The beauty of symmetry

Symmetry is everywhere, at every scale. Many problems faced by engineers, scientists and mathematicians use group theory and symmetry to help solve them.

For over 40 years, Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger has been dedicated to the pursuit of mathematical knowledge. Her work in pure mathematics has provided tools and theories with real world application, including in: large computer systems, the world wide web, agricultural crop experiments and the weaving process. She has pioneered the role of women in mathematics in Australia and continues to encourage the next generation of mathematicians.

Democracy and divided societies

The spread of democratic governance is central to the promotion of peace and in upholding stable global and regional relations. Professor Benjamin Reilly is an internationally recognised political scientist at The University of Western Australia whose research focuses on democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. His work on democratic governance, political development, electoral system design, and party politics in post-conflict environments has helped shape political and electoral reform in new and emerging democracies, and he also advises governments on these issues.

Stay well, play well

Stay well, play well

Most musicians ensure their musical instrument is kept in perfect condition, but do not look after their own physical and mental performance health in the same way. Sound Performers has been developed by an interdisciplinary team led by Suzanne Wijsman at The University of Western Australia and Bronwen Ackermann at the University of Sydney. Sound Performers is a globally accessible online tool to help teachers educate musicians at all stages about their occupational health, and optimise their performance through healthy practice.

MRI measurement of Liver Iron Concentration

Liver biopsies are invasive, risky and painful. An MRI based non-invasive technology has replaced liver biopsies in patients requiring repeated measurement of the concentration of iron in their liver. The non-invasive procedure developed from The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) research is associated with almost no risk to the patient while the invasive procedure is associated with risks of significant pain, bleeding, bile leak, and death. To date, over 45,000 patient measurements have been made using the new non-invasive method which has been incorporated into clinical guidelines for the management of diseases such as thalassaemia.

Breast physiology and milk biochemistry

Research into breast anatomy and physiology and human milk biochemistry at The University of Western Australia (UWA) has led to partnerships with Medela AG (Medela) resulting in innovative solutions for mothers and babies. Calmita® is an infant teat for preterm infants with an integrated vacuum-controlled valve. Calmita increases breastfeeding in preterm infants and reduces length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). UWA research led to the development of Medela’s breast pump: the Symphony. From 2011-2016 Medela extended that technology into four breast pumps designed for home use: offering solutions to mothers who are returning to work but wish to maintain lactation. UWA research is frequently used in Medela consumer outreach which relies on UWA’s basic research.

High returns on Canola investment

UWA’s sustained research program into molecular genetics and the identification of molecular markers in canola crossbreeding has led to the development and release of 50 new improved canola varieties since 2004, with higher yield, disease resistance, and herbicide tolerance for weed control, thereby improving the long-term sustainability of Australian cropping systems. These canola varieties which have been adopted by farmers because of their higher yield and disease resistance, allow more sustainable crop rotations and improved farm profits. Significant economic benefits have also been delivered to seed production and distribution companies. New breeding methods have the potential to improve crop adaptation to climate change.

MMEx e-Health Clinical Platform

The MMEx platform is an award winning, evidence based and fully shareable web-based electronic health record system. MMEx was developed at UWA’s Centre for Software Practice and delivered to market by ISA Technologies. It provides practitioners with a patient management system that allows care teams to share information and be guided by risk-based decision support and other tools. Initially developed to manage healthcare for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, MMEx has since been used to support the health care of large indigenous populations throughout Australia as well as highly specialised care in urban settings. MMEx has been used to collect research data for projects looking at chronic disease management practices, approaches to telehealth, and sexually transmitted infections.

Safer, cheaper offshore pipelines for oil and gas production

UWA researchers have developed cheaper and safer offshore pipelines to reduce the cost of building and maintenance in oil and gas infrastructure. This has been achieved via the delivery of new design paradigms that have been adopted by operators and verifiers worldwide, and which now feature in international standards for pipeline design.

Folate fortification reduces neural tube defects

Maternal dietary folate deficiency in the first weeks of life carries a higher risk that the fetus’ neural tube will not fuse, leading to the development of either spina bifida or anencephaly. For two decades Bower et al. followed a dedicated pathway to impact by lobbying the Australian Government’s Health portfolio’s statutory authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to introduce mandatory fortification of wheat flour. In 1995 voluntary fortification was allowed and in 2009 fortification of wheat flour with folate became mandatory. From 2011 to 2016, NTD births dropped, regardless of mother’s culture, age, educational attainment or choice of hospital system.

The benefits of Child’s Play

Insufficient physical activity by children are associated with poorer physical and mental health. The Child’s Play project, led by Associate Professor Wood and Dr Martin at the UWA School of Population and Global Health has generated community engagement with nature-play spaces in Western Australian schools and local communities. The researchers collaborated with Healthway, Rio Tinto, Kings Park Botanic Garden and Parks Authority, the WA Department of Education, Nature Play WA, Kidsafe, urban planners and architects, as well as local councils and schools to identify play space designs that were preferred by children and supported play. Collaborators have used UWA research to inform their strategies around open spaces and evaluate their new and existing parks and playgrounds.