The last exam for the year took place on campus today. So school's out for summer! That does not mean the lyrics of the well known Alice Cooper song are drifting through the corridors. Nor does it mean my staff and I are about to start a long summer break.
Research and innovation are part of the role academic staff have year round. However when lectures and exams finish it's a prime opportunity to focus on research. Summer is often a time to incubate and test new ideas. Research directions that have promise may then be developed into funding proposals for external funding to support the work we do. In particular there are deadlines for the Marsden fund during the summer. That fund plays the very important role is supporting "blue sky research" driven by curiosity of the researchers, on projects where a commercial return is uncertain. The return on such research can however be immense (for example Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin).
Marsden funding is competitive and highly prestigious. Only 25% of proposals make it through the first round of evaluation. Ultimately only around 11% of proposals succeed. The odds of success mean the application process is not for the faint-hearted!
In the latest round the Department of Engineering Science was very pleased to see one of it's senior lecturers (Dr Andrea Raith) awarded a $300,000 "Fast Start" Marsden grant for her work on solving multiobjective optimisation problems (MOPs), integrating ideas of problem decomposition and techniques to more effectively deal with complexity in MOPs. That might sound abstract - however Andrea's work has significant applications in transportation, for example in deciding how to prioritise cycling infrastructure projects.