Celebrating science at UNSW Canberra

It's National Science Week, Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology. It’s been a huge year for science at UNSW Canberra. Here’s just a snapshot of some of the research you’ll find around the University. 

Climate science

A bushfire burns on a hilly Australian landscape

It’s been another year of extreme weather events across the globe and UNSW Canberra researchers from a range of disciplines have been working on how to best address.

From improving how we fight fires, through to policy research on how world leaders might best address the challenges ahead, this research arms us with actionable tools to address the challenges ahead.

The latest IPCC report, released this month, demonstrated that global warming would likely increase to 1.5 degrees by 2030. While drastic action is needed to prevent further increases, UNSW Canberra climate scientist Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick said there is still hope.

“We MUST do as much as possible as soon as possible,” she said.

“If we take credible and serious action over the next few decades, we have a solid chance of avoiding 5C warming – so let’s just get on with it.”

Environmental policy

forest

Also at the intersection of science and policy is Dr Megan Evans’s award-winning work on biodiversity, drawing from a background spanning mathematics, ecology, public policy and policymaking.

“I’m working to understand how different industries might become carbon neutral and what actions governments and the private sector need to take to transform our economy into one where both people and nature can thrive,” Dr Evans said.  

Dr Evans’s research excellence and enthusiasm for communicating science to broad audiences was recognised this month with an ACT Tall Poppy Science Award.

Space engineering

M2 Satellite Mission
M2 Satellite Mission

UNSW Canberra research is working to address some of these real-world problems from low Earth orbit.

The UNSW Canberra Space team launched its latest satellite, M2, in March. The mission brings together expertise spanning aerospace engineering, artificial intelligence, materials engineering and flight operations.

UNSW Canberra Space Director Russell Boyce said the mission will play a role in expanding the Australian space industry, which is integral to solving the challenges the country will face in the future.

“As we depend on space infrastructure for resource management, secure communications and data collection during extreme weather events and bushfires, building our sovereign space capabilities is critical for Australian security,” he said.

Artificial intelligence

A robot raises its hand surrounded by blue light

UNSW Canberra researchers have also been investigating the myriad ways AI could be applied to technology, from drones with the ability to muster sheep to unmanned armed combat systems.

They have also highlighted the ethics that must be considered when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Professor Hussein Abbass said that we must equip AI with the skills required to conduct ethical reasoning and this involves educating the machine.

“Machine education is possibly our only practically sound hope to truly design ethical, trustworthy, transparent and reliable AI systems,” Professor Abbass said. 

Young Women in Engineering (YoWIEs)

yowie2_0.jpg

Our engineers of the future got a taste of where science and maths studies could take them at this year’s YoWIE program in January.

The year 9 to 12 students, from across the Canberra and Queanbeyan region, participated in a range of activities, including designing satellites, building gas turbines, programming robots and constructing earthen dams.

Event organiser and aerospace engineer Dr Bianca Capra said just 13 per cent of degree-qualified engineers are women.

“Increasing the number of women in engineering will not only help us meet our growing demand for engineers but will also bring the diversity of thought required to tackle the engineering challenges of the future,” she said.