A guiding hand
Dr Aiden Beer has fond memories of the night he left the Smart Geelong Network’s Researcher of the Year Awards with not one prize, but two.
“I was very pleased to receive the Smart Technology prize in 2010,” he said.
“It’s always nice to be recognised for the work that you do in your special field and I was happy to spend the rest of the evening just celebrating that.
“So it came as a real surprise to hear my name read out at the end of the night as the winner of the Highly Commended Award for the overall Researcher of the Year.”
Dr Beer’s research that won him the recognition of the Smart Geelong Network judges focused on magnesium and its alloys, and is primarily concerned with microstructure manipulation and alloy development for enhanced mechanical properties.
“Although magnesium is the lightest metal available for use in structural applications, with a density two thirds that of aluminum, the latter is preferred by industry as it is easier to process,” he said.
“In the project, a new magnesium alloy was developed that can be extruded as fast as common aluminum alloys, and up to five times faster than common magnesium alloys, whilst developing enhanced mechanical properties”.
“The alloy will significantly reduce the cost of the final product and thus open up new opportunities for “light-weighting” in the automotive and electronics industry, particularly in the 3C’s … cameras, computers and cell phones”.
Since 2010, Dr Beer’s success has continued.
He received funding from the Australian Research Council to establish Australia’s only large scale research-dedicated extrusion facility to develop new light metal alloys and structures.
“It will enable us to undertake leading research into the development of new light metal alloys, new metal-matrix composites, new micro-truss structures and new powder-base metals,” he said.
In 2013, Dr Beer’s position description has acquired another important role - that of industry engagement.
“It is my job to liaise with people in industry to see how academia and business can work together to come up with new products, even new manufacturing industries,” he said.
“We are doing this locally, nationally and internationally.
“There is a real role for academics, and particularly those at Deakin, to help establish new industries as old ones disappear.
“Helping with the future-proofing of Geelong is something I am very keen on.”
A crucial part of Dr Beer’s new job is just making people aware of the research and the facilities Deakin has available these days, particularly on the Waurn Ponds Campus.
This includes his richly informative guided tours of the Geelong Technology Precinct, The Proof of Concept Facility and the new Carbon Nexus plant at the Waurn Ponds Campus.
“At the end of a guided tour, very often I get the comment ‘I didn’t know we were doing that right here in Geelong’,” he said.
“That something I am determined to change because when we raise awareness of what we do, we improve the potential to find new ways to work with industry.
“I also see the Researcher of the Year Awards as part of that awareness raising exercise.”
Accordingly, during this year’s Smart Geelong Network Research and Innovation Expo, Dr Beer will be conducting a high-powered guided tour of the research facilities at Waurn Ponds.
“We are inviting a number of important community members, people who have a strong leadership or communications roles in our region who will go back and tell other people about what we have here, and how our researchers are doing really exciting things that have tangible outcomes in the community.
“I really look forward to the day when I meet people at the start of a tour and they say ‘I’ve heard so much about what you’re doing and I am really looking forward to seeing how it all works'.”
A number of researchers from Deakin, including Professors Ian Chen and Svetha Venkatesh, Dr Wei Wei Lei, Dr Sarah Shigdar, Dr Paul Stevenson and Vanessa Vaughan have been nominated as finalists.