Thomas W Healy
The year 1995 marked the end of five full years of operation. In mid 1995 we passed the half way point in the anticipated nine year life of this ARC Special Research Centre in its present form and to mark that event, we set about a major up-date of our strategic plan.
That process allowed us to debate a draft plan at our Advisory Board meeting in late 1995 prior to presenting it to the ARC 6 year review group which will visit AMPC in early l996.
Our planning processes covered all areas of our activity and much of the detail herein reflects the changes we have implemented. In this report from the Director, I wish to highlight particular initiatives we have taken in areas of management, and in the way we interact nationally and internationally and in the way our core scientific skills are now being applied to industries outside the mineral resources sector.
The executive of AMPC from January 1, 1991 consisted of myself as Director, David Boger and Lee White as Deputy Directors and Peter Scales as Centre Manager. During 1995 it became clear that we needed to institutionalise our succession planning by expanding the Executive to include three key people, Derek Chan, Franz Grieser and Geoff Stevens. The new executive has youthful energy and vigour balanced by experience and wisdom! One of the principal outcomes we are now beginning to see is that by flattening the management structure and delegating area responsibilities to seven rather than four people, we have a far better pattern of interaction between the members of our research student body in the three participating Departments. In passing I wish to thank three of our senior students, Kate Drummond, Warwick Holt and Jason Stokes who ran our AMPC seminar program during 1995 in the newly renovated 1888 - School of Graduate Studies building.
Returning to succession planning, I note that our expanded leadership will inevitably add new approaches and technologies to our current base. Thus the emphasis we have in particulate fluids of solid particles dispersed in liquids will expand to include liquid particles dispersed in liquids in emulsions and micro emulsion dispersions. The strengths of Grieser and Stevens in understanding liquid-liquid system will advance our work in fluid interfaces more rapidly. Again, with them exerting a more central role in the Centre we are seeing more quantitative work in diffusion across liquid-liquid interfaces.
The second area where change is occuring concerns the way we provide, as
required of ARC Special Research Centres, national and international linkages. At the national level we will continue to be a key player in the "Australian Colloid and Surface Chemistry Student Conferences" which began in 1967 as the Hunter-Healy conference. The 19th such Student Conference is due in September 1996, hosted by the Australian National University group. Yet again, of order 100 graduate students from all states and from New Zealand will gather to present papers on their research to an audience of their peers, their supervisors and visitors from CSIRO, industry and from overseas. We will also continue to host in Melbourne specific workshops and conferences.
The Centre now attracts an increasing number of short term visitors from Australian Universities, CSIRO and industry sectors seeking to work in the AMOC to learn about our core facilities and equipment. We have found such working visits by students and others to be effective in building long term linkages around the Australian science scene. We have reserved monies to fund short term visits to provide contributions to travel and local accomodation costs for our visitors.
International linkages are similarly cemented by our policy of providing access to AMPC through "study abroad" initiatives for students from Universities in Canada, the U.S., South America, the U.K., Japan and Europe. Again, by hosting young people in particular during their graduate student days, we build excellent bridges into their home universities - and we increase the pool of post docs from which we can subsequently recruit. We will continue to act as hosts to senior scientists and engineers from overseas. Their presence in the Centre adds significantly to the intellectual resource we offer our students. It also provides us with the opportunity to evaluate how well we are operating within the international world of our research Đ bench marking! Senior visitors to the Centre are unanimous about one indicator of performance where we are No 1: and that is the "Maths Flat" in Carlton where we are often able to house our short term (1-3 month) visitors. Acquisition of the "Maths Flat" was a visionary act of sheer genius made by Lee White. We have also deliberately built a valuable relationship with a local apartment -motel establishment and with our University Colleges, where we can provide low cost accomodation to short and long term visitors. We are committed to ensuring that our visitors want to continue their own and their studens association with us, not just because we offer a world class scientific environment but also because we offer them a place in the broader community of the Centre and in the City of Melbourne.
The final area where change is occuring is in the mix of industry sectors with whom we are interacting. Our focus has always been the mineral industry sector and will inevitably remain so. However by trying to understand the key principles governing the pumping and/or dewatering of mineral tailings or concentrate slurries, or the dispersion of ultra-fine mineral particles in tower mills or frother and collector adsorption in flotation systems, we are building a science and technology base of value outside the minerals sector. Dewatering of urban and industrial waste streams (civil engineering), dispersion of emulsions in the processed food industry (food science and technology), flocculation of bioprocessing wastes (bioengineering) and cleaning of soils in reclamation of contaminated urban sites (environmental engineering) are kindred areas where we can apply our science base, which we define as
"surface and colloid chemistry, interfacial continuum mechanics and rheology".
If you see this science base as enabling, which it indeed is, and you see the other half of our mission statement,
"....set within a process engineering framework"
then it is no wonder that we see opportunities outside the minerals sector. As always, we are finding feedback into our core science when we learn about key industrial problems. By managing our efforts working in the industry sector we are achieving the input-output balance needed for a successful group in our area of science and technology.
While the people of AMPC have had a stunningly successful year, some of our number have been recognised very publicly. Our congratulations go out to
AMPC is fortunate to have outstanding support staff who make so much happen so efficiently. All of us thank Maree Barker, Christine Collis, Fiona Gratton and Katherine Lovelace for their part in our programs in 1995.
- David Boger, winner of the highly prestigious 1995 Walter Ahlstršm Environmental Prize awarded by the Finnish Academies of Technology for his work in developing techniques for reduction and management of red mud waste residues in the aluminium industry.
- Lee White, invited as a plenary participant in the 1995-1996 Isaac Newton Program at Cambridge University U.K.
- Derek Chan, awarded a Personal Chair in Mathematics by the University of Melbourne.
- Andrea O'Connor, awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for work at MIT, in the USA.
- Rachel Hobson, awarded second prize in the Royal Australian Chemical Institutes National competition, for her essay on Sonochemistry.
I have included our "future directions" programs in the next section of this report to give me an opportunity to comment on the "Annual Reports" of AMPC. If they remain "glossies" that are unread and that are not a resource to our clients, then they are wasted. Our view has always been that the Annual Reports play a required role in respect to our accountability to goverment through the ARC, but they also allow our staff and students to be publicly accountable as well. When you, as a student, academic, scientist, engineer, here, there or wherever, reads the project decriptions, highlights herein and output listings - and you want more information please contact us.