Sam Lin and Bethany Hoye

Six early career researchers awarded $2.4m in funding

Six early career researchers awarded $2.4m in funding

Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards Support research in areas of critical national importance

University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers have been awarded $2.44 million in funding under the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) announced on Friday 15 November.

Six UOW researchers were awarded funding: Dr Sam Lim, Dr Bethany Hoye, Dr Huan Ye, Dr Nana Wang, Dr Mengjie Song, and Dr Sonia Graham. UOW ranked equal 10th nationally for the number of projects awarded, demonstrating the University’s commitment to research excellence and diverse career pathways for early career researchers.

The ARC’s DECRA scheme provides support and opportunities for early career researchers, supporting research in areas of critical national importance by enabling outstanding Australian and international early career researchers to conduct their research in Australia.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Jennifer Martin AC welcomed the announcement.

“My warmest congratulations to our six newest DECRA Fellows, who have each been awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Early Career Fellowship. Especially pleasing to note is the diversity of the awardees and the breadth of their research disciplines,” Professor Martin said.

“I am delighted for the DECRA Fellows on their success in a highly competitive scheme, and thrilled that UOW has the opportunity to foster, grow and develop this exceptionally talented group of researchers.”


Archaeologist Dr Sam Lin, from the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), was awarded $427,116 over three years for his study, “The hobbit's tools and the evolution of human behaviour in Southeast Asia”.

“My project will investigate the cultural behaviours of the extinct Homo floresiensis (the ‘hobbit’) and early modern humans on the island of Flores in Indonesia. By using a series of interdisciplinary techniques to study archaeological stone tools excavated from Liang Bua cave, I will systematically examine and compare the technology and behavioural strategies of the two human species over the past 190,000 years,” Dr Lin said.

“The hobbit lived on Flores as early as 190,000 years ago but disappeared shortly before the arrival of modern humans in the area around 46,000 years ago. To unravel the process and factors behind the hobbit’s disappearance, it is important to understand how the small-statured hominin adapted to the local environment in comparison to our own species.

“This project will fill important gaps in our understanding of the adaptive difference between Homo floresiensis and modern humans, as well as the behavioural and technological changes within our own species in the context of shifting environments over the last glacial period. These results will be key in informing current global discussions of human evolution, and highlight the importance of Southeast Asia in international archaeological research.”

Dr Bethany Hoye, from the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, was awarded $426,691 over three years for her study, “Do novel diets reshape wildlife microbiomes and resilience to stressors?”

Dr Hoye’s research spans the fields of disease ecology and migration biology, drawing on theories and techniques from physiological ecology, community ecology, and molecular biology.

Her project will investigate how bacteria can assist wildlife in adapting to the accelerating threat of environmental change. She will use an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to identify interactions between environmental change and the diet, microbial communities and stress resilience of wildlife, using the threatened grey-headed flying fox as a model system.

Expected outcomes include a detailed understanding of the role of microbial communities in shaping wildlife adaptations and development of ecological interventions to enhance wildlife resilience in Australia and globally. Such outcomes may reveal opportunities for management strategies that safeguard threatened species and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

Dr Huan Ye, from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, was awarded $397,286 for her study, “Stable Lithium-Sodium Metal Anodes for Rechargeable Alkali Metal Batteries”.

Dr Ye aims to address safety issues derived from the dendritic growth and volume variation of alkali metal anodes, which are a challenge for the practical application of rechargeable alkali metal batteries.

As an outcome, the project aims to develop alkali metal batteries that are stable, safe and have high energy density. It will advance of knowledge in alkali metal batteries and strengthen Australia’s competitiveness in the area of next-generation energy storage technologies.

Dr Nana Wang, from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, was awarded $411,888 for her project “Economical electrode materials for safe sodium ion batteries”.

Dr Wang will address the lack of effective anode materials for high-performance sodium-ion batteries, through the development of functional titanium-based materials, realising high energy/power density, long cycle life, low-cost and high-safety sodium ion batteries.

Expected outcomes of this project will address the limitation of current energy storage technologies and be beneficial for the development in Australia of large-scale energy storage systems that are efficient, cost-effective and reliable.

Dr Mengjie Song, from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, was awarded $354,216 for his study “Mechanism and control of water droplets from condensation to defrosting”.

The deposition of frost/ice negatively impacts many fields and industries, such as the frosting of air source heat pumps and liquid natural gas vaporizers, and icing of aircraft and power cables. On the other hand, ice slurry is widely deployed for cold storage and transportation of food and organs.

To accurately predict and control the frosting/icing process, Dr Song aims to understand the interrelated heat, mass and momentum transport phenomena of water droplets from condensation to defrosting.

The project will contribute to the development of new materials, such as applicable anti-icing/anti-frosting surfaces, and relative technology and equipment, and thus benefit a number of fields.

Dr Sonia Graham, from the Faculty of Social Sciences, was awarded $421,744 for her project “Catalysing collective action for effective weed management”.

Weeds are a major threat to the sustainability of rural ecosystems and industries. Current policies call for communities to act collectively to manage weeds, but there is little empirical evidence about such processes and their benefits.

Dr Graham aims to produce pioneering knowledge about how communities collectively manage weeds and the benefits for rural sustainability. She will conduct the first extensive comparative case study of self-organising weed management initiatives, pilot a new analytic method and advance theory that can explain effective collective management of weeds.

Expected outcomes include evidence-based strategies and guidelines that support communities and governments to expand and enhance rural collective action.


Photograph: Dr Sam Lin and Dr Bethany Hoye.