace said. "It is envisaged that the global consortium will make significant strides forward, bringing together synergies that will provide more effective progress through an integrated team approach," Professor Wallace said. BG ACES DRIVES WATER-SPLITTING CONSORTIUM STATS EXPERT TO HELP SET UP CENTRE One of the world's most highly- cited applied statisticians, Professor Noel Cressie, has joined the University of Wollongong and will help establish an Institute for Applied Statistics Research. He has joined UOW's Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology based in the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics. Professor Cressie is jointly Professor of Statistics, Distinguished Professor of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Director of the Program in Spatial Statistics and Environmental Statistics at Ohio State University. He is a world-leading researcher in statistical modelling and analysis of spatial and spatio- temporal data, in Bayesian and empirical-Bayesian methods, and in environmental sciences. The methodology has been applied in areas of 'big science' such as remote sensing of the earth on a global scale, regional climate modelling in space and time, and Bayesian statistical exposure modelling from sources to biomarkers. Other research areas include spatial command and control, disease mapping, medical imaging and ice- stream dynamics. Born in Fremantle, Western Australia, Professor Cressie received a Bachelor of Science degree with first class honours in Mathematics from the University of Western Australia and Masters and PhD degrees in Statistics from Princeton University. He is the author of around 250 refereed articles and three books and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Spatial Econometrics Association. BG MARCH 2012 CONNECT :UOW 7 CONNECT: RESEARCH SERPENT UNLOCKING DEEP SEA MYSTERIES Once back in the laboratory Dr Skropeta, along with Associate Professor Andy Davis and PhD student Wei Liangqian, will examine their collection of marine sponges, molluscs and other deep sea invertebrates. They do a solvent extraction of the samples and then purify the compounds with high performance liquid chromatography and liquid-chromatograhy-mass spectrometry. They then use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify the new compounds. "We are expecting to find a lot of novel structures that have not been found before either in shallow marine samples or from terrestrial species. This would give us a good chance to find a new drug that is active against resistant strains of bacteria or cancer cells," said Dr Skropeta, a Senior Lecturer in UOW's School of Chemistry. As a boost to Dr Skropeta's research, the Illawarra Cancer Carers on 1 February donated $20,000 to assist her research group in their bid to discover new anti-cancer medications. BG/Research Office Dr Danielle Skropeta (centre) and two of her PhD students Ana Zivanovic and Liangqian Wei at work separating compounds brought back from deep sea field trips. Australia's deep sea could be an untapped resource of anti-cancer medications, according to Dr Danielle Skropeta, a project team leader of a collaborative research project involving marine scientists and the North West Shelf oil and gas industry in Western Australia. The SEA SERPENT, which is part of a larger international project, is on a mission to uncover the creatures of the deep and is being documented by award-winning French documentary film maker Charles Antoine de Rouvre. Filming has already sparked widespread international market interest. Facilitated by Chevron Australia, underwater robots or Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) began scouring the ocean in February at depths from 200m to 1400m for deep sea fauna. "The ROV access is provided by the oil and gas industry as a gesture of goodwill and to support university science. The deep sea is impossible to access otherwise in the Southern Hemisphere so it provides us with access to an environment that we essentially know nothing about. It is well accepted in the field that we know more about the moon's surface then we do about the ocean floor," Dr Skropeta said. Professor Noel Cressie
CONNECT:UOW July 2012