From Tasmania the Australian Maritime College (which really knows about ships) wants to know what’s going on in Adelaide

For fashion glam digitally delivered UniSydney rules the runway

Why women aren’t engineers – it’s less maths than men

A quantum scientist walks into a pub …

QUT’s Kirsty Kitto and Liane Garbora from the University of British Columbia think it’s possible to model humour using quantum theory. They have written a very serious paper indeed explaining. Here’s hoping the writers on Big Bang Theory read it.

UniTas sails into shipbuilding plan

Noses are out of joint at the Australian Maritime College  over Defence Industry minister Christopher Pyne‘s plan to create a new centre to train shipbuilding tradespeople. This might explain why the AMC, part of the University of Tasmania, picked yesterday morning to announce its new ship engine room simulator – with the RAN’s two 27 000 tonne logistics and landing ships in port, both with the same engine problem. The AMC’s engine room simulator is configured for a range of big ships and prepares students for “routine and emergency engine room operations, troubleshooting, optimal operation, fuel economy and energy conservation.”

The AMC’s point was made late yesterday when the university responded to the government’s decision to headquarter the new shipbuilding college in Adelaide, and an announcement from the three South Australian public universities and TAFE that they would like to run it. ““We are not clear about what is being proposed in South Australia and we are waiting to understand what impact it might have on the Australian Maritime College,” UTas announced.

“We have strong capabilities in the AMC and STEM, and a track record delivering high-quality training and world-leading research. These are capabilities with clear defence applications, but can also provide a platform upon which future regional advanced manufacturing industries can be built for the north and north-west of the state.”

“We also have strong signs of support from the state’s federal representatives, who acknowledge the capacity of the AMC for defence training and research,” the university added.

Great investment

Monash U is the new Monash Children Hospital’s “lead teaching and translational research partner.” Yes, the new hospital is a state government facility and the university kicked in just $6m of the $250m project cost but when the people of southeast Melbourne think about where sick kids get well the name they will remember is Monash, which everybody knows is a university.

Not just maths

Some 57 per cent of engineers working in Australia were born overseas, compared to 40 per cent for other professions, according to a report by Andre Kaspura for Engineers Australia.  This isn’t a problem when global growth is low but if the world economy picks up engineers from overseas may leave – leaving Australia with a skills shortage, again.

The solution is to start training more locals, but this involves more senior school students, especially young women, studying advanced maths, a basic for engineering degrees.

Australia’s capacity to develop more of its own future engineers is limited by falling participation in year 12 science and mathematics and, in the case of women, is impeded by alarmingly low participation. There is an urgent need to reverse these trends to overcome these limitations and impediments,” EA argues.

There is another problem – which the institution acknowledges but does not see as the core issue, women engineers do not much like working in the profession. However it strikes CMM as the big issue.

Engineering has been a male dominated profession with the proportion of women engineers at 13 percent. While recognising that there are numerous workplace and cultural problems that need to be resolved here, our results suggest a more intractable problem. Participation by young women in critical foundation subjects for engineering is alarmingly low and is in stark contrast to their participation in higher education which is 30 percent higher than young men. In effect, this low participation has created an environment in which engineering recruits most engineers from half of the population, a situation that is unsustainable given our national ambitions.”

It will stay that way until women in the profession feel comfortable with their colleagues – which means until there are many more women in engineering, there will not be enough women engineers. It’s not just maths – it’s men.

Crump in Pursuit

Imogen Crump is the new editor of the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit website, part of the suite created for the university’s research branding strategy. Ms Crump joins UniMelb from the ABC, where she was an executive producer with ABC Asia Pacific News. She replaces Phil Gardiner who moves to associate director, media and publishing with the university.


Heidi’s Law

Here’s how TAFE should not compete with universities when marketing to prospective students. NSW TAFE explains “how to get a job in fashion” by doing one of its courses. Project Runway it isn’t but there’s no faulting it for optimism, “We have strong strong industry connections and some of the best teachers in the business. So, studying with TAFE NSW could help you land that precious internship. Then just watch the doors open to endless opportunities.” Good-oh, but the story is illustrated with a young woman hunched over a sewing machine, which is honest but not exactly glamorous.

In contrast the University of Sydney is  very impressed with masters of commerce student Antonia Bolla, who has funding to develop a digital personal fashion assistant, (as yet unnamed but it has to be Andy) The app “suggests outfits for customers based on their personal style and tastes, with a focus on independent Australian brands and the latest fashion trends. The platform will allow customers to purchase complete outfits from multiple brands and stores directly from the service.”

Apparently, Ms Bolla had the idea when wondering what to wear while listening to Spotify’s choice of what she wants to hear.  And she has UniSydney to thank for the chance, “I feel like my whole study experience has been a pathway to get to this point.” TAFE has all sorts of polyester problems competing with this.  Like Heidi Klum says on Project Runway, in fashion, one day you’re in and the next you’re out.

Leibler joins UniMelb Council

The Victorian Government has appointed tax lawyer Mark Leibler to the University of Melbourne council. Mr Leibler was made an honorary doctor of laws by the university in 2014.

Worth marching for

Science met parliament last week, or at least the establishment of the former met members of the latter for the 18th annual time. It was as ever, a bit of a hit, with the Senate resolving that it is a thoroughly good thing. This should cheer up the people organising the Australian march for science events on April 22, designed to remind the rest of us of the importance of research and the way it is created. It’s a point that needs regularly repeating, a survey for the ANU’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science found 30 per cent of the sample either did not know who to trust to explain science to them or did not trust anybody to do it. And a study for the Pew Research Centre found that while the generality of people in the US support science, community attitudes are way off what scientists say evidence shows on issues from eating GM foods to human evolution.

The march isn’t immediately actionable, in the way medical researchers had a specific objective when they successfully took to the streets in 2012 to stop rumoured budget cuts.  Nevertheless, it’s worth doing, as a statement that science is about serious people doing serious work. It will be a great chance for senior researchers who make speeches about the importance of science, morning Dr Finkel, hello Professor Glover, to get out in front.

Not there yet

In his report of an interview with NHMRC chair Anne Kelso on March 20 CMM reported that NHMRC proposals for a new research funding model had gone to the minister. Yesterday the council advised that details in the proposal are still “being worked through” and that no delivery date is set for submission.