Engineering student wins national Early Researchers Showcase Competition

Engineering student wins national Early Researchers Showcase Competition

Chuhao Liu lauded for work on improving efficiency and lowering costs of rail transport

University of Wollongong (UOW) PhD student Chuhao Liu is the winner of this year’s Cooperative Research Centre Association’s Australian-wide Early Researchers Showcase Competition.

Chuhao (pictured above with the other finalists), a student in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, was eligible for the award through his scholarship with the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

Chuhao’s research focuses on improving the stability and reliability of Australia’s rail network. In a statement about his research, Chuhao wrote: “Rail travel is a popular choice for passenger commuters and freight transport in Australia. However, the track foundation particles are subjected to significant breakage upon repeated train passage.

“The rail industry currently installs a polymer geogrid inside the foundation to reduce damage. My research aims to identify the optimum design of the geogrid and to develop guidelines for manufacture. By doing this, we will provide a more stabilised foundation for railway.”

Entrants to the Early Researchers Showcase Competition had to submit a 30-second video (watch below) demonstrating that they could convey the aim of their research clearly and effectively.

Thirty-one early career researchers submitted entries and from those, six finalists were chosen to attend the CRC Association conference in Sydney and give a five-minute oral presentation about their research.

The judges were looking for entrants who demonstrate excellent oral presentation skills. In front of an audience of business, government and university executives and researchers, Chuhao delivered an entertaining and informative talk and was selected as overall winner by an audience vote. Later he admitted to feeling nervous before his presentation.

“I was very nervous.I had done a lot of preparation, but I didn’t want to mess it up. But when the audience laughed at one of my jokes I started to feel more comfortable,” he said.

“When they announced me as the winner I was very surprised. I knew I had a chance, for the past two months I worked very hard on it, but the other presentations were very good. I was shocked, but very happy.”

Chuhao said he was attracted to a career in rail engineering for the potential it offered to have a positive impact on the world.

“There is a huge market for the rail industry in Australia, and across the whole world. I am very passionate about working in this industry because I know my research can have a big impact,” he said.

Chuhao Liu (far right) with Distinguished Professor Buddhima Indraratna, Ms Helen Jiang, Dr Ana Ribeiro Heitor and Dr Fernanda Bessa Ferreira from UOW's Faculty of Engineering.


“What I really want to achieve in my research is to improve the standard for rail manufacturing so that we can lower costs and improve the efficiency of rail transport.

“The NSW Government alone spends $12 million every year on track maintenance. My research shows that we can reduce track maintenance by 25 per cent, and at the same time increase the life of the tracks.

“This is also really important for all the big rail projects that Australia is undertaking, such as the flagship Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail.”

Chuhao credited his win to the guidance and encouragement he received from his supervisor, Distinguished Professor Buddhima Indraratna, the University and the Rail Manufacturing CRC.

“My supervisor, Professor Indraratna, helped me to achieve this good research outcome so that is where it all started. He gave me lots of wise ideas and good advice for the presentation.

“I’ve also had a lot of support and help from the Faculty, not just for this but throughout my time here as a student. Everyone has been very helpful and friendly.

“And the Rail Manufacturing CRC gave me a lot of help and encouragement for the presentation and for the whole project. They helped me with my pitch, and invited me to do a practice run of my presentation before the conference, which really helped me prepare.”

Professor Indraratna said Chuhao’s success was well-deserved and that he had a promising career ahead of him.

“Chuhao is a model PhD student – dedicated, determined and has the tenacity to take challenging research tasks and still maintains his infectious smile,” Professor Indraratna said.

Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO Dr Stuart Thomson also congratulated Chuhao on his win.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has been supporting Chuhao’s PhD since he commenced in April 2017. Our team is so proud of his efforts in preparing for the showcase competition, and we proudly sat in the audience as he delivered his funny, engaging and powerful winning pitch. I know he has a great future ahead of him, wherever he chooses to head,” Dr Thomson said.