Research Mission to the University of Wollongong: Advancing Sustainable Engineering and Fostering Gender Equity
In May 2023, as part of the Women’s Research Engineers Network (WREN) activities, A/Prof. Dr Julia Mendes (Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil) and Dr Nishata Royan (UOW Malaysia, Malaysia) embarked on a research mission to the University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia. This trip was funded by WREN, and aimed to foster collaboration, explore cutting-edge research initiatives, and promote gender equity in the STEM field. Throughout their visit, Julia and Nishata engaged in various activities, establishing valuable connections, and achieving significant outcomes.
Exploring Sustainable Solutions
The mission commenced with a visit to the SMART Infrastructure Facility, where Nishata met with Dr Aziz Ahmed to explore large-scale 3D printing equipment for sustainable plastics recycling. This collaboration aimed to facilitate multidisciplinary research, contributing to the development of the circular economy in both Australia and Malaysia. The day was completed with a visit to the Sustainable Buildings Research Center (SBRC) at UOW’s Innovation Campus. Dr Jingjing Liu hosted the visit and presented the multiple strategies developed at the SBRC to promote energy efficiency in buildings. The discussions during these activities laid the foundation for future collaborations and sustainable engineering initiatives.
Embracing Technological Advancements
The team then visited the Industry 4.0 Hub at the UOW Shoalhaven Campus. Dr Grace Kennedy and Dr Emily Yap provided insights into the latest advancements in robotics, the Internet of Things and extended reality. These interactions offered opportunities for knowledge exchange and potential collaborations in the realm of innovative technologies.
Strategic Planning for WREN
A significant highlight of the mission was the Annual Strategic Planning Meeting of WREN. The meeting brought together the committee members that steer WREN’s activities, besides Julia and Nisha, including Dr Emily Yap, Dr Jingjing Liu, Dr Lihong Su, Dr Marcella Bernardo Papini, Dr Shiva Pedram, Dr Vita Wonoputri, Dr Mainã Garcia, and M.Sc. Flavia Tuane Moraes. During this gathering, the participants engaged in constructive discussions, envisioning future endeavours and initiatives to advance women’s participation in engineering. The meeting served as a platform for sharing experiences, exchanging ideas, and strengthening the global network of women in engineering.
Workshops and Knowledge Sharing
Julia delivered a thought-provoking workshop on “Ethics in Artificial Intelligence”. And Nishata presented her original research on “Innovative Sustainable Composites with Reinforced Natural Fibers for a Greener Future”. These workshops were open to a broad audience, fostering awareness and understanding of crucial topics in engineering. The recorded session can be watched here:
Cultural Exchange and Networking
In the spirit of collaboration and cultural exchange, the team engaged in various activities and networking opportunities. They connected with Dr Marcella Bernardo from UOW and Giulio Mattera, a PhD student from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Italy. These interactions not only fostered professional relationships but also enriched the cultural experience, broadening perspectives and nurturing cross-cultural connections.
Promoting Gender Equity
Julia also met with esteemed professionals to discuss challenges, initiatives, and academic policies of gender equity in engineering. A big thanks to the experts who dedicated their precious time to this important subject: Dr Shamika Almeida, Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion of the UOW Faculty of Business and Law; Prof. Madeleine Du Toit, Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion of the UOW Faculty of Engineering; and, from the University of Sydney, Prof. Ben Thornber, Associate Dean Research at the Faculty of Engineering, A/Prof. Kalina Yacef, Associate Dean of Research Education of the Faculty of Engineering, and Prof. Marjorie Valix, Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Outcomes of the Mission
1. Project Submission
A collaborative effort resulted in the submission of the project proposal “Improvement of the thermal performance of buildings through Artificial Intelligence: optimization of materials, energy flexibility, costs, and environmental impact” to the Brazilian funding agency FAPEMIG. The project, involving Prof. Julia Mendes (UFJF), Prof. Georgios Kokogiannakis (UOW), Dr. Marcella Bernardo (UOW), and Dr. Daniel Daly (UOW), aimed to leverage artificial intelligence to enhance building performance in Brazil and Australia.
2. Potential Partnerships
The mission facilitated the establishment of contacts with potential future partners in academia, industry, and research institutions. These connections serve as valuable foundations for future collaborations, fostering innovation and knowledge exchange in sustainable engineering practices.
3. Contribution to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
The mission contributed to Prof. Julia’s CAPES project on “Gender differences in Engineering research: diagnosis and suggestion of conduct for Brazilian Graduate Programs.” The insights provided by international experts in EDI enriched the project’s development, paving the way for inclusive practices in engineering research and mentorship.
4. Strengthening WREN
Through the strategic planning meeting, the mission contributed to the structuring and strengthening of WREN. Out members can expect a lot from this new year of activities! Keep up-to-date with our news by subscribing to our mailing list and Instagram.
Overall, this research mission to the University of Wollongong showcased the dedication of the WREN team to advance sustainable engineering practices and promote gender equity in the field. Thank you, Prof. Julia and Dr Nishata, for your visit!