Research strengths and priorities

Biomedical engineering and health technologies

Biomedical engineering involves developing and promoting the innovative use of engineering, physics and technology, in collaboration with surgeons, to provide new techniques, materials, procedures and medical devices. Integration with clinical practice and strong links with hospitals ensures research is translated into practical outcomes for patients.

The group undertakes clinical practice in orthopaedics and trauma and applies core engineering skills to challenges in medicine. The research is built on a strong foundation of knowledge in biomedical engineering, and incorporates expertise in cell biology, mathematical modelling, human anatomy and physiology and clinical medicine in orthopaedics and trauma. New knowledge is being developed and applied to the full range of orthopaedic diseases and injuries, such as knee and hip replacements.

The research utilises novel medical technology, medical imaging, information technology, biotechnology, and tissue regeneration approaches to investigate musculoskeletal, orthopaedic and neuroscience disorders and injuries, to enable early and accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment and optimal rehabilitation. The area also includes cutting-edge, holistic translational approaches in the field of biomechanics, medical devices and therapeutic applications, bone and tissue engineering, scaffolds, stem cell, gene therapy, new biomaterials and bio-compatibility, as well as early adoption across a number of smart device applications and technologies in areas of clinical intervention.

Biomolecular science

Research involves molecular, cellular, biochemical, physiological and genetic approaches to investigate disease susceptibility, progression and treatment response. QUT has significant strengths and expertise in biomedical science, particularly in the areas of cancer biology, immunology, microbiology, infectious disease, vaccine development and stem cell and tissue regeneration research. This basic science research encompasses state-of-the-art technologies to investigate the molecular basis of disease by studying cell and tissue structure, cell interactions and signaling, DNA and protein sequences, as well as systems biology integration, enabling a greater understanding of the disease process and the development of better diagnostics and therapeutics.

Chronic disease intervention

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death worldwide, due largely to genetic and lifestyle factors and an ageing population. Our research is focused on developing new approaches and enhancing existing approaches to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of chronic disease.  This work includes cancer, diabetes, infectious and osteoarticular diseases, cardiovascular, ocular, and neurological disorders, osteoporosis and mental health conditions. It includes insights from the social sciences and behavioural economics to assist people to make better health decisions for themselves and individuals under their care, enhance compliance with treatment regimens and inform government policy. We are employing advanced technology from medical imaging and genomics to web-enabled smart devices to identify risk factors, implement innovative interventions throughout the lifespan, and improve palliative end of life care. Our early life intervention studies optimise child development in families and early childhood education and care settings by tackling physical inactivity, poor nutrition and sleep issues. Research involves genetic, behavioural, nutritional, physical activity, sleep and lifestyle trials including innovative E-Health solutions to prevent, treat and manage disorders and promote resilience and wellbeing. These interventions provide a fertile arena for translation of our biomedical research to develop personalised health solutions.

Creating and capturing value from new technology

Technological progress in automation, sensors, digitalisation and big data has the potential to transform the way in which economies are organised and businesses create value. However, technology has no impact if it is not exploited in market and social contexts. It is organisations and people which create value from new technologies.

Business researchers focus on the strategic readiness of firms in the face of technological change and analyse the capacity of organisations to take advantage of technology through the creation of agile organisational structures, systems and processes which enable the development of new business models around technologically enabled market opportunities. In the field of accountancy, the application of data analytic software, business intelligence tools and cognitive inferencing engines in audit and forensic accounting provide mechanisms for evaluating performance which can improve management decision making. Furthermore, the innovative use of these software tools in audit and forensic investigations is revolutionising the ways in which financial frauds are being uncovered. However, technological leadership within a firm requires more than good data. Human resource management researchers examine the way in which creative mindsets and management leadership capabilities enable firms to sense and seize new technological opportunities and to mobilise people, encourage new ideas and promote new ways of doing things. Entrepreneurship researchers explore the way in which technology enables firm growth and the creation of new business ventures.

The innovation process does not just depend on the firm and its managers; it has extended beyond the boundaries of the firm and marketing researchers examine how technology creates the opportunity for building service offerings alongside products, or the integration of the customer into the innovation process, enabling business to respond to demands for extreme customisation in digital environments. Societal, worker and consumer responses to new technologies, such as robots and artificial intelligence, will greatly impact how they can be utilised in commercial environments. At the same time, technology is creating new tools, such as digital marketing, which provide a basis for shaping the attitudes of customers and the public to new technology. Economists measure societal impacts of new technologies and provide evidence to policy makers and to firm managers on new ways to increase profitability and efficiency from technology and to utilise technology to devise new approaches to policy implementation.

Amidst the euphoria of techno-optimism is growing public debate regarding who captures the gains from new technologies. Business researchers analyse which organisations capture rewards from new technologies and whether these rewards are disproportionate to their contribution to the costs of technology development. This research has significant implications for government policy, as the technological progress of the last four decades appears not to have been associated with productivity improvements, rising standards of living and reduced inequality in the same way as the technological progress of the previous century. Income insecurity, in the face of shrinking labour markets and employment uncertainty, is expected to increase with automation. The privacy of citizens is threatened by intensified surveillance and data storage capabilities. Information overload threatens effective decision-making by users of business information. In addition, organisations and public regulators face increased costs of monitoring and enforcement as new technology creates opportunities for financial and tax fraud and misconduct. The distribution of the gains from technological progress appears to be highly concentrated and will underpin the social and political struggles that emerge as business seeks to exploit technology for commercial gain.

Data science, computational modelling and simulation science

The era of data science has arrived. We now have an unparalleled opportunity to use models to provide clinicians and health specialists with a deep understanding of who is at risk of developing a certain disease and how to treat it more effectively; to understand the human and environmental impacts of climate change; and to capitalise on the explosion in online and linked data to improve social systems. However, flourishing in today’s data-rich information age requires a strong analytical capability, and advanced modelling and analysis tools, to extract reliable and actionable knowledge from data.

The new and exciting research field of data science sees mathematics, machine learning and statistical methods interact with information technologies to improve the knowledge mined and inferred from the massive amounts of generated data for government or industry. Computer and information scientists, along with High Performance Computing (HPC) and data visualisation specialists, have an important role to play with the curation of these large data sets by providing the necessary hardware and software requirements that ensure its integrity and consistency. The outcomes are visualised and interpreted in order to derive further insights into complex scientific problems that have the potential to impact policy, decision-making, and inform public life.

With a strong theme in data science and exploiting QUT’s world class computing and visualisation infrastructure, QUT will be in the unique position to tackle the fundamental challenge of 'turning data into knowledge' and most importantly, to train the next generation of quantitative (data) scientists who can thrive in tomorrow’s information age.

Mathematical modelling and computer simulation provides a powerful mechanism for obtaining important information and background knowledge of the underlying physical processes being studied 'in silico' without the need to carry out expensive and often time consuming experimentation. The insight gained from this type of research can assist managerial and technical decision making of whether to proceed with final production, the optimisation of existing operations, or the design of new processes. In addition, big modelling and big data analytics can go hand in hand, each informing the other via, for example, the augmenting of missing data.

There are a number of significant themes in the research being conducted in the field of computational modelling and simulation science across the university - computational biology, computational materials science and industrial mathematics.

Digital media

Digital media research investigates digital transformations of contemporary media and communication in their social contexts. This research responds to a critical juncture in the evolution of global media industries through programmatic, large-scale and methodologically innovative research examining:

  • the impact of social and mobile media on public, popular and interpersonal communication
  • the transformation of cultural participation in the current media ecology
  • the development of new production models in the rapidly changing commercial media industries
  • legal, policy and regulatory responses to the challenges of digital media.

Our digital media research has nourished other emerging research fields such as professional transformations in journalism, trans-media studies and performance innovation; as well as applied research in design disciplines such as interactive and visual design.

Education for better outcomes

The rapid advancement in technologies, increasingly diverse learners and learning environments, and the availability of large datasets create new opportunities for educators to design, implement and evaluate educational practices. Our research under this priority area will use evidence-based approaches to improve educational culture, policies and practices including:

  • preparing teachers for the learning environments of the future
  • understanding the diverse needs of learners
  • identifying the opportunities and risks of data and technology in learning
  • empowering educators to generate and use data to achieve effective learning outcomes
  • developing instruments and interventions to measure and evaluate educational practices and programs.

Our focus is on evaluating and improving educational outcomes through optimal use of data and technologies in the following areas of transdisciplinary research:

  • STEM education
  • Student engagement, learning and behaviour
  • Early childhood health, development and wellbeing
  • Autism research
  • Indigenous knowledges in education
  • Literacies for the 21st century
  • Teacher education and professional development.

Health systems

An effective, economically efficient and socially-responsible health system relies on evidence-based approaches to health care to appropriately integrate new technology, diagnostic approaches and interventions while containing costs, improving quality and effectively managing regulatory and ethical issues. Responding to increasingly scarce resources requires that we take advantage of technology to redirect investment from low value health care provision and promote high value services by overcoming disciplinary boundaries, promoting work-culture change and leadership improvement, understanding patient preferences and designing better incentives for clinicians. Our behavioural economics and health services research investigates incentives for healthcare provision, identifying asymmetries in information between providers and consumers to improve regulation of incentive structures to improve health care choices. We are also studying the use of emerging technologies, such as blockchain, to assist with management of data privacy and use, and social media to quickly and effectively inform people of significant events such as epidemics and environmental disasters. The outcomes of this research are more optimal, economically sustainable health services that provide better care for those experiencing complex and chronic disorders, adversity and environmental disasters. Our health services research also addresses legal and ethical issues associated with death, dying and decision-making including law at the end of life, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, advance care planning, futile treatment and euthanasia; regulation of assisted reproductive technology and genetic testing, abortion, embryonic stem cell research and surrogacy.

Injury prevention and management

Technological advances will help people to live safely at work, on the road, at home, and in sports and recreation, and to promote full and rapid recovery when injuries do occur. Research is focused on the individual (e.g. on impairments of movement that lead to fall-related injuries), the interaction between the individual and assistive or augmenting technologies (e.g. intelligent transport system design, human-machine interfaces and brain-controlled prostheses) and society (e.g. education, regulation and enforcement).  Our research also provides insights into how to optimally achieve behaviour change when healthcare consumers ignore or disregard important information about technological advances. Our multi-faceted research includes human movement studies, neuroscience, health psychology, behavioural economics, epidemiology, orthopaedics, trauma and emergency, medical physics, and civil engineering, with particular emphases on developing and evaluating assessment tools and interventions, and monitoring of both the individual and population level.

Materials science and engineering

Materials science and engineering encompasses the synthesis, characterisation and application of materials in a range of applications. Within the faculty there are three broad areas of materials: nanomaterials; surface engineering and molecular materials. This research is supported by outstanding state-of-the-art materials characterisation facilities in the Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF), a centrally-supported facility managed by the QUT Institute for Future Environments.

Nanomaterials

Nanomaterials research focuses on the fabrication of nanoparticles and low dimensional materials, such quantum dot structures, nanowires, nanotubes and graphene materials, and assemblies of these types of materials.

Surface engineering

Surface engineering involves the creation and analysis of materials surfaces, focussing on the unique properties associated with a surface and the interaction of the surface with the surrounding environment.

Molecular synthesis

Building from a strong base in organic and inorganic chemistry, there are several groups working on the Molecular Synthesis of advanced molecular materials such as profluorescent nitroxides, rotoxanes and polymeric materials.

Characterisation

Underpinning the research in materials science and engineering is an outstanding capability in Characterisation – the capability to analyse materials, including chemical composition and structure, physical morphology and response to physical stimuli, and electronic and optical structure and properties.

Plant biotechnology

QUT researchers strive to tackle real-world issues that affect the safety and security of all Australians. Our security focused research aims to reduce threats to food, health and water supply, and minimise the impacts of climate change, crime and terrorism.

The long-term sustainability of Australia’s agricultural and energy resources are a national priority. Our research in this area focuses on a range of tropical crops and related pests including banana, sugarcane, chickpea, mungbean and fruits, as well as tropical livestock including fish, crustaceans and other farmed species. Genetic manipulation of specific crops or livestock is used to improve nutritional status, increase disease resistance and improve stress tolerance.

Development of advanced techniques for disease diagnosis and control are critical to the security of food supply. The restriction of exotic pest entry and the management of pests are becoming more important in our global free-trade world. Our researchers are developing diversified products from a single crop or harvest to improve the sustainability of specific industries. An example of this is the manufacture of high-value ‘green’ chemicals from the by-products of sugar production.

Robotics and computer vision

Research at the intersection of Robotics and Computer Vision aims to create a new generation of intelligent systems that can visually sense and understand complex and unstructured real-world environments. Robots that understand what they see are the key enabling technologies for an array of emerging applications in robotics and automation. However vision, or seeing, is a complex process tightly coupled to memory and tightly coupled to action, providing rapid and continuous feedback for control.

Robots are vital to our future prosperity. They are a transformative technology with potential applications across a range of industries that have huge economic impact. Labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and construction are under threat in Australia and other high-wage countries. Productivity growth has saturated and in some cases gone backwards. Automation can transform these industries, but only by solving the challenges of performing complex interactive tasks and operating in highly unstructured environments. The key enabler in all of these emerging applications is robots that perceive their environment: that sense, understand and learn in order to improve performance over time, and respond robustly and safely even in difficult sensing conditions and in a changing environment. Robots with visual perception – that can see and respond as humans do – will provide increased productivity in industries critical to Australia’s economy.

Technology, regulation and society

In recent decades, developments in science and technology have revolutionised contemporary life. Health care, communications, transportation, and the nature of work and relationships have all been shaped by these developments. The transformative nature of these developments has raised complex legal, regulatory, ethical and social issues. For example, assisted reproductive technologies have opened new social debates about the structure of the family in contemporary society; advances in genetic testing have raised new possibilities for genetic discrimination and the need for new understandings of genetic privacy; the internet, social media and the connectivity of  contemporary society have transformed social life, business and work, opening new possibilities for digital businesses and presenting novel questions about regulation of the online environment; developments in automation are heralding a new future for transportation with driverless cars; while the advent of the sharing economy is transforming business models and the nature of work.

However, the rapid pace of scientific and technological change presents challenges for law and regulation and law can struggle to maintain its currency in the face of rapid change. The crafting of responsive and flexible forms of regulation remains a key priority at the interface between law and technology.

These examples highlight both the transformative potential of science and technology and the breadth and complexity of the legal, social and ethical issues they raise. Although law is often portrayed as a barrier to innovation, regulatory clarity is in fact an important enabler of innovation. Indeed, analysis of the legal, social and ethical impact of new technologies is critical at all stages from product development through to the translation and implementation of new technologies. This includes a focus on the harms and opportunities for victimisation that occur as the result of these emerging technologies and their transformation of our lives.

Themes

  • Responsive regulation
  • Privacy and security
  • Impact, access and equity