Australian Research Council Discovery Programme Grant Success

01 December 2017

Congratulations to Professor Kathy Campbell, Dr Pedram Hekmati and Dr Agnieszka Leszczynski on being awarded grants as overseas Partner Investigators from the Australian Research Council Discovery Programme round.

Each project sees Kathy, Pedram and Agnieszka working alongside their counterparts from various universities such as The University of New South Wales, Adelaide and University of Cardiff (amongst others).

A terrestrial hot spring setting for the origin of life? Darwin’s Warm Little Pond revisited: Professor Kathy Campbell – School of Environment

This project aims to test the proposal that a terrestrial hot spring field could have been the setting for the origin of life. It will be achieved through a novel, integrated, and multi-disciplinary study of the rocks, fluids, and molecules that together make up these systems, focusing on three linked components:

  • Detailed investigation of the only known, truly ancient, inhabited terrestrial hot spring analogue in the geological record – 3.5 billion years old – from the Pilbara region of Western Australia
  • Direct comparison of this ancient analogue with the fluid chemistry and alteration mineralogy of active hot spring settings
  • Experimental research on prebiotic organic chemistry, using actualistic early Earth materials provided by the ancient geological analogue and actualistic fluid chemistries from the active hot spring materials

The focus will be on how the interactions between these differing materials, fluid chemistries, and organic molecules lead to complexity, and what products occur as a result of mixing in a manner consistent with evidence from the ancient and modern geological settings.

The project outcomes will provide information on the processes and likelihood of whether terrestrial hot spring fields provided the necessary conditions to promote prebiotic chemical reactions in the precursor to the origin of life.

Twisted K-theory, higher geometry and operator algebra: Dr Pedram Hekmati – Department of Mathematics

The aim of this project is to develop new theory and techniques linking twisted K-theory to higher geometry and operator algebras.

The growing importance and topicality of these areas can be seen by the number of international workshops and conferences organised around its theme.

The problems Pedram and his team aim to address include categorification of the Freed-Hopkins-Teleman theorem, and development of the theory of higher twistings of K-theory using higher geometry and operator algebras. Anticipated outcomes are fundamental advances in knowledge in mathematical physics and enhancement of New Zealand's international mathematical reputation.

“Being awarded this grant means that I will be able to undertake research on a very exciting mathematical topic and contribute to reinforcing the collaborative linkages between New Zealand and Australia,” says Pedram.

Digital media, location awareness, and the politics of geodata: Dr Agnieszka Leszczynski – School of Environment

This project aims to examine the increasingly pervasive role of location metadata, or geodata, in Australian smartphone practices and cultures and the implications this has for users, industry, and public administration.

The project will deliver online and open resources to enhance public understanding of geodata and geoprivacy, as well as industry and policy recommendations that address the crucial issue of ‘location awareness’ in everyday digital media use.

The project will generate new insights into the critical role of geodata in everyday digital media use and will contribute to broader public discussion about data privacy, surveillance and cybersecurity. Its findings will also provide industry benefits, enhancing developers’ understanding of how everyday users apprehend and negotiate the privacy implications of location services.

“This is a great opportunity to collaborate with a group of leading international researchers on pressing questions of how locational privacy is negotiated as part of our everyday digital practices,” says Agnieszka.